Lautoka, Fiji

4/27/19 – Saturday Thermal Mudpool Tour

This was another Vacations to Go tour (Thermal Mudpool) and one of my favorites, right next to Hobbiton and the Glow Worm Cave/Kauri Trees tours. Only John and I and two sisters were on this tour. Our van driver was most accommodating. Thank heavens we had air conditioning. All their public transportation had open windows for air conditioning. We’re even closer to the equator here.

I’m mentioning some things we learned about Fiji on our way to the Mudpool. Note, I struggle to remember all they tell us until I can get back to the ship and write down notes.

Fiji makes its income from sugar cane farms and factories, fishing, farming and tourism. Their minimum wage is $2.60/hr. For cutting sugar cane (really hard work) they get $30/ton. They grow a lot of tapioca/cassava for it’s roots. For them, I think it’s like how they use the taro plant in Hawaii for it’s roots to make poi. They have public schools and three universities, one on each major island. The schools teach all these languages: Hindi, Fijian and English. The first peoples to come here were from a tribe in Tanzania, Africa. The British arrived in the 1700’s, starting the sugar cane industry. The British brought Indians over (from India) to cut and process the sugar cane. I think, similar to the Hawaiians, the Fijians weren’t so interested is back breaking work. Now the people there are about ½ African (curly hair) and ½ Indian (straight hair). There are many religions here. If there’s a red flag in the yard, that indicates an Indian place of prayer. Each village has their own chief, their own church. They live as a community, sharing everything. A favorite drink is Kava. To drink it they gather around a common bowl and share the drink as they relax together.

Horses and cows roam free. If a rope is tied to a horse (or a cow is tied to a stake) then they have an owner. Travel throughout the rural areas is by horse and free. You can catch a wild horse or ask the owner’s permission to ride. In town you can ride the local buses. Kahn’s buses are owned by Kahn. “Classic” buses are owned by another man. Houses of concrete were built to survive cyclones.

Best time to visit: June through October because October to May is the rainy season).

While on our way to the “Tifajek Mudpool and Hotspring” we saw some lovely scenery.
More lovely scenery

John and I ready for our big mudpool adventure. There are changing rooms so we changed into our “bathers” and bare feet there. Our mudpool guide was so helpful she took everyone’s cameras to take our pictures while she explained the history of the pools as well as when we moved from one pool to another.

We put the black mud from a bucket onto all exposed skin. I felt just like a child doing this. Such wicked fun. I also forgot to cover many parts of my face.
Kind of like applying sunscreen, but not so oily.

Close ups. Our guide introduced us to all the upcoming pools while our mud was able to dry. It felt so good – cool in that very hot humid place.
My guy.

History: At the end of World War II the soldiers came to keep the peace in Fiji. They were English, Australian and American. They noticed the warm earth so they sought and found the source, near a tree.

At the mud pool (very warm) where you sink up to your knees in the mucky smooth mud.

I swam to a rock at a warm spot. There we slowly wiped/washed the mud off, returning it to where it’d come from.

The second pool of hot springs where there was gravel and grass at the bottom. We got to clean off more here.
Feeling good!
On our way to massages

Before our 3rd pool, John and I got massages ($10 for 10 minutes each). Wonderful massages. Note the lovely fresh flowers below to look at.
John getting his massage. These ladies do this for their church. All their money goes to the village church.

Our final pool, called the Thermal Pool, which had the hot springs water pouring in at one corner but was generally cooler than the others – more like bath water. Excellent spa experience.

As we were leaving in our van our driver noted that the men just ahead were gathered to drink their Kava. I mentioned that I’d love to take their picture but that I knew I needed to ask their permission. Our driver said he’d ask them. They said yes! Not only that, they offered me some. I asked if it was spicy. No, they assured me. I took a taste. It was a lot like watered down tea with milk in it. Definitely not spicy. So sweet of them. Our driver had said that they could drink beer but this is much cheaper.

Kava gathering

On our way back to the ship we saw a HinduTemple

Back on the ship, we were playing cards (“13”) in a card room when we got to know the couple nearby. They play “Canasta”. I asked if they would help me learn. Sure, they also wanted to learn “13 from us. Deal. So we all played “13”. They are Beth and Jamie from England, but they’d recently moved to France. We had great fun sharing the game and stories.

That night, instead of the theater show we got a DVD from the front desk to watch in our cabin: “Black Panther”. Very good show.

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Sea Day – heading to Fiji

4/26/19 – Friday

Again we got in our exercising. I also added a Stretch and Release class while John went to a talk on Hawaii and Vancouver. We both enjoyed the Test Kitchen project “Flavors of the Mediterranean” with special hints for olive oil in vinaigrette. We got to attend a special Indonesian Brunch because we were part of the “Discovery Collection” guests (those who were traveling the 2 cruises of New Zealand and crossing the Pacific Ocean). We watched another movie in the theater: “6 Days and 7 Nights”. It was entertaining, light. The show after dinner was Patrick McMahon (an Australian) again. Lots of John’s favorite music. I enjoyed it as well.

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Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia

4/25/19 – Thursday

Another Holland America tour today (the other was of the Glow Worm Cave and Kauri Trees): Cliffs of Jokin. As we continue getting closer to the equator, it’s getting really hot and humid.

Whereas we loved and felt our money was very well spent on the Glow Worm Cave, we weren’t as impressed with the Cliffs of Jokin tour.

The first part was lovely, a tour of a Vanilla Farm/Botanical Garden

This is a palm tree and it appears to have fruits but I can’t figure out what they are, certainly not coconuts or dates. If anyone knows, I’d love your comments.


Pink Quill Bromeliad

Vanilla Plant

All new vanilla plants are begun as a plant cutting, planted in the dirt next to a dead tree stump. They grow vertically up an old tree stand (dead stump). It takes 3 years to produce a flower, another year for the first fruit. There are 10 fruits per flower. Each flower is a hermaphrodite – it includes both the male and female parts. The fruit (pods) are picked by hand and “cooked” in 60-80 Celsius water (140 degrees Fahrenheit to 176 degrees F), not really boiling (212 degrees F), for 3 minutes. This is done 3 times. Next they are covered with a cloth, then dried in the sun. Then it’s dried in the shade. It’s then placed in a small box with special paper. Later it’s placed in a larger box. This continues until it smells like vanilla. This was clearly VERY labor intensive, so you can understand why it costs so much. Now, once the pods are picked they are sent to a factory for the remainder of their treatment. 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) results in $56 income. No vanilla was available for purchase at the farm.

The star of our day – the vanilla plant growing on tree stump. Can you spot it? Nice recycling idea, yes?

Luecila Beach

Our treat of tea or coffee with vanilla flavoring. Very good idea.

Cliffs of Jokin

Before we were told where to walk to get our photos the ladies offered us palm crowns with flowers inserted. They also pointed out the toilets. Then they gave us coconuts with straws so we could have the coconut water. Not something either of us enjoyed all that much, although it was refreshing in the heat. I was also grateful all this was presented under a roof/shade.

There may have been a story connected to these cliffs, but we don’t remember it. Where we could take pictures had a lot of trees in the way. I imagine 50 years ago this would have been a lot easier to photograph. Or if you approached by boat. This is the shot I got.

Cliffs of Jokin

There was a chief’s hut we could also inspect.
Inside the chief’s hut.
The roof inside the chief’s hut.

Luecila Beach. We took a few minutes here under the welcome tree shade to enjoy the view. Good place for swimming, not so much for snorkeling.

Tender back to the ship
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Tadine, Mare, New Caledonia

4/24/19 – Wednesday

Because we don’t have to get off early for a scheduled tour today, we got our exercises in. I also added an Abs class. Whoa, that truly was a challenge for my abs!

We took a tender (small boat) from the ship to shore at Mare, the little town where we’d docked.

We were greeted with bright colored cloths …
and band music. In their culture you need to ask permission to take their photo so I think that’s why none of them are looking at the camera.

We strolled along the rocky shore, stopping for photos and to just sit and embrace the place. It was pretty warm and humid, so that encouraged our slow enjoy-the-moment attitude.

Tadine, Mare, New Caledonia
We even happened to sit near a local fisherman.
Nice frame for our Holland America Noordam, yes?
Here’s part of that frame.

We returned in time for lunch then saw another movie “Wilder People”, another New Zealand produced movie. This was also a great movie with lots of New Zealand realities.

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Sea Day – heading to New Caledonia

4/23/19 – Tuesday

Again we faithfully exercised. Then I went to a “Polyfit” class, taught by one of the Polynesian Ambassadors, (Keoni). I loved how fun it was yet how hard I worked, sweating by the end. Great music, great moves. If you want to know more about the program check out Keoni’s website (he invented these dance moves): .

Later I took a class on a hula dance. I even bought a USB/flash drive from the Holland America photo people to have Keoni (Kay O nee) record his Hula dance music, played on the ukulele, as well as get the Windows 10 lessons on it. John went to a talk on Lautoka and SavuSavu, Fiji. He also attended a class on speaking Hawaiian. I listened to the string quartet play Brahms pieces. Not a big fan – a lot of high pitched violin parts in them. We both watched a New Zealand produced movie “Pork Pie”. Just excellent. This movie also showed parts of New Zealand that we hadn’t seen on our prior visits. Then dinner with our 6 table mates, then the Show: Patrick McMahon. He sang Neil Diamond, John Cash, Kenny Rogers songs very well. John’s a big fan now.

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Sea Day – heading to New Caledonia

4/22/19 – Monday

We did our preferred methods of exercise, then I enjoyed a free sample massage (neck, shoulders). Nice. All the time we were in New Zealand there were Maori Ambassadors on the ship (they actually were staying in a cabin across from us!) who each day presented interesting exposure to their culture via poetry, song, dance, language and general information. Now that we’re headed for the Pacific Ocean islands we have Polynesian Ambassadors doing similar introductions. Today I made a Kukui nut bracelet. John went to a lecture on what one could see and do in Tadine and Easo (New Caledonia), our upcoming stops. We enjoyed another Test Kitchen presentation on Steakhouse Dinner for Two. We treated ourselves to lunch in the Dining Room (sit down with menu choices). There we got to know 4 new people. It was amazing how often we’d run into Wayne and Peter (Australians) later. Fun guys who gave the exercise classes I took a good try, though in the end they continued their walks on deck, like John. Dinner was Gala, so we dressed up. I wore my new kimono (golden shawl). It’s so light and warm when I run into air conditioned spots, it’s perfect. We watched the theater presentation, then listened to the music at B B King’s. We decided it was just too loud for us (we enjoyed the kind of music) and never returned. Off to bed.

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Sydney, Australia

4/21/19 – Sunday – Easter

As when we were in Sydney before, we’d made no special plans. In the end we decided to ride the “Hop on Hop off Big Red Bus” just to get a good lay of the city. I also wanted to see Australian animals. Since I was still gimpy with my sore foot we chose to visit the Wildlife Sidney Zoo. It’s much smaller than the main zoo, but that was better with my foot issues. Plus we didn’t have to cross the harbor to get to it because it was close to where the Sydney Opera House and Botanical Gardens were located as well as where our ship was docked. Before I get into the photos I’d like to mention the names of a couple towns that sounded very Australian: Woolloomooloo and Wollongong.

Views from our Big Red Bus:

Note the Sky Tower just behind this building.
St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral
Sydney Hospital – the oldest hospital in Australia, at this current location since 1811.
A vertical garden!
Beautiful lampost where our Big Red Bus waited for passengers.
Yes, Coca Cola is everywhere…
Starbucks is here too.
They love their pies.
A beautiful fountain in Hyde Park, I think.

At this point we were desperate to visit some toilets (they don’t say restrooms or bathrooms here). We were nearing the spot where the Wildlife Sidney Zoo was, so we got off then. Guess what? The closest toilets were in the Wildlife Sidney Zoo so naturally, we got our tickets for it and hit the toilets. On to see the critters, all uniquely Australian. All we saw of the Tasmanian Devil was his backside in a a dark corner, sleeping, so no decent photo.

Northern Long Necked Turtle

Australian Green Tree Frog

Inland Taipan, the world’s most venomous snake

Blotched Blue Tongue Lizard

Cunningham’s Skink (actually, you can see there are two).

Diamond Python. It keeps its eggs warm by wrapping around them and shivering.

Bush Stone Curlew, ground dwelling and nocturnal

Koala. “ The first meal for a baby Koala is its mother’s poo. This contains special bacteria that allows them to digest gumleaves.
Another cutie

Laughing Kookaburra

Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby

Bare Nosed Wombat

Cassowary, a rather tall bird, maybe 4 feet tall. “It’s the male Cassowary who raises the young chicks.”

Green and Golden Bell Frog

Gouldian Finch

Two Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, little guys

We saw a Platypus, but he was small, like 16”, and swimming like crazy in a dark room so no decent photos.

Spotted Tailed Quoll

Spinifex Hopping Mouse. Boy did it hop!

It was crazy crowded (Easter Sunday so lots of families enjoying Sydney) and we’d gotten really hungry so we headed farther on the wharf in search of lunch. By the way we learned that the letters in wharf stand for “Warehouses at the river front”.

Lunch was a wonderful Pulled Pork Pizza that included applesauce. Plus I took the picture to show the earthenware dish it was baked in, then brought to us, really hot. Yummy!

Now that we were energized, we headed towards the Opera House for pictures and got some of the Harbour Bridge along the way.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, image taken from Big Red Bus

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Holland America Noordam and Sydney Harbour Bridge

Also along the way:

Ibis, wandering free

Street Artist

I had a blast taking shots of the Opera House. I had no idea that it’s more than 1 building, or that the roof is make of tiles.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House. Notice this building includes a restaurant. I overheard a lady telling others that she’d gone there with friends only to find out it’s terribly expensive. Duly warned.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

A few stops on our way to the ship included the Botanical Gardens:

Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens

We boarded the ship at Circular Quay by 2:30. Showered, rested, then went to our Easter Dinner where we were appointed to a different table for 8 (new cruise). Wow, 6 new friends. We all became good friends as the cruise continued. To clarify: we paid for 2 cruises, one from Sydney to New Zealand for 2 weeks, then return to Sydney. The 2nd was to then leave Sydney for the South Pacific to cross the Pacific Ocean until reached our destination of Vancouver, BC, Canada. We live abou t400 miles from there, so it made great sense. Especially because we could avoid that long night plane ride. We would also be visiting numerous islands on our way. By paying for this trip as 2 cruises we saved money. Others signed up for both as one trip. Both they and us were on a “Collector’s Cruise” according to Holland America. Thus our 2nd trip meant a new table. Yay!

John spent the evening at the Piano Bar while I listened to the String Quartet, then went to bed. I had good reason: we had to set our clocks forward 1 hour, thus less sleep time.

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