Day 37 – Survive the Savage (Tasman) Sea
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Dramatic folded right into life on board as if born to it. Fifty years earlier, Dramatic planned to join me on the Angelina Lauro, sailing from Auckland to Southampton. Instead, her life took a different path and she went to France. But our friendship survived intact and I knew I could always count on her for a warm Kiwi welcome whenever I knocked on her door. Now we were room-mates again and it was an easy transition from total privacy to sharing a bathroom.
Yesterday’s sunshine was but a memory as we sailed across the Tasman Sea which is known for its stormy weather and savage seas. Grey skies, grey seas, grey moods. As evening approached, the greyness was replaced with dramatic color as guests gussied up in gowns of every hue: red, blue, coral, purple, with huge smiles and perfect teeth, the men in penguin suits with dashing bow ties and matching cummerbunds. We joined the throng at the Welcome Aboard party where, at the Captain’s prompting, all the guests sang Happy Birthday to Mr. Danza, who had missed his celebration when we crossed the date line. Perhaps that was the real reason for the party.
Day 38 – Another Day at Sea
Monday, February 26, 2018
My team won again at morning Trivia. I have collected about 20 stamps on my prize-card, so I joined the line for prize redemption at 5 pm. It was my day to claim all the valuable prizes about which we had heard so much. They were much better than usual, and I received a Cunard travel alarm clock and three flash-drives. Not a bad haul.
Tonight’s show was world-class! The Barricade Boys entertained us with non-stop music and drama, songs from Les Miz, Sinatra and the Jersey boys. The audience was tapping its feet, smiling and humming along with the boys on stage. They had each performed professionally in Les Miz, from London to Broadway to the Road Show and the movie. We loved them.
Day 39 – If it’s Sydney, it’s Almost Over
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Any ship which sails into Sydney must arrive before the early morning commuter ferries start their daily schedule. Consequently, we sailed into the magnificent harbor in the dark and were docked at Circular Quay by the time I woke up. I pulled back the curtains and there was the opera house, splendid in the morning dawn.
Finally, I was going to the Blue Mountains. The name alone had always intrigued me but even though I’ve been to Sydney many times, I never seemed to get there. Until today.
Our tour group boarded a modern bus and we drove out of Sydney, through the area known as The Rocks, over the Paramatta River, the Sydney Harbor Bridge a great arch in the sky to the South. We drove through urban sprawl for miles, until we were surrounded by trees and bushes and hills and sky. Our destination was Katoomba, in the heart of the Blue Mountains and home of the world’s steepest funicular railway. The mountains appear to have a blue haze, or blue dusting, perhaps a trick of the light. Australians sometimes refer to the Blue Mountains as the Australian Grand Canyon because the mountains appear to soar straight up and down like the Grand Canyon, or the mountains in Milford Sound, or the cliffs in Hawaii. Here in Katoomba, the slopes are covered in greenery, apart from the Three Sisters Rocks.
Legend has it that an ancient father turned his daughters into rocks to protect them from a scavenging predator. When the danger passed, the father forgot the spell to turn them back into his beautiful, innocent daughters. The Three Sisters Rocks stand proud and soaring, looking over the canyon, still waiting for the magic moment when their lips will breathe once more, and they will love again.
We stood in line to board the funicular. There is just one track, one train, bright red. The glass doors open like the winged doors of the DeLorean in Back to the Future. We boarded by row, and adjusted our seats, upright, for a full-on experience, or partially reclined for a safer feeling. The doors closed, we began to move, and it felt as if we were on a roller-coaster without the speed. The train went down-hill at an angle of 52 degrees. Try it for yourself. It is steep. It’s a long way from vertical, but it’s a long way from gentle.
At the bottom we walked through perhaps a kilometer of rain-forest, past the mine entrance, now disused of course, enjoying the lushness of the trees and bushes and ferns, hearing the call of the birds. We returned to our bus via cable car, all 40 of us in one glass-walled box, suspended hundreds of feet above the ground, with a splendid view of the Three Sisters as we ascended.
If I make a bucket list of places to which I would like to return, the Blue Mountains will be high on the list. A splendid day.