Category Archives: 2011 Australia

2011 January 20 – Day 16 – Easter Island

Now that we are home from our 2017 summer road trip I will continue writing about our trip to, within, and home from Australia in 2011.  We sailed to Sydney, Australia via the first leg (45 days) of the Holland America Line World Cruise.   Before we left home for our road trip I wrote about our two days in Callao (Lima), Peru.

We had four days at sea between Callao, Peru and Easter Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  As I have mentioned before, John and I love sea days.  We do lazy well and enjoy reading on deck or walking laps.  On one of the first few days of the cruise I was sitting in the Lido working on one of the puzzles in my book and a lady stopped by and offered me a gigantic crossword puzzle that someone had given her.  It took me several weeks to get it all done.  Thankfully she also provided the answer page so I could look up a few things I couldn’t answer. We had a formal night the first day out from the South American coast.  The theme was Casino Royale and large playing cards and sets of dice adorned the dining room, the Crow’s nest lounge and the hallways. Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.  It is a special territory of Chile and maintains the same time zone.  (Time zone ‘lines’ jog in and around places all over the world.  They are not straight like the lines of latitude and longitude.)  Much of the island is protected within the Rapa Nui National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The captain had been watching the weather for several days as we approached Easter Island and had hinted that we may not even be able to stop if the waves were too high.  As it turned out the 6-10′ swells made it unsafe to take the tenders in to the normal western townsite of Hanga Roa so the captain arranged for all the tour buses and vans to make a dash to the north coast where seas were calmer and a portable docking facility made up of tenders lashed together tied to the small pier was created so we could disembark.  This delayed all tours and visits to the island by over three hours, but thanks to the captains tireless efforts we were able to go ashore.  Our tour was scheduled to depart at 8:30 but we did not get on land until noon. Easter Island is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands.  Its closest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn Island (population about 50) 2075 km (1289.35 miles) to the west.  The Chilean coast is 3,510 km (2,180 miles) away.  The island is somewhat triangular in shape and covers about 63 square miles.  It is approximately 24.6 km (15.3 miles) long and 12.3 km (7.6 miles) wide so you are never far from anywhere.

The large stone statues, or Moai, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved from 1100-1680 CE. So far a total of 887 monolithic stone statues have been inventoried on the island and in museum collections.  Although often identified as “Easter Island heads” the statues are actually complete torsos, with figures kneeling on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs.  Many of the upright Moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils.

Our tour covered the entire island with three different stops.  The first was to Hanga Roa where the tenders were supposed to have berthed, through the town (population about 5300 on the island) to the Tahai site with five standing statues. The statues all had, not hats, but hair (top-knots) quarried from a different part of the island.  Very few of the existing carvings sport them today.

Near the village was an example of the houses the people lived in.  Very strange; elliptical shaped, narrow, and with very small doorways you need to crawl through.

The second stop was Rano Raraku, a sacred site and the quarry from which all of the statues were cut and carved.  When you see the size of the people walking by you get an idea of how large these statues are; and remember most of the body is buried underground. How they were able to move these massive figures to all sides of the island is a mystery.  One theory is that they used logs until all of the trees were gone which also made the island virtually uninhabitable so the peopled died out or moved away.

This statue is absolutely massive.  I have no idea how they thought they could cut it out of the rock and move it away. There are still 397 statues of various sizes and/or incomplete at the quarry on the slopes of the extinct volcano. Further along the southern coast on the back side of the quarry is Tongariki where 15 Maoi statues have been re-erected after being toppled by a tsunami in the 1960s.  The platform beneath the statues is 656 feet long. Important personages and kings were buried under the platforms upon which the statues rest so all of the carvings and the bases are sacred sites. There were some lovely horses grazing nearby. We were driven back to our make-shift dock and tendered to the ship at five o’clock; in time for dinner which is always a good thing since the food is so good onboard.

The ship was supposed to set sail for Pitcairn Island at five but due to the lengthy delay getting people safely ashore departure was put back until 8 pm.  With the extra time needed to get people onto the tenders at shoreside and off the tenders at shipside, navigating the swells, we did not actually lift anchor and sail away until 9.  No one complained about the delay, though. Everyone was very pleased with the effort and arrangements the captain and crew went to in order that we could make the scheduled stop here.  It is not at all unusual for high seas to cancel an Easter Island port-of-of call.  This was one of those surreal places we could not believe we were actually visiting.  It was a wonderful day. We had two days at sea before we reached Pitcairn Island where 45 of the 50 residents will come aboard the ship to sell their sought-after stamps, homemade crafts, T-shirts and trinkets.  The many shoppers on board are twitching with anticpation.

2011 January 15 – Day 11 – Callao (Lima), Peru (Day 2)

It was a beautiful sunny day in Peru, with a slight breeze to keep everyone comfortable. The first stop of our all-day tour was the National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology in Lima.

This museum has a very large collection of pre-Inca cultural artifacts with several very, very old tapestries and really fascinating bowls, containers, and figures; plus a lot of mummies.

.  This piece is similar to a North American totem pole with the carving in the rock telling a story.  The tablet was upside down and used as a table in a peasant’s house.  A guest, who was an archaeologist, reached under the edge to wipe his fingers and felt the carving so he got down on hands and knees to take a look and discovered this ancient, precious artifact. We were able to wander around for an hour and a half, which was not nearly long enough and yet, was not a rush through from entrance to exit either.  Since I love museums I rarely feel I have enough time when I am in one.  We had an excellet guide who was very knowledgable about the various civilizations and their impact on the formation of Peru. It was an hour’s drive (through insane, crazy traffic) past some lovely parks and lots of beachside shops to get to our next stop; the archaeological site of Pachacamac.

 These fellows are laying out the pattern of one of the clifftop Nazca Lines (I think it is the hummingbird) that will be planted with yew to make a hedge pattern like the one below. Pachacamac is a large temple site dedicated to the Sun and the Moon.  Pachacama means “The One Who Ordains the Universe.” The ruins cover about 100 acres and are likely even larger but over the years shanty slums have been built nearby so no exploration can be done there; although archaeologists are very sure there is more to the temple site and many more artifacts that could be discovered.  Finances are limited but they are protecting some of the other land in the area.   The area has about 1/2″ of rainfall per year so everything is very dry but the people that built the temple city around 700 AD created a sophisticated irrigation and resevoir system. We spent quite a bit of time roaming around the site and were able to climb right to the top to enjoy the lovely ocean views.  They have unearthed 15 different temples so far. This site is believed to be about 1500 years old. There is river that flows into the ocean not far from the temple ruins and there is fertile river bottom land where Mamacana Hacienda is located.  It is a beautiful Andean-style ranch that breeds, raises and trains Caballo de Paso horses, a breed unique to Peru.   The breed was protected by governmental decree in 1992 and were declared a Cultural Heritage of the Nation. We were welcomed at the gate by the owner and walked a roadway between two rows of Paso horses with a mariachi band playing at the end. (Truth be told, it was the chance to see these lovely horses that made me take this tour.  I loved the museum and the ruins, but I was thrilled to see the horses.) Two couples entertained us with a display of traditional dances.  After the dancing the men provided a display of the Paso horse’s unique gait and riding skills. This four-beat lateral gait (left fore with left hind, right fore with right hind) makes for such a smooth ride you can carry a water glass on your head.  It is not a trained motion, it is inherent in the breed and even young foals move that way.  They were absolutely beautiful animals. A mare with her champion three-week old colt were brought out so we could see that even young animals exhibit their unique gait.  The horses don’t trot, but move from a walk, to the four-beat lateral gait, then to a canter. Several other horses were brought out for us to see, then we watched some more dancing that culminated with a routine between the two ladies and two men on horseback.  Really cool. The best part – although disappointing to those of us that can ride a horse – came after a delicious Peruvian lunch, when we were given the opportunity to ride a Peruvian Paso.  I totally understand that they would not allow novices to ride these valuable animals unassisted but it was a bit of a let-down to be led around the field on a lead.  Still how ofen do you get the chance to ride a Paso?  That will probably be my only one so I am very, very glad we could do it.  Especially in their native country and such lovely surroundings.  Many of the people on the tour had never been near a horse let alone ridden one so there were lots of big smiles on faces.

After that it was back on the bus for the drive back to Callao in time for dinner. Shanties are built everywhere and often, eventually, the government provides power and water since the people are not going anywhere and the neighbourhood is established. These guys were almost run over by the van behind them. Traffic was nuts. It was a great day!  The ship set sail at 10:45 pm, a little later than scheduled but we had four days at sea before we reached Easter Island so there was no big panic if we were a bit late for sail-away.


2011 January 14 – Day 10 – Callao (Lima), Peru

The ship was docked in Callao for two days and we did two very different tours.  The first day was all about nature and the second day was archaeology (and Peruvian horses).

Callao is the major hub port on the South American west coast.  It was established in 1537 when the majority of shipments contained items looted from the Inca nation that were being sent back to Spain.  Callao is a huge port and there were several massive cranes for loading and unloading ships.  The port area is just over 10 km (about 6 miles) from the capital city of Lima so many of the tours available took people to Lima. As usual there were plenty of opportunities to shop if you were so inclined. We weren’t.

We went off-shore on a boat excursion to see the sea lions and Humboldt penguins on the Palomino Islands.  On the way to the Yacht Club we drove through the lovely Miraflores district. The boat ride took a half hour to get to San Lorenzo, the largest island in Peru – 8 km long and 3 km wide and then carried on from there to the Palominos where a very large colony of Humbolt penguins live as they have no predators in the area. After watching the penguins for awhile we went back to the north side of San Lorenzo to see the sea lions. I am sure the tour boats go out to the islands regularly but, still, the sea lions were curious and swam quite close to the boat.  If you chose there was time allowed to go swimming with them.  You could not have paid me enough to get in that water with all the guano flowing off the rocks.

I have often wondered how to tell the difference between seals and sea lions and the easiest way is to see how far from the water they are.  Seals cannot climb.  They do not have a tensile back flipper so you will only see them close to the shore, on the beach.  Sea lions can  climb quite a distance up steep rocks.  There are obviously other differences a marine person would know but the climbing one stuck with me as an easy tell. On the way back to Callao we passed the remains of an old prison on one of the islands.  Now that would have been a hot, desolate place to be interred. This fishing boat was pulling in its catch and a couple of sea lions decided to help themselves to the easy fish.

The boat ride back took us past some lovely beaches. These lovely llamas almost tempted me to make a purchase.  But I wasn’t tempted enough.  Besides how would I have packed it around Australia for two months?

2011 January 12 – Day 8 – Manta, Ecuador

Our day in Manta had an early start as we had a 9 hour tour.  We were up a 6 am and left the ship at 7:30 for the two and a half hour bus ride to Machalilla National Park.  The park was established in 1979 and protects 30 miles of beach, 40,000 acres of dry and cloud forest and about 20,000 hectares of ocean, including two islands and the only coral formation on the Ecuadorian mainland coast.

As we left the port we drove through an up-and-coming, upscale residential area but once we left the city behind the housing and villages were a great deal more simple and rustic.  The surrounding countryside was very barren and dry. For anyone living near the ocean it was obvious that fishing was the way of life and provisions.

Within the park is Aqua Blanca, a small archaeological site museum where 40 or so families live and are dedicated to the preservation of their culture.   There were some very interesting burial jars from ancient times, beads and vases, and other items in the small museum. We had over an hour to wander the trails around Agua Blanca.  We only saw the one critter and I don’t know what it was, plus a few birds.

On the way to our lunch stop we drove through this village where the bus had to detour a few blocks due to a funeral that closed the road. Our lunch stop was a beautiful resort with lots of topiary. The final stop of the day was Playa Los Frailes, a lovely sandy beach where people had the opportunity to go for a swim if they chose. This fellow had made the catch-of-the day and was chatting to the security fellows as the bus entered the port.The next day was a sea day and we went on deck to read for awhile. However, since the ship is sailing southeast  (we were still in the Eastern Time Zone) under the affect of the antarctic Humbolt Current it was windy and chilly and we decided instead to walk laps.  As we were walked around the deck we noticed a pod of about 6 dolphins near the ship.  About half- way around we spotted a huge feeding frenzy some distance off the ship’s bow.  There was a large dophin pod, probably over 100, that had worked together to gather a school of fish into a tight ball and drive them to the surface where the dolphins could dart in and out and enjoy lunch.  The air was alive with Brown Booby birds taking advantage of the buffet as well.  Not too long before we set sail on this trip we had seen an episode of the BBC series Planet Earth where they documented how dolphins work together to do this very thing.  It was fascinating to watch.  The photos are not really clear since it was taking place quite a distance from the ship and I had to do some serious cropping. That night was the first formal night in the dining room.  There was a Black and Silver Ball in the Crowsnest that evening so everything was decorated beautifully for the event.

2011 January 10-11 – Days 6 & 7 – Panama Canal Crossing and At Sea.

Our ship entered the Panama Canal at 6 am.  When we did the crossing the first time we got up to watch the vessel enter the first set of locks.  This time we were too lazy so we didn’t get up and on deck until 8:30 or so. It was a typical tropical day with high temperatures, high humidity and rain off and on.  The biggest difference between our 2009 canal crossing and this one in 2011 was the water.  Obviously there had been lots of rain and lots of run-off as the water was brown.  Still, watching the electric mules guide the ship and the huge doors on the locks open and close as we were raised to the level of Gatun Lake and down again to the Pacific side was still pretty interesting and we spent much of the day on deck.

                          The Bridge of the Americas in 2009                           The Bridge of the Americas in 2011

It requires about 50 million gallons of water to move one ship through the locks and almost 20,000 vessels make the crossing every year.  In the first decade of the canal (1904-1914) the annual traffic was about 1,000 ships.  At this time work was ongoing on a second, wider canal to accomodate the larger freight and cruise ships that are too big for the current canal. (The new locks opened in June 2016.) The visitors center at the western side of the Panama Canal is a popular tourist spot.  All of the viewing decks and roof are packed with people all day, every day, watching the ships enter and exit the locks.

The day after we went through the Panama Canal was a day at sea going southward down the South American coast to Manta, Ecuador, which was our next port-of-call.

2011 January 9 – Day 5 – Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

We had stopped in Costa Rica in 2009 on the Grand World Voyage, but in Puerto Caldera, so Puerto Limón was a new port for us. Puerto Limón is on the eastern side of Costa Rica almost directly across from Puerto Caldera on the west.It is a bit hard to see but I have added a multi-colour square below  the two places on the map to show you where they are located.

It was a two-hour bus ride to the Rainforest Aerial Tram which takes you on a 70-minute excursion through the canopy of the rain forest. The tramway runs through a private reserve that borders the Braulio Carrillo National Park.  This contributes to the protection of one of the richest canopy communities in the world.

The lower, outbound leg of the tram ride goes over hilltops and the subcanopy.  The return leg is a journey through and above the high rainforest canopy about 120′ up.

On the bus ride we passed many banana and pineapple farms, saw some three-toed sloths, vultures, a toucan and a poison dart frog.

Only one bunch of bananas grows per year as it takes 9 months for the fruit to mature.   After four years – so four bunches – the tree is cut down and a new one is planted.  The blue plastic bags are placed around each bunch of bananas to help them mature and to protect them from pests and animals.                       The blossom of a banana tree is huge.

Our guide, Jason, told us that a farmer can make double the money growing pineapple which bear fruits twice in the one year before being replanted.

On the walk to the tramway we passed some very tiny mushrooms, lots of twisty branches, and busy leaf-cutter ants that make roadways with edges that run long distances between the nest and the trees they are working on.  Fascinating creatures. Not a lot of wildlife to see on the actual tram ride as most of the animals are nocturnal and most of the birds are out feeding and only return at sunset.  Still, it was an interesting experience to see the lushness of a rainforest from above. We always like taking tours that get us out of the cities and into the countryside and that introduce us to nature or history in the place.  Much more interesting and enjoyable than shopping and driving around cities.   We returned to the ship a little before four pm and the captain set sail at 5.  The next day we made our second Panama Canal crossing in very different conditions than when we first made the trip in 2009.

2011 January 5-7 – Days 1-3 – Home to Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Cayman

Many, many years ago when I was a young girl there was a show on television (in black and white) called “The Flying Doctor.”  Each episode was about some accident or illness in the Australian Outback that required the services of the flying doctor team.  I loved that show and I loved the idea of a country so vast and sparsely populated that medical services were provided by airplane.  I fell in love with the Red Center of Australia and it was the Number One place I always wanted to visit.

We were fortunate to stop in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth when we took the World Cruise in 2009, but all of those cities are on the coast and I still did not get to see the Outback.  John and decided that we would take a nice long trip to Australia in 2011.

I love the take-off and the landing in an airplane but the rest of the trip is a dead bore, stuck in seat with nowhere to go.  It takes 15-16 hours to fly non-stop from Vancouver, BC to Sydney, AU.  Much too long for my liking.

We are on the mailing list for Holland America Cruise Line since we did the 2009 Grand World Voyage and received an email with the itinerary for the 2011 World Cruise.  All of the HAL Grand World Voyages are divided into sections so people can do part one, or part three, or whichever of the four segments they like if they are not wanting to do the entire four-month cruise.  The first leg of the 2011 Grand World went from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Sydney, AU in 45 days, via the east coast of South America, the South Pacific, New Zealand and Tasmania.  This, we decided, would be a much nicer alternative to 16 hours in an airplane. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on January 4, spent the night and boarded the MS Amsterdam the next day.  The ship set sail about an hour late due to the volume of luggage that had to be loaded. (Many of the guests bring LOTS of luggage on a World Cruise.)

There was a day at sea before our first stop and we spent it as we usually do; walking laps of the deck (4 1/2 laps = 1 mile), reading and eating.  We had the pleasure of seeing several staff members from the ’09 World Cruise and becoming re-acquainted with a few couples we had met on that trip as well.

We were to anchor off the coast of Georgetown, Grand Cayman at 8am but due to turbulent swells the captain chose to anchor on the opposite side of the island.  He arranged large local tenders to ferry guests ashore and shuttles to take people into Georgetown.Our excursion took us to the Cayman Turtle Farm and then to a dolphin marine center where we were able to swim with the dolphins.  We had a great day.  How could you not have fun when you get pulled across a swimming pool on the back of a dolphin.  So cool! 

This dolphin was so happy to see its trainer that it followed her all along the poolside as she arrived and again as she departed after our swim.

We even got to pet a sting ray.  They are silky soft.The ship set sail at 5pm for our next port-of-call, Puerto Limón, Costa Rica.  So began another exciting adventure; seeing new places, doing new things, enjoying new and formerly-met people.

I plan to write a blog about this journey over the next few weeks or months as time permits and inspiration hits.  We are about to embark (next week) on a 5-6-week road trip to the American mid-west and as is my custom I will probably write a blog as we travel along.  Therefore my Australia holiday blog will be intermittent but I felt like starting it; so I did.