We said good-bye to our many friends from the first itinerary. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay in touch by email. The ship is filled with mostly Australians now. There aren’t many Americans left on board at all. It’s odd to think that we’re the ones with the funny accent.
Last night’s sail away from Sydney was just as spectacular as sailing in was. We had a smooth ride into New Castle. The captain said we reached swells up to 10 meters (over 30 ft) going into Sydney. The fact that the ice bucket was sliding back and forth across the table and Bruce's water glass slid off the night stand was our first clue! I was pretty well knocked out on cold meds so I really didn't notice it as much as other nights, but we were sleeping on the roller coaster all night long.
We thought this port was going to be the dog of this itinerary, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The biggest attraction here was a bus tour to a nearby valley known for numerous wineries. We’re not really into wine and I still can’t smell anything, so this wasn’t very appealing to us. We heard that it was a pretty area, though. The day started with a chilly wind, but the sun quickly warmed things up. We waited until after noon to go into town and by then it was pleasant.
New Castle is a hub for exporting coal. The port is definitely industrial and not well equipped for tourists. But the town pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable day for us. We’re learning that in Australia they value their time off work. Even in bustling Sydney on Saturday the stores were mostly closed. The same was true for New Castle on Sunday. But none the less they had volunteers driving free shuttles into town and back and a few stores were open just for us.
The park was packed with families enjoying time together on a gorgeous Spring day. I didn’t think I’d have a prayer of finding a magnet here. But fortunately there was one little 7-11 type shop open where I found a good one. And I also visited the local chemist (that’s Aussie talk for pharmacist). I described my symptoms and he suggested some OTC cold and flu remedies. Hopefully I’ll get this mess to break loose before we get to the Reef.
We walked around for a bit and then headed back on board. We took off at 6:00, just before sunset. The whole town came out on the pier to see us off. The Captain gave a long blast on the horn and everyone waved to us. But even better than that, they staged a cannon salute from a high-mesa vantage point (I was only able to get the smoke in the pic). It was the most unique send-off we’ve ever had from a port. The Captain gave another blast on the horn as we approached the cannon. They responded with the first salute. Then the Captain honked and they saluted again. The ship must have been leaning hard to the starboard side since everyone on board was on that side waving to everyone on shore. It was really cool.
At Happy Hour we met some of the new passengers. They’re teaching all sorts of things about Australia, which we’re soaking up. I truly feel at home here and love this country. I definitely see return visits here.
We began a stretch of 3 sea days continuing north along the eastern coast of Australia toward our next port – Cairns and the Reef. I think I’ll enjoy the down time to recover from my nasty cold.