South Pacific Cruise 3 December 2012 to 8 January 2013 - leg #3
Please read about leg 1, first, then leg 2, then the below.
28 December 2012
- We are now back in Pape'ete, Tahiti
, French Polynesia and the “other” cruise ship company that specializes in this area, Paul Gaughin cruises, is in port alongside us. The weather is perfect and as it is a turn-around day, (the end of one cruise and the beginning of another) and since I had done a full circle tour of Tahiti on the 19th (see leg 2
), I decided to have a day of rest, time to do my laundry and to catch up on my photography organisation. But at about 11 a.m., as it was such a lovely day, I disembarked the ship and took about 3 hours to explore Pape'ete again, revisiting some of the spots I had been to in the rain on the 18th, once more spending the bulk of my time at the city market, photos of items at which you will see below.
Then I walked to the right of the ship this time, visiting the Catholic cathedral, the assembly building, the president's palace, Bougainville park where there were a few chess players (hence the middle photo below), the shoreline park as far as the Cultural Centre (unfortunately closed for the holidays) and back past the Evangelical church with a stop at the second highlight of my day, the Pearl Museum. This has some marvellous displays all about pearls in different parts of the world, how they are cultivated and how they have been prized throughout history. The write-ups were in both French and English and the English was almost (but not quite) perfect!. In the middle was, of course, a shop selling pearls and the most expensive strand - a necklace - was about USD90,000. The photo below shows a typical strand of “black” pearls (captured through the display window of another shop) which can vary between black and grey with possible shades of blue, purple, green and yellow, among others.
30 December 2012 - Back in Bora Bora for the fourth time, today was my initiation to scuba diving. We had to sign a serious waiver a couple of days prior, but I had talked to other passengers who had done this “Introduction to Scuba Diving” tour previous times we were here, and not only did they love it but it did not require any prior knowledge, or PADI certification. So I thought why not? We had the afternoon slot, the sun was shining, the sea and the sky were looking great (it had showered earlier in the day), so all signs were auspicious that it would be a success. I dithered about which camera to bring but finally opted for the new underwater Nikon since it says it's good up to (down to?) 37 feet (10 metres) below sea level, and I wasn't sure where I would wear the GoPro as we would be wearing both a mask and a weighted vest. Though if I were to do this again I would take the GoPro too, as what with videoing all the instructions and the first shift of people going in the water as well as some of the snorkelling we did while we were waiting for the first shift to come up again, it ran out of battery just as we were getting to the good part. Nevertheless, you will see some good photos below. Luckily, I was partnered up with John, a banker from Sydney, Australia, who said he lived near the ocean but the closest he got to water were the ponds on the golf course! Later it was revealed he had scuba dived before, but some years ago.
In any case, he kindly offered to take photos of me snorkelling and scuba diving, with my camera, and that is him you see in the photo on the right above next to me, as taken by our particular instructor, Hiroko. The rest of the staff on the boat were all French from France, all extremely nice and fun guys. Groups of two beginners were taken down below with one instructor between them who inflated and deflated our vests for us. It was a little bit different getting used to the breathing apparatus as, although we use a snorkel mask, the air comes from a heavy metallic cylinder on our back and when we breath out the bubbles come out into the water. Hiroko taught us about how we had to equalise our ears every time we moved to different depths in the water and that was easy to pick up, but the other unusual manoeuvre for me was moving through the different depths by breathing in slowly (inflating our lungs) to move upward and breathing out slowly (deflating our lungs) to move closer to the ocean floor. Apart from a few larger fish, the fish and coral we saw on our scuba dives were similar to those we had been seeing on our snorkelling expeditions, but we did seem to be able to get noticeably closer to the fish, though once again it was difficult to see in the camera LED view finder just where it was aiming, coupled with the lag factor. But below are some of the more successful attempts...until the battery ran out, as I mentioned before. So I can tick scuba diving off my bucket list, but I would definitely consider signing up if such an introductory or non-certified dive were ever on offer again.
For some roughly edited video clips of the scuba dive in Bora Bora, please see below:
5 January 2013 - After five choppy days at sea, we finally stood on land again on the big island of Hawaii in the state of Hawaii, USA and, more specifically, the port of Hilo on the eastern side - the rainy side. And rain it did. My original tour, snorkelling and swimming with the dolphins, for which once again we had to fill out a serious waiver, was cancelled due to there not being enough people, so I chose a morning tour to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, founded in 1978 by a husband and wife team, Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse, and opened in 1984. It was a self-guided tour. We were driven there and back and were given about 1.5 hours to walk the paths, which led down to a very strong ocean, and included two waterfalls, one of which was the habitat of the night heron, below right.
After lunch on the ship I then took a walk from the port along Banyan Drive and onto Coconut Island. At Princess Kawananakoa's banyan tree (i.e. planted by her), I met a man originally from Chilliwack, BC, who had been living on a limited income for several years in Hawaii, used to date Princess Kawananakoa's great niece, and was filling the area below and the lower branches of this particular Banyan tree with local flowers, hibiscus, lilies, ginger, orchids, etc. It was really quite picturesque and his plan is eventually to do the same for all 20 or so of these banyan trees - all planted by local celebrities in the mid to late 1930s, such as Richard Nixon, Cecil B, Demille, Babe Ruth, to name a few of the more well-known people - that is unless the local government tells him to stop, but so far there have been no complaints. There were heavy showers all day interspersed with bright hot sunshine, so I was glad I had my umbrella to protect me from both these elements.
6 January 2013 - Today we berthed at Nawiliwili, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. My tour was to visit spots where movies were made on this island. This interested me as I had lately been taking film courses and part of making a film is finding ideal locations for it! I wanted to see what were thought of as perfect backgrounds by those in the know making Hollywood feature films. We traveled in a van, 13 of us plus the tour guide, Micky, from Alabama, who spoke with a very noticeable Southern drawl and called us all kids (he used to be a high school band teacher and had brought his “kids” many times to Hawaii for band concerts) and the driver, Michelle, from Hawaii. The van had a medium-size flat screen TV and on it we were shown a reel of clips from different movies filmed on Kauai. I counted at least 88, including reality shows, advertisements, music videos and animated movies, although Micky said that more than 500 movies had been shot in Kauai! We only visited the Eastern side and half of the Northern side of the island, however, so did not have the time to cover all film locations. What we did was visit spots that had been used by various directors more than once. Some we only saw from the windows of our van; others we actually stopped at, got out and were able to photograph. The first stop was Wailua Falls (middle photo below) near Mount Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on Earth, then we visited Hanama'ulu Bay. Our third spot was Opaeka'a Falls (photo on left below) and then the falling-apart-and-left-to-rot Coco Palm Resort (photo below on right), the place to be seen at in the 1950s but destroyed by a hurricane in 1992, and where Blue Hawaii (Elvis Presley) and parts of Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed.
Next we travelled through the town of Kapa'a, made fun of in a Nicholas Cage film, and Anahola with its iconic Kong Mountain in the shape of King Kong's head, featured in an early Paula Abdul video. Gilligan's Island was partly filmed in Honolulu but also in Moloa'a Bay where I photographed the white cat (below right). After driving through Kilauea, site of several scenes in the Jurassic Park movies, we had lunch at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei, the restaurant featured in the George Clooney/Beau Bridges film The Descendants. Our last stop was at Hanalei Bay where I took the below two photos of surfers and whose wharf had been used in several movies. It usually has a cover on it but did not today, as you can see.
7 January 2013 - Arriving in Lahaina, Maui, I could see that this island was a lot drier than Kauai, which had been green and lush, but the Lahaina waterfront was full of possibilities of various ocean tours and today would be my last boat and water tour of the cruise. I just hoped my clothes would be dry by the time we packed tonight or at least by tomorrow morning when we were to disembark the Ocean Princess. We were originally booked on the Hawaii Ocean Project's Island Princess to Molokini, supposedly the best place for snorkelling and swimming with green turtles in the Hawaiian islands, but unluckily for us, Molokini was off, due to the previous days of rough seas, so we were set to snorkel instead off the island of Lanai, which we could see just across the way. In fact we could also see Molokai to our right and Kaho'olawe, which is unpopulated, to our left as we motored over to Lanai, while humpback whales with newly born calves jumped, dove and cavorted in the waters beside us. After about an hour Captain Bill, examining the shores of Lanai, decided that the seas were still too rough to try to anchor here so instead turned back to Maui and we were told we would snorkel off this island instead. The crew, consisting of Jessica, Leyna and Hunori, assured us that these were good spots too, and that we were guaranteed that green turtles would be visible in both spots. It was close to 11:30a.m. before we were able to get into the water, and though visibility was OK (the sun was shining and we had a nice breeze so it was a perfect day for being in a boat), there was not much sealife - only lots of small black fish with a single white stripe on their back (middle photo) - and I saw only one green turtle buried deep in the sand not moving. After about half an hour I had decided there was not much to see - certainly not the variety I had experienced in French Polynesia and the water was colder too, not that it bothered me, but I thought if we spent too long out here we would not get to the other snorkelling spot which supposedly was full of green turtles. So I headed back to the boat and once everyone was on board they served us a very copious lunch (after providing us with juice, coffee, fruit and huge muffins all morning) of make-'em-yourself sandwiches, chips and fruit. During the time we were eating, the whales really put on a show for us and breached fully several times, though of course they would do it when I did not have my camera out and was busy with lunch, both my hands round a thick and oozing sandwich - Murphy's Law strikes again. Moreover, as we motored toward our second dive site, once I was back with my camera again, we saw dolphins and two different types of flying fish swimming, or flying, along beside us. Could the day get any better for wildlife viewings? I could only hope so.
Finally, we anchored off a wharf - about 5 minutes to the North of Lahaina - supposedly chock full of green turtles. The wharf had been destroyed in a hurricane and a good percentage of it was in the water, on the sea floor, so a natural reef had grown out of it. I did certainly encounter a greater variety of sealife here, including quite colourful coral. I even saw a shark and two green turtles but when I followed one from a distance, it swam into the area we were told was a no-go zone for us snorkellers, so that was rather a brief encounter, and, when I went back to where I had seen the second one, it had disappeared. Hunori kept a look out for us snorkellers, ready to give assistance where needed as we were all at different levels of experience, and some were even snorkelling in lifejackets. That's Hunori sitting on the surf board in the photo on the left below. In the middle, barely visible, is a green turtle about 5 feet or so from tip to tail. I had gone back and forth over the wharf-reef several times thinking it was time to quit when, all of a sudden, up came a green turtle heading toward me. What would you know, but my waterproof camera ran out of battery once again at this point, but luckily I was hand-holding my GoPro by then, so I followed it for quite a while checking that it was not leading me into the no-go zone - no, we were fine, it was heading in the opposite direction from where we were forbidden. I was snorkelling right on top of the turtle and it was moving quite slowly so I was quite excited. But then I heard a shout and it was Hunori on his surfboard beside me saying it was time to go back to the boat. “But,” I protested, “there is a green turtle right below me!” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “but we have to get back.” By this time, we were almost closer to the Ocean Princess than the Island Princess, but I reluctantly left my new friend, the turtle, and swam back to the Island Princess wondering what kind of result I'd have on my GoPro. After we were back on land in Lahaina, I filmed some beginner surfers and then took a walk through town, which was continuous shopping laid out parallel to the wharf, to look for a bag in which to put all my excess luggage (mostly brochures and dirty laundry), and on the way I passed by the main square, which contained the largest banyan tree in the world (so they say) - or at least the largest in Hawaii - and the photo on the left below is a view looking up into its branches.
8 January 2013 - Honolulu, Oahu, our final destination, and disembarkation day for the great majority of us. I believe only 7 passengers were staying on board to repeat this leg of the cruise back to Tahiti. Perhaps they'll have better luck with the weather! As my flight to Vancouver was not until 9 in the evening I had a full day of sunshine to spend in Oahu, but what to do with my luggage? I decided to take one of the two post-cruise tours on offer, the choice being between a 9ish to 3:30 tour to Pearl Harbour and the USS Missouri - I had visited Pearl Harbour back in 1993 so was reluctant to repeat that experience - or the 9ish to 1:30 island tour. I opted for the latter, not knowing what a fiasco it would be. In fact the other tour ended up being a bit of a fiasco too, as I heard from my table mates - but more about that later. In any event, we safely got our luggage onto the bus, the two bigger items in the lockers under the bus and my laptop computer and camera equipment bags with me inside the bus. We headed through Waikiki, past the hotel cum high-end shopping drag, past the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium and up to Diamond Head and the lookout. Here, our bus driver, “Cousin” B said we had 10 minutes to take photos. I stepped out of the bus with both my cameras round my neck, and luckily some money and a credit card in my pocket but no ID except for my cruise card from the ship, which I had now left definitively. In less than the 10 minutes allocated, I returned to where the bus had parked, but it was gone, along with all the other passengers, abandoning me and leaving me stranded - a stranger in a foreign land, thousands of miles (or kilometres) from home and getting further and further away from my luggage and my passport. What to do? I noted that there was a second parking area, so I walked along to it thinking perhaps the bus had had to move along at some point, but there were no busses there either. However, there was in this area a payphone and, best of all, two police cars with a policeman inside each, one of each sex. I estimated that they were both in their early 30s. I went up to the closest one, the man, whom we'll call Officer L. When I explained briefly what had happened, he said there was nothing he could do. I had no telephone numbers on me: the bus driver, although he had told us his name, and I had noted that the bus had the words “Gray Line” on it, had not given us any contact numbers to phone should we become stranded. When I was travelling with Princess in Europe in the summer of 2011, we were continually given cards by our various tour guides with numbers of the tour companies to call just in case we got separated from our tours by mistake and I actually had to use one once when separated from my group in the Sistine Chapel, of all places. It would seem that the Honolulu Gray Line people never thought of this ever happening. So I took two quarters from my pocket (I remember when a phone call from a payphone cost only a dime!) and dialled 411 hoping that it would provide me with the number of Gray Line - hoping also that it would transfer me directly to Gray Line, as I did not have another two quarters on me. For some reason, the 411 was not working - I tried it twice. Instead the phone was returning my quarters to me. So I went back to Officer L and explained in more detail and told him that the phone was not working for me. I also mentioned that the tour bus was scheduled to arrive at the Moana Surfrider Hotel to drop us off at about 1:30pm and that I was prepared to take a taxi back to the hotel and wait for it, and consequently be reunited with my luggage at that time. However, on hearing the magic words “Moana Surfrider Hotel”, Officer L seemed magically geared into action.
Realising perhaps that I was not just a drifter (even though I did say I had just disembarked the Ocean Princess - and if you think about it, cruisers and drifters usually come from two very different and opposite worlds), he started looking in his computer and actually called on his own cell phone both Princess Cruises (but it was not answering) and Gray Line (which only had a computer answering). Then he had the idea to call the Moana Surfrider and had to go through a couple of people to get to someone responsible enough to make a decision. By this time, I had given Officer L my cruise card and he had copied down my name, but it was a while before he asked what country I was a citizen of. His suggestion to the Manager at the hotel was that perhaps they could come and pick me up and take me to the hotel and then I could wait for the bus to return at 1:30. But as they did not find my name on their registered guest list, they told him that it was not possible to offer me this service. Next, Officer L asked the hotel for the Gray Line number and when he dialled it this time he did get a person and again asked to speak to the supervisor. Finally, a competent woman came on the line, named Margaret. The officer explained the whole scenario again - that I had been abandoned at the Diamond Head lookout by her bus driver and therefore it was her responsibility to get me back to the tour bus since I had paid for the tour, Margaret acted quickly and said of course she would contact the driver immediately and have him turn the bus around and pick me up. By this time about 35 minutes had passed since I had noticed that the bus had left without me and I imagined the bus was halfway around the island by now. The policeman, used to the tour bus route, reckoned it would be at a certain beach and not too far away, and figured it would take the driver 15 to 20 minutes to drive back to the Diamond Head lookout. He advised me to take as many photos as I wanted while I waited, but if the bus did not turn up in 20 minutes then here was Margaret's number, and here was the telephone number of a local taxi company. He also said that he and his partner would be back again in an hour or so doing their rounds. Oh, and would you believe it, he also gave me 3 more quarters for my phone calls (in case), which I thought was very kind of him and told him so. So now that I've completed this first part of the saga, the photos below are from the Diamond Head lookout. Three are views from the parking lot and the other is of a colourful pigeon, one of many hanging around in the parking lot and much more interesting that the drab grey pigeons we have in Vancouver.
I waited a full 40 minutes at the lookout and while many other tour buses passed by, none of them was our Gray Line bus. So I walked back to the payphone to call Margaret for an update. She told me that the bus was too far away to come and pick me up so they were sending another driver in a van for me who would drive me to the bus I was supposed to be on. I asked, “Does this driver know how to find me?” I was told he had my name, so I said, “Well, just in case, I am wearing a brown baseball cap.” I was told he was on the highway now and should be at the Diamond Head lookout in 15 minutes. In exactly 15 minutes, a small white van with the name “Polynesian Adventure Tours” pulled into the parking lot so I went up to the driver, named Buddy, and said that I assumed that it was me he was here to pick up. I asked him what my name was, but he did not have that information. He had been notified, however, that I was wearing a brown baseball cap. I asked him what was the name of the bus driver he was driving me to and he was able to answer that question, but he had to phone the bus company to find out my name, which was verified. He was a very nice fellow and gave me a bit of the background behind the history of and housing for 50%-pure Hawaiians, of which he was one. In the meantime, he took the short cut through Honolulu to the Pali lookout. Our bus was there, though I had remembered its colouring incorrectly, so I thanked Buddy and went up to the bus, which was empty of passengers, but luckily the bus driver was in his seat and I asked him if he was Cousin B. Immediately, he realised who I was and apologised for leaving without me and shook my hand. I was now welcome to go out to the Pali lookout (photo below left) where all his other passengers were and stay there as long as I needed, he would wait for me. As it was, I arrived back at the bus before the last passengers and one of the last to sit down was our tour escort from the ship, who is about my age and has been working on ships for years, in fact he was the expert regarding the ports we were visiting, yet even he had neglected to make a head count before the bus left the Diamond Head lookout. So I was as equally upset at him for neglecting his tour escort duties as I was at the driver. Looking out the bus window and not seeing anyone in the parking lot (which is what this rep said they did) did not necessarily mean that all passengers were accounted for. Hopefully, this will be a lesson to them both, to be more careful about making head counts in the future. Moreover, my bags with my camera equipment and laptop had been sitting by the seat on the opposite side of the aisle where the tour escort was sitting, Surely, one would naturally assume that if bags were there, then there should be a person to whom those bags belonged. If not, then either that person was missing, or the bags were unattached and therefore suspicious!
Certainly, if there had been no help whatsoever, i.e. no payphone and no police, and had I had no money on me for a taxi, I could conceivably have walked back to the hotel, as it was mostly downhill. Moreover, it was not an extremely hot day and there was an ocean breeze; there were dozens of walkers and joggers on this route, so it was well populated; it was probably only about a 3-mile stretch; but it was the principle of the thing. As it happens, it seems I didn't miss much on the tour. Apparently they had only had two other stops - one at a blowhole and the other (a longish one by all accounts) at a shopping center, and as mentioned in a previous blog entry, I don't go on tours to do shopping! So it now remains to be seen if Princess Cruises/Gray Line refunds me the tour cost as Margaret promised. However, on checking 7 days later, still no credit for this tour has turned up on my credit card!
To delay things further, the bus driver made a stop at the airport to drop off a few passengers first, so we did not get back to the Moana Surfrider until 2pm. Famished, not having eaten since a very early breakfast due to it being disembarkation day and needing to evacuate our rooms by 8am, I headed over to Macdonald's for refreshments, having deposited my 4 bags with the hotel bell captain, and taking my camera bag (and ID this time) with me. Then I walked along lovely Waikiki beach, taking photographs (note the religiously tattooed man in the middle photo and the surfer statue to the right above, as well as a living surfer carrying his board, below right). I also walked up to the entrance of the Honolulu Zoo but decided there would be no local animals there of interest, if any, so instead headed to the Waikiki Aquarium hoping to take photos of fish and coral I had been unable to photograph due to the limited capabilities of my underwater cameras whilst scuba diving and snorkelling. It was certainly worth the walk and the $9 entrance fee, though it was small in comparison to the Vancouver Aquarium. I did not have much time as I had agreed to meet my cruise ship dinner companions at the hotel on their return from the Pearl Harbour tour at 3:30pm. In actual fact, they had had to abandon their bus to meet me by 4pm, because the bus had dropped them at a shopping centre elsewhere on the island for 1 1/2 hours and when we met they had not had a great experience on their tour either, having had limited time at Pearl Harbour and at the USS Missouri and too much time left in shopping centres which were not on the itinerary.
Below are two photos of shave ice, yes they call it “shave ice,” not shaved ice. Basically, they take a couple handfuls of ice cubes, grind them up in a grinder and pour the result, which has the size of snow flakes, into a plastic cone, then add bright coloured liquids, probably with artificial flavour and colouring, and a straw. The two girls in the photo buying the shave ice concoction were coincidentally from Vancouver. The vendor is wearing shorts in the design of the Hawaiian flag, which is made up of a Union Jack in the left hand top corner and 8 stripes representing the 8 greater islands of Hawaii, from top to bottom in the following order: white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white, red.
After we'd finally met up (4 of us) we headed for the hotel's outside eating area and my companions, who still hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, ordered drinks and meals. It was nearing sunset so I headed down to the beach for the below photos, which mostly have a surfing or nautical theme, except for the helicopter on the far right below. It was, I thought, a pretty neat way to conclude the trip and my blog - the classic slide show ending with a sunset. The last statue below is of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a 5-time Olympic medalist in swimming, and the person who made surfing popular - an icon of the area. His biography makes for interesting reading.
So that's the end of my blog for now...until my next travels, perhaps. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Feel free to contact me
for information or to purchase copies of any of these photos.
For some roughly edited video clips of Hawaii, please see below:
All the above photos are copyright Angela Fairbank. Please contact the photographer for usage rights and/or copies.