A couple of months ago my family was fortunate enough to travel to the South Pacific countries of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We made our way there by Cruise ship (pictured below). The excitement was high, we were leaving on THAT huge ship, how on earth did it fit in this harbour btw? impressive parallel parking skills.
Now, in all seriousness… who would choose to spend 3 days on a boat to get to a destination when you can fly there in just a few hours..? Maybe its just my motion/sea sickness talking but the idea kept invading my thoughts, leaving me with an uneasy feeling in my tum tum. It’d be silly to complain about a comped holiday with the family though, so I digress…
We hopped onto the ship in the early evening and immediately spent the next couple of hours exploring our home for the following 11/12 days. This included conscious note taking of the gaudy decor, low ceilings, Aussie plebs found in abundance and cabins with more than enough room for plenty of activities, if you only imagined them inside your head space that is…
The view on the way out of Sydney harbour was spectacular, it felt as if we were on the worlds stage. I can only conjure up the ideals which would have been racing around the heads of those onboard Titanic’s maiden (and only……) voyage, how fantastic it would have been… short-lived yes, but at the time of departure.. pure elation. In fact, you could draw parallels between the voyage of Titanic and my own journey onboard Carnival legend (lets name it – Jones’ Voyage). It goes something like this;
– Joy sprinkled with trepidation at departure (both Titanic and the Jones voyage)
– Whopping thrill of adventure, experiencing something unfamiliar (both Titanic and the Jones voyage)
– Despair, agitation and terror ((both Titanic and the Jones voyage)
– Continued horror and an ongoing nightmare (JUST THE JONES VOYAGE)
Titanic was all over for most of its occupants fairly quickly, whereas my misfortune in the form of sea sickness was an ever evolving ordeal, it’s as though Neptune the god of the sea was tormenting me for days on end for his own amusement. That sums up the comparison between the deadliest commercial maritime disaster in history and my own maritime disaster confined to my cranium and abdomen. With this said, lets move on to how amazing the Sydney Opera House looks at night from the 11th deck of a cruise ship.
The motive for the trip was a birthday, and since the old boy having the birthday had zero interest in celebrating with friends and family at home, he treated us to an all in family cruise. The perfect opportunity to spend time with relatives we rarely see on the other side of Australia. The two countries listed on the itinerary are both french colonies (New Caledonia and Vanuatu) which means, once you get there its difficult to communicate with the locals unless you have access to a friend/relative who speaks the native tongue (we were fortunate to be travelling with such an individual).
The islands are beautiful, tropical destinations full of enthusiastic locals all desperately attempting to sell you the best of whatever product or service may be on hand at the time. The sun shines, the water is clear and everyone is smiling + waving. Having said this… the beaches here in Perth are cleaner, they lack the flock of plebs and is located a mere 500m from my bedroom. I think this is the real issue with Cruise Ship holidays. everywhere you can possibly think of going, over 3,000 people are following you. The tranquility of a delicious little beach spot is mauled by a colony of bogan Australian’s with their thongs, crass vernacular and unsatisfactory elocution standards.
Since our family fails to live by the rule book (thank yeezus) we pursued every opportunity to accomplish the sight-seeing and activities by ourselves with unique and interestingly dangerous (but approved by the mothers) execution.
One brilliant example of this takes place on the island of Noumea in New Caledonia. We proceeded to the lower deck with our photo ID to scan off the boat and explore the wilderness. With 100+ of the friendly locals vying for our attention, not because they thought we were dope and might be fun to hang with… sadly, but because they were all offering exactly the same deal at different prices (the worlds best tour of Noumea island in all it’s glory). It resembles the bidding ring of an eastern block human trafficking auction (we are the vendors) and after a minute or so you give up on sourcing the best and choose someone at random. “yes yes, of course” is the only response you will ever receive from the lucky local who obtains your business. I was tempted to ask something ludicrous to test my theory, possibly “can you juggle 3 knives while delivering an awe inspiring speech and mixing a Manhattan cocktail?” response “yes yes, of course”. You can’t blame them though, with so much competition, they are scared to say no and have you turn to the next guy with a western name who certainly doesn’t look like a james. Below is the photo from our huuuuge room/balcony of the port in all its beauty.
So we end up following a guy we nicknamed ‘Denzel’ 100% due to his resemblance to the Allstate Insurance guy, and of course, the Training Day actor himself Mr Washington. He led us away from the crowd to the car park with plenty of vans that could easily fit our requested 10 passengers and we were ready for our adventure!
well, not quite… instead of stopping at one of these luxurious mercedes benz people movers, we were hesitantly ushered towads a twin cab ute. A battered and rusting old thing which appeared to be what they call in sporting terms, a worn out veteran who is picked based on reputation and ability to tug along and somehow get the job done. The only issue was of course, the number of passengers which Denzel assured us would be riding comfortably for our ‘worlds best tour of Noumea’. From here, we had two options.. firstly kick up a stink and storm back to the gaggle of locals for possibly the ‘worlds second best tour of Noumea’, OR we could say ‘yolo’ (no yolo’ing actually took place), accept his terms of our timely death and proceed.
Just before I let the cat out of the bag on our decision, its worth mentioning that the tray of the ute didn’t have seats. Although Denzel and his supporting cast were kind enough to install… a tyre (lucky us).
Once this was discovered by the cohort , the solution was simple.. 5 in the front and 5 in the back (on the tyre). We signed our life insurance forms and headed out of town. By now the tropical rain had started and the rain drops turned into ballbearings of death pelting down upon us as we sped (with no speed limits who could even call it speeding) along the dodgey pothole ridden tarmac carved through the jungle. With ease, we were passed by a number of the luxurious Mercedes people movers with morbid looking tourists in their comfort not enjoying what Noumea had to offer in the back of a ute. This made us feel better about creating memories of that time we nearly made australian news headlines which would’ve read something along the lines of;
“10 aussie tourists + Denzel Washington killed in silly and ridiculous circumstances in New Caledonia – Did exactly what their elders would’ve instructed them not to do”…
Half an hour passes and we reach the blue hole deep in the jungle (this involved some treacherous mud tracks which could’ve easily swallowed and left us stranded, important to note that they were only treacherous due to the 4×2 nature of our off roading vehicle…
Unsurprisingly we arrived at our destination to a festoon of plebs from the ship. Although they weren’t chauffeured by an Oscar award winning lead role actor, they had beat us by hiring Denzel’s cousin who owned a road worthy vehicle. No words needed re blue hole.. (see photo below) it was magnificent. the water so clear and the surrounding vegetation so green. Kiddy plebs climbed the roots of the trees and swung off the rope into the water, a small troupe of english chavs tried to sunbaked although it was still raining (standard pom behaviour). A short conversation with a one of the said plebs, it was discovered that this was only one of many blue holes on the island. Denzel + cast obviously feel more comfortable in a crowd. The Beauty of this natural wonder overpowered the neglect of personal hygiene and commotion amongst a certain group of plebeians when the mother revealed she forgot her snotty childs camera back at the ship. I decided to slip away and find a quiet place to breathe it in, this happened to be the only time all trip I was by myself and able to enjoy nature.
Following the blue hole stop, we visited a couple of other attractions. Included but not limited to ocean side bar owned by an australian couple, which was spewing tasteless
bogans (lets stick with plebs) drinking beer and watching fox sports on the big screens. I know right… why on earth would you spend 3 days on a boat to reach the middle of the South pacific so you can sit in a bar, watch your sport team and drink beer.. you could spend exactly 100% less money and do the same thing at home..
Along the convergence of cultures line, its crazy to think that the majority of venues and locations we visited had free wifi… these villages don’t have a formal education system but they offer free wifi to the masses. Compare the situation here in Australia which happens to be a developed nation, yet we pay exorbitant prices for a connection at half the speed!
We head back to the boat after an eventful day and each time we step off the ship at a new port much of the same happens. The appreciation for the solid ground was heightened for me personally. Perhaps a slight speck of Stockholm syndrome has set in when I think about being trapped on that vessel of doom. 11 days at sea and the final morning I wake up to the sun rising over the opera house, what a welcomed view that was (see photo below). Nearly two weeks of eating more than my body required 3 times daily, laughing and competing with the other family members in a small game we like to call ‘who can spot the greatest mullet attached to the back of a plebs head -game’. One stand out mullet took the cake and if socially acceptable, I would’ve awarded him with one voucher to uncle bills barber in Cronulla. This pleb had obviously spent years nurturing this beautiful and timeless hairstyle right down to every last curl tickling the top of his shoulders. Truly a sight to behold. The game soared new heights when we took in turns to get a selfie with said mullet, the pictures won’t be posted due to international copyright infringement….. and censorship..
Family is family and we had a ball. Other notable events included the interesting attempt our old man made at the comedy lounges ‘amateur night’, playing table tennis on the top deck with winds rivalling that of a fierce hurricane as we darted across the ocean (who on earth thought it was a good idea to put a table tennis table out in the elements when you are travelling at high speeds 90% of the time), the waiters who remember everyones name from the first dinner setting and finally the delicious dinner which saw us get dressed to the nines and drool over food fit for a king, or lord…
With these and many other memories we will all cherish, the holiday was a success! but we as a family would enjoy spending time trudging through the vast open spaces of the Dasht-e Kavir desert carrying on our shoulders the throne of Cyrus the Great. I’m sure there would be some literal plebs for us to giggle at, not sure if the mullet was in fashion back then though.
Until the next family adventure…
Never go on trips with anyone you don’t love – Ernest Hemingway