Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sri lanka

Sri Lanka

How to describe Sri Lanka… well it would have to be indescribable!
I guess we were fortunate that we arrived on a Saturday, so the traffic was less then during the week and so it took us only 2.5 hours to do 70 kms.

Of course describing traffic is another thing people who have never been just won’t believe it. So you are driving along hurtling at 70km on a 2 lane road (highway would be stretching the imagination) sharing the road with tuktuks, trucks, motorcycles and buses. Now buses are interesting, there is no dedicated bus companies as such, rather buses compete. Imagine buses trying to complete for the next lot of passengers…speed is the key and you want to get to the next stop before the next guy, oh, and of course there are people hanging out of them. We had several near misses. Buses coming straight for you with a motorcycle in between and a cow on the side walk, no where to go, just close your eyes and hope you don’t hit something. Needless to say we survived the bus ride!

The country side is beautiful, rugged and lush. Getting on the road early we saw flocks of bats settling for a days snooze. They are huge and very impressive. We stopped at the pineapple village where we tried pineapple sprinkled with chilli salt. Gives a nice twist to pineapple. We recommend you try it. We then stopped at the cashew village and tried the freshest and best cashews ever!

Our drive up to Pennawella following the windy and subtropical hills to the elephant sanctuary. Magical is the only way to describe it. As we arrived the elephants were having a play in the river, rolling in the mud, wallowing in the water, moving bits of logs from here and there, babies snuggling to mothers and mothers watching over the little ones. Magic! We had the most amazing lunch along the riverbank while the elephants continued to play.
Did you know you can make paper out of elephant dung? Yep, very nice too. Doesn’t smell at all. They told us because elephants are vegetarians there poo is all fibre so great for paper. Who ever knew.

The drive back was no less harrowing as the drive to the sanctuary.
On the way home we saw a water buffalo sitting by the side of the road, a monkey dressed in velvet, turkeys entering a shop, elephants in a truck, people drying their clothes on the mud banks as well as on barb wire and a dog stop traffic.

Entry back into the port was interesting too. Sri Lanka is still on high alert so our van was checked thoroughly, mirror under the bus and all!
With some last minute shopping we boarded the ship and headed off across the Indian Ocean.

So here is a quiz:

1. What country was formerly known as Ceylon?
2. Can you walk a porcupine on a lead?
3. Do elephants travel by truck?
4. How do you pass 2 on coming vehicles on a 2 lane road?
5. What can you make out of elephant poo?
6. How do you get an elephant to cross the road?
7. Why did the turkey cross the road?
8. How do people dry their clothes
9. Is orange a colour of a coconut?
10. What do elephants love to do?

1. Sri Lanka 2. Only in Sri Lanka 3. Only in Sri Lanka 4.Close your eyes and pray 5. paper, of course 6. Just call 7. To shop of course 8. On mud banks and barb wire 9. Yes, good for drinking and as IV fluid 10. rolling in the mud

I will try to upload some pictures when we reach Aqaba. Unfortunately, the ship’s internet just can’t handle pictures.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Athena cruise to UK

Athena Once Again

We have been remiss about updating our blog, but then you know how it is, transfers, hotels, unpacking and sitting by the pool and lest we forget, breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late night snack, it is hard to find the time to write.

We all arrived safe and sound in Perth, which is a beautiful city. Most of us did our own thing. Ewan and I walked to the jetty and then up to the botanical gardens. A steep climb almost needing climbing gear, but the view from the top was spectacular looking down and the city and the Swan River.

By our hotel there was this wonderful Korean restaurant. It was so popular that people were queuing to get in. Needless to say it was authentic and very nice.

The Athena greeted us with open arms. For those of us who sailed with her in November it was like coming home. (That is Colleen, Ewan and I) Many of our friends, Jerry our waiter, Silvo our breakfast waiter and George the cruise director greeted us warmly.

I do believe we are all into the swing of life on board the ship. Poor Lorna found the first day a bit of a challenge but has since found her sea legs and can be spotted at the rear of the ship chatting away.

Of course we must be feed at least ever 2 hours or we will starve to death. The food is lovely. We are, however a fit bunch and everyone is out there every day walking around the beautiful promenade deck. Les and Cherryl have spotted some whales and we had a pod of dolphins following us.
The entertainers on board are all the same as last year and just as amazing.
Everyone was speechless after the performance by Los Paraguayos. Silvio and Alcides are from Paraguay. Silvio is a big teddy bear and what you picture an opera singer to be. His voice, ahh his voice is amazing! He serenades everyone on their birthday- Lucky Dorothy and Clive who celebrated their birthdays on our 2nd day at sea.
Silvio’s partner Alcides is a wonderful musician too. I never knew the harp could be such a versatile instrument. From classical harp to a bass guitar and even a steam train. Really they are a highlight!

Day 4- Amazing entertainment

Christina, a lovely Romanian girl who was on the ship last November sang for us and we were mesmerised. She sang beautifully, even bringing tears to some eyes. Her rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Je Regrette Rien” and “La Vie en Rose” was superbe.

Day 5- Beach Party

After a hot and humid day it was time for a beach party on deck. It was a very hot evening but everyone joined in. We discovered we have some tinkle toes in the group. Norm is a fantastic dancer and keen to give anything a go and so is Clive. Lorna and Robin danced up a storm.
Ewan and Dennis also got up and danced much to Adrienne and Monique’s joy. We were able to practice the moves we have been learning. Everyone had a great time!

Day 6

A very important and memorable day for all.

We crossed the equator!

As per sailing lore King Neptune came aboard and we had to ask permission to sail his seas and get his blessing to do so. It was a long ceremony full of fun and merriment. For all those who have never crossed the equator they had to undergo a special ritual involving being marked by a siren and then being blessing by Neptune himself, which involves being doused with water, kissing a fish having an egg cracked over the head and spaghetti (I’m thinking the spaghetti symbolises sea weed). Neptune is all-powerful as it was raining before the ceremony and when he appeared the rain stopped- just amazing!

Day 7 Singapore

Last night was a special night as Colleen, Angela, Les and Cherryl were invited to dine with the Captain.

An early start, we docked at the cargo terminal, which is about 15 minutes by shuttle to the cruise terminal. The cargo terminal is mind blowing, you get the feeling that every single container in the world is there as well as all of the forklifts and high lift cranes which can lift up to 80 tonnes! It even has streets with traffic lights.

It was of course hot and 85% humidity.

Colleen, Angela, Elaine, Berwyn, Les, Cherryl and Janice joined us on a ½ tour of Singapore including the magnificent orchid garden. It was interesting to see Singaporeans doing their tai chi and exercise. Some did their Tai chi using swords. It was quite beautiful.

We got a brief glimpse of Little Indian and then onto the Colonial part of Singapore and of course ended up in Chinatown, where Colleen, Angela, Elaine, Janice, Ewan and I sampled real Chinese food in to authentic food court.

Our independent travellers seem to have had a great time exploring the city. It seem unanimous that taxis are one of the best ways to get around, fast and inexpensive.

The MRT is very efficient as well. The Cruise Terminal is a stop on the MRT so it is easy to get into Chinatown and Orchard Rd from the terminal. The terminal is also a shopping mall. How convenient!
Shopping… minor shopping successes, shoes, tops, nothing of note. I think we are saving ourselves for Phuket and the other destinations where we hope to find things that are bit more exotic.

Day 8- Day at sea
Life it tough!