Friday, February 15, 2013

Singapore (End of Cruise) 2-11-2013

Sea Day 2-10-2013

Today, as we made our way toward our final port of Singapore, I sat for one last time on our balcony, taking in the mirrored water, on this warm, somewhat muggy and breezy day and enjoying the calmness and beauty of the early morning. 

Happy Chinese New Year! The outdoor grill was decorated and a special buffet of Chinese food was served for lunch. We were told that many countries celebrate the New Year for one to two weeks, so  festivities should be continuing when we are in Singapore.

On this final day there was more to celebrate. The Earth's equator is an imaginary line on the Earth's surface equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole, dividing the Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere.

In the U.S. and many other navies, when a ship crosses the equator a time-honored ceremony takes place. With few exceptions, those who have been inducted into the "mysteries of the deep" by Neptunus Rex and his Royal court, count the experience as a highlight of their naval career.  Members of Neptunus Rex's party usually include Davy Jones, Neptune's first assistant, Her Highness Amphitrite, the Royal Scribe, the Royal Doctor, the Royal Dentist, and others who suit the party. Officially recognized by service record entries, the crossing involves elaborate preparation by the "shellbacks" (those who have crossed the equator before) to ensure the "pollywogs" (those who are about to cross the equator for the first time) are properly indoctrinated. All pollywogs, even the Commanding Officer if he has not crossed before, must participate. 
We gathered with others on deck to watch as members of the crew, who were "pollywogs" were covered with, the only way to describe it was "goop", made to kiss a fish and thrown into the ship's swimming pool. By only the witnessing the event, all of the passengers qualified for a traditional certificate commemorating their transition from "pollywog" to "shellback" and this was yet another first to add to the many others of this journey.

It is hard to believe that we have been on the ship this long. It has been 54 days, but has not felt like a long time. We have seen so many sights, had so many interesting experiences, with such a variety of people that each day was its own adventure and the trip in total was a complete adventure, never to be forgotten and truly appreciated and cherished.

Semarang 2-9-2013

This morning, as  we approached Semarang, our last port in Indonesia, we were greeted by perhaps the most unusual sunrise of the trip.

Semarang lies in the northern part of Central Java. It is the fifth largest city in Indonesia, with a population of 1.5 million. More a business than tourism destination, its port has been for centuries a dock for local and foreign ships, and part of an international trading route.

Many cultures influenced this area, beginning with the Chinese who arrived in 1405. An Arab mullah founded the original village in the late 15th century. When Semarang became a Dutch trading outpost in 1705, the area became a center for coffee, sugar, tobacco, and rice cultivation.

Entering the habor we were met by the pilot boat as well as other uniquely Asian vessels.

Yesterday we had experienced another first as the two of us had never sailed by oil rigs. We assumed that there would be a connection between Semarang and these rigs.

We found the port to be unlike any of the pristine locations at which we had previously docked. This was the first dirty water we had seen since we began our journey in  December. We were advised that the city would also be dirty and there was not a lot to see on the provided city tour.

The main purpose of this stop was for those who wished to make the journey to Borobudur, both a shrine to Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage, known by some as the journey to enlightenment. As much as we would have liked to seen this UNESCO Heritage site,  the ride to Borobudur was close to two hours each way and upon arrival there would only be 45 minutes to explore. It would be extremely hot and humid and there would be many steps to climb. After an intensely hot and humid one-hour walk in Komodo, we decided that this would be the only stop on the whole trip where we would elect to remain on the ship. We used the day to gather our belongings, pack and watch the scenes outside our window.


Influence of Dutch architecture

This evening as we left port we were again escorted by the pilot and other vessels.

Leaving the harbor we were not surprised to see the approaching freighter.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cruise the Java Sea 2/8/2013

One of the unexpected pleasures of this trip has been the time I have had to sit on our balcony. More than any other cruise on which we have been, it has been a delight to sit in the early morning, late afternoon or late at night. On various mornings I have watched the sunrise, our ship arrive into port or just relaxed, watching the water and listening to the sound of the waves. In the afternoon I could do the opposite, watching the sunset and the activity in the bay as the ship heads out to sea. Late at night, when we were surrounded by water and the only light comes from our vessel, the stars put on an amazing show.

Over the course of this journey we have seen many variations of the sunrise...

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island

... and the sunset, for which I must admit, we were more often awake.

Melbourne, first and second night of second visit
Timor Sea
After leaving Komodo

After sunset, how special it was when we could end the day with the moon 
reflected on the water.

Bali 2/7/2013

Komodo Island, Indonesia 2/6/2013

Associated Press, Published: February 7, 2013 – “Washington Post”
2 park employees hospitalized after being attacked 
by giant Komodo dragon in eastern Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia — A park official says two people have been hospitalized after being attacked by a giant Komodo dragon that wandered into the office of a wildlife park in eastern Indonesia. An official at Komodo National Park, Heru Rudiharto, said Wednesday the 2-meter-long (6 ½ foot-long) Komodo dragon attacked a park ranger after walking into the office on Tuesday. It then attacked another park employee who came to help him. Both were badly bitten and were evacuated to a hospital on Bali Island. Endangered Komodo dragons can grow longer than 3 meters (10 feet). Fewer than 4,000 are believed to be alive. They are found in the wild primarily on the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca.

Close Up: Komodo Island, Indonesia 
“On the approach to Pulau Komodo, a tiny island, it is hard to imagine that this is the home of the fearsome dragons described by the late 19th-century explorers. The island lies between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. At first look, steep hillsides slide down into topaz bays covered in glass-clear water, and white-sand beaches hem quiet shorelines. But this innocent-looking island is inhabited by 13-foot long, 220-pound ora, as known locally. Indonesia’s government established Komodo National Park to protect the dragon in 1980. It is also a world heritage site, as of 1992 and is now a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. Loh Ling is the main entry point to the island, with a single wooden dock and park office at the end of it, where a guides meet guests and escort them on a 1-2 hour walk along the paths in search of the dragons."
I had never heard of the dragons or Komodo Island and could not imagine what we could see in our short, three-hour stay. However, I was in for a surprise.
Our destination
This was exactly what one would imagine when thinking of a small, secluded tropical island. I couldn’t stop taking pictures as each view was more beautiful than the last. As we made our way to where we would drop anchor, I could not help but think of the Broadway musical, South Pacific or how much this must resemble the Cook Islands where my father was stationed during the war. We had been given the choice of a one or two hour tour. Because of the excessive heat and humidity on the island all tours were limited to one hour. We met our guide, were cautioned to stay on the path with the group, drink plenty of water and follow all instructions given to us. Not knowing that humans had been attacked the day before, we were still hesitant when we saw our guides only carrying forked sticks for our protection.

We walked into the beauty of the lush vegetation we had seen from the ship and found the dragons in an open space. We watched as these massive creatures walked, played, drank water and moved past us.

The dragons, according to modern science evolved from dinosaurs that lived in Asia some 130 million years ago. Indonesian cultures have known about them for centuries, and they have inspired many myths throughout Asia, but the rest of the world did not believe the legends until a Dutch Indies army officer brought back evidence in 1911. An Americana expedition to see them in 1926 is said to have inspired the movie, King Kong.

Today the 2,000 some dragons in the park area are the largest lizards on earth. As hunters, they use their long tails to knock down prey; serrated teeth to deliver poisons to disable bitten quarry; and razor-sharp craws to slash through a victim’s belly. They have sharp hearing, a keen sense of smell, are excellent swimmers, can eat up to six pounds of meat in a minute and run at speeds of 18 miles per hour. Attacks on humans are rare but not unknown. There was no question as to why they had been given the title, dragon. We walked the rest of the path to the point where we could go through the shopping stalls, manned by the local residents or return to the ship.

Back on board, we again admired the magnificent, unspoiled land that we agreed, gave no clue to the ferocious resident of the island and headed out to sea.

Headed back to sea

We received word that representatives from Regent would not be in Bali. It had been decided that we would receive a refund of 50% of the amount paid for the Sydney to Singapore segment, to be applied to a future Regent cruise. While what had happened was not the fault of the company, they realized that this segment had been affected by an unusual number of incidents and respected that passengers had not received value for the time and money invested in this trip. Maybe they were afraid that we had brought along a Komodo dragon to meet them when they arrived in Bali.