Sydney, Australia- by bus

This is the first of three posts from our two days in Sydney.

- By bus
- By boat- coming soon

- Opera House closeup and leaving- coming soon

Sydney by bus

First stop, the Domain Sydney- a nice park with the most photographed scenic in town, and maybe in the country

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Interesting factoid: L01 and L02 are STOL amphibious assault ships repurposed by the Australian Navy as helo ships. At least one is always in the harbor in case a Very Important Person in the government or visitor is in need of a helicopter because there are no helicopter landing areas on land in Sydney.


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Assorted Buildings, through a bus window

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St. Vincents Hospital


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Street scenes, still through a bus window
(please excuse any reflections or other oops')

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Under the bridge, looking the other direction

 

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Note to city planners: install more signs here; drivers are complaining they are running out of things to read while waiting for the light to change.

 

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New South Wales Art Museum, 'Maman' the spider.

 

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Art of another type

 

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Mad Monkey

 

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Tat and a trim at the same place

 

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Daddy's and...

 

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Mamma's...

 

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with Coca-Cola above it all and...

 

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down there represented.

 

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Even the street signs are polite in Sydney.


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No comment that wouldn't sound ridiculously immature.

 

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A family joke



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Scary
(no extra charge for the reflection of our bus)

 

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This way to the beach


(world famous) Bondi Beach

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A National Surfing Reserve is actually a thing?


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Ruth rescued Wilson from a difficult incident involving his thong speedo, a women's rugby team, and a gallon of marshmallow fluff he had.

 

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Travis Kelce's girlfriend was in town to do a series of concerts. The maker of Twisties, a popular Australian chip, united two "cultural icons"; thus, Twifties appeared in the sky over Sydney.


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Sydney, Australia
02/22/24


Sydney Harbor, Australia- an early morning ode to the port

Not only is the city wonderful, but the Sydney Harbor is spectacular. We sailed in early in the morning when the light was near at its best and, since we were a smaller ship,  docked on the far side of the harbor in White Bay. 

Geekdom: all the images are from RAW, processed as HDR files, and polished in Radiant Photo. The thumbnails below are 1/2 size JPEG files.   

I present to you the Sydney Harbor in all its glory:

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Australian Navy Base


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Passing the Sydney Opera House

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Moving on...

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Sydney Harbor, Australia
02/22/24


Dunedin, New Zealand: Glorious Scenics, but a big challenge

Dunedin is our last stop in New Zealand before venturing on to Australia. Dunedin, derived from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, is the largest city in the southern half of the South Island of New Zealand. Its resident population of 120,000 is bolstered by about 20,000 kids... students... attending the University of Otago in town.

The day started with a nice sunrise as we entered port.

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Our trip is to the scenic Taieri Gorge on the Dunedin Railway. The Railway is an interesting story. New Zealand has an extensive rail system throughout the country. As railway needs were replaced by motor vehicles, the need for rail service to the mines and towns to and past the Gorge declined to the point that the line was shut down. Some of it was converted to biking paths, but the City of Dunedin bought the section to and through the Gorge, turning it into a riding experience for tourists and others. They use a mixture of restored railcars and locomotives for the tours. Unfortunately, since most passengers were tourists off cruise ships, COVID-19 forced the line into hibernation when tourism ceased. The line was resurrected in late 2021, and despite losing money, the City Council agreed to operate through 2024. The line's future is in question, but discussions are ongoing about keeping this attractive excursion active.   

Whining follows; skip if you want to. The scenics are wonderful through the Gorge but present a huge challenge to capturing images. The carriages are typical train cars with big windows, but they are glass, not open. It makes for a comfortable air-conditioned ride, but the reflections on a bright, sunny day are almost overwhelming. Cell Phones do kinda' OK because they can be pushed flat against a window, cutting out a lot of glare and reflection; DSLR's not so much. The solution is a good polarizer, keeping lenses at a 90-degree angle to the window, taking a lot of pictures, and dodging reflections if possible.   

Some nice scenics despite the challenges...

The first part of the journey is in the flatlands from Dunedin on the commercial rail line to the cutoff to the Gorge. Spent the time trying to figure out ways around the reflections that didn't involve a baseball bat, shattering glass and jail time. The images were sacrificed a bit.

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Lots of sheep. Some of our fellow travelors could not resist making baa- ad jokes.

 

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More sheep


After the cutoff, the train slowed,  and the climb to and through the Gorge commenced.

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The Wingatui Viaduct is the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand. No, it is not another train. They crossed the viaduct, let us disembark, and backed the train back over for a photo opportunity. They were nice enough to return and pick us back up.

 

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The pine trees are all hand-planted and then harvested about 25-years later for the thriving timber industry in New Zealand.


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Crossing Christmas Creek


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Two signs along the way

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Dangerous and very dangerous

 

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At the halfway point, where the train reversed course back to Dunedin, we disembarked at a nice park area. Several benches were scattered about, including this one.

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Dunedin, New Zealand
02/18/24


Sydney, Australia: Bucket-list Images

G'day, two days in Sydney, and we are now leaving (it is about 6 pm on Friday, 2/23). Lots of images of our tromping around this beautiful city to come.

But first, here are two images that have been on my Bucket List for a long time.

Coming into Sydney harbor just after sunrise with the iconic Opera House on the right
and
Sydney just after sunset.

Three letters: O  M  G... a major checkmark for the Bucket List!

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If you get a chance, the full-sized images are really worth a glance.

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Sydney, Australia
02/22/24




 


Wellington, New Zealand: a hiccup and a solo walk

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the center for cultural, administrative, and political matters. It is another mix of old and new buildings, making it great for streetwalking (tired of the old joke yet?).

A slight hiccup in the Grand Plan:
Ruth strained a lower back muscle in the previous port (could it have been the wine... nah). The ship doctor prescribed two days of low activity and some fairly strong meds. The Good News (?) is, in a show of solidarity with his creator, Wilson decided to stay on board with her. As usual, his motives may have been slightly suspect.  The Best News: after two days, Ruth is fine (not so sure about Wilson).  

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Another beautiful arrival.

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The city walk

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Supreme Court of New Zealand

 

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Staircase down in a new building


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"Woman of Words": statue honoring New Zealand writer, Katherine Mansfield. Made of stainless steel and etched with words from her writings


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Window reflection

 

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Nicknamed the Beehive. The executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament


A Study of the Wellington Cenotaph, also known as the Wellington Citizens' War Memorial, in four parts

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Center
"Those who would have been their sons they gave their immortality."

 

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Left

 

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Right

 

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Top

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Wellington, New Zealand
02/16/24


Napier, New Zealand: More Wine and a pop quiz

Napier, in Hawke's Bay, is a scenic city, largely rebuilt in an Art Deco style after an earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1931. The weekend we were there was an Art Deco Festival, so lots of vintage cars, people dressed in period costumes, and the city all decorated up. Hawke's Bay enjoys a Californian/ Mediterranean climate and is known for its wine. Off we went to verify the wine quality.

First, a Pop Quiz:

What major export is the area known for?

Hints:

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Got it?


Mission Estate Winery
The oldest winery in New Zealand, established in 1851 by French Catholic Missionaries. Trivia: in 2005, Rod Stewart played to 25,000 fans at an annual concert held on the grounds.

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Top Secret image of an actual tasting

 

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Wilson puts in an appearance. Note that most folks at the table were smart enough to ignore his antics.


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A very small wine cellar. The bottle is in the floor just inside the entrance. It is a bottle of 1963 Fontanelle Sparkling Wine. Memorialized because it was the first wine in New Zealand made using Methode Traditionelle, the traditional method of making champagne-style wines.

 

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Proof that we are in New Zealand and not, say, California


Abbey Estate Winery (and Brewery)
A smaller boutique winery located in Bridge Pa, Hawkes Bay. Established in 2002. The main building is an interpretation of a Gothic abbey. Really nice wines!

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Passion Rose 2023


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Napier/ Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
02/15/24


Tauranga, New Zealand: short walk to a beautiful beach

Tauranga is a small coastal city in the Bay of Plenty and the fifth most populous city in New Zealand. The harbor features a beautiful beach with Mount Maunganui in the background.

A walk to the beach (technically, the beach is next to our ship, but we walked through town to get to it)...

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Coronation Park: very nice

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The eyes!

 

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New Zealand Police closed?

 

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A Boat and a Bell. Boat Bell? Bell Boat?

 

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Repurposed Door
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New Zealand Defense Forces recruitment. Snoozepod??

 

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Planter in an out-of-business mini-mall

 

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Words of Wisdom

 

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Pet Stores are very different in New Zealand.

 

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Thank God its February!


The Beach

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A beautiful day to go to the beach!

 

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Four Boats and a Swimmer

 

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Boats in the water, boats on the beach... and a bird

 

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Working side of the beach

 

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Final view with Mount Maunganui (Mauao) in the background

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Tauranga, New Zealand
02/14/24


Auckland, New Zealand, Day 2: streetwalk and an experiment

Auckland is a beautiful city, nicknamed the "City of Sails" because of its location between two harbors and generally great weather. It is also the largest city in New Zealand with 1.3 million residents. The downtown is an interesting contrast between new and old, making it a great place to streetwalk.

The experiment? The only camera I shot with was my new Amkov R5. CAUTION: photogeek stuff follows; feel free to skip the rest of the paragraph. The Amkov is a miniature camera developed in Hong Kong as a Kickstarter project last year. It looks a lot like a DSLR but is very small; about 1/4 the size of a traditional full-size DLSR, and very light. This makes it good for unobtrusive work. Tech specs, you ask? Mirrorless, Sony CMOS supporting 48mp High-Resolution, AF Autofocus (that works most of the time), 3" flip-up display, 5X optical/ 8X digital zoom functions, and 2G6P lens.  

Anyway, urban streetwalk with a small lens...

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Sidenote: the public facilities were immaculate


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Barbarella. The image is not grainy, it's the wall finish

 

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Kiwi dentistry


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Those who know me will get the insider joke.


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Inside an old restored building


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Rentals are down in The Guardian. The first floor occupant is an IT store

 

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Hey, all you Craigs, I found your building!

 

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Hope the product is better than the sign maintenance


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The other side of the old ferry terminal

 

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Who's the Boss?



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The interior of an out-of-business Club by the port

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Auckland, New Zealand
02/13/24


Auckland, New Zealand: wine island!

Waiheke Island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland and is the most populated island in the gulf. Most importantly, it is home to 30 boutique wineries in its only 92 square kilometers (36 sq. miles). It is actually nicknamed the "Island of Wine" due to the proliferation of wineries. Good for us!

Ferry to Waiheke

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Batch Winery

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Tasting Room

 

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A nice sparking Rose, good White, and interesting Red... with snacks!


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It's not all hard work at a winery.


Stony Ridge Winery

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The camera is not askew... we really were on a slope


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Caravan Bar Outdoor Deck, with Wi-Fi and Fine Wine


View through a bus window

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Ferry back to Auckland

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Camping, New Zealand- style. They have a tent put up.

 

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Big house under construction on a hill. Nice view! Not sure what they are building next to it.


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Ferry docks with old ferry terminal in the center.


Later that night...

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Waiheke Island, New Zealand
02/12/2024


Bay of Islands, New Zealand: an island trip

The Bay of Islands is an enclave of more than 140 islands next to New Zealand's North Island. It is the home of the whaling port of Russell, New Zealand's first colonial capital. Russell was the first permanent European settlement and seaport in New Zealand.  Its early nickname was 'The hellhole of the Pacific' because it was a shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders during the 19th century. Our trip today is a ferry ride to and then walking around Russell.

First, a brief walk around the docking port.

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Kiwi emojis


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Waiting for the ferry


Ferry to Russell

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Russell ahead of us


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Russell

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Entrance to town

 

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People OK, Fish not so much?


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Kinda offsets the Hell Hole nickname

 

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Giant Manganese boulder


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"Commemorating the past and the new with thanks to those who gave so that we can live the bountiful life we lead."

 

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No picture of the hotel because it was blocked by rascal/ reprobate vehicles and trees

 

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Butterfly amongst round spikey fruit

 

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Bowling, New Zealand style


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"Hell Hole" is actually just a coffee shop. Wild times!

 

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Leaving Russell on a ferry boat

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Bay of Islands/ Russell, New Zealand
02/11/2024

 
























Suva, Fiji: a tourist tour

Suva is on the peninsula on the island of Viti Levu and is the largest city in the South Pacific. It is the political and administrative capital of Fiji. Suva was the last of the South Pacific island ports for us before moving on the New Zealand.

As we stood on our balcony just after arriving in port before disembarkation started, several people gathered at the end of the port building on the dock. They pulled out large signs advertising the glories of the private excursions they offered and waved them at whoever on the ship would look at them. They were too far away to hear, but they shouted what we assumed were the virtues of their tours. One guy pointed at Ruth and enthusiastically waved his sign of pretty pictures. He and Ruth engaged in a weird kind of conversation consisting mostly of waving their arms at each other and yelling things neither could hear. At one point, Ruth grabbed our binoculars, and the guy froze while Ruth studied his sign. Upon the end of the "conversation," we went back into our cabin.

Later,

we disembarked with no planned excursion. As we exited the port building (actually a large warehouse), we were pounced upon by independent tour operators, urging us to take THEIR tour because it was better. Ruth found her new friend and his sign. We signed up for his tour, much to the chagrin and dismay of the other operators, and off we went in a somewhat battered-up blue minivan with several other tourists. 

The first stop was the President's mansion.

Boring political stuff follows, skip to the pictures if you want.

Fiji's government is a little confusing, mostly as a result of coups and its growth from the old tribal systems. The head of State is the President, elected by the Parliament after being nominated by the Prime Minister. The position is largely honorary, somewhat like the British Monarchy. Real power is in the cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament.

In addition to all this, there is a Great Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga) which runs the hierarchy of provinces, districts, and villages.   

Anyway,

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Ceremonial Guard (guys in fatigues were nearby)

 

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As close as anyone can get to the President's Mansion

 

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The President's Helipad, with a nice background


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Our second stop was one of the highest points in the city, with a scenic view of the port. 

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Our third stop was to watch traditional fire dancing in a traditional village. Unfortunately, when we pulled up we were advised that the family of the Chief, who lived in the next village over, had a serious medical issue. Tradition demanded no celebrating or dancing, and everyone stand around quietly. We looked from the van at several people standing around quietly and left. 

Our fourth stop was a natural area with ponds and falls and nice photo opportunities. We were joined by two, later three, tour buses as well as a scattering of minivan tours and cabs. 

Our guides told us the area was home to several rare birds. They said we wouldn't see the birds because they were only around late in the day,  but there were pictures of them, as seen below. Look carefully at the sign.

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Trail or Trial. A suspected typo.


The walk to the ponds and falls was a bit strenuous, particularly given it was a typical "warm" tropical day. The destination was worth the effort.

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First of the upper pools

 

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How some offset the tropical climate

 

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End of the Upper Pools

 

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Lower Falls of the Upper Pools

 

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Water in motion

 

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A trail to???????

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Ruth conquered the jungle


Our last stop was "shopping." We were dropped off at a large complex of stores about ten minutes from the ship. After a bit of mandatory shopping, we decided to walk back to the ship instead of riding the free shuttle. 

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Harbor Scenic

 

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A guy we stopped to talk to at the port. I told him I would put his picture on the internet, so I did.


Click here for Fiji Urban Art
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Click here for Fiji's "A drumroll started it all"
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Suva, Fiji
02/08/2024

 


Apia, Samoa- a streetwalk

Apia is the capital of and the largest city of Samoa. The Apia Urban Area had a population of 36,735 in the 2011 Census. A very urban area, so a streetwalk...

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Row boat? NO, BOAT ROW

 

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Sign at the port



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The bay Apia is built around.


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'Not real sure about the point of the statue. If you move slightly to the left, he is anatomically correct. Also, not really sure what Wilson is saying putting himself in the picture.

 

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Close-up of part of a homage in a park

 

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Church, urban-style.
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Next to the church. Immaculate Caffe; Fresh Brewed Coffee, and Religious Shop



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Directions


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#4: very big, very imposing building

 

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On down the street a bit, another church

 

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Commemorating the establishment of the Methodist Church in Samoa

 

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WWII Memorial

 

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Heavy Chinese presence in the islands, some say dating back to the introduction of Chinese migrant workers

 

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The clock tower is the central point of the city

 

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Window covering at a closed camera shop...

 

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Reimagined as a painting in the style "Urban Sketch."

 

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The shop makes, in the back of the store, and sells all their dresses

 

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Ruth buying a dress made in the back of the shop

 

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Floral display in the shop reimagined in an Aquarell painting style

 

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Street scene looking back at the clock tower

 

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"Supporting Samoans to take on the world"

 

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My own BoomBox!

 

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Urban street flowers reimagined in a classic painting style

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Apia, Samoa
02/06/2024


Pago Pago, American Samoa- roadtrip!

Pago Pago on the island of Tutila is the capital of American Samoa, about 2,300 miles from New Zealand and 1,600 miles from Hawaii. The two primary sources of revenue are tourism and processing tuna. The island consists largely of a mountain running its length with very little flatland, so some of the traditional tropical crops cannot be grown for resale.

If you are a native of the island or a knowledgeable visitor, you pronounce the name as Pango- Pango, otherwise, you are just a tourist.

It was a dark and stormy day at the beginning of our visit...

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As noted, tuna is a major source of income. There are two huge processing plants, one with a familiar name...

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Starkist Samoa


with a colorful representative.

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Charlie!


We engaged the services of a local cabbie to tour the island and we took off in his pickup truck, cleverly disguised as an "Airport Cab." The weather cleared a bit, with the rain mostly stopping, but continued as a threat.

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The rain chased us along the island


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An unusual site: many homes had familial burial sites in front of the home


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A fallen breadfruit

 

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A four-legged gang just out lookin' for trouble.

 

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One of the many, many churches. It seemed like every village or even wide spots on the road had a church or churches. We were there on a Sunday, and almost everything on the island was closed. Stu, our driver, said everyone except cab drivers went to church on Sunday.


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Stu told us this ruin, adjacent to the church, was the original building, destroyed in a storm.


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Road house?

 

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View of the port. The very top of our ship can be seen in the middle. Because it is in a lagoon, the port is one of the safest in the islands... one of the reasons the US chose it for the capital of American Samoa


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Back at the port

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A neighbor

 

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The Big and the Small of it.


View from our balcony.

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Governor's Mansion. Built when the US founded American Samoa so he could have a view of the island (according to Stu).

 

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The port. As with many, we shared the space with containers.

 

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The other side of the Starkist plant

 

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The rain continued to chase us as we left port.


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Pago Pago
02/04/2024


It all started with a drumroll...

There we were, sitting in our room late Thursday afternoon, docked at the island of Viti Levu in Fiji, watching the rain fall after a tiring day touring the island and waiting for our departure from port. When we heard...

a Drumroll!

Walking onto our balcony, we saw this below us, marching up and down the dock playing traditional band music and performing elaborate maneuvers. All in the pouring rain, which didn't bother them in the least.

An unexpected and outstanding end to a day in Fiji.

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Fiji
02/08/2024









  


Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Another beautiful tropical island. We didn't spend much time ashore but discovered the best air conditioning on the island!

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First of several images of the extinct volcano behind the village

 

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The best air conditioning on the island... the local post office. A good thing because, in addition to stamps and postage, a lot of complicated paperwork and long discussions. With three clerks, the wait to mail something to the US was over 1/2 hour! 


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Shhhh.


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Tender company.


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Traveling away...

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Last view of Bora Bora


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Barrier reef with rain in the distance

 

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Localized rain. Rendered as tri-color


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Dramatic effect

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Bora Bora
01/31/2024