At 7:00 am this morning, we anchored in Slawi Bay off the coast of Komodo Island. The Komodo National Park encompasses the entire island and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally established in 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragon (largest lizard in the world), it became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1986. Of course, we are here to see the Komodo Dragons! They are dangerous. Every year, a few people are killed by the dragons. And for that reason, all visitors to the island must be on a tour and accompanied by a guide and lookouts! For the squeamish, there is another tour to the village and the handcraft center.
We had taken the tour in 2010, so elected to stay on board this time. But I have photos from our previous visit:
We have been to Darwin several times and have always enjoyed all that the city has to offer. We have, in the past, visited the Waterfront with its luxury apartments and condos and cafes. We’ve been out to the Stokes Hill Wharf. We’ve been through the park. So, this time around, we were totally content to shop the boutiques and stop in at the Coles Supermarket for snacks.
Our day can be summed up in the photos:
As we were heading back to the ship with our burden of purchases, we paused to review the signage regarding WWII and the Japanese bombings that destroyed so much of Darwin in 1942-1943. On February 19, 1942, 188 Japanese warplanes attacked Darwin in two waves. This was the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbor. The attack killed 292, caused immense damage to the town, and was only the first of many more raids to come. For the next several months, a small group of Americans, flying Kittyhawk fighters, defended the north Australian skies. Eventually, the Allies launched offensive air attacks and took the war back to the Japanese-held areas in the islands of the north. We were reminded of an aerial display we witnessed in 2010 by the New Zealand Roullettes, who just happened to be visiting Darwin at the time!
That memory prompted us to look up the photos (included here):
So now, we’ve added a new item to our bucket list: We will visit the Darwin Aviation Museum (located near the airport, RAAF base, and Coonawarra Naval Base) on our next visit. Perhaps we’ll even visit the Casuarina Square Mall. It has 187 stores! Now that is serious shopping!!!
But for now, we’re on our way to Komodo Island, Indonesia.
Cairns was first sighted by Capt. James Cook on June 10, 1770. It was one hundred years later, with the discovery of gold in the Palmer River and the Hodgekinson gold fields, that the settlement of Cairns would be established (in 1876 to be exact.) The inland rail service was built in 1885 with Cairns as its terminus. Thus, the town’s future was guaranteed. Cairns became a major center. The charm of Cairns is that it offers big city amenities and convenience with a small-town friendliness and charm. We have been here many times, we’ve watched the changes and growth occur. I’ll share some photos we took on our last visit in 2016. I must do so because on this trip, we took an excursion to the Kuranda Rainforest and did not have time to tour the town.
Photos of Cairns in 2016:
So, let me now tell you about this year’s interesting adventure in Cairns. We took a ship’s tour to the Village of Kuranda and the Barron Gorge National Park in the rainforest. The adventure began with a train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The construction of this railway is considered an engineering marvel. It was designed to transport supplies from the coast up to the gold mines. The project began in May 1886. It was completed in June 1891. During that 5-year period, 1500 men laid 23 miles of track to an altitude of nearly 1000 feet above sea level through 15 hand-carved tunnels, over 55 bridges and around 98 curves. It was a 1 ½ hour train ride to Kuranda Station with a short stop at the Barron Falls Lookout for a photo op. In the village, we had time (about 1 ½ hours) for lunch or shopping or a visit to the Kuranda Koala Gardens. We did not think this was enough time to do it all, so we opted for lunch and shopping. Although cuddling a Koala is still on our list of things to do, once again it has been put-off ‘til another visit. At the allotted time, we checked-in for our return trip to Cairns aboard the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This 4.7-mile cableway was completed in 1995 after 1 year of construction. All the towers were lifted into place by helicopter to avoid disturbing the rainforest. The tallest tower is 133 feet. And there are 114 gondolas.
Let me show you some photos:
Once we returned to Cairns, we discovered that a brew pub had been built in the old Wharf Shed #7! This is right next to the cruise terminal as well as our ship!!!! Well, who could resist?!?
We are now cruising through the Torres Straight on our way to Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Developing an interest in the culinary arts at an early age, Mitchell Tait began working in award-winning kitchens at the age of 16. He apprenticed at Zest Restaurant in New South Wales and went on to augment his experience across Australia. Because Australia is a nation of large-scale immigration, it has a unique blend of culinary contributions and adaptations from around the world, including Indigenous Australians, Europeans, Asians and Pacific Islanders. Modern Australian cuisine is a fusion of contemporary adaptations, influences and interpretations. Before moving to London to increase his culinary experience, Chef Mitchell was the Executive Chef at Auckland’s “three-hatted” restaurant, Clooney. All the while, he has been forming and refining his own food philosophy and personal style. Chef Mitchell’s contemporary cuisine is inspired by the unique nature of his surroundings and letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
As guest chef aboard the MS Amsterdam, Chef Mitchell has presented demonstrations of his art in the facilities of America’s Test Kitchen with host Abby Koch. He has stressed the benefits of using locally sourced products and indigenous herbs and spices.
After attending his demonstrations and the introductory Sip & Savor event, we were delighted to attend the 5-course dinner prepared by Chef Mitchell in the MS Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill.
I’ll let the photos tell the story:
Of course, the piece de resistance is the 5-course dinner at the Pinnacle Grill prepared by Chef Mitchell.
In 2016, we arrived in Townsville aboard the MS Amsterdam to dodge a Tropical Cyclone in our path. We spent the day along the strand taking very few photos but enjoying coffee, and later drinks, as we made our way back to the shuttle stop. We never really saw any of the town.
This time, a shuttle picked us up at the cruise terminal and took us to a transfer point in town where we could board a local HOHO to complete our exploration of Townsville. We chose to start with the HOHO and revive our memories by visiting The Strand before returning to the city proper to discover the charms of the inner city.