My aim is to travel from the UK to Brisbane for one of my best friends' wedding. Plane travel is so environmentally damaging so I am looking for another way. I also think that by travelling over land and sea I will be able to understand our world better as I will connect with the people and landscapes and not just look at the departure board in the airport. Any tips gratefully received!! Departure date 1st September.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Wedding! 27th October 2006

Lots to say about Melbourne (friendly, quirky and cool) and Sydney (Bondi Beach, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House show me I am really in Australia now) but for now I just want to write about the wonderful experience that was our week on 'Straddie'. After arriving in Brissy and heading straight off to the Hen Do to get to know some of the aussie ladies and introduce Steve on a Stick to the town, it was soon time to pack up again and head over to North Stradbroke Island which was to be our home for the week and the location for the wedding. What an amazing place! Lots of time spent hanging out with old friends and making new friends, swimming in crystal blue waters and the brown tea tree lake, gazing at stunning views from our 'penthouse' luxury apartment for the week - The Lighthouse and getting ready for the big day. We walked The Gorge and saw loads of dolphins, whales in the distance, turtles and manta rays. If that wasn't enough we nearly ran over a couple of kangaroos a few hours later (it took me over 2 weeks in oz to finally see one and then it is two nearly stuck to the window!) but it was after our traumatic digging the yute out of the sand moment - thanks to Dav and Babs for saving the day....The big day slowly rolls closer but all is chilled. We do a bit of girly stuff and get a pedicure - a novel experience for a hippie like me but fun all the same. The Wedding itself was so perfect. We all looked fab in our dresses, especially the bride. The ceremony was so lovely, right down by the beach with everyone gathered close by. As we walked down the 'aisle' it was such a joy seeing all these colourful and smiling people, with bubbles floating around, music playing, sun shining and the turquoise sea behind. The reception was great, lots of great speeches, lovely food, silly dancing and the chase for the bouquet! We all got our special stubbie holder as a momento and the party carried on into the night. After missing the whole of the next day at lawn bowls (gutted) I then got to go diving with some of the boys. We went to Flat Rock and after the supper surge entry we descend to a beautiful dive with 15m vis. and see lotf os colorful fish, turtles, wobbegong and have a great dive. Back on the surface there are three humpback whales off on their migration and we get to see them frolicking for a while, before the dolphins come into view again, oh yes and there was the flying fish......!!! Second dive not such good vis. but a cool experience dropping straight into a bath of blue jellyfish (harmless apparently!) and saw a few small rays, more turtles and great stuff! Back to Brissy for the next stage of this great wedding adventure, we are all off to Fraser Island next for more fun.....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Bumpy Bit - 10th - 14th October

Although I am told the weather is pretty good, we still start rolling all over the shop almost as soon as we leave Fremantle. There are cool plastic mats which hold everything from pot plants to waste bins down. (I forgot, I did get a temporary job as 'gardener' for a few minutes and revived a dying pot plant from its dark and dry misery!) but everything else falls on the floor and I have to time my walk up the stairs to go with the lurch of the boat and sleep sideways on the bed. The first new adventure is the Chief Officer's plan to take me out onto the lower deck and to the front of the ships straight after breakfast. There is lots of spray and water sloshing on the floor as I loll around in my XXL bright blueberry looking waterproof and my pyjamas. It is pretty fun and exhilarating. We then go down loads of steps to the very bottom of the boat which is a bit eerily quiet. Then back up and we are just about to go back inside as a huge wave comes up at us and swirls around our bodies and we are soaked to the skin - much to everyone's (including mine) amusement. Luckily my only symptoms of seasickness is a bit of an annoying headache and it is hard to sleep at night and so I find myself sleeping quite a lot in the day too. I don't know how all the crew manage to work as much as they do, every day. The more I see and chat, the greater insight I have into their lives aboard and it is pretty full on. I know I couldn't do it. I know for a lot of them it is just for the money and I hate that. There are varying levels of interest, some like their jobs, some don't and as much as they like aspects of the life at sea they are still away from home for up to 6 months at a time and away from contact (unless at a port where you can phone) and freedom. Viktor, the steward, who is cool, has not seen his 5 month old baby as he has been away for nearly 7 months. The next few days pass quickly/in a blur mainly sleeping and typing up my diary on the computer and watching more dvds. I even manage to compose a new piece on the accordion - inspired, (maybe?) We begin arriving to Melbourne in the afternoon but it takes us 3 hrs through dusk and night so I am again availed with beautiful skies and scenes. There is even a web cam I discover - Hi Mum and Dad! The soundtrack to our arrival at first is some super cheesy love songs and then we are joined by the smartest pilot to help steer us in (in his suit and tie, under his waterproofs - almost James Bond). The Russian's are just giggling about something, who knows what! I am feeling a bit of cabin fever so I am glad to arrive but I cannot leave properly yet with all my bags as there is no customs. I am allowed ashore and get the free bus to the seaman's club the Stella Maris ( I have to say I am a bit wary about what it will be like after some of the crew are quite blatant about telling me they are looking for a strip club straight away!) but it is actually very lovely inside, friendly, cheap guiness, free cake (someone's 50th birthday party - no stripper!) and free lemons (scurvy?) The local paper says the headline 'Sheep Rush' which amuses me greatly! At the end of the night I have to go back to the ship and wait for customs who arrive early the next day, check my bag for food and wierd stuff and set me free. I am in Australia for real - 45 days after leaving the UK!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Boat Bit Part 1 - 3rd - 10th October

Well, what to say! Mental! Singapore Dock is huge and crazy and I am totally overwhelmed by it all as I manouvre round huge containers and marvel at the massive ships - I really can't take in the size and my heart is pumping. I am suddenly aboard meeting the Captain (do I really call him Captain or does he have another name? I am not offered one for now so I will stick to Captain, pretty cool eh!) Then I am off for my first meal and meeting the Officers and Crew. The officers are from Russia, The Ukraine and The Phillipines. The crew are all from the Phillipines, plus a few extra from Singapore - who are on board to weld for 20 hrs a day!! 26 of us in all and no other passengers which is a shame. The first thing I notice as I sit down are the vitamin C tablets and my mind goes into a momentary irrrational thought about how quickly I could get scurvy and could I die in 2 weeks!! but then I recover! Calm! Meal times are a joy! I love them. If I do not show up they worry about me and phone me up. Then I am not allowed to do anything myself - too polite to me here but I don't like too much service (I hope they will get to know this but they don't!) So there is a combination of meat and potatoes, rice and fish in various guises with the odd piece of fruit and vegetable thrown in and ice cream and cake on Sunday too. Sometimes I try to make lame conversation with a Russian who either doesn't understand or doesn't want to. Sometimes I have a giggle with those who can. Everyone says 'Good Appetite' as they arrive and leave and I cannot stop staring at the plate of processed meat which seems to be untouched since day 1. Actually I enjoyed the food, I just ate too much! I tried to offer my services in the kitchen ( I thought my time in the CAT veggie restaurant might help?!) but they thought not and when I tried they thought I was crazy! I got handed a big wodge of dvds by the Captain and start to wade through them. I wish I had grasped the dvd situation beforehand and could have brought all those films I have been wanting to watch for ages but not had time or also as I don't have a tv/video/dvd or electricity! Anyway the first days pass easily. Views of Indonesia, lush sunsets and a volcano! Lots of eating (worried I might not get in the bridesmaids dress!) and the only activity I get is walking up the stairs after dinner! Lots of time to think. One thing I wonder is if there is a way to measure/quantify my amazing experiences and make a financial/emotional/cultural/environmental comparison - but that is for the acedamics and the thought stops there! So this ship is more Russian than the Trans-Siberian (sadly no vodka and it is an alcohol free ship for the crew - but not for me sadly drinking red wine alone!) I spend most of my time talking to the officers. Alex from St.Petersburg has good English and we get on pretty well. He shows me the engine room (big, loud, hot) the controls etc. and generally helps to keep me sane. After 6 days we arrive in Fremantle to a beautiful moonset/sunrise and dolphin combination and I am allowed on shore! It feels like cheating and like I am not really in Australia but it feels pretty damn good to set foot on Australian soil (sand!) I HAVE DONE IT (nearly...) I decided to try to find my 2 lovely pals Charlotte and Dom, living in Cottesloe just 2 miles from the dock. Happily Dom and his brother Rupert are home to entertain me for the day but sadly I miss Charlotte. It is great to turn up at a friend's door 10,000 miles from home un-announced and wake them from a hangover! I don't really feel like I am in Australia yet. Except for the funny (infectious) accent (I refuse to pick it up) and everyone being overly helpful and cheery (worries me at first but great!). Back on the boat at night time and we set off for the bumpy part of the journey around the south coast......

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kuala Lumpar and Singapore...getting nervous now!

I didn't spend long enough in KL to give a good impression of this South East Asian capital (sorry to be repetitive about this, but I am not a city girl anyway!) I am just too nevous about the boat now that it is just best to get to Singapore asap. Through this journey I hope I will learn to worry less...but it is a family trait it seems! Hopefully The Land of 'no worries mate' OZ will cure me! Singapore seems to be fully booked up which surprises me but takes me to the Summer Tavern Hostel which is a real gem - really friendly, chilled (too cold with the air conditioning which we try to turn off as much as possible!), free internet and breakfast. At first I wasn't too enamoured by Singapore - except the kindness of Richard and his wife Evelyn, another friend of a friend of a friend etc who has looked out for me! and the weird and slightly un P.C/animal unfriendly Maya Puto (white eyed) bird singing competition where people bring their caged birds together to sing sweetly for hours whilst judges whittle them down to one sweet winner. Hot competition and serious stuff, I cheered for number 98 for a while but left and never discovered his fate! I found the place hot and too orderly and slow (how can I say that!!!) but for an Asian city. I guess I just got a bit frustrated with some of the systems which if you get used to are perfectly sensible but.... and the huge consumerism and Americanisation annoyed me. There also seemed to be too many chirpy happy people and hollow symbols of peace, harmony, community etc. but from speaking to a few locals it is maybe not that harmonious, but perhaps it is good to at least try to achieve them, even if it is only in words. They have some good things in their concrete jungle though, I found a lush organic, wholefood cafe and had hummous! After a delightful American lady kindly commented on my numerous mossie bites 'Gee they sure love you - you should get one of these' (Cue smiley sticker thing on her leg thrust into my face) I said thanks and departed speechless! I also arrived in the middle of the celebrations for Deepvali (I bought a beautiful and sweet scented flower garland as a treat), The Mooncake/Lantern Festival in Chinatown and also Ramadam. There were lots of decorations and extra exciting food and activites going on as well as beautiful night-time light displays. I also got a Singapore Sling in Raffles - nice enough and good to say I have done it but pretty un-exciting getting a cocktail in the middle of the day on your own and also surrounded by loud Americans (sorry but they keep cropping up!) I also ventured to Sentosa - Singapore's very own man-made island theme park. An interesting and potentially expensive experience. I opt out of some of the rubbish and see the Images of Singapore Museum which after the initial 'cheese' - peace, harmony etc. and being cattle herded in with all the other tourists it was quite an informative museum with lots of great waxworks! Next with ice-cream melting quickly in the 35 degrees heat and a 'have a nice day' from the seller I set off on the nature trail which takes me past fake dinosaur bones and what sounds like fake jungle sounds (but some informative stuff with even a few latin names of plants!) down to the beach. The sand is all imported and I sit on the most southerly point of continental Asia which is very symbolic for me as I gaze out at the many cargo ships in the mist on the horizon - is one of them mine? Also nice was the orchid garden but I have had enough and back to the city. The fabulous Rebecca manages to email me some more music to practice on the ship and the guys at the hostel help me to print it. It is starting to dawn on me how 2 weeks on a ship is a hell of a lot of hours to kill! Feeling a bit homesick, as much as I am having fun and am excited about the boat, Oz and beyond, I still love Mach, my home and my family and friends. (I know you may want to read about the boat and yes I am in Australia but I haven't worked out what to write yet!) xxxx