Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Sun Princess

road train


Days at sea have a calm, languid rhythm of their own. People are camped out on deck chairs reading the latest pot boiler. Others dog paddle slow laps in the pool. The swimming pool is the best place to be. We’ve traveled north to within 10º of the equator and the the air is sultry. It’s still the rainy season here, but we’re told that we’re incredibly lucky with the weather. It hasn’t rained at all and fingers are crossed that our luck will hold when we’re in port again. Even when it does rain it comes down in buckets for an hour or two mostly at night., according to our guidebook

We have lots of ocean to cover. The north coast of Australia appears to be a desolate, wild and undeveloped jungly area. Looking at the map we see a whole lot of nothingness. Mostly aborigines seem to live here. Folks who look like us are not allowed on these lands without a special permit from the aborigines. There are also some large cattle stations. Since they are located so far from where the meat consumers are, large road trains - trucks that pull up to four containers - take the meat south down the long, long straight roads to the towns far away. Occasionally, we see an island or some distant sand dunes, but mostly it’s the deep blue sea. Early cartographers ran out of names as the charted the many islands along the coast. After they named things after royalty and their own families, they were reduced to the mundane - we’ve sailed past Friday Island, Thursday Island, Wednesday Island, etc. etc. According to our guidebook, what roads there are can be underwater during the wet season or wash out, stranding people for weeks at a time. There were bad floods on the north coast last month and some folks are still getting their foodstuffs via helicopter.

As we passed the last of the barrier reef, we could see bright slashes of aquamarine in the water, topped by an occasional sandy cove. The reef is really at its most photogenic from overhead in a small plane, however. As we sailed around the Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost point in Australia, the captain pointed out an island that is populated by the very rich and very famous. It was so lushly covered with green, we couldn’t spot any of their exclusive homes.

In the evening we have a choice of two performances after dinner, taking place in the theaters at either end of the ship. They tend to be musical or comedians; many of them from England. But every night a large crowd gathers around a piano player in the atrium who specializes in playing old chestnuts. Our fellow aging Aussies LOVE this guy. They gather in such crowds that we can hardly walk from one side of the ship to another. They sing along with nostalgic looks on their faces and sometimes dance in the ten square feet of space around his piano. We know many of the songs and most are from our parent’s youth, not ours. We cannot fathom why so many folks here like this live karaoke so much, but it does mean that you can always find a seat in the theater at the last minute.

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