Days 200 – 216 (Dec 18th – Jan 3rd) Brisbane to Peregian Beach and Noosa via the delights of Maleny and Steve Irwin’s Zoo

We left Brisbane for a short drive north to our next stop in Maleny, a small town located a few hundred metres up in the Blackall Mountains in the so-called Hinterland (i.e. the land beyond the coast). These mountains used to be cloaked in sub-tropical rainforest but substantial logging for cedar in the early 20th century did for most of the trees but created space for dairy cattle and fruit production. With the exception of the colonial type houses, the resulting landscape is reminiscent of Derbyshire but somewhat warmer. We chose Maleny as a stop as there are a few remnants of rainforest, notably at the Mary Caincross Scenic Reserve, restaurants and for its close proximity to the Australia Zoo, originally established by Steve Irwin’s parents but which was catapulted into the limelight by the man himself. However, Maleny proved to have a few hidden gems as well as disappointments.

Maleny itself is a well-to-do town with more estate agents than charity shops, plenty of clothes shops, cafes and local purveyors of the kind of magic stones one finds in Glastonbury as well as magic remedies prepared using secret herbs by the local aborigines. Everyone we spoke to was jolly nice but we left feeling it was all a little false and suspecting that behind the scenes there was probably some deep unpleasantness. There was, however, a very nice looking pie shop. Our hotel was outside the town, on a ridge overlooking the distant coast and down the road we could see in the other direction, over to the Glass House Mountains, the remaining cores of ancient volcanoes

Our stay was a little disrupted by the small matter of the World Cup Final between France and Argentina which, due to hugely unfavourable time zones, kicked off at 0100 on our first night. With extra time and penalties we could finally get some sleep at 4am.

Our first call the next day was Maleny Botanic Gardens and Birdworld for breakfast and the fabulous view over the mountains.

We then walked the length and breadth of the Mary Caincross Scenic Reserve well-known for hosting some special rainforest birds, notably the Noisy pita and a few rare pigeons, doves and honeyeaters as well as the Red-legged pademelon, a very small kangeroo which shuffles through the undergrowth.

Finally, we’d read about a Duck-billed platypus viewing platform along the river in Maleny so we went there for a look. Heading the wrong way we came across these peculiar growths…

..which on closer inspection proved to be Grey-headed flying foxes or fruit bats which can grow to 1kg in weight and roost hanging from trees during the day before flying off at night to find fruit.

Roosting flying fox
Dispersing at night to find fruit

As dusk approached we found the platypus viewing area. Tali had stayed in town and reported seeing one so we waited a little longer for the tell-tale signs of platypus action…

Definitely a platypus..

Day 2 was saved for the Australia Zoo. This effortlessly combines the ever-enduring allure of Steve Irwin, the attraction of seeing animals otherwise forever unseen with some serious conservation work. Probably the best bits were the saltwater crocodiles…



Finally we saw a number of the most venomous snakes in Australia, and a fantastic aviary replicated the birds of the rainforest, including the elusive Noisy pitta

..and a selection of other animals, such as wombat.

Although nominally a zoo, albeit one which really makes an effort to provide adequate space for its inmates, this is far more than that, being a memorial for the work Steve Irwin did to raise the awareness of wildlife in Australia and a base upon which serious conservation work in Australia is being built. The zoo owns a huge tract of land in northern Queensland, nominally to protect the endangered cassowary but also used to further research into the tropical rainforest of the continent. Perhaps more controversial is over 100,000 acres bought in the interior of Queensland especially to save the Woma python.

Our stay in the hinterland was over, time only for a few photos of the Blackall mountains.

And a quick stop at the Mapleton Falls National Park, yet another small but stunning remnant of sub-tropical rain forest

Sound up to hear the crickets, and the odd irish-sounding chap who was there with his son/daughter..

We arrived at our rental home in Peregian Beach in good time to explore the town and the annual Peregian Beach Carols, a major event in the town best known for the sky-diving santa, for which the best vantage point was on the beach….

The excitement began to build…

…and finally, Santa appeared from the sky

A glorious day indeed.

Our rental house was 5 minutes walk from Peregian Beach, a wonderful place for a short walk into town or for swimming. The area is quite well developed in terms of holiday homes yet there is plenty of preserved forest and protected sand dunes. Peregian Beach lies between 2 different parts of the Noosa National Park, the area to the north around Noosa and the southern element just south of where we were staying. This latter section included a small area of rainforest and sand dunes just behind the beach plus the imposing Emu Mountain, accessed via the formidable Emu Mountain trek…

At a lung-busting altitude of 71 metres this proved to be no problem for ranger Tali but we did get good views of the rarely seen “prawn” clouds, indicative of good fishing, apparently…or maybe we made that bit up…

The next few days included Christmas, when we cooked a turkey which looked remarkably like a fruit bat, many walks along the beach and swims in the increasingly rough seas, our final day coinciding with some dramatic views along the coast. We were also initiated in the game of Finska, a throwing game of a wood baton and numbered blocks. Fun on the sand, impossible on grass! We all won at least once so we’re all happy.

A beautiful place. Next stop Noosaville…

Noosa is an interesting place, beautiful and very popular as an up-market holiday destination by the sea. The town has developed enormously since the days when the only activities in the area were logging and dairy farming but has been tightly controlled by the town’s inhabitants, perhaps aware of how similar places have been ruined by over-zealous development. They’ve specified a maximum permanent population (approx 60k), no high-rise buildings, no traffic lights (light pollution!) and insisted on many adjacent areas being designated as national parks. Part of the Noosa National Park extends south to Peregian beach, where we stayed before arriving in Noosa. One part of this collection is the Noosa Everglades, one of only 2 everglade systems in the world (although the definition is a bit woolly). Essentially the Noosa river rises inland only a few metres above sea level and runs slowly through the landscape before it encounters the tidal waters near the sea at Noosa. The slow moving current of fresh water has created a labyrinth of waterways reminiscent of the Florida Everglades. The park was actually a cattle farm until the 1960s, showing how quickly the bush takes over the land in this part of the world. Sadly, however, the logging which occurred prior to the farm being established took out many of the larger tree species and now there is an imbalance, with too many tea trees. These acidify the water, making it impossible for anything but a couple of fish species to live. As a result the dolphins and dugong which used to live there no longer do so.

We took a boat out and toured round the area with a very knowledgeable guide. It is a beautiful area and well worth a visit.

Day 2 was a surf lesson for Andy and Tali on North Shore, a beautiful beach 4kms from our house that took nearly an hour to drive to as we needed to wend our way through Hastings Street, the most popular place in Noosa if you like cafes and shops. Finding a parking spot in Noosa Forest took awhile but they managed to get to their lesson on time.

Settling down on the beach to watch them and many other novice surfers soon had me counting how many seconds good surfers could stay upright. 10 seconds was the best. These were serious surfers back on the high rollers waiting for that perfect wave. Seems to me to be a lot of waiting around for a quick thrill!

Andy and Tali were learning in the waves as they broke onshore. Still serious waves that you could try and stand up on your board with varying degrees of success by them both. They finished their lesson exhausted and covered in friction burns. The sea can be a cruel place!

It looked incredibly tiring and not my or their idea of a beginners beach.

Tali in double speed

There appears to be an error in this post, as there are no photos or videos of Andy! I wonder who has the ultimate editing rights?

Day 3 was snorkelling…by every parameter this was a trip mis-sold. We were promised “Snorkel the beautiful waters off the Sunshine Coast from Noosa’s newest purpose built vessel, the Noosa Wave. Dolphins, turtles, rays and tropical fish are just some of the things you may encounter while diving on Noosa Head National Park” but this was not to be as the weather prevented the boat from leaving the river

…so river snorkelling it was…

Firstly we disembarked at the mouth of the river as the tide started to turn and we were slowly swept inland along the shore, supposedly picking out fish living amongst the weeds and rocks of the shoreline, in water thick with sediment. We’d been warned to keep away from rocks and tree trunks in the water but this didn’t stop a couple of other people on the trip from returning with bleeding torsos and extremities, amply cared for by nurse Helen in her role as observer. Our second trip was to the mangroves, which were associated with huge numbers of nursery fish.

Overall it was good fun but would have been much better if we’d seen more and had the opportunity to visit the coastline of the national park.

New Years Eve involved a morning fishing trip which resulted in quite a few caught fish, all released for being undersize. The skipper was born in Noosa and had seen the town develop from a friendly seaside tourist destination to one where new money was starting to dominate the property market. Houses along the river front (even the “shitty” ones, as he put it) were going for millions whereas some of the better properties, bought for up to $ 20 million prior to COVID, were now going for twice or three times that, impacting house prices for all the locals and especially the people needed to work in the cafes, restaurants and bars.

Having failed, we resorted to the local fish market, buying a red snapper and some Morten Bay Bugs for our New Year dinner.

Followed by fireworks in the town at 9pm so the children could see them. At our vantage point we met a radiologist who often worked out in Rockhampton and Woorabinda and provided a less sanitised overview of both places for Tali’s benefit. Finally we saw 2023 in, an hour after watching the fireworks in Sydney on the tv.

The biggest section of the Noosa National Park is Noosa Heads, a large headland across which a number of trails pass through the rainforest and overlook some wild beaches. The problem is access as the main car park is off Hastings Street, the prime shopping area and thoroughfare to the north facing beaches and the national park trailhead. The only other access point is to park on a side road on the south side of the park and walk from there on the Alexandria Bay walk through the forest.

At the end of trail is a massive beach

Noosa is a glorious place, comprising a number of different small towns and beaches and it’s clearly a very popular destination. Probably best visited in the winter…

We headed back to Brisbane having spent an enjoyable Christmas and New Year in lovely weather and fantastic surroundings. Now it was time to do the parenting thing and help Tali with her move out to Rocky..

Days 196 – 200 (Dec 14th – Dec 18th) Brisbane

We drove to Brisbane about a 3 hour journey. A short stop produced our 1st “sign” of the dangers lurking in Australia. Andy went in search but was unlucky or lucky depending how you look at it.

We arrived in Brisbane, a sunny modern city with lots of construction ongoing as preparation for the 2032 Olympics. Tali’s flat is a 3 floor Art Deco building, dwarfed in its surroundings by skyscrapers either already built or in the process of construction. She has coped with the constant noise and dust for most of the last year as it is in such a great location. Dark wood inside, it is always cool. A nice place to live but I’m sure she’ll be glad to move out and hopefully get a bit of peace!

Tali has lived in Brisbane since Jan 2022 and has got to know the city well. Her flat is right in the centre of South Brisbane, giving her easy access to all the central parts of the city. Day 1 she took us out to breakfast at one of the many pavement cafes in the city, many of which cater for those with more eclectic tastes in food. The people on the table next to us were having a hissy fit as an Australian ibis poked around their feet looking for scraps.

This was followed by a bus ride, always Helen’s favoured means of transport, and a tour round the University of Queensland campus, a beautiful space which was much damaged by the flooding that occurred soon after she moved in. This particular week was one for graduations so each day we came across parties of students, clutching flowers, dressed in their gowns, being escorted by proud parents. Hopefully we’ll be back in exactly 2 years to be those proud parents!

It was very hot, so to cool down we’d go into one of the university buildings which are all very well air-conditioned.

Returning to the city we wandered around the South Bank and main theatre and sampling one of the witty-named local beers.

Brisbane seems to have a young population: every space, bar, cafe and restaurant is buzzing, full of people enjoying the outdoor lifestyle. Plans for the city include many more complexes with yet more restaurants and bars, all built in a very sympathetic way, with lots of trees and shade to protect from the searing sun. Yet try and get a late dinner and you run into trouble as many restaurants close at 8 or 9, so advance planning is a useful technique.

Day 2 was car buying day so nothing to report except that it was very hot and we got one, so Tali can safely embark on her rural studies

Day 3 Tali took me to one of, if not the poshest bakeries in town, Lune

This was followed by a trek over the river to the CBD to obtain a Queensland driving licence for Tali and then a gentle stroll round the whole of the South Bank, a truly remarkable area set aside for Brisbane residents and tourists, perhaps because the area is very prone to flooding and also it keeps people out of the river, home to Bull sharks, not one of the most benevolent of the shark species. Highlights include the river walk and massive building projects.

The artificial beach

Shaded areas set aside where people can congregate and use free BBQ facilities

And gardens growing herbs and vegetables, some of which are made available for people to use

That evening we caught the bus up river to Felons brewery, a huge area set aside for the pursuit of outdoor beer drinking and then on to our 1st steak in an old style pub, which was good. Finished the evening with a walk back along the south bank to our hotel.

One of the reasons to be in Brisbane was so Tali could finish packing to move to Rockhampton for the next year and to do boring stuff such as getting rid of unwanted items. To supplement this, we decided to go to the theatre, something a student can’t really afford, so Tali and I went to a matinee of Mary Poppins the musical, leaving Andy to do his own boring admin! Not an Aussie accent in the cast, it was a great performance. We have booked to see another show in early January when we come back to finish her packing.

On the last evening, we left her to meet with one of her friends and we ate at our hotel whose restaurant was no5 on trip advisor out of over 3,000+ but not sure why!

Days 189 – 196 (Dec 7th – Dec 14th) Up the east Australian coast from Sydney to Brisbane: Forster and Yamba

Collecting a hire car was easy enough but Tali being over 25 made being able to add her to the insurance a real bonus, so we split the driving up to Forster, a place Tali had got to know from her trip down a few days back. We stayed in an apartment complex with a tiny bit of a sea view but within walking distance of all the amenities of Forster. Tali took us on a walk along along the beautiful, if windy coast followed by a tour of the shopping street

On our last day we took a boat trip on the huge expanse of tidal lake behind Forster, primarily Wallis lake and Island. We had several dolphin sightings (inshore bottlenose dolphins), lots of pelicans and a couple of White-bellied sea eagles before returning to shore.

That afternoon we crossed the bridge to view 9 mile beach, a totally unspoilt section of coastline known for its good surfing but on the southern end you’ll find Tuncurry Rockpool, an enclosed swimming area nestled into the breakwater.

Presumably sharks are an issue here

That evening we went to the Kings Valley Eqyptian restaurant in Forster. The menu was middle-eastern, as you’d imagine, the egyptian element being provided by a few statues of pharoahs and an ambience lifted “directly from Egypt itself”. It was pretty good but the ambience thing needs a bit of work!

380 km up the coast is the up and coming town of Yamba, our next stop. We’d booked at a holiday resort within a mile or so of the town proper but on the seafront with easy access to the lighthouse and a couple of surfing beaches. On day 1 I walked to the lighthouse, via a very lively local market

The Aussies start early to avoid the heat so the place was busy already, with surfers, BBQs, shoppers, walkers and cyclists all out and about. As you might expect this is a very outdoor culture, even the tents are works of art in all the gadgets they bring with them to make living outside that bit much more comfortable. That afternoon we reverted to Butlins mode and played pool in the clubhouse, before returning for real home-cooked food on the BBQ, via the beach and hundreds, if not thousands of Soldier crabs

Day 2 Tali and I drove out to Iluka Nature Reserve and the rainforest walking trail, which starts in the town and ends on Iluka point, a great lookout over the east coast. In between is a section of rainforest which had a number of fascinating and new birds for our Aussie list. On the way there we stopped at Woody Head, location of a campsite in the Bundjalung National Park where Tali camped during her mid semester break. It is a stunning place and for a while I was sufficiently won-over to start considering taking up camping in Australia…….

Within minutes of returning to the apartment a few White-throated needletails flew over. These are swifts by any other name and are rarely seen low down, preferring to feed much higher up. However, low pressure preceding an imminent storm may well have forced their prey lower, a phenomenon which also occurs in the UK with our Swifts. There are only 3 Swift species in Australia, all of which breed in Queensland so just 2 remaining to be spotted.The approaching storm offered the possibility of interesting photo opportunities so we headed up to the lighthouse to find a couple of kangaroos strutting around the place.

At the headland, in stormy seas we watched teenagers jumping off the rocks, holding our breathes until we saw them resurface. I’m glad Tali didn’t want a go! There were surfers on several of the small beaches, some with lifeguards present (until 5pm clocking off time), after which the beaches emptied.

Day 3 we caught the ferry to Iluka, a 40 minute trip. We were entertained by the ferryman’s help, telling us of tales of having to kiss the mermaid in the harbour there or experience bad luck.

He pointed out a sunken boat to prove his point! It was an incredibly hot day so we strolled along the sea walk to the small town, just generally enjoying the sights and several species of birds in the surrounding rainforest. A bit of shopping by Andy and Tali and we returned on the ferry. In the evening, we were “forced” to drive to Yamba Tavern, a 5 minute drive away for dinner as everywhere else was closed. It was typical fast food but with a great view of the river.

Tomorrow it was time to move on to Brisbane.

Days 185 – 188 (Dec 3rd – Dec 6th) At sea and Australia. Sydney

The final day at sea and the last Ventures appearance on deck 7 coincided with a constant stream of White-capped albatross flying alongside the ship.

We then had the last trivia, thankfully finishing a close 2nd, so avoiding yet more Seabourn tat, and the last Grand Brunch….followed by packing and usual logistical problem solving, such as how to get nearly full bottles of drink off the ship and into our Sydney hotel room.
The last show by the entertainment team was a repeat but one of the best with jolly, popular newish songs and dances. Not long now!

The 2nd and last Grand Bruch with Corrie, Theresa, John and the 3 singers, Ellie, Rachel & Matt

Our last day on board started with sunshine and warmth as we headed up the east coast of Australia towards Sydney. Arriving at the mouth of the harbour at 10am we could see the city in the distance. At the Gala night the captain had provided some statistics on our trip, all in the past 65 days…:

35 kg caviar

18800 bottles of champagne

13800 nautical miles

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and one of Australia’s largest cities. Indigenous Australians have inhabited the Sydney area for at least 30,000 years, and it remains one of the richest in Australia in terms of Aboriginal archaeological sites. In 1770, during his first Pacific voyage, Lieutenant James Cook landed at Sydney, where he claimed possession of the east coast of Australia for the British Crown, naming it “New South Wales”. In 1788, the first fleet of convicts, led by Arthur Phillip, arrived in Botany Bay to found Sydney as a British penal colony, the first European settlement in Australia. Phillip named the city in recognition of Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. Penal transportation ended soon after Sydney was incorporated as a city in 1842. A gold rush occurred in the colony in 1851 and over the next century, Sydney transformed from a colonial outpost into a major global cultural and economic city. After World War II, it experienced mass migration and became one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Sydney has hosted major international events such as the 2000 Summer Olympics. The city is among the top fifteen most-visited cities in the world.

Sailing into Sydney was quite an emotional experience (for your correspondents anyway) as it combined reuniting with Tali after nearly 12 months, the end of the first leg of our journey to the opposite end of the world and what has to be one of the most iconic skylines on the planet. We sailed past Sydney Harbour National Park and entered the harbour proper as views of Sydney Harbour bridge and the Opera House came nearer and nearer.

Sadly we didn’t dock in the centre of Sydney but at some industrial harbour a few miles out, something which didn’t go down too well with the monied guests on board the ship, many of whom had spent substantial sums to sail to Sydney. Despite this, intrepid Tali had found a way into the port, blagged a drink at the staff cafe and was there waiting for us. She came on board, met a few of our fellow travellers, enjoyed lunch at the patio and then we took the bus shuttle to Sydney proper, for a tour around the harbour and Opera House.

That night we ate at a Middle-Eastern fast food place just down the road from the hotel. We headed back onboard for the final night before being officially allowed to disembark. The next morning we sailed through customs, they weren’t interested in marmite or ryvita and caught a taxi to our hotel in the centre, where Tali was waiting for us.

She had been busy, locating the nursing home Gordon Travis ( 2nd cousin, this time on mothers side) had been in when she’d arrived last year. Due to COVID, she was unable to visit him. With trepidation, we rang the home to see if he was still there and discovered he was. Being close we decided to visit immediately and after arriving and seeking his wish to see us, plus waiting for the results of our rapid covid antigen tests, I was able to see Gordon for the 1st time since 1986. His first words to me were “you’re not Helen, you’re twice the size!” How to make someone feel good! We had a quick visit before lunch and then I returned and spent a lovely hour chatting but mostly listening to Gordon reminiscing about my mum, his travels around the world (4 times), his piano playing at various hotels and restaurants in Sydney, the time myself and friend Debi had visited him ( he remembered Debi for some reason) whilst backpacking around Australia in 1986. He has the most amazing recall of facts about cricket and football and is a Spurs supporter.

As we were leaving he told us more about the last place he worked, the famous Alfredos in the centre of Sydney. We called, booked a table and turned up to ask if Alfredo (the very same..) was there. He was and joined us for a few minutes as he described how he and Gordon were such good friends but he’d not been able to see him since COVID. He promised to go and see him now it was possible and thanked us for dropping in. Later on he came back with 3 limoncellos at the end of a very enjoyable meal.

The next morning we all went to buy Tilley hats, essential for protection from the hot sun

The next morning our tour guide took us our to Watson Bay, a delightful suburb of Sydney and part of the aforementioned national park, reached by a very efficient ferry service from Sydney harbour

Our stay in Sydney was over, next challenge, the east coast to Brisbane.

Days 182 – 184 (Nov 30th – Dec 2nd) At sea and Australia. Phillip Island and Melbourne

Our day at sea saw us still sailing up the east coast of Tasmania through deep waters but as we approached the northern tip where the Bass Strait separates the island state of Tasmania from the Australian mainland the average depth decreases to 60 m (200 ft) and it is at this point where marine wildlife is most often found as nutrient-rich deep water is forced into the shallows. The Bass Strait is notoriously rough due to the the strong currents between the Antarctic-driven southeast portions of the Indian Ocean and the Tasman Sea’s Pacific Ocean waters. The shipwrecks on the Tasmanian and Victorian coastlines number in the hundreds, although stronger metal ships and modern marine navigation have greatly reduced the danger. Many vessels have disappeared without a trace or left scant evidence of their passing. Despite myths and legends of piracy, wrecking and alleged supernatural phenomena akin to those of the Bermuda Triangle, such disappearances can be invariably ascribed to treacherous combinations of wind and sea conditions, and the numerous semi-submerged rocks and reefs within the Straits. As we passed through into the strait, there were several whale sightings, a pod of dolphins followed us for some time and Short-tailed shearwaters became increasingly evident.

The ventures team have been a positive force onboard and have contributed significantly to this trip being a success (for us at least). On this morning they were filming for their blog

The same day a Grand Gala dinner was arranged in the evening. We were all invited to hosted tables and music was provided by the cast

Steven (ex-truck driver), Rachel, Ellie & Matt

We were sat with 2 other couples, one from Argentina & Germany and the others from Chile. The Argentinian lady was delightful, if a little snooty, as she agreed with me about the merits of the tango but complained about the deckchairs making a noise on the ceiling of the “Owners Suite” in the morning, a first world problem if ever there was one!. For reference the owners suites are extremely expensive.

Phillip Island, connected to the mainland by a bridge, 11/2 hours drive from Melbourne, turned out to be our last stop of beauty and adventure before hitting the mainland.

The tender was a good 20 minute ride into the jetty due to low tides and sea depth. On the way, we spotted Australian pelicans, which have much longer and thinner beaks. On arrival we were greeted with a jazz concert from the local Rotary club. There was a shuttle bus to Cowes, the nearest large town and you could go onwards to Ventnor. Were we on the Isle of Wight by mistake? The scenery and gardens of the houses were very British but no, we were on another idyllic island and chose to walk to the headland and the famous wetlands, looking for waders after another chance to eat off the boat presented itself and an enjoyable and tasty lunch was had.

Walking up to the headland we spotted a strange little animal scuffling around in the grass, a mixture between a hedgehog and a porcupine. We were later told it was an Echidna or spiny anteater.

Walking back through the park, we were treated to the very noisy Galahs, a grey and pink parrot that abound all over Australia and ticked off a few more Aussie bird species

That evening was the long-awaited sunset walk to a Short-tailed shearwater breeding colony on Cape Woolamai. Guided by Graham, a naturalist who is a ranger for Phillip Island Nature Parks, and who has worked on the colony for many years, we had a superb trip out. Firstly, walking along the pristine beach towards the headland

Carefully monitored by the local wallabies

We started coming across eggs randomly strewn across the landscape

These are shearwater eggs. They are quite large and are found because inexperienced shearwaters arrive back on land, can’t make their burrows in time and lay the eggs, undoubtedly with a great sigh of relief. Unfortunately, these are quickly picked out by gulls and by the next morning have been eaten.

As the sun starts to set, hundreds of thousands of shearwaters start to accumulate in huge rafts off-shore, waiting for it to get dark so they can safely fly to their burrows. We were all treated to a glass of champagne and settled down to wait for the spectacle to begin.

On the headland there are approximately 2 burrows per square metre, so the whole area, away from the paths which cross the headland, is a network of burrows in the sand, accompanied on occasion by the tracks left by the Copperhead snakes which predate the eggs, much to Helen’s horror…. As the sun sets, the shearwaters fly overhead and round, slowly dropping down as they pick out landmarks near their nest holes. They then drop down silently and scurry into the nest holes, from which come delighted calls as the birds are reunited with their mates, who having been egg sitting for a few days, and will be desperate to fly out to sea and feed.

Flocks building up over the sea
Getting closer
Final approach

Graham explained to us the history of this site, which used to be a poorly maintained farm and was taken over by the Nature Parks group so it could be restored to its former status. As a result the wallabies have returned in numbers and the shearwaters are maintaining their numbers. One major predator, foxes (inexplicably introduced by the English so they could go hunting…) has been eliminated but one non-native predator remains, the domestic cat. We passed the remains of a shearwater predated by a cat and these animals present a real threat to these defenceless birds. Quite incredibly, from next year it will be illegal for a domestic cat to be allowed outside. They can be housed in cages in the garden, but roaming free will be banned, punishable by a large fine. Each cat has to be tagged and neutered. The argument is that the shearwaters are a natural phenomenon and something special to Phillip Island so they should be protected.

We walked back along the beach to the light of a crescent moon, a fabulous night.

Melbourne is very close to Phillip Island and we were supposed to be arriving at 8am, ready for a tour out with the head chef buying food at the local market for the chef. These trips are very popular and we’d bagged spaces on the last one only to hear the ship couldn’t dock until 10am and the trip was cancelled.

Instead we walked into Melbourne City, past the beach

Up Bay Street, past numerous cafes, restaurants and bakeries through to an area of historically protected housing

And into the centre of Melbourne which is very modern. At this point we were lost so jumped on a tram, were helped by people until we got to a shopping centre, bought the suitcase we needed to send stuff back to the UK and returned by taxi. This is a lovely city, the people were very friendly and we’ll certainly try to make more of it on a return visit.

Apparently, sailing out of Melbourne is quite difficult as there are lots of dangerous sandbanks

so the pilot didn’t leave the ship until sunset.

Tomorrow was our last sea day, the grand trivia final and brunch for 11!

Days 176 – 181 (Nov 24th – Nov 29th) At sea and Tasmania, Australia. Hobart and Port Arthur

Thanks to the captain avoiding the worst of the weather we had 4 days at sea. Previously these have been fine, calm days with warm air and being able to sit on the rear of deck 7 all afternoon. Changes in our latitude and the weather systems might impact both of these so it was with some trepidation we recommenced sea day mode. Would the entertainment be changed?

Luckily, the first day’s highlight was returning to winning form at trivia. And, given we had time to spare, we arranged all our prizes to take a memorial photograph

Trivia Spoils

As previously stated, the food onboard is good but repetitive and we had spoken to a few others about the possibility of arranging a brunch. Breakfast onboard finishes at 10am and just occasionally it would be nice to have the chance of “a very American all day breakfast”. This presented a great opportunity for a sea day, so having asked Frederico, head of food and beverage, it was agreed to have it at lunch time on Sunday 27th. Perfect, egg, bacon and mimosas were promised and delivered in style at our table placed strategically in the midst of the restaurant. Toast, marmalade and marmite just finished it off superbly. Already the next one is planned for our final weekend but we may be expanding our presence..

The weather was too cold to sit out and increasingly rough but this did present a lot of opportunities for sea bird spotting with 4 species of albatross and a few new species including 2 species of prion, tiny little seabirds that are barely visible from deck

Fairy prion
Broad-billed prion

The 36 hours prior to landfall weren’t the most comfortable as the ship was lurching and pitching in the rough seas and high winds and these, plus the spray, made going on deck a risky business. Probably the worst bit was the banging as the ship went through turbulent waters and at night especially, this could be quite disturbing. However, seasickness there was none, prevented by a homemade remedy containing a high percentage of Jamiesons.

Arriving in Hobart, the sun was out and the sea was calm. It was so nice to see land again although the temperatures were quite low. Hobart started as a penal colony and has also enjoyed a heyday as a whaling centre in the 1830s. Today the wharfside warehouses of Salamanca Place are filled with shops and restaurants, and the settlers cottages in Battery Park are lovingly restored by proud owners. Hobart is Tasmania’s main cruise port, having Australia’s deepest harbour. The port is located on Derwent River, while the city’s background is dominated by Mount Wellington. Hobart is the country’s capital city of Tasmania, which lies approximately 240 km (150 mi) south of mainland Australia.

The city has some lovely buildings reflecting its English history and some parts look very English, including the weather on this particular day.

Hobart used to be a centre of jam-making and this is one of the buildings used back in the day

Later that evening we dined at one of the many high class eating establishments in town

Walking back we passed one of those photo opportunities begging for a witty caption

Overnight we sailed round the coast a few miles to dock at Port Arthur, a small town (500pop) and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula. Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most significant heritage areas and officially Tasmania’s top tourist attraction.

Before immersing ourselves in history, we were booked on Robert Pennicott’s award-winning 3 hour coastal wilderness cruise in an area reminiscent of the Algarve or the Jurassic Coast. The wind was bitterly cold and after a short coach ride across the peninsula we were provided with windproof smocks, ginger tablets to prevent seasickness and boarded a nautical version of a saturn rocket, but without the walls or windows.

Each seat had a seatbelt and these were needed at times as we powered through the occasionally rough seas into a freezing gale. But the scenery was superb as we headed in the direction of Tasman Island, beyond which is nothing until the Antarctic.

Seals and cormorants abounded plus we saw a small pod of short-beaked common dolphins and some albatross and Australasian gannets

The Port Arthur Prison and Coal Mines are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation protecting the convict history of Australian settlement and were located right next to where we were dropped off. The imposing Penitentiary, the chilling Separate Prison, the 4 Convict Church, and the ruins of the coal mine community bring to life the earliest European arrivals in this land.

The prison is set in an very English-like landscape, with interesting trees and gardens

Plus quite a nice cafe, with a display which nicely summaries the Australian tendency to abbreviate everything

Tassie wines and beers were also available..

Next to the cafe was a display area plus some terminals so us Brits could check whether anyone with our surnames had been sent over as a convict

We sailed south, out of the harbour and turned east past Tasmin Island before moving north up the Tasmanian coast.

As we passed Tasman Island, huge flocks of sea birds passed down the port side and across the bow of the ship.

Another sea day beckoned, to be followed by adventures on Phillip Island..

Days 170 – 175 (Nov 18th – Nov 23rd) At sea and New Zealand. Gisborne, Napier, Wellington, Kaikoura and Nelson

Sea days have been a bit more exciting as the ship has passed through the feeding grounds of many species of petrels and shearwaters. These birds are attracted by the ship’s lights at night and some end up landing onboard, often finding it impossible to take off again so they find a dark place to hide

The Ventures team started early morning patrols of all the decks and have rescued a number of different birds of varying species. The Black-winged petrel was our first

Followed by a Little shearwater a day later

We were also treated to good views of a large pod of short-beaked common dolphins as they crossed the path of the ship

One of the more American aspects of life onboard is what’s known as the “block party”, where everyone stands outside their room at 6pm and talks to their neighbours over a glass of fizz. This was the last one before arriving in Sydney and we were all then invited up to the Observation Deck for photographs. The multi-talented Bojan, nominally the barista and unofficial IT expert on board, is also the unofficial photographer of the ship as he has the knack of making us look much better on screen than in reality

Mind you Helen has done the same for him…

Bojan, purveyor of caffeine, pastries and good humour

Earlier that day new COVID regulations were announced, stating masks were required onboard for the first time since early October. Quite fortuitously these urgent new regulations weren’t imposed until the morning after the block party…once all the photos had been taken!.

On this leg of our journey around New Zealand, our first port of call was Gisborne, a city on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s known for wineries, surf beaches, being the first city on the planet to see the sun rise each morning and indigenous and colonial history.

Gisborne’s Kaiti Beach is the place where British navigator Captain James Cook made his first landing in New Zealand upon the Endeavour. Cook had earlier set off from Plymouth, England, in August 1768 on a mission bound for Tahiti and on 9 October 1769, Cook came ashore on the eastern bank of the Turanganui River, accompanied by a party of men. Their arrival was marred by misunderstanding and resulted in the death and wounding of nine Māori over four days. This “misunderstanding” seriously compromised Cook’s ability to restock his ship, the reason he called the area Poverty Bay. The landing site was commemorated by a monument in 1906, on the 137th anniversary of Cook’s arrival.

There were a few trips bookable via Seabourn ranging from tours of historic buildings (historic being used in its widest sense), a steam train ride and a helicopter ride to an estate for a 5 course lunch with wine-pairing for a mere $1000 a head but none of these appealed so we wandered into town, found a cafe, had another breakfast out, sat by the beach, walked past some interesting trees

and wandered back via Cook’s memorial and a woman and friend fishing in the river

Not really our favourite place, run-down and not that attractive. We arrived back on board and spoke with Tali, now in Bangkok for a few days

Napier was our next stop, just 97 miles down the coast so we proceeded at a snail’s pace overnight, arriving at 5 in the morning to a gloriously sunny and warm day.

Napier is most famous for it’s Art Deco buildings restored following a massive earthquake in 1931 which rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes, killing nearly 260 and destroying the commercial centre of the city.

After wandering around we slowly walked back to the ship via a market and a reminder of how vulnerable these communities are

On returning to the ship there was another stowaway to see and watch be released, a rarely seen, tiny Common diving petrel

And our first albatross, a Northern Royal…

Our third stop was Wellington, deservedly named the windy city and situated right at the southern end of the North Island. We had a walk booked with the Venture team, through the Otari-Wilton’s Bush Botanic Garden with a couple of local tour guides. This place is special as by managing invasive plant species and culling introduced mammals they have created a wonderful nature reserve within minutes of the centre of Wellington. Just up the road is another reserve, Zealandia and the two sites together are contributing positively to the conservation of endangered endemic bird species. On example is that of one New Zealand parrot species, the Kaka, which has done well in Zealandia and has now colonised the Botanic Garden. The reserve was full of bird song, dominated by the Tui, as described in an early blog, but also one of the few mainland birds which migrates in the winter, the Shining cuckoo, but the day belonged to the ferns..

…and the ancient trees, in particular this 800 year old rimu

We then went up to a vantage point above the city

Another source of great pride in Wellington is the recent re-introduction of kiwi to a site near the city, a massive step forward in the conservation of this species as it required that a large tract of land be made habitable by removing all the stoats which are the primary reason why Kiwi are struggling in the wild.

We were dropped off in the city centre near the theatre and the Te Papa museum. The theatre was advertising a couple of interesting shows, including a pantomime!

The museum had a gory and very dramatic exhibition on the role of Kiwi soldiers in Gallipoli with giant models of participants from doctors to nurses telling their own personal story. There was also an earthquake house where you could stand and experience an earthquake…although, with 300 earthquakes a year in Wellington, this might be considered a little superfluous by the locals!

The wet and windy weather in Wellington was replaced by a calm and sunny day in Kaikoura, a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The infrastructure of Kaikōura was heavily damaged in the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, which also caused two deaths in the area. The sea level of the bay and surrounding region was lifted by as much as two metres. The Kaikōura Peninsula extends into the sea south of the town, and the resulting upwelling currents bring an abundance of marine life from the depths of the nearby Hikurangi Trench. The town owes its origin to this effect, since it developed as a centre for the whaling industry. The name Kaikōura means ‘meal of crayfish’ (kai – food/meal, kōura – crayfish) and the crayfish industry still plays a role in the economy of the region. However, Kaikōura has now become a popular tourist destination, mainly for whale watching (the sperm whale watching is perhaps the best and most developed in the world) and swimming with or near dolphins. It is also one of the best places in the world to see open ocean seabirds such as albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, including the Hutton’s shearwater which nests high in Kaikōura’s mountains. The view from the ship is impressive

We had booked 2 trips, one in the morning to see whales and dolphins, primarily Dusky dolphins and Sperm whales. The latter have quite predictable habits as they dive to huge depths for around 45 minutes before returning to the surface for several minutes reoxygenating before diving again. The company running these trips have set-up a very slick operation with a number of boats which are all in contact with each other. Seeing a whale diving gave them time to take us to the dolphin area, showing the sheer size of the pod

Three adults with young

And some examples of how acrobatic they can be

Moving further out to sea, the captain used a hydrophone to determine where the Sperm whale was and manoeuvred so we had a good view as it recovered from its dive. Despite the immense bulk and size of a Sperm whale there is actually very little to see until it dives

On arrival at the dock we leapt onto another boat and headed out to sea again, to an area where the continental shelf drops deep into the ocean. Many of the seabirds which live in these waters are currently breeding, desperately looking for food to take back to nest sites on either the mainland or one of the islands in the area. They hunt by a sense of smell combined with a keen eye on what other species are doing. Once food is discovered birds will pile in from miles around. A bag of fish heads was strung out behind the boat and birds started arriving, starting with the only bird even a mother couldn’t love, the Giant petrel

A number of different species turned up in the end ranging from the Giant petrel and 4 species of albatross..

Including an appearance from one of the biggest albatrosses on the planet, the Northern Royal

Northern Royal albatross
Westland petrel (left)

And a species which breeds uniquely in Kaikoura, Hutton’s shearwater

Hutton’s shearwater

Leaving Kaikoura the sunset was yet again spectacular

Unbeknown to us things were happening out at sea which would change our intended itinerary but in the meantime we docked at a chilly and windy Nelson, a place we had little appetite to visit but did as it got us out and about and near more interesting places to grab some lunch. Nelson has the sunniest weather in New Zealand with good wineries to boot. Walking through town as the weather warmed up and calmed down we came across the river

And then signs for the “Centre of New Zealand”, something we had to see having already been to the middle of Canada. By some incredible coincidence this is situated at the top of a hill and is also a famed viewpoint over the city and the surrounding countryside. It was a strenuous and very hot walk but well worth the effort

Walking back into town we were reminded of the ever-present dangers of living in this part of the world

Returning to the ship the captain informed us of a change to our itinerary prompted by a huge storm due to impact on the west coast of the South Island over the next 48 hours. This meant that New Plymouth, our next and final stop on the west coast of North Island had closed their harbour and so we had to re-route. One option was to continue west through the passage between North and South Island towards Tasmania, the other was to head south along the east coast before turning west and heading to Tasmania.

The blue circle marks where we would have been on Thurs 24th Nov. The black line indicates our actual route that day.

The Windy weather app is a great tool for seeing conditions on our route and looking forward a couple of days when we reach the southern end of the South Island and turn west the worst of the weather will have passed, a very good decision by the captain. We now had 4 days at sea before reaching Tasmania.

Days 166 – 169 (Nov 14th – Nov 17th) At sea and landfall in New Zealand. Bay of Islands, Auckland & Tauranga

Another sea day with the usual round of trivia, lectures and eating!

Finally, making landfall in New Zealand on the 15th Nov 2022 at the beautiful area known as the Bay of Islands. Our boat was anchored a long way off-shore and we tendered into Waitangi, site of the famous treaty. Since we’d been there already back in 1995, you’ll have to read up on it yourselves!

A short bus ride is required to get to the main town in the area, Paihai, a small place but one which exuded class and calm.

We wandered around for a while, picked up some supplies and then caught the ferry over to Russell, a peaceful and picturesque township set deep in the Bay of Islands, Russell is renowned as a big-game fishing centre and as a holiday town of major historical interest. Its tranquility belies the frantic activity of its wild early days when, as the centre of the first European settlement it was known as ‘the hell-hole of the Pacific’. Today the wildest thing is probably the all-day breakfast available at one of the cafes just inland

Originally a Maori village, the settlement was first called Kororareka (Sweet blue penguin) but was renamed Russell after Lord John Russell, Secretary of State for the colonies and later Prime Minister of Great Britain. The town is rich in history with a variety of shops and services that do not spoil the old charm. Probably the most interesting place was Christ Church which was built in 1836 and is the oldest surviving church in the country. Even the headstones at New Zealand’s first church have a story to tell…the crew of HMS Hazard seemed to have a had a pretty tough time in Russell as the captain drowned in 1844 and a number of the crew died the following year in an altercation with local maoris. There were memorials to both.

The weather perked up so we ended up walking along the coast back to catch the tender onto the ship, seeing a few birds on the way, including a Variable oystercatcher, an Eastern rosella (parrot) and a beautiful Sacred kingfisher.

The Bay of Islands was not a disappointment and was probably even nicer than we remembered from 1995. Our next stop was Auckland, a thoroughly modern city with some seriously expensive boats in the harbour including, it was rumoured, the prototype of the New Zealand entry for the Americas Cup.

But we weren’t in Auckland to gawp at big yachts, we were there on a mission to prove we could arrange an expedition independently of Seabourn. To ensure the ship didn’t leave without us if we arrived back late our plan was to ensure other people from the ship also participated in our trip, including staff from the Ventures team. This was thwarted by the ferry company having to downsize ships at the last moment and we were the only ones able to board the ferry that morning for the magical island of Tiritiri Matangi. Sharing a small boat with what felt like a million schoolkids and American birders with huge telephoto lenses was a small price to pay for 4 hours on this island, now restored to what it would have been prior to man arriving on the scene. When we first visited in 1995 the facilities were basic and playing bird calls to attract the birds out was allowed (certainly not the case now). Now the island is far better equipped for tourists and educational visits but is still stunningly beautiful. You’re still able to escape into the interior and avoid all other humans. A rare treat!

The main attraction, of course, was the birds. Many are endemic, so only occur in New Zealand and many can only survive on these small island reserves where rats, mice, stoats and other animals introduced by man are absent. The loudest and most obvious is the Tui

But the humble Bellbird deserves a mention after giving us the run around for much of the trip.
We were lucky enough to see some rarities such as the Weka, the Stitch bird, the Rifleman to name but a few.

While waiting for the ferry to arrive, we were entertained by the parties of school children. First the primary school aged boys did an impromptu Hakka and the girls from Auckland Grammar school replied with a moving Māori song. Tradition and customs replayed throughout time. Luckily the ferry left on time and we boarded before the ship left port.

Our final day before a sea day was at the port of Tauranga, gateway to Rotorua, site of a fabulous thermal park. An interesting place as look one way and you see the largest industrial port in New Zealand, look the other and there are fabulous surf beaches. We took a bus out to Rotorua and were taken round the Thermal Valley viewing bubbling mud pools, steam vents, thermal pools along with the constant overriding smell of sulphur. You are not able to get close to anything considered a safety concern but the local Māori’s are allowed to use one of the pools as they have done for medicinal and relaxation reasons for hundreds of years.

Strangely, there was also a Kiwi conservation project ongoing, with viewing of the birds only possible as they trick them into thinking day is night and vice versa as they are nocturnal. We had to walk through a series of darkened rooms to watch them foraging in their enclosures. They are released into the wild from hatched eggs when about 8 months old. They are endangered as being flightless balls of fluff they are vulnerable to dogs, stoats and even rats and mice. They are training farmers with dogs to teach the dogs to ignore the kiwis as they tend to live on farm or agricultural land. Will it work?

After this the day went downhill a bit as unbeknown to us the schedule was changed and our BBQ at the oldest and most impressive hotel in Rotorua, was changed to a buffet lunch in a “boutique” hotel. The best thing were the gardens and view over the lake. In addition, the local entertainment didn’t happen. This meant we had more time to kill so our enthusiastic driver drove very slowly back to the port, stopping us from napping with his constant commentary but he redeemed himself by driving us slowly by the best surf beaches in New Zealand. This 2nd complaint to the destinations team resulted in a minor refund for everyone.

Seabourn need to accept they have a duty to ensure the tours they advertise are the ones we experience. Being told the buffet lunch was dearer than the original BBQ and they had made up the difference is missing the point entirely.

End of moan, onwards to new adventures.

Days 164 – 165 (Nov 12th – Nov 13th) At sea and our failed landfall on Norfolk Island, Australia

The original post was published by mistake as it only had one persons view of theses days albeit interesting bird stuff!

Another day at sea with the usual round of eating, lectures, eating, trivia (currently 3rd), eating, show, early to bed before looking forward to arriving at the duty free Norfolk Island.

Norfolk Island is situated to the east of Australia and north of New Zealand, see here. It has an interesting history and was the destination of many a convict sent to Australia from the UK. One problem with Norfolk Island is that there is no natural harbour and landings are difficult in rough seas. A fair number of passengers had excursions planned on the island, ranging from golf to touring the island, visiting the duty-free shop or taking a boat tour out to Philip island just off-shore. None of these happened as the captain deemed it unsafe to embark on tenders so we were unable to land. It turns out this was his third visit to the island. The previous two had also ended in failure so quite why Seabourn keep this destination on their schedule is a mystery. The 3 Australian Border Force officers who checked our passports yesterday were also due to leave but couldn’t and so will have to fly back from New Zealand. One of them confirmed that only 1 in 10 ships visiting the island manage to successfully land passengers….

However the captain did agree to circumnavigate the island so we could experience it from all angles) but the most impressive thing were the birds, they were everywhere.

Firstly the majestic Masked booby. These are very closely related to our gannet and use the air displaced by the ship to soar alongside, ready to pounce on any flying fish disturbed by the vessel

Masked booby

From the early morning onwards we had White terns flying in synchronised pairs past the ship.

Sooty terns, White-tailed tropic birds and Black noddys were all in evidence plus Red-tailed tropic birds

Later on Wedge-tailed shearwaters became a lot more common and quite large numbers were seen.

The final species was the Black-winged petrel.

Philip island is clearly a good breeding spot for many of these species as when we sailed past there were a large number of birds flying in close proximity to the island.

The island is unique in having pine trees, the Norfolk pine, covering much of the volcanic landscape. One reason for choosing this island was so the British Navy could use the pines to repair or replace the masts on their ships.

One of our fellow guests told us he and his family spent 2 weeks on the island (travelling by air) and found it the most relaxing place they’d ever been as the speed limit is 30mph and there’s literally nothing to do except watch ships trying to put ashore….

The original landing site of convicts, now preserved for posterity
Philip Island

As we were sea bound for the day, the non denominational Remembrance Day service could happen at 11am, rather than 6pm as advertised due to shore excursions. It was well attended with poppies available (the cruise director had brought them from England) and a number of countries were represented. Unfortunately, this meant we had a lot of USA stuff included, including TAPS rather than The Last Post but they did read the Exhortation from British Legion. We will remember them.

Onwards to Auckland.

Days 160 – 163 (Nov 8th – Nov 11th) At sea, Easo (Lifou) & Noumea (Grande Terre), New Caledonia

Two days at sea before arriving in New Caledonia and the usual trivia, lectures and entertainment shows to participate in (or not) was on offer.

On our first night we were informed there would be a total lunar eclipse but unfortunately the weather did not realise we needed a bit of excitement and so the sky remained stubbornly cloudy. The following day we awoke to a tropical storm, the sea was choppy, the wind was fierce, although warm and it was virtually impossible to stay on deck. It was so bad, the caviar and champagne in the pool party (a Seabourn tradition) was cancelled.

On arrival at our first stop in New Caledonia the sun was out and despite a bumpy ride across the bay to Easo, the weather was fine. Easo is the capital of Lifou, the largest and most populated of the Loyalty Islands. Home to around 10,000 Kanak people, it’s famed for two things: a sandy palm-fringed beach that fans out on either side of the main dock, and a very friendly atmosphere. On arrival we walked past the market and small bar, along a road towards the Notre Dame de Lourdes, constructed in 1898 to commemorate the arrival of Catholic missionaries in New Caledonia.

More importantly the church is on a hill overlooking the bay where we anchored and Jinek Bay Marine Reserve, said to offer some of the best snorkelling in the South Pacific. That as may be, it was closed, so we retraced our steps and went down to the beach on the ship side of the island. All the time White-rumped swiftlets hunted around the tops of the palm trees.

White-rumped swiftlets

Walking back we came across some vanilla plants. Shame we are going to Australia or we could have picked some to take home, but due to biodiversity laws, nothing can be taken in to Oz that’s grown anywhere else. Just remember “Nothing to Declare!” and what happens to transgressors.

There was also the usual coconut palms, mango trees and a first prickly pear cactus.

We were treated to yet more local dancing and singing, accompanied by palm leaf weavers making baskets and other things like headbands. The only difference from other tribal dances, were the ferocious looking warriors who reminded us that cannibalism used to be a thing here. Afterwards, time was spent on the beach, snorkelling and keeping out of the ferocious heat.

Day 2 in New Caledonia was in the capital of the province, Noumea, situated on the main island, Grand Terre. With a population of near on 100,000 it’s easily the largest place in New Caledonia. There are a few touristy things to do (aquarium, cultural centre, kayaking and, of course, a beach) but we took a day off and walked round the quite pleasant town helping a few of the local clothes shops ease their cashflow problems. Better still we came across a bustling French cafe and settled down to a long awaited salade de chevre chaud

A depressing and incongruous sight…for some!

The town was quite pleasant and had quite a lot of green space and old buildings, with a cathedral, and colonial buildings telling of the islands history as a penal colony. The bandstand in the square had been built in 1890’s and three times a week the town were treated to a concert put on by the convicts. It was renovated in the 1980’s.

Our flying visit to New Caledonia was over and we embarked for another day at sea before landing for the first time in Australia, on Norfolk Island.