Wednesday, November 28

Cairns

Pronounced “cans” like cans of soup. The Aussies pronounce a lot of words very different than we do, and sometimes it’s challenging to understand them. At our dinner table we have 2 Aussies, 2 Brits, 2 Scots, and 2 Yanks (that’s us). It’s impossible to carry on a conversation.

Cairns is a lovely small city whose main industry is tourism because of the proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. We almost bought a digiridoo, which is an Aboriginal thing. They are beautiful musical instruments that produce a sound like nothing you have ever heard. But we simply have no place to put it. Here the shop owner is demonstrating the variety of tones from the different didgeridoos. IMG_8210

There are a lot of beautiful trees here, but I haven’t been able to get good photos of them because we see most of them out the windows of a bus. But here’s a Poinciana tree, not sure on the spelling on that but that’s what it sounds like. Some of these are completely orange and spread out over an entire yard like a canopy. Stunning.IMG_8201

After we marched around Cairns we took the tender back to the ship. The sun was going down just as we were about to board the ship, which is anchored far from shore because the water is shallow. We are actually anchored at the reef, which extends for miles and miles along the coast. You can’t see anything from topside, just different colors of water according to the varying depths.  IMG_8214

Our butler had wine, cheese and crackers waiting for us when we got back to our cabin. IMG_8219

Today Jim is snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. As are a lot of people, because it’s very quiet around the ship. I stayed behind because of my cold, which seems to be not getting any worse. Maybe even a little better. I don’t feel too bad, I’m just being super cautious.

Our next port is Darwin, on the top of Australia. We’ll pull up anchor this afternoon and it will take us a day and a half to get there.

Tuesday, November 27

The Tropics

We’ve been at sea for a while and there hasn’t been much to show you. We don’t have a lot of distance to cover from port to port, so we’ve been going very slow. Verrrry slooooow. This is a real smooth ride.

We stopped in Airlie Beach today. There’s not much there—beachwear shops, a flea market, and a McDonald’s. Meh. I guess if your thing is going to a sandy beach…but we both lived at the beach in our younger days so that’s of no interest to us, and the sun is killer here—not to mention there are jellyfish that can kill you in four minutes. I looked at some Australian opals but the jewery designs were uninspired. Below is the only photo I snapped. It is becoming hot and humid as we get nearer to the equator.

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We had a storm yesterday afternoon, that was interesting. Yawn.

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Sailaway from Airlie Beach (Whitsundays) today. As you can see, it’s largely uninhabited. Save for the tourist shops of course. There are a few grand homes high in the hills. It’s beautiful, but I’d be bored to tears here. IMG_8194

At least the skies have cleared and I might be able to see the southern hemisphere stars tonight. It has been cloudy until today. Oh, but wait—it’s a full moon. Not good for star gazing.

I have caught a cold. We think on the train trip to the Blue Mountains. Some girl was barking and blowing and she sounded very sick, plus the weather was dreadful there. I catch everything no matter how careful I am, hence I’m a bit of a germophobe with the hand-washing and sanitizer. I brought cold meds and antibiotics (experience has taught me), so I’ll be fine in a few days. But I’ve decided to skip the Great Barrier Reef excursion. I’m pretty pissed about it, too. Meh.

This part of the world may be boring, but the ship is lovely and our cabin is very nice. Satellite has been intermittent, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, that’s why.

Sunday, November 25

Crikey!

We are at the house that Steve Irwin built, the Australia Zoo in Melbourne. IMG_8116

Steve’s spirit is very much alive here. His family is all about teaching people to understand and respect the animals and their environment, especially crocodiles and snakes. IMG_8144

Here are a few of the creatures we came across. They’re common down here.

For one, iguanas are everywhere. Some are pretty large, like this one, maybe two feet long including tail. IMG_8095

We met this gray roo crossing the path. I was captivated by them. Such unusual creatures they are. IMG_8132

This is a red roo. They’re docile and pretty easy to get close to. Their fur is soft but underneath they are boney and firm. IMG_8164

Koalas live in the eucalyptus trees. They eat nothing but eucalyptus leaves and sleep 20 hours a day. They have an opposing thumb. Look closely—can you see the baby? IMG_8179

That’s all for today. We’re going up to the buffet for Thai food instead of the dining room tonight.

Thursday, November 22

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are celebrating Thanksgiving today—it’s Friday, but it coincides with your Thanksgiving on Thursday because we are a day ahead of you. We watched football—sans nachos and beer, what’s up with that—and we will have turkey dinner with all the trimmings tonight.

Yesterday we sailed away from Sydney as the sun was going down on a cloudy, cold day. Sydney is THE perfect city. They got it right. We never saw a kangaroo, but other people did.IMG_8073

Now we are making our way north on the east coast of Australia. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up! The ship has a cool vodka ice bar. It has a whole lot of cool stuff. So life is very good. IMG_8081-001

I thought these lamps in one of the specialty restaurants were extremely cool. In case you you can’t tell, they are suspended from a mirrored ceiling. How clever!IMG_8075

The ship sports a proper casino, which is dark right now because we are in port. I am looking forward to growing my gambling stash. Hopefully. IMG_8080

We wish everyone back home a happy Thanksgiving. All is well on this side of the planet.

Wednesday, November 21

Sydney Day 4

It has turned a little bit cold and blustery with intermittent showers. I don’t know what the latitude of Sydney is, but I’d say the climate feels like San Francisco in spring (it’s spring down here). So it’s a little chilly right now, and the wind blows up from the harbor like it comes off Lake Michigan in Chicago.

We trekked all over the city for two days and we have completely worn ourselves out.

We went to the Australia Museum where we learned how the Brits displaced and made slaves out of the Aboriginal natives in the name of colonization, just like they did in Africa and America, with similar resentments and uprisings as outcome.

But we also saw some Aboriginal art, which was what I was interested in.IMG_8015

The bottom pictures depict the three wise men and the last supper. IMG_8018

We went to Harry’s Café de Wheels (so named because it started its life as a wagon in the late 40s), which is a landmark joint and has pictures of the famous people who have eaten there over the years.

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Of course we had to stop. The pies were good but we couldn’t help thinking of Sweeney Todd while we ate them.IMG_8024

Sydney is a great city—easy to get around, very compact, and we’ve done all of Sydney we wanted to do. Tomorrow we board the cruise ship.

Monday, November 19

Out and About

Today was even more beautiful than yesterday and we decided to take a day trip to see the Blue Mountains. But the weather turned nasty, the skies opened up, and the fog rolled in and you couldn’t see a thing. It was pea soup up there, and it was cold. Instead we meandered through the shops in arty Leura, but even that wasn’t fun. So we declared the outing a bust and took the early train back. We did get to see some of the countryside, though, and it is covered in eucalyptus trees. Thousands of acres of tall, stately eucalyptus. Save for a few small towns, it is sparsely populated. Houses are small, and most are made of brick.

But yesterday was incredible. Let’s look at some pictures from yesterday. Sunday.

They have pretty money. And you’ll need a lot of it, because everything is outrageously expensive. Especially food and drink. There is no tipping, but you pay premium prices for everything. A 9” pizza was $17. A glass of local wine, $12.

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Sydney is a city of old and new. It is largely made up of glass and steel skyscrapers, but they have kept and restored some of the original buildings. Gems, they are. This is the Victoria Mall. (Shot taken from the top of an open double-decker tour bus.) IMG_7941

We went inside. Truly a beautiful place. It’s even carpeted. IMG_7980

We spent some hours at Darling Harbor and it was a beautiful day. Everything is clean and lovely. We figure most of this was probably built for the Olympics. But, given the economy, which is about as bad as ours, I’m not sure how long these pricy waterfront restaurants will stay open. The Aussies aren’t exactly wealthy. For the most part they’re working-class folks who pay high taxes and live modestly. IMG_7960

After we covered the entire waterfront on foot and had a round of bloody marys ($35), we went to Circular Quay to explore the Opera House.IMG_7999

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We stopped at the Opera House bar for happy hour, which the $35 bloody mary bartender recommended, and it was incredible. They had a live band and there must have been a thousand people there, drinking and enjoying the beautiful afternoon. The Aussies are a happy lot. We shared a bottle of wine and had a front-row seat for some of the best people-watching on the planet.IMG_7997

Another thing we did was go to the Botanic Garden. These are everywhere. I think they’re called Ibis, but don’t quote me.IMG_7993

PS: Thanks to my sister Mike for breakfast today. Two capuccinos and two berry muffins at Starbucks.

Friday, November 16

Down Undah

Boys and girls, it’s a LOOOOOOONG way down here. I think we were 23 hours in the air, plus several hours in airports. Hey, it’s going to be a beautiful day tomorrow, I know because it’s already tomorrow here. It is 4:00 in the afternoon on Saturday here and 9:00 Friday night back in California.

You obviously know this is the Sydney Opera House, but it’s the first picture I took and good proof that we’re here. We’ll get up close and personal with it later, but from here it looks as if the “sails” are made of interlocking ceramic tiles. Circular Quay, which is the waterfront area, is a five-minute walk from our hotel. IMG_7928

If I turn around 180 degrees, this is the view on the other side of Circular Quay. This is where our cruise ship will dock in five or so days. IMG_7931

We walked around an area called “The Rocks,” which is the old town and waterfront, and had lunch with great people-watching. The Aussies don’t look much different from us, and they are exceedingly friendly. Everyone is. Sydney is a squeaky clean, lovely city. IMG_7933

Maybe I’ll get a chance to try this stuff while I’m here. It’s what the kids take to school in their lunch box—Vegemite sandwich. IMG_7936

We’re back in our hotel for a nap before heading back out to see what’s happening on a Saturday night. See you real soon!

Sunday, November 4

Up in a Sea of Cardinal (USC)

It might be an understatement to say that I am not much of a football fan. I hadn’t been to a football game since college. Until yesterday.

Meet Sue. Sue and I play golf together. She is a USC alum and a rabid USC football fan. She treated us to a day at the game. Here she is making bloody marys in the back of her vehicle.

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Everyone is a rabid fan. I was overwhelmed by color everywhere. There must have been a thousand of these tents, and I believe the color of this person’s vehicle is no coincidence, either. IMG_7869

Especially this one. IMG_7801

Even the rival team, in this case the Oregon Ducks, is decked out in their school colors.
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We walked around the beautiful campus and had lunch. Then, in a little while, a parade started up. IMG_7876

Well if it isn’t the famously cool USC Trojans band, up close! Don’t you just love marching bands?IMG_7888

Here they are later on the field. IMG_7900

I had so much fun. I even got to pet Traveler.IMG_7865

Here is Traveler later on the field. Traveler has his own website. IMG_7918

And. if all that excitement and spectacle wasn’t enough, you got to see a football game! It was an exciting game, but the Trojans lost, 62 – 51.
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Oh, and as an added bonus, we walked over to the science center across the street and saw THIS! The space shuttle! Oh wow. Very, VERY big wow.
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It is so big I couldn’t get all of it in one picture, and I am up against the wall in the corner. This is its temporary shelter.  They are collecting funds to build it a permanent home.
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Here is a shot of its rear end.
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It was an absolutely perfect, fun-filled day. Thanks, Sue!

Friday, November 2

Tales From the Forward Tees

Alan and Cheryl came out from Los Angeles to play golf with me. The weather has been outta sight!

We got up before sunrise to tee it up at dawn. It’s already pretty darn chilly in the mornings, but when the sun comes up it gets very warm.

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We played beautiful Eagle Falls, and it was opening day. The grass was lush and gorgeous.

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Because of the fresh winter grass it was cart-path only, which meant we had to park and walk to the ball. And back. We were pretty worn out at the end but thankful that we are still physically able to do this. I wonder what it is that draws us in so…

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We are over on the north side of the Coachella Valley, so these are the Chocolate Mountans (below). You are used to seeing the Santa Rosas, which are on the south side of the valley. These mountains aren’t as impressive as the Santa Rosas, but when the sun sets in the west these mountains are ablaze in orange and purple.

It is so beautiful here. I love it.

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The second day we played Tahquitz Creek (“tokwits”) in old Palm Springs. Tahquitz is one of the first golf courses I ever played on so it holds a special place in my heart. I used to score in the 130s in those days. This day I got 105. 105 Seems to be my number lately.

THESE are the Santa Rosas. Higher. Sharper.

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Sunrise on the Santa Rosa Mountains. San Jacinto peak to be exact.

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