Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part X

Our great southern odyssey is coming to a close, I write this sitting in the Sydney airport awaiting the flight back to the States. I have found no reason to change my opinion that Australia is a place most Americans would find comfortable to live. It has nearly as wide a diversity of climates and geographies as North America, except most places never get very cold.

This has been quite a trip: Seattle, San Francisco, Hilo, Lahaina, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Rarotonga, American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia - whew! We've been traveling for weeks and weeks, now it is time to go home and rest up for the next trip which begins in six weeks. Travel blogging will be "in hiatus" until mid-December.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part IX

G'day from Cairns, pronounced locally as "cans." This is the pretty part of Australia - beautiful beaches, mountains right at the shore, bays, and the Great Barrier Reef between you and the Coral Sea. It looks a lot like Hawaii, with more room and less dirt. There is a local building/development boom that resembles Florida in its heyday, new projects popping up everywhere. The climate is hot and muggy, like Hawaii and Florida too.

It is the end of the tourist season in Cairns. Like Florida, people come here during the local winter (July, August) and find it both warm and relatively dry. Winter is over and now is the local spring. We are here for four nights, then back to "the world." Tomorrow we do "the reef" and the the day after we do the canopy cable car/mountain railroad. More later of course....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part VIII

Greetings from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. This is the tropical north, looking across the Timor Sea toward Indonesia and New Guinea. This is the only place in Australia that was bombed by Japanese planes in World War II. The feeling is Hawaii-like, although the "tropicality" isn't quite so lush. They are just wrapping up the dry season and heading into "the wet," which begins in a month.

The Ghan cross-country passenger train was great. We recommend it to you. Exotic food (e.g., kangaroo, emu, camel) and an amazing amount of empty land covered in considerable style. The scenery isn't spectacular, but we didn't expect it to be. We did take a helicopter ride in Alice Springs and that was fantastic.

Our next stop is Cairns, which in Oz you pronounce like "cans." The Great Barrier Reef is what you see there. We'll be home in CA in 5 days, jet-lagged out of our minds.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part VII

Greetings from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. This is probably as close to remote as I'm likely to get anytime since Antarctica. The town is 25k people and one heck of a long way from anywhere. The surroundings are desert, with some mountains. It is roughly half way from Adelaid on the south coast to Darwin on the north coast. We took a helicopter tour this afternoon, a very cool way to see an area. In an hour we reboard The Ghan passenger train and head north to Katherine and then Darwin. We will pass through 3 climate zones on this 2.5 day rail trip, ending up in tropical.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Global Warming is Happening

This article on MSNBC says global warming is really happening and happening faster than expected. Score one for the Al Gore crowd.

Global Warming or Global Hype?

See this article by a respected scientist, in the Wall Street Journal, which takes the view that there may be no global warming or if there is, it may not be much of a problem for the world. Chalk up one for Al Gore's foes. The climate discussion goes on....

Rowling: Dumbledore Is Gay

This Associated Press article on the ABC News website reports that J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-bestselling Harry Potter series of children's books, has claimed that Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is gay.

Did we need this gratuitous water-muddying? I prefer to think of his boyhood friendship with Grindelwald as the normal-for-British-public-school-boys crush with no lasting adult consequences. In fact, the entire Hogwarts faculty appears to be entirely asexual, with the exceptions of Rubeus Hagrid and Severus Snape. Perhaps it is something in the water? What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Steyn on the Cold Civil War

Check out Mark Steyn's latest on the concept of a cold civil war going on in the U.S. "Cold" in the sense that we aren't shooting at each other, "civil" in the sense that it is domestic, and "war" in the sense that no quarter is given. As is typical, once again Steyn is worth reading.

Travel Blogging, Part VI

Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand. Since our last post we visited American Samoa and Fiji. Both are interesting. American Samoa reminded us of Guam, which isn't all that surprising since both places are U.S. territories in the far Pacific. Samoa is a relatively typical volcanic island, whereas Fiji has lots of entirely arable land as well as dramatic mountains. I guess what surprised me most about Fiji is how big the main island is. Imagine, on Fiji it is a 3-4 hour drive from the international airport to the capital/port of Suva. This is NOT because the roads are poor, we made a good rate of speed. It is simply a big island.

More recently we visited Auckland, on the north island of New Zealand, or EnZed as locals sometimes call it. I didn't get ashore as I was fighting a cold that has been making its way around the ship. Eileen went ashore and took some neat pix. As we get further south, it keeps getting colder and we have to keep reminding ourselves that we've sailed into early spring here.-

This has been a remarkable cruise, great group of passengers, fantastic itinerary, nice ship - the whole enchilada.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part V

Greetings from beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. It is spring here and the climate is exactly what you would ask for if you had a choice: shirtsleeves temperature and a light breeze. Somewhat humid but not too bad. I suppose this isn't exactly paradise, but it will do till something better comes along. It is Polynesia without the French accent and 'culture.' Instead the locals have a lovely clipped crypto-Brit accent. AND, it really hasn't been discovered like Bora Bora and Tahiti so there are miles of empty beaches you can walk on without paying hotel rent.

Their secret is that by law no family is allowed to sell land, EVER. They can rent it to you for up to 50 years at a crack but cannot sell it. The absolute only way to ever own land here is to inherit it or marry it. "Raro," as locals call it, is much less down-at-the-heels than other Pacific islands of our acquaintance. The place was a New Zealand dependency for many years and has been more-or-less independent for four years. They still use the NZ $ and rely on EnZed for defense and foreign representation. The Cook Islands remain a part of the Commonwealth and probably have Queen Elizabeth II on their stamps, I haven't had occasion to mail anything.

Our onboard lectures have been going well, and are very well attended in the big theater. Apparently my mix of geography, politics, and travelogue works for this audience - I am glad. Our next stop is in American Samoa, Pago Pago I believe. We are wondering if our Verizon cell phones and aircard will work there since it is a part of the U.S. I'm not holding my breath, but will let you know later.

Crossing the Equator was fun but not traumatic, they got four volunteers to be the "polywogs" and they got 'shampooed' with stuff like raw eggs and spaghetti and flour. The rest of us watched and laughed but now all of us are "shellbacks," that is, people who have sailed across the Equator on a ship.

As old cruising hands say, I wish you all fair winds and following seas.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part IV

Greetings from Papeete, Tahiti. Weather warm and humid, surroundings beautiful as always. We had a smooth sail from Bora Bora last night, I watched Bogart and Bergman act noble in Casablanca while Eileen slept. Folks can choose different paths on a ship, more easily than at home. Lectures going well, making me a minor celebrity onboard, it is fun. French keyboard is difficult; letters a,m,w in the wrong places.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Travel Blogging, Part III

We're about to pull up the hook in Lahaina Roads and head south for the Equator and the South Pacific. Next stop: Bora Bora. I wonder if King Neptune forces elderly cruise ship passengers to perform indignities in order to become "shellbacks," that is, people who've sailed across the Equator? I will report the answer to this question on a later date.

We have had company here in Lahaina Roadstead, Norwegian's Pride of Aloha and a cadet training tall ship from Chile. More later....