Friday, February 27, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I have not written for a long time, as there has been no time to write. Marriage continues to be a joy. In the interim we sold my condo and moved me to El Paso. I underwent a total thyroidectomy, which was a requirement to have foot surgery. We tried a second time for foot surgery, which necessitated another trip to the east coast, and once again the surgery did not happen, this time apprently due to some bad communication.

It is time to try to write at least a little bit about the 2008 Grand World Voyage on Holland America Line's ms Amsterdam. It was truly a grand voyage that deserves at least summary coverage. I came close to not going due to the relationship I was in at the time,
but I am grateful that I came to my senses and went anyway. There were several ports that were repeats for me, but the majority were new. What an adventure it all was!

We had a couple of rain forest excursions, one in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica and another in Fuerte Amador, Panama (the latter was after a trip through the Panama canal, which is awesome). These excursions were memorable for the wild life, like the black-throated tiger heron in Costa Rica, and the coatimundis in Panama. Harry & I discovered that we had actually met on the rain forest excursion in Panama. We had both gotten photos of each other during the excursion; my favorite is when he got my feet and legs from his dangling video camera that he had forgotten to turn off.

From there we had 8 days at sea
, which had a lot of people complaining about boredom. That amazed me as there was so much to do on the ship. During this time, when we were sailing through the doldrums, we saw school after school of small, silver flying fish, that were fascinating to watch. They would come up out of the water, and usually returned to the water only when they flew into a wave. That meant that they flew for amazing distances.

The South Pacific islands are gorgeous. Many people did not like Papeete, Tahiti; however, once outside the city, the countryside was beautiful. We found great shells on Nuku Hiva. We fell in love with Moorea (pronounced Moh-oh-ray-a), which has to be the most beautiful island in the South Pacific. In this case the 'we' refers to my faithful traveling companion, Tina. At Moorea we met sting rays face to face, which was lots of fun. Bora Bora is known to many as 'Boring Boring'. And since I canceled my snorkeling excursion I had only minimal experience of the island. Tonga is not really prepared for tourists, so we encountered tourist bus traffic jams. The most beautiful part of Tonga is the south coast: the entire coastline is a series of blowholes that are spectacular. We were in Samoa on a rainy day, but Tina & I went walking anyway, which was a lot of fun. During our walk we saw the inside of a church with beautiful woodwork, and we met a pig who was a house pet and who came running out to the street to greet us.

We fell in love with New Zealand. The countryside everywhere is beautiful. We saw a colony of nesting Gannets along the wild coast line. We watched sheep dog demonstrations, where we learned that there are two types of sheep dogs - the ones that bark, and the strong-eye sheep dogs. It is amazing to see what the latter can do with an intense stare. On the south island we got to see young Albatross, yellow-eyed and blue penguins, lots of seals and Cormorants, and an aquarium (Dunedin). That excursion involved riding in an ATV, which was an adventure for me - not what I would usually do. The fiords are absolutely beautiful, also. We had perfect weather for Milford Sound, which is apparently unusual. One lady I knew had been there six times prior to this and this one was the first time with sunshine.

Crossing the Tasman Sea over to Sydney, Australia was a miserable experience on the first day, for those of us who get sea sick. But the payoff was Sydney, which is a marvelous city. Tina & I actually got to go to a performance of La Boheme at the famed opera house. Tickets are pricey, but it is an experience not to be missed. On the second day of our stay in Sydney we went to the Koala Park, where I fell in love with one of the animals - the Echidna, also known as the spiny anteater. It was out running around during the day even though it is a nocturnal animal; my guess is that the overcast skies made daytime palatable for it. Melbourne was a disappointment for us on this visit; hopefully another visit will give a different impression. Freemantle/Perth was our final Australian port, nice but not particularly memorable. Over all I liked New Zealand better than Australia.

In the next episode we have more amazing experiences, getting into the Asian countries.

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