Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199907 Australia-NT Indonesia

Thursday 1 July 1999  We first met 26 years ago and Sandra has bought us a lovely "anniversary" card.  At the 10.00am Litchfield park ranger talk about termite mounds we learn there are many different types and we have seen cathedral, magnetic and ones joining onto trees.  Of the 200 species of termite in Australia over 100 are in the Northern Territory and only 5% of these are bad the rest help to put nutrients back into the land.  Lots to see in the park with Florence Falls the first stop.  The car park is at the top of the high single falls with a shady walk down to the rock pool.  Pass on the walk and head onto Buley Rockhole where cascades create wonderful swimming pools.  Steve comes out of the water and digs a beetle out of his wrist.  People gather round a lower pool to see a leg less lizard.   A water monitor strolls across our sunbathing rock.  Sounds horrendous but even I didn’t run a mile.  The place is so beautiful you put the creatures to the back of your mind convinced it’s no problem as the locals don’t take much notice.  The high spectacular Tolmer falls are viewed from a distant hanging platform.  Wangi Falls are our favourite with a grassy sunbathing area between the car park and pool.  Twin falls pour into the clear turquoise waters with steps leading into the pool.  Fruit bats (also called flying foxes) hang from the nearby trees and water monitors stroll around.  The hike up the side and across the falls is disappointing as you can’t actually see the falls from the top.  Sandra has a swim before we head north on the dirt track. Park at the end of the track for a refreshing bush shower before tea. 
Friday 2 July   Territory Wildlife Park $12 (£4.80) has a good birds of prey show. We then hop on and off the "Noddy" train to view the other attractions.  The glass tunnel under the river is especially good and a diver jumps in to hand feed the fish.  Complete the circuit then head to adjoining Berry Springs Nature Park.  Hot springs, cascades and large swimming holes make this a super place to sunbathe.   East on the Arnhem highway towards Kakadu where we stop at a rest area overlooking the wetlands.  3 other campers have set up their tables and chairs and sit with binoculars poised.  A fabulous spot to watch the wildlife and sunset.  They are leaving before 5.30 am for Fogg Dam to see the early morning wildlife.  Steve and Sandra think it would be a good idea to follow them – exhausted with all the getting up at 7.00am each morning and chasing round the country like a tourist I don’t. 
Saturday 3 July  Steve drives the 10km to Fogg Dam whilst I remain in bed.  An excellent plan as they return from the walk freezing cold having only seen the same birds we saw last night.  Meanwhile I have had the warm cosy bed to myself for an extra hours.  Nearby the Adelaide River Queen offer a jumping crocodile trip $26 (£10.50).  Cruising up the River we spot crocodiles and then meat is hung from a pole at the front of the boat for them to jump and catch.  Impressive kites and eagles also swoop down for a feed.  Retrace our steps to the Stuart highway for the final stretch into Darwin.  Check onto Shady Glen campsite $19 (£7.60) requesting a shade less pitch.  Lunch, laundry and lounging follow.  Out to Cullen Bay early evening for the "Spirit of Darwin" sunset harbour cruise ($15) £6.  The busy marina has a real holiday feel with shops and pavement cafes and it’s great to see the sea again having spent 9 weeks inland.  Entering the locks a dolphin starts to play in front of our boat.  The captain tells funny stories and as we cruise by the wharf with waterside restaurants he shouts comments to the diners.  The beautiful Oceanic Odyssey cruise ship is in port just about to set sail on her maiden voyage to Bali.  Superb sunset with the huge ball dropping rapidly into the water followed by a red sky.  Sandra insists on treating us to a meal and Rorkes Drift has been recommended.   My rib eye filet is the most tender I have ever had and we all struggle to eat the huge meals.
Sunday 4 July  Check out another camp site which turns out to be run by an Aboriginal missionary and closed on Sundays.  They are holding a church service and singing lively gospel type songs.  The historical walk gives us more insight into the devastation caused in the second world war and then by cyclone Tracy on Christmas day 1974.  Sandra gets a chance to buy souvenirs as we walk through Smith Street mall.  She stayed in a motel at Nightcliff on her first night here and now gets a chance to see it in daylight along with the Sunday market.  Very hot by mid day so the Casuarina nudist beach beckons us.  A beautiful pine fringed beach with exceedingly soft white sand and warm sea.  We are wary about going into the water as box jellyfish swim in this area in the wet season and have been seen in the dry.  Signs advise sting treatment of vinegar on the wound, resuscitation and transfer to hospital!  Tear ourselves away from the beach just in time to stop Sandra’s bum becoming a BBQ hot plate.  Mindil Beach near town has a night market with food stalls from all over the world.  Sample Greek gyros, Japanese prawn toast, pumpkin tempura, fish kebab, Australian lamb shank, Sri Lanka sweet and sour chicken and beef in black bean sauce.  Pancakes for desert, Sandra has banana and caramel and I strawberries and Cointreau.  A human statue provides great entertainment when an Aboriginal girl can’t understand what is happening.  Frightened by it she starts to cast a spell shouting and crying until someone convinces her it is a real person.  MGM Grand casino is where Sandra has a flutter on the roulette.  She first changes $10 (£4) and gets two $5 chips which she then changes for 5 x $2.  Having nearly lost her money she has a small win but puts most of it back on stopping to cash the last $10 back in.  The croupier smiles and says "$10 hey back where you started"!  Last of the big gamblers. 
Monday 5 July  Sandra’s last morning and we’ve covered 3,000km but can’t believe the time has gone so fast.  Sandra takes a dip in the pool and sunbathes until the last minute.  I tidy the cupboards swapping the heater for the cooling fan and storing our warm clothes.  The airport has a very confusing check in system which we finally master and say our farewells.  For once I am at an airport and not longing to be getting on a plane to go somewhere – most unusual for me.  As we leave the air conditioned terminal the heat hits us and reminds us of many past holidays stepping off the plane to scorching dry heat.  It’s around 30C in the day now with quite warm comfortable nights.   Book the van in for a service tomorrow.  Fannie Bay old goal (free) is interesting.  East Point Reserve Military museum $8 (£3.20) enlightens us on Darwin’s war efforts.  We spot dozens of wallabies coming out to feed late afternoon.  Most frustrating having spent time with Sandra trying to find some.  Park in a quiet spot by some boat yards planning staying the night. A mini bus taxi arrives and drops off a load of drunk Aboriginals with bags full of booze.  One promptly vomits.  Move on to Dinah’s beach.
Tuesday 6 July  Drop the van at the garage for it’s 220,000km service and head into town.  The immigration office say no problem extending our visa and to call back later with financial evidence.  Notice that the fee for this went up to $170 (£70) on 1st July.  Stroll round town and Steve notices the exchange rate has fallen to $2.25 compared to $2.50 when we arrived.  Will have to revise our calculations.  Collect the van and return to the immigration office but the computers for the whole of Australia are down and we must return another day.  Head out towards Casuarina beach checking the cinema times en route.  Tuesday is cheap day at cinemas in Australia and we want to see Notting Hill.  Pause to pick up soft ice cream cones 30c (13p) at McDonalds and two for the price of one double cheeseburgers at Hungry Jacks $3.50 (£1.50).  Relax on the naturist beach from 12 – 5.  Shop at Casuarina shopping centre and return to find a note from Craig, Sam and Darcey now at Lee Point caravan park and hoping to see us.  6.50pm cinema $7.50 (£3.50) where we have a good many laughs at Notting Hill.   As we leave we notice "Austin Powers – The spy who shagged me" in the next booth and sneak in –  absolute garbage.  Park at Casuarina Beach but don’t feel comfortable when a motorbike pulls up.  Head out to Buffalo Creek near Lee Point where we have a quiet night.
Wednesday 7 July  Wake up to dead batteries yet again.  We bought some fresh meat to put in the freezer and suspect the fridge has run most of the night.   It is becoming a bit of a pain as none of the garages know enough to solve the problem for us.  Check into Lee Point caravan park to recharge the batteries.  Enjoy a relaxing day making good use of the swimming pool.   Craig and Sam return from work and with Darcey join us for a meal.   
Thursday 8 July   24 hours on site should have charged our battery so we head back to the beach.  10.30 – 4.00 spent sunbathing and paddling.  Collect our films but only 4 of the 5 have arrived.  The missing one is of Ayers Rock and we will have to hang around in the hope it arrives in the morning.  At Buffalo Creek a couple of lads are planning to sleep on the beach and someone else has pitched a tent further along.  Sandra phones having arrived back safely in the UK.  Her photos are brilliant so at least we can get copies if ours don’t show.  Claire phones saying still no flight, the baby is now due on December 14th and David phoned following receipt of our postcard and is now split up from Natalie and training to be a mechanic – well that’s this week anyway! Fingers crossed.
Friday 9 July  Back towards town stopping at a recommended battery dealer en route.  No joy but he recommends another – also no good.  No problem obtaining visa extensions. The supermarket phone as our photos have arrived (1/2 hour earlier we were in that area).  Sort out e-mail and a few other bits of business then set out to find another battery dealer.  A wild goose chase ensues and we finally give up and head for the beach.  Call to get the gas bottle refilled and the garage says we will have to wait 1 hour.  At the next garage we get the bottle filled and Steve spots a van saying "Battery World".  Their garage is around the corner and they test the battery and suggest putting the "original " two back on as they are much more powerful than the new one and still good.  Hang around whilst the owner goes out and his partner swaps batteries in between serving other people and answering the phone.  A considerable time and $40 (£18) later we leave.  Collect the photos which are great and too late for the beach we double back to visit the "Expo 99".   Entertainment of Asian’s singing and dancing and a Javanese wedding which turns out to be the real thing.  The nearby botanical gardens are a bit of a let down but we enjoy the stroll around.  To the wharf for sunset but as we pull up the battery dies.  Serious expletives follow.  We must get power but first pay a quick visit to the wharf.  From the dozens of food stalls diners collect their meals then sit listening to the salvation army band.  "Danny Boy" is playing and reminds us of a little fellow back home.  At "Anda" the aboriginal campsite near town the boot lock has jammed and we cannot get the electric cable out. Bedding and mattress have to be removed to access it from the inside.  Grab the electric cable to plug in and then empty all the contents of the boot to free the lock.  Are we having a good day or what?  
Saturday 10 July  Batteries charged we head back to Fannie Bay to visit the Art and culture museum.  Free admission to this multi museum with an Aboriginal section, Chinese room, Cyclone Tracy display complete with mock houses, natural history museum with stuffed crocodiles etc and lots of meddling areas.  Each Saturday this month they are holding race meeting $8 (£3.50) leading up to the Darwin Cup.  We settle down at one of the many tables and chairs provided on the lawns.  Do rather well throughout the afternoon picking winners or placed horses in 6 of the 8 races.  The problem is that with $2 or $5 bets on horses with low odds we don’t stand to loose much but neither are the winnings significant!   Still a most enjoyable afternoon in hot weather with a nice breeze.  Yes we are having a good day.  Speak too soon as we return to the van and a dead battery.  Needing power again we head out of town towards Top End Naturist Recreation Retreat.  As we turn off the Stuart highway there is a police road block with swarms of uniformed people around.  We are flagged down and Steve is asked to do a breathalyser which is clear.  They check the tax disc and tyres etc before waving us on.  Owners Gary and Jean greet us at the site $18 (£8) night or $85 (£40) a week.  Our neighbours come over to introduce themselves.  In Australia for 30 years Diana is from Wolverhampton and Keith is an ex miner from Sheffield.  Saturday nights everyone congregates at the club house to use the big BBQ and we grab our venison BBQ pack and join in. 
Sunday 11 July   Perfect day for being at a naturist resort sunbathing, swimming, chatting and lounging around.  Keith and Diana find out my date of birth is the same as their son’s who died at 30. They adopt me as a daughter.  Floating on the air bed in the pool is bliss.  When we try to put the battery operated TV on in the evening we still enough power so Steve watches the grand prix in the club house until the early hours.
Monday 12 July  It’s a great spot here and we haven’t got to the bottom of the battery problem so we will stay all week.  Keith and Diana take us for a drive out to the nearby Darwin Dam but you can’t swim and have to wear clothes so we quickly return to the club.  Read in the paper that the road blocks were set up for the Darwin River Rocks festival which was held at the weekend.  Sunbathing and relaxing before crib with Keith and Diana in the evening.
Tuesday 13 July  Another hot day.  If the weather was anything other than hot, clear skies and between 29C and 31C people would be surprised.  Play Crazy Golf with Noel and Val  which takes ages as the pitch is very "rustic".  Laze around until the evening crib session.
Wednesday 14 July    Letter writing session. Sunbathing. Evening crib.
Thursday 15 July  Short walk.  Mini golf.  Bob has arrived and he knows about batteries and  says the ones which are on may need 4 or 5 days to charge up properly.  He takes the one we bought 2 months ago for testing.  Steve & I, Keith & Diana, Norm & Bev, Noel & Val, Neville & Elaine and Pete & Pat invade the  "Litchfield Arms" for an evening pub meal.  Good food followed by much joke telling as we sit out watching the sun set over the cattle station.  Return for Steve and Keith to watch Manchester United playing football in Australia.  Claire phones with news that David is in Munich to work on a building site and living in a caravan.  "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" immediately springs to mind – wonder which character David would be.  Try to stop thinking about it as visions of Oz in his dirty baggy underpants springs to mind!
Friday 16 July  Early morning phone call from Mike Daniel’s in Sydney making an enquiry about our motorhome exchange advert.  He has a 27′ Gulfstream which sounds better than ours.  Chat for awhile and agree to write to each other with further information.  We are keen but he and especially his wife sound like ditherers.  Bob tells us the "new" leisure battery is no good but should be under guarantee.  Retrieve the paperwork which says 2 year warranty and phone the guy who promises to phone back later.  Exercise with pool volley ball followed by more relaxing and sunbathing.  Everyone here is so friendly that when you go to do something you end up getting into a conversation and the time flies by. No call from the battery man!
Saturday 17 July  Beverley and Norman are off on the Oceanic Odyssey for a two week cruise through the Spice Islands.  They got 2 for the price of 1 at Expo last weekend.  Keith and Diana are taking them to the port and I hitch a ride to do some shopping having decided to stay on site for another week.  Arrive at Darwin port at 2.30pm and we are invited on board.  A luxurious ship with hotel style rooms and a capacity of 120 passengers.  Wiwiek the cruise director mentions there are only 22 booked for this trip and my brain goes into overdrive as Steve has always fancied a cruise but I don’t like the idea of a big ship.  The travel agent is on board promoting the cruise and I begin negotiations.  First offer of 25% discount declined as I mention that our friends got 2 for 1 with a total price of $3214 (£1425).  He matches their deal which includes an upgrade from deck 3 to deck 4 (should have been $3438 pp).  I phone Steve at the campsite 80km away and ask if he wants to go and can he get to the port in an hour and a half.  He thinks I have had too much sun this morning but speaks to Keith to confirm that I am serious.  He agrees to the trip but suggests I try for a better deal so I press for the Deluxe Suite which the Staff Captain authorises for us and also Bev and Norm.  4.30pm Steve parks at the port and I rush into the van to pack our things.  Keith is drives our van back to the site and by 5.00pm we are on board having a briefing!  Emergency drill follows and then we get chance to check out our accommodation.  High up on deck 6 we have a great view from our private balcony, lounge area with settee 2 chairs coffee table and a desk, king sized bed, bathroom with bath tub, TV, phone, mini bar, air con, bath robes, tea and coffee making facilites and a basket of fruit.  As good as any 5* hotel room.  Bev and Norm are opposite which means we can sunbathe nude and enjoy the view from either side of the ship.  6.30pm we sail with cocktails served by the pool side whilst we throw our streamers to the shore. A singer belts out "I am sailing" – never mind I am sailing I reckon I am dreaming but don’t pinch me.  7.30pm dinner is served restaurant style with tables seating from 4 to 8 people.  Single sitting with silver service for the 5 course meal with 3 choices.  The only dress restriction on board is no shorts after 7.00pm when they suggest smart casual.  We are on a table with Bev and Norm, Tom & Mina originally from Scotland and just retired, Glenn the ships doctor, and Wiwiek.  We learn there were only 3 passengers on the Bali – Darwin leg last week and 2 of them had won the trip as a prize!  It used to be a 3 or 4 day cruise from Bali and they are just starting to sell the new 7 and 14 day version.  A live band plays in the main lounge after dinner but we are shattered and fall asleep in our room whilst watching "Under Siege 2".  Recall shopping with Mavis last October and returning with a flight to Crete.
Sunday 18 July  Sleep rather fitfully as our heads are buzzing and haven’t caught up with our bodies yet.  The Wet and Dry Saunas, Gym and Jacuzzi are on our floor and we hop on the scales for our pre cruise weigh in.  A buffet breakfast of fruit juices, fresh fruit, salad, yoghurt, porridge, toast, waffles with maple syrup,  loads of cooked things and a chef waiting to prepare eggs any way you want, cereal, Danish pastries, muffins, tea and coffee.  Heather and Nigel join us in the library and tell us they heard us booking at the last minute and decided to do the same thing.  They have to make up a  story for being absent from work and also arrange a flight back from Bali on Saturday.  10.00am tour briefing followed at 10.45 by snorkelling lessons in the pool.  Buffet lunch is served from 12.00-14.00 and consists of salad, soup, hot items, desserts, cheese and biscuits and tea and coffee.  The chef is Dutch and the food varied, tasty and very tempting.  The 14.00 bridge tour by Captain Frank Allica is interesting.  He is very obliging and even turns the ship off course to show how manual steering works.  Manage to fit in a spa and sauna before the 16.00-17.00 afternoon tea, coffee and cakes in the lounge.  19.00 the Captain invites all passengers to his "welcome aboard cocktail party" at the pool side followed by the evening meal sitting on a table for 4 with Norm and Bev.  The ships clocks are being retarded 60 minutes tonight and we are still all shattered.  21.30 Attempt to watch the "The Negotiator".
Monday 19 July  Sleep pretty well and wake at 6.00 to stroll out onto the balcony as we approach Semau Island INDONESIA opposite West Timor.  The air smells of Asia and we are surrounded by fishing boats.  Zodiacs (small motorised boats) shuttle us to Koblain Beach where parasols and beach mats are waiting.  Bev and Norm stayed here a few years ago and we walk along the beach to look at "their" cottage.  Behind the beach big shells are filled with water to dry out for salt.  Men walk out to sea dragging fishing nets and women dig in the sand.  School children parade down the beach to see the ship and the strange people.  The islands we are visiting are very remote and tourists a rarity.  Buffet lunch on the ship before the 14.30 cultural visit to Uiasa Village $10 (£4.50) with a natural water spring.  4 elders in tribal costume welcome us then the children present us with bougainvillaea Hawaiian style leis.  We drink fresh coconut milk whilst the women do traditional dances.  They come over and I am the first to be asked to join in.  We are invited to swim in the village pool with the locals but in reality they all get out then stand around looking at us – talk about being in a goldfish pool.   At a village house a man climbs barefoot up the palm tree to get the juice which we sample.  They brew alcohol from it and when I what it tastes like a women disappears and comes back a moment later with some.  It’s like the paint stripper style grapefruit wine I once brewed.   The village boys then pretend to be drunks walking along the street.  The lady who asked me to dance has become very attached to me and walks me all the way back to the zodiac arm in arm.  Relax in the Jacuzzi as we set sail.  The four of us split up for evening meals to meet more people.  We are seated with Gary and Leanne from Queensland and Yusdi the ships hotel manager with his wife Gung Gek and son Ricky.  "Perfect Murder" is the film tonight and having fallen asleep watching it on the plane from England I hope to catch it all.  No chance.  Clocks back another 1/2 hour.
Tuesday 20 July  Up at 7.00 anchored by Sawu/Savu/Sabu Island where we look through the early morning mist to see hills, palm trees, fishing boats and lovely beaches.  The zodiac drops us at Seba village which is very like India with a street market in full flow.  People sit cross legged on the ground with a cloth in front of them displaying small piles of spices, fruit and vegetables.  Young lads puff on their cigarettes whilst hand pumping petrol from huge barrels into jerry cans.  Most of the houses are thatched and have a well in the garden.  Many seem to be mini farms with pigs, goats and chickens running round the gardens.  Return to the ship to get our swim wear and then a zodiac takes just Steve and me to the beach.  On the way flying fish jump out of the water in front of us.  The umbrellas and mats are waiting and some locals are gathered round with one of them strumming a guitar.  Steve strolls along the beach and finds a wonderful orange star fish amongst many interesting shells.  Back to the ship for lunch and an invitation to the captains table tonight. Steve stays on board whilst I take the afternoon cultural tour $30 ($13.50).  It’s a wet landing but bowls of water and towels are provided – how luxurious.  Arriving ashore we are greeted with the traditional "Kowa Hole" dance and Sabunese Horseman.  We can go to the village of Jariwala on an open truck or by Sandalwood horse and I opt for the latter along with Yusdi’s wife and son.  They however are petite Balinese people and get to sit behind a rider whereas I am big and heavy and get a horse to myself.   The small horses have been trained to take lots of little steps to make the bareback riding more comfortable.  My horse heads off towards the palm trees which nearly decapitate me.  It doesn’t understand English nor respond to the rope as a horse would to reins.  Someone chases after me jabbering away then steers me in the right direction.  The truck sets off up the road with everyone stood up in the back whilst we head up a track.  The horses pick up speed but I try to slow mine down – fat chance with one of the other horsemen hitting it’s backside.   It’s a long track and we eventually reach a road but no sign of the truck.  Looks like I will have to grin and bear it as my Indonesian doesn’t run to "my bums sore can I get off and then how do I get to the village?".  I hear a lot of heckling from behind then realise the truck has caught us up.  Yusdi’s son Ricky asks for his horse to be stopped and I take the opportunity to jump off also.  I amble John Wayne style back to the truck amid much laughter.  The villagers come out to greet us.  Coconut drink and traditional dancing follows.  Again I am the first to be asked to join in and someone says it is because of my blonde hair.  The selling of local "Ikat" textiles and wooden items completes the village tour.  Back into the truck for a ride to the megalithic village of Namata.  The track is extremely rough and we have to keep ducking to avoid overhanging branches.  We cross a stream with herds of water buffalo and eventually reach the village.  16 huge megalithic stone domes form the rock temple and the fancy thatched roof houses of the village complete the scene.  Some villagers return with us to the ship and put on a show by the pool.  Can’t imagine what they make of it.  Dinner with the Captain and Bev & Norm and a Malaysian couple Looi & Sarah.  Very informal first name terms and Captain buys the wine.  Manage to stay awake late enough to spend some time dancing to Rita and the band.
Wednesday 21 July  Sleep well to be woken by the 8.00am announcement to say we are at Sumba Island.  Leap out of bed (naked) and out onto the balcony to view the island.  Big mistake as we are in a port with locals on the dockside selling their wares – oops. The tours all seem to be based on a traditional welcome, drink of coconut, dancing and fabric selling and although they differ slightly on each island it’s not really our scene.  We opt out and take a walk through the village and up the hill.  Lots of Bima’s (mini bus type taxis) toot and want us to hop on board.  "Jalan Jalan" (just walking) seems to pacify them.  It’s interesting to just observe how the people live and we really feel like travellers again.  10,000 rupiah = £1 and I try to buy an ice pop but there is a problem when I try to pay with my smallest  5,000 rupiah (50p) note.  An English speaking person is found to explain it costs 100 rupiah (1p) and they don’t have enough change but would like me to have it as a gift.   Children call out to us "Hello Missy", "Hello Mister", "Where you going?".  Return to the ship for 13.00 to reposition at Puru Kambera Beach.  As we set sail the bargaining intensifies with goods being thrown aboard and as the last lot of money is thrown back some lands in the sea.  People jump in to fish it out.  We enjoy our buffet lunch sitting on the pool side sailing past the islands.  15.15 the zodiac takes us to the long sandy beach backed by Casuarina tress and strewn with coral. We investigate an area with trees in the water and see some strange frog type fish which jump over the surface of the water.   Return to sunbathe, swim and take a sauna before dinner.  Sit with Gary & Leanne, Brian a barrister from Melbourne and Wiwiek.  A quiz night follows but we don’t do well having been too busy to read up the facts and figures on the ship. 
Thursday 22 July  Early 6.00 start for our visit to Komodo National Park (free) home of the prehistoric Komodo dragons.  These are really giant monitor lizards which grow to 3m long weighing 200kg.   Our 4km dragon hunt walk reveals a total of 3 and they look pretty scary.  Back to the ship where we are welcomed with a cool face cloth and slice of melon.  A turtle swims past during our transfer to Pink Beach so called as the coral fragments give the sand a pink hue.  A fantastic spot for snorkelling with coral only 5m off shore and lots of pretty tropical fish to be seen.  Everyone from the boat comes ashore for an early BBQ lunch served at the beach.  Is this paradise or what?   I try snorkelling but without my air bed I am frightened of the fish coming too near.  Gwen an 80 year old passenger has her first attempt at snorkelling and puts me to shame.  Like many people on board Gwen can’t believe we are Grandparents and actually thought we looked like honeymooners!   Set sail at 1400 and to watch the afternoon film "Mrs Doubtfire".  As evening approaches a volcano comes into view and Bev and Norm join us on our balcony.  Small dolphins chase the ship and we sip our drinks as we sail close by the mystical puffing island with the sun setting behind it – magic.  For the dinner we are with Wiwiek (again), an Indonesian immigration officer and another Indonesian couple and they don’t speak English.  So much for chatting to new people!
Friday 23 July  Lombok half day tour today.  Zodiac to Teluk Nare where a big banner greets us saying "Welcome Oceanic Odyssey".  Air conditioned mini bus (yes this island gets more tourists) through the hills to the Pusuk "monkey" Forest.  The 1714 Lingsar Temple has a special spring.  If you wash in it you become younger so as an experiment I wash just half my face!  Back to the coast and Senggigi Beach Market where my bargaining skills are renewed.  Buy a sarong 20,000RP (£2.00), a watch 35,000RP (£3.50), polo shirt 35,000RP (£3.50), mans T shirt and shorts and T shirt for Daniel 50,000 (£5).  Tempted to buy more but know that it would cost more than things are worth to post.   We are taking the opportunity during the trip to check out accommodation and inter island ferries for future reference and Lombok seems to be like Bali was 20 years ago.  Lunch on board then out to Gili Trawangen a small island opposite.  With Norm and Bev we take a horse and cart ride all around the island 40,000RP (£4).  Steve and Bev sit near the front of the cart and when Norm (not a light weight) and I get in the back the cart tips up.  The lads hop on the front to try and balance it and we take off.  The track is narrow and we dodge passing branches.  Stop for a photo then Norm suggests sitting near the front for better balance.  We take off at a fair gallop as all the horses feet now touch the ground!  It’s obviously a Lonely Planet back packers island with few people over 30!  Nice bungalows behind the beach with air conditioning, twin beds, bathroom and breakfast cost £5 night.  The beaches are lovely and there are bars showing films and offering cheap food – definitely on our list for a return visit but perhaps we should bathe in the Lingsar waters first.  Tonight it’s the Indonesian Rijstaffel dinner by the pool side and we have been asked to wear sarongs.  The ship stays anchored in the bay and looks lovely with lots of lights on.  Steve borrows a sarong and wears a cheesecloth shirt over it.  I wear my new one knotted at the front with short T shirt and a fake belly button earring.  Sit with Norm & Bev and Gunter & Joan sipping champagne between loading our plates with food.  A local trio have come on board to sing at the individual tables.  They ask what song we would like and we say a traditional love song.  They play but keep stopping then panting and heavy breathing.  Something got lost in the translation at it turns out they were singing a song about hot chillies!  Crew Show party time in the lounge follows including the male crew dressing up for an hilarious Romeo and Juliet sketch.  Steve gets dragged up to dance with Juliet then everyone ends up on the floor for "Dancing Queen".   Staff  Captain Mike sings "Delilah" complete with Tom Jones exposed shirt and we have a great time.
Saturday 24 July    Benoa harbour, Bali.  From the 11 of us doing the return trip we have chartered a mini bus to Kuta with Gwen & Kath and Wally & Fran $10 (£3.50) each.  En route we stop at a cliff top temple with fantastic views.  The busy main roundabout has a fantastic chariot and horse statue and the mini bus pulls up half way round it for us to take photos.   Kuta is the main tourist resort especially for Australians and we are continually hassled by Europeans trying to sell us time share or entice us to bars and by locals calling out "Hello transport", "Hello leather jacket" etc.  The pavement is terrible with huge manhole covers missing.  Norm reckons if you fell down one there would be someone underneath selling you a first aid kit or transport to the hospital!  The beach is very nice but quite crowded and just not our scene at all.  Manage to do some e-mailing and phone Daz (David now working in Stuttgart) before returning to the ship for lunch.  Full 5 course lunch in the dining room for the 6 of us along with the new Doctor and his wife and the new American ships owner.  The ship changes hands in October but the Spice Island cruise will still exist only with a bigger ship.  Welcome cocktail party in the lounge where we meet some of the new passengers.  Now at total of 32 on board.  Dinner with Yusdi, Mattias & Anna a Swedish couple and Ric the new Doctor and his wife Chris.  Doctors change frequently as they get a free cruise in exchange for their medical services and treat it like a holiday.  Follow the meal with some dancing in the lounge.
Sunday 25 July  Woken at 7.45 with a band outside our bedroom window at Badas port on Sumbawa.  In 1815 Mt. Tambora erupted with the greatest explosion in known history.  The volcanic dust altered the world’s climate and is believed to have caused the great Irish potato famine.  Stroll through the port and around the headland to a resort.  Falling into disrepair we are surprised that the rooms are US $100 night.  Think it might be part of a time share scheme but not worth the money compared to the bungalow on Trawangen.  Chat to Dave and Amanda on ship.  They are from New Zealand and he is a travel journalist.  They ask about our rooms and decide they would like an upgrade.  A price comes back of an extra $200 (£70) per person per night.  We can’t believe this and ask to see the price list.  Good job we are lying down.  The correct price for the suites is $6238 (£2770) per person which means we got a £5540 cruise for  £1425.  Sail to Satonda Island for the afternoon beach activities.  Crystal clear water with a great view of the fish coral from the zodiac.  There is a salt water crater lake behind the beach and a tree where locals make wishes.  Steve ties a stone onto the tree and makes a wish.  Now what more could he possibly wish for?  Sail at 18.30 and as the sun sets thousands of Fruit Bats fly from Satonda to nearby Sumbawa.  The wind is blowing and the bats fly away from us so Frank turns the ship completely around and we chase after them.  They fly across the bow of the ship and look huge with their wings glowing red as the sun sets behind them.  An incredible sight. Enjoy our evening meal in the company of a Dutch family.  Ferry, Jacqueline, Leander (17) and Ferline (14) lived in Jakarta for 7 years until last year when the troubles broke out.  Now Ferry works there alone and the family visit from Holland.
 Monday 26 July  Back at Komodo which is so good it is included in the price and itinerary of both the outward and return trips.  We take the opportunity to go to the pink beach early instead of the dragon walk.  Spot 3 dolphins in the water as we take the zodiac over.  It’s wonderful to have the beach to ourselves (well the crew are at the other end setting up the umbrellas and BBQ etc).  Bev has explained to me that the goggles make things seem bigger and nearer so I am going to try and overcome my fear by snorkelling with my hand stretched out in front of me as a distance guide.  The coral and fish are fantastic.  Bright yellow and blue fish abound and we also see a cuttle fish.  Someone spots a 1 metre reef shark but I am fortunate not to. Time flies and we return to the ship and are the only people on the top sun deck.  It is a particularly spectacular sunset and Frank turns the ship for the best view.  Sit in the Jacuzzi whilst contemplating how lucky we are.  Dinner with Gwen, Kath and Mattias and Anna.
Tuesday 27 July  Maumere port on Flores Island.  5 small cars take us on our trip to Kelimutu.  We drive rapidly (80-100km) through small villages and see lots of people standing around, school children with brooms (to sweep the classrooms),  goats, pigs, chickens, dogs and horses.  Outside the villages the speed is much lower as the roads are very winding and rough.  We detour where a bridge was wiped out in the 1992 earthquake.  Guide Santos says 2000 people were killed then adds "dead".  Landslides block the road and rocks act as warning signs.  Santos points out the local flora and mentions chocolate trees – right up my street.  Stop a couple of hours later at Paga Beach where the toilets have been checked out – bare toilet bowls and a well.  We see porcupines for the first time.  Back on the road the lead car hits a dog which Santos reckons will be eaten by the villagers.  After 4 hours we arrive in the forest for our hike up to the Kelimutu three different coloured volcanic lakes of red, white and blue.  The colours continually change – the red into dark green, blue to light green and white to black.  Today the lakes are dark green, magnificent turquoise and brown/black with multi coloured rock sides. We reach them just before the mists roll in.  Head back down the mountain stopping at a restaurant for lunch with a magnificent view down the valley.  Continue the journey but stop and reverse in one of the villages when children throw stones at the car.  Speed on but have to stop for one of the Indonesian lads to be sick.  Offer him Tic Tac mints and he eats the lot. Obligatory cultural show in the village of Moni.  I grab Wally’s video camera and insist he dances instead of me.  Our video camera is out of action as I left one battery behind and the one we have is old and won’t hold a charge.  Wally is going to do us a copy of his and send it to England.  In Maumere market Steve spots a stall with fabric Union Jack flags 3,000 (30P) to replace the faded plastic ones we have been displaying in the motorhome.  An impressive fish display which sadly includes giant turtles.  Evening meal on the pool deck seated with Kath and Eric an elderly couple who married last year in Bali. She is deaf and chips into the conversation with things we spoke of half an hour ago.  Eric’s interesting and ran pubs in both Wolverhampton and Bradford.
Wednesday 28 July  Alor island is famous for the mysterious appearance of 200,000 "Moko" bronze drums 700BC.  On the cultural tour $15 (£6.50) we enjoy seeing the boat building on the beach and learn about fishing techniques.  Takpala is beautifully positioned on a hilltop and the usual greeting, coconut milk, dancing and selling of wares follows.  However this time we are invited to look inside the houses.  Built on stilts underneath is used for storage, the open sided platform throughout the day and then you climb up under the thatched roof to the enclosed bedroom and cooking area.  Steve buys some sandals 20,000RP (£2) at Kadelang market before returning to the ship mid day.  Sunbathing and a sauna before sitting on the balcony watching a volcanic island pass by.  As daylight fades we see a red glow which looks like lava flowing down the hill side followed by a great view of the eclipse of the moon.   Evening meal with Lloyd & Val from New Zealand and Silvano the ships electrician.  Entertaining conversation and more contacts made for our future visit to New Zealand.  Quiz night in the lounge and we are better prepared this week.  Gwen very generously marks ours and we come third and win a mug and some bean bag Komodo dragons which will be great for Daniel. 
Thursday 29 July  Anchored near Ba’a village on the island of Roti.   Stroll through the village and the school children start to follow us up the road as we chat to them.  Steve keeps turning round and pretending to chase them and they think it is hilarious.  Walk down a lane to the beach but can’t find a track back so a fisherman escorts us through gardens strewn with graves.   A "casino" is running on the pavement with people betting on a heads and tails scenario except you can see the way the coin is going to fall before it is covered!  Ship lunch before the afternoon Batu Termanu beach trip.  Seem to spend ages on the zodiac with Wiwiek speaking on the radio to try and find where the shore people have put up the umbrellas etc.  They are in the wrong place so we land and wait for them to find us.  Curious locals appear and when asked to give us some space they move 2m to the other side of us.  The snorkelling is poor and the zodiac can’t find a better spot.  Water buffalo stroll along the back of the beach and as the tide goes out it gets very difficult to climb over the stones into the sea.  All decide to return to the ship but the zodiac has grounded.  The men help to drag it into the water but a big wave goes over Lloyd and his automatic life jacket inflates as he falls on a rock.  Fortunately he is not badly hurt.  Chris’s hat flies off as we head back so we have to circle round to fish it out.  What an eventful afternoon.  Evening meal with Ric & Chris and Don & Dorothy.  All fellow travellers we have lots to talk about including a scheme called "Servis" which Don and Dorothy belong to.  After joining you buy a directory for the country you are visiting and it gives host contacts where you can stay for 2 night and more free of charge.    
Friday 30 July  Day at sea.  I have a bit of an upset stomach and eat very little.    Sunbathe, watch "Mr Bean" on video and generally lounge around.  Late afternoon the ship starts to sway a bit and the pool gradually empties itself.  The saunas are rarely used and as the ladies is a Turkish style wet sauna and the men’s a dry one we decide to use the men’s along with Bev and Norm.  Bev and I are just frolicking in the cold plunge pool as Mike the ship’s staff captain walks in.  "I think you may be in the wrong sauna" he says "but I’ll just flip the door sign to closed".  Little did he know that Steve & Norm were in the sauna cabin!    Weigh in time and Steve is 85kg which is an 8kg gain and the heaviest he has ever bean.  I am 68kg and only 2kg up on my start weight but the day without food will have helped!  Indonesian buffet meal and we sit with Norm and Bev wearing our sarongs.  Crew entertainment in the form of a fashion show followed by the male crew doing a Miss World.   The band stops at midnight and we move into the piano bar for a sing song.  Clocks forward 30 minutes.       
Saturday 31 July  Darwin AUSTRALIA.  8.00 docking in port which as usual is so quiet we don’t know we’ve arrived.  Customs, immigration and quarantine officers come on board and set up an office in the lounge.  Once cleared we take the shuttle bus into town with Bev and Norm and I finally do the shopping I set out to do two weeks ago.  Mid day Jean picks us up to take us back to the site.  Steve sleeps in the afternoon and I wonder round in a daze.  Think P.C.D. (post cruise depression) could easily set in however happy hour and an evening BBQ revives us.

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