Whisper HR is in the South Pacific

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Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Jul
18

Sithonia and Kassandra Peninsulas

Posted by Mei on July 18, 2012 We visited a few anchorages on these peninsulas. Some were quite lovely. It was very hot topping 35 deg C everyday. Luckily the water is crystal clean and inviting. We discovered that the shops all close about 2pm and reopen around 5pm. This is the ideal time to go swimming as everyone can be found on the beach, your butcher, post office staff etc. The anchorages were fairly large and everyone decided to anchor out. It turns out it really wasn't a large enough harbour as the boaties tend to clump just were you are; one boat length away. Even when there is plenty of room elsewhere. A strange type of herd instinct. It certainly kept Kevin busy yelling at peeps about how close they were. One bulgarian yachtie came by on his dinghy after being asked to move by Kevin, he chatted and gave us a bottle of Bulgarian whiskey. We were a tad perplexed. The med mooring anchoring technique; anchoring then tying the stern to a rock or tree certainly makes more sense and less impact on others. Certainly no yelling. We found these beach side towns a little boring. Just tarvernas on the waterfront with exactly the same food in each. There are the BBQ seafoods, seafood stews, mousaka, greek salads and snacky appetizers. Oh and the tourist bland menu of selection of pasta, selection of pizzas, chops and steak and the standby hamburger; all with chips. Every now and then we'd get excited to see something new on the menu. The prices were similar to Australian prices for takeaway. And the quality is ordinary. It is difficult to find where the locals eat because these are Greek tourists in these towns.
Aug
07

Sail Indonesia Rally Build-up.

Posted by Mei on August 7, 2010 July 22nd to 24th 2010. Terry and Suzanne flew into Darwin to join us on the rally. They have 3 weeks available. It was great to have them on board. We had most things organised and made time to see the town. I had to take Suzanne to the indigenous fine arts gallery on Mitchell Street. It was on the first floor and the stairwell had a mural of the rainbow serpent. The owner was a very knowledgeable guy with a huge amount of art on display from the desert art, saltwater art and the minimalist WA desert art. All amazingly different and beautiful. The cv’s of the artists were impressive, they were in art galleries and major collections all over the world. The art gallery was air-conditioned so it was easy to spend a lot of time there. I visited a few times. It was also fun to meet a couple of the artists sitting on the carpet creating the desert art dot paintings. One of them was Janet Long Nakamara, a school teacher in her younger days and now trying to finish a law degree. It was disconcerting to hear one of the gallery visitors (an Aussie) talk to her in simple English as if she didn’t understand. We went to the museum and art gallery and it was very fascinating. There was a fossil of a crocodile so big the head alone was about 1.2 m long, it made our estuarine crocodiles look like babies. There is an interesting link between Australia and Indonesia, it is centuries old. The sea faring Indonesians would come with the northerlies and leave six months later in the south-easterlies. They had significant interactions between the indigenous folks. Changing them forever. The art in the gallery was excellent, very intricate. We cleared customs and immigration at the Darwin Yacht Club. Everyone going had to be there. Immigration check you and your passport photo very closely. If you were to clear customs and immigration normally they would come to your boat and do the formalities. However with 106 yachts it was just too hard. They did do a random search on a yacht the next day to the horror of the yachties. Rumours on the VHF radio was flying fast. You would think customs would be listening to that too. The difference between a cruiser and a racing yacht 10-20 boats left early on the day of the rally to avoid the crush of the start. The start line was fairly sparse and no one really tried to be first. Yet there were helicopters (well one channel 9 chopper) and the start boat was full of well wishers. The rally comprises overwhelmingly of foreign boats.
Jul
17

Kakadu

Posted by Mei on July 17, 2010 July 9th -11th 2010. We bought a 3 day tour to Kakadu.

Ubirr and Nourlangie

The first day we hit the rock art sites at Ubirr and Nourlangie. Ubirr was absolutely spectacular. Imagine wondering about an art museum on a rocky plateau with an amazing view. A lot of the art was still visible and vivid. I thought the art was really interesting. There are three main periods; Pre Estuarine (40,000 - 6000BC), Estuarine (6000 - 500AD), Freshwater (500AD to current), and Contact (when they met foreigners and painted ships and guns). They would paint the foods, and their dreamings i.e. their lores and legends.. The traditional owners often painted in their occupational areas, i.e. where they prepared the food. These were rock shelters; shaded all day and was pleasantly cool and breezy. You could spot the small smooth bowl like holes in the rock made from grinding nuts with a pestle for several centuries. The rock ledges were worn smooth from peeps sitting and sleeping on them. Pretty tough butts! Kakadu is pretty unique in Australia. The traditional owners are the Beninj folk who have leased Kakadu to the National Parks and have a big say in the management of the park. During the monsoon months the undergrowth can take off and become thick and dense. This time of year in the cold weather months the traditional owners and parks make a serious effort to burn off, in preparation for the hot dry weather season. In Victoria we call it cold burning, and this only removes the scrubby undergrowth, not the trees. The Beninj says this encourages new growth, and the scientists have found that Banksia and other plants must have heat to germinate. Have the plants evolved to take advantage of the traditional owners land management techniques over 40,000 years? Or has fire been an annual event before the dawn of humans? As I understand the indigenous people in Australia have this land management technique in common. What is curious is that the Torres Strait Islanders who live on islands with similar soils are agrarian in nature and have garden plots in the bush growing yams, tapioca, paw paw, bananas and vegetables. The Torres Strait Islanders do not burn off. I wonder if the burning off on the mainland has killed off the paw paw, bananas and veges. Has this land management technique over the centuries actually forced them into an evolutionary dead end. In the sense that they could never become agrarian because the techniques employed will not allow the other necessary plants to grow. Your thoughts please. In the evening we got to the camp site. We were allocated a permanent tent with a double bed and a couple of bunk beds, plenty of ventilation with large insect screens. It was very comfortable.

Culture Camp

Jennifer, a traditional owner give a talk on bush food gathering techniques and food prep. Apparently wild crocs do not taste like chicken and fruit bats are an acquired taste. They used maleluca or tea tree leaves to flavour the baked earth food. In the east we use banana leaves to wrap food while baking. Here they use wet paper bark to wrap the food, cover with hot rocks and cook for hours. The women really took some risks wading in the billabongs (lagoons) to gather food. They usually had dogs and they would keep and eye on them. Dog’s can smell crocs (croc halitosis is of decayed fish) and will run away. Dougie, a traditional owner and Jennifer’s brother showed us how to play the didgeridoo. The name didgeridoo is a made up name by a non indigenous man. The area where didgeridoos originated from is Arnhem land. Dougie let us have a go on a bunch of wooden didgeridoos. “The woolly butt tree above us is a good didgeridoo tree, we choose a dead looking branch and it’s usually hollowed out by termites.” Not very musical sounds emanated from us newbies. He then suggested the plastic didgeridoos and they were really easy to play. Hmm. He suggested we try the circular breathing by practicing with a straw in water. Try and blow bubbles while breathing. Too easy. Andy, Jennifer and their daughter demonstrated how to use a spear thrower. Anyone who could hit the pig would win a prize. Kevin got close but no stubby holder. It was fun and not that hard to throw. Very difficult to be accurate. Andy took us on a night tour of the billabong. He had a huge light and found a few estuarine crocodiles (salt water crocs) and fresh water crocodiles. They are quite hard to spot from distance even though their eyes reflect the light. We also saw some sleeping birds. What was very eerie was his obligatory what do we do if the boat sinks blurb after we left the bank. He said, “God forbid if we should sink, the life jackets are here, put them on and you should swim to the bank ASAP”. Good God @#@#$ We got back to the camp for dinner. A huge day. The next day we went for a walk around a billabong (Illagadjarr walk). The guide got kinda tense when Kevin insisted on getting closer to the birds he was photographing close to the bank. This walk was OK if you like spotting birds. Scenery was so – so. After lunch we went to Jim Jim falls. The parks thoughtfully remove the crocs from the swimming pools under the waterfalls before allowing the tourists in. One of our group, Linda tripped and hurt her hand. It was lucky she didn’t continue. It was quite a walk scrambling over large boulders for 900m. It seemed to take all day. However the water was cold and refreshing. Kevin swam under the waterfall. The falls were quite speccy. Linda and Dennis decided she should get her wrist x-rayed. The Jabiru emergency centre had an x-ray machine unfortunately the technician was not there. They bandaged and strapped her wrist, gave some pain relief her and sent her back – no charge because she was a tourist. The final day we went on the Yellow Waters Cruise. This was the wet lands we could see from Ubirr. The guy driving the boat knew his wet land birds and the passengers were very good at finding crocodiles. We saw thirteen crocs (I overheard a child who had bothered to count). This cruise went for a couple of hours and was well worth it. We saw a few Jabirus. They have enormous nests on top of trees. There was one on our route. We spent about 10 minutes looking at these birds fussing about their nest, possibly making it bigger. The guide said that these birds have been nesting there for 14 years but have not had any chicks. I wonder if it is performance anxiety. It must be ridiculous having a cruise boat turn up every 20 minutes from dawn to dusk, with loudspeakers describing their bad luck. We went for swim at another waterfall at Maguk. You might think that the walks to the waterfalls are hot and tedious, actually there is plenty of shade and often a breeze. The scenery is gorgeous and the water is lovely and cold. I loved Kakadu. Next time I want to check out more rock art and Arnhem land as well.
Jul
06

Darwin

Posted by Mei using HF on July 6, 2010 July 1-5 2010. We motored around to Frances bay. The Tipperary Waters Marina is locked and requires a 4m tide before we can attempt entry. The tides in Darwin are extreme and a normal range is 7m. It is difficult to have marina floating pens in water this deep. At Tipperary they maintain a depth of 4m at all times and control the depth with pumps and tide. We are learning how to get around by bus and taxis. Interestingly all the Taxis we’ve been into have been Priouses. Apparently the hybrid engine is so fuel efficient that the taxis are using only $15 of petrol per shift. Normally they spend about $40 in Gas or $60-75 in petrol. They have done the maths and worked out they can pay for the car after 3.5 years with the fuel cost savings. They have driven 300,000 km in them and they are still good and don’t break down. Darwin is fairly small, but the heat makes us lethargic and we don’t go anywhere fast. We do keep bumping into crews of the other rally boats as they all go about their business. Today I tried to organise duty free diesel and alcohol. I brought my ships papers as suggested but waiting at the bus stop I chatted to some Scots and they informed me I needed a photocopy of my passport as I had the originals at the Indonesian embassy. I ran back to the boat and printed out the photocopies and screamed back just in time to catch the bus. We checked out the sunset markets. They open on Sunday and Thursday evenings. The locals swarm to buy dinners there; retire to the beach with fold up seats to eat. There were all sorts of Asian food; the most unusual was food from Timor Leste. NAIDOC organised a free showing of “Bran Nue Dae” at the lagoon. It was a hoot trying to recognise all the peeps.
Jul
03

Darwin

Posted by Mei on July 3, 2010 July 1st 2010. We finally got here. We found where to anchor in Fanny Bay, just head for where the other yachts are. We were told by Darwin harbour control there was an exclusion zone around the fireworks barge. The gos flew round the radio net there was going to be a huge fireworks display. An American boatie asked the ether (VHF radio) if they could tell her what the celebration was about? “ It’s territory day” someone replied. “Huh?” said the yank sounding perplexed. “You’re in the Northern Territory and we are celebrating Territory Day” was the acerbic reply. What a display. Very impressive. The barge display was magnificent and lasted half an hour. But little did we know from sunset to 11pm there was sporadic fireworks all around the bay. It’s was too much. You simply cannot admire fireworks that long. Seemed like an overkill. I found out later; anyone can light fireworks here and they went nuts, starting fires everywhere, spotted the fire engines working overtime. In Victoria and South Australia only licensed pyrotechs can let off fireworks.
Jul
03

Gulf of Carpentaria, on route to Darwin

Posted by Mei on July 3, 2010 June 24th – July 1st 2010. We left Seisia and headed towards the Wessels. It was blowing 15-25 knots from the SE and the gulf is a bit like Bass Straight, shallow and strong currents. The seas were lumpy and sporadically confused, about 2-3 m. It was OK but not too relaxing; fortunately we have learned to tune the boat and it doesn’t lurch badly anymore. When we reached the Wessels, after a slog of 2 days, it was raining so we kept on going. The sun came up, and the swell eased. The endless salt keeps us perpetually sticky. It gets so hot we have showers just to keep cool. Kevin announced he wanted to have a shower on the aft deck, and was going to wear his bathers, I said why bother there are no boats in sight. He got wet and began to lather up when to his horror he hear the VHF radio announce,”White sloop, this is the Australian Customs Plane”; BUSTED@#$# Looked up and there was the red and white plane buzzing over us. Kevin caught a Queenfish. It was small but just the right size for us. We ran out of rum and used Absolut Vodka to stop it wriggling. We got inspired and threw out the squid lure to tempt tuna, but forgot the line was out and when we gybed; consequently ran over it with the boat and had to cut it loose; the fishing line had wrapped itself on the rudder. Win some and you loose some. We pulled in at Malay Bay in Arnhem land. Flat countryside. Safe anchorage. The next day we headed to Port Essington. Port Essington is on the Coburg Peninsula, and is almost entirely the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park (name sounds Indonesian). The indigenous land holders live there and share the national park. At Black Point, Port Essington there was a little rangers station with a little museum describing the relationship between the Macassans (from Sulawesi) and the local Aborigines. The Macassans came here to catch and dry Beche le mer or sea cucumber for the centuries old Chinese market. Ever eaten sea cucumber? Not much flavour but provides a nice slimy floating bit in a soup. The Chinese cuisine isn’t just about flavour, texture is important too. I must remember to buy some for my relos in Singapore. We sailed to Alcora bay, near Cape Don on the Coburg Peninsula. It was a big bay and easily fitted the 15 odd boats, I think it could fit 30 without a problem. The bay was well sheltered and we dingyed around and saw a shark, two huge manta rays (1.5 m diameter), a sea eagle and sand footprints of two enormous crocodiles. There was a landing for the lighthouse maintenance crew.
Jul
03

Thursday Island, Torres Strait

Posted by Mei on July 3, 2010 June 23th 2010. Thursday Island (TI) is an unusual town. It feels like a south pacific island because of all the Melanesians (or islanders) but they speak with Aussie accents. Naturally they are more Aussie then us blow-ins as they have inhabited the islands way before Cook. They are very religious people due to the strong missionary activity across the Pacific. References to the London Missionary Society were observed in our short visit. They appear to be very family orientated and grounded. It was disturbing to hear that the life span of an islander has dropped dramatically by ~10-15 years. Shocking actually; what is going on? Is it poor diet? I heard diabetes being mentioned. But this couldn’t be all. We did a tour of the island. The fort had magnificent views. There was a large installation of soldiers after they evacuated the island of civilians during WW2. TI was never bombed by the Japanese. There were many Japanese people living in TI prior to WW2 and they made their living by diving for trochus shells. Trochus shells were harvested and sent to Europe to make buttons before the advent of plastic (1955). In 1960 TI turned to cultured pearls, and once again sought the expertise of the Japanese. TI’s main industry is exporting live painted crayfish to Asia. These crays are caught by divers, no pots here and are sent chilled alive to Cairns and flown from there to asia. The other employer is the government as TI has the largest Torres Strait Island population of 3500. There is a large hospital, customs, AQIS, and the Torres Strait Regional Authority presence. We went to the Gab Titui, Cultural Centre. This place was fascinating. The art here was very different to the desert aboriginal art. Some similarity with the Melanesian art we saw in the Solomon Islands. The art has evolved and is very interesting. The shops in the main street were strange though. No one bothered with dressing the windows. The windows were very dirty. It was hard to tell what the shops sold. Only the pearl shops attempted to dress the windows. I walked into one of the shops that displayed handmade scarfs and flowers and it turned out to be drop in centre for the elderly pensioners. I cannot honestly get a grip on this place enough to understand it and their people. I think I would have to live here for a while. Being a tourist is frustratingly superficial.
Jun
22

Seisia

Posted by Mei on June 22, 2010 June 19th – 24th 2010. Seisia is a little beach side community. Great spot for yachties. There are 16 yachts in the anchorage and 95% are heading for the sail indo rally. There is a decent supermarket, nice cryro-vac meat from the local area. The caravan park has a four washing machines and 5 racks of washing lines (byo pegs), reasonably priced internet in a/c comfort, and is happy for you to use their showers. The town has mobile coverage (next G only). There is also a petrol station about 300m from the beach. It was funny to watch two guys carrying 2 jerry cans of diesel with a pole. It is 27 degrees and Ok when there is a breeze and stifling when there is none. There are mechanics, fitters and welders. What is also interesting there is a ferry to TI (Thursday Island). TI is only 22 nm from Seisia but the yachties are not going there in their boats, they are taking the ferry. AQIS (quarantine) in TI will remove the yacht’s fruit, vege and meat (unless cryro-vaced with labels that look like they are from the mainland). If you buy stuff from TI you need to get a certificate to prove that the food items were sourced from the mainland. Then and only then when you hit Darwin and AQIS come aboard they won’t remove all your fruit, vege and meat. I’m not sure why this regime is required. Maybe Maxine you can tell me why. The ferry to TI also takes the 4WD and the bus tours. Today we tried to go to TI but the ferry was booked out. We did a trip to Bamaga about 15 km away on the Seisia council bus. We met an elderly local who used to walk there every day for her constitutional walk and didn’t do it any more because of the wild brumbies. We saw some off the side of the road and they looked small and cute. Kevin’s tooth lost a filling a week ago and we were visiting the dentist. No appointment, just rock up at the local hospital. All is good and well. In this area the locals at Bamaga have set up a company that runs a few businesses. The profits are not distributed amongst the members, but are used to provide funds for community projects, grants, scholarships and for hardship cases. They own and operate a resort, tavern, bakery, own the Centrelink and Post office buildings. From their annual report it looks like if they don’t have the local expertise they will hire outside their community. In Seisia there is also another community company that is run on similar lines. The community own the caravan park, supermarket, butcher, petrol station and a farm.
Jun
20

Cape York

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 18th 2010. We took a ton of pictures of Cape York. We circled it, anchored and clambered around with the other road tourists. There was a constant stream of 4WD tourists. Someone stuck the flag on a stick and it was a nice touch. We noticed only the Aussie yachts bothered to stop and stomp on the ground.
Jun
20

Shallow Bay, Albany Passage, 4nm from Cape York

Posted by Mei on June 20, 2010 June 17th 2010. We woke up at 4am to make the jump to Escape River about 70nm away. Conservatively @ 6 knots we would need 12 hours to get there by 4pm; we like plenty of daylight on arrival. There was a 2m swell with a 20 knot South Easterly, the size of the swell was quite unexpected; considering the previous day had been only 1m with the same wind. At about 10am we heard on the radio a yacht describing their harrowing break from Escape River. They had left on an ebb tide and slammed right into the 2m SE swell. They would have encountered very steep seas (>2m) with a small period or “sharp short chop” at the shallow entrance. Let’s just say the lady was not happy. She said something along the lines, “I wore my lifejacket for the first time in ages and made sure the EPIRB was close”. We reconsidered our decision to anchor there for the night. We passed Escape River at 2pm, travelling faster then we hoped. We had enough daylight and tide to get through Albany Passage. Albany passage current is described by Lucas and is fast 2-5 knots. We went though with our top speed at 10.5 knots. At 4pm we anchored north of Albany Passage, in Sallow Bay, a nice safe anchorage. We’re getting close Cape York and getting excited. It’s huge to be at the absolute top end of our continent. Can’t quite see it from the anchorage, bummer.