Mon., Jan. 25th, at sea again

This morning, after we went up to Deck #15 to work out, we picked up a couple of cups of coffee and headed outside to see how warm it was.  As we rounded the corner near a set of stairs, 2 ladies were pointing at a little bird, who seemed to be stuck between the steps.  I quickly concluded that he wasn’t stuck, just trying to hide from people.  But still, he couldn’t seem to get out from the stair case.  A ship worker was walking in the area, so I showed him the poor little bird, and he went off to go inform someone else.

In the meantime, I couldn’t stand it, so I climbed up & gently grabbed him, thinking I would set him back onto the deck and he would be able to fly away.  He was a cute little bluish/gray and white bird, about robin-size, with little bluish webbed feet.  I think he was a type of plover or something.  I set him down on the deck, but he immediately tried to find another hiding place.

Here came the other worker, who wise-cracked that the bird was just a “tourist” on the ship and, asked if I was planning to take him home as a souvenir?  Well, of course, we all know I would if I could, but I didn’t want to tell him that, so I just said I was trying to rescue him, as I thought he might be injured.  He then acted a little bit nicer and said that they would let him off at the next port, since we were too far out to sea for the bird to fly off.  So, the last time I saw him (the bird), he was waddling around on deck, still trying to find a hiding place.  I might go back up later on today to see whether he’s still there.  He was very cute!!

Well, we had quite a full day yesterday.  After a couple days and a night of rough seas (the Captain said the swell had reached up to 40 ft. high at one point) while “crossing the ditch” between NZ and Australia, we were finally able to step on solid ground.  However, the Captain had found it necessary to slow the ship way down during the worst of it, so we were about 2 hours overdue at the port yesterday morning.  That meant that some of the excursions had to be canceled, and the others had to be rearranged.  Ours was still a go, thank goodness.

Panic set in, however, when, soon after we boarded the bus, I realized I didn’t have my driver’s license or passport with me.  The rules state that you need to have your cruise boarding pass card and a photo ID with you in order to get back through the port and back on the ship.  I did have the ship card, but I’d been leaving my ID in my backpack which, that day, I decided at the last minute not to bring.  I remembered that, in NZ, the security personnel at the ports always boarded the bus as soon as we returned to the ship and searched everybody for their IDs.  So, all day I worried about what I knew would be facing me later.

We took a bus for about an hour and a half outside the city of Hobart.  First stop was Curringa Farm near the small town of Hamilton.  It was one of the oldest sheep farms in Tasmania and was about 750 acres.  (Tim, the owner, did say that his cousin had inherited the biggest parcel of the family farm–approx. 1,500 acres.)  Tim uses his land for 3 things: sheep farming, crops, and tourism.  (His cousin, he said, is strictly a sheep farmer.)

The crops he grows are 1) poppies for opium! (he sells the opium to drug companies for making prescription pain killers, such as morphine), and 2) cabbages for cabbage seed, which he sells to China and Japan.  (Incidentally, many of the other farms around this area raise hops for beer breweries–it’s one of the best areas in the world for growing hops.)

He went for a drive with us in the bus around his property, which borders the Derwent River, from which he is able to take all the water he needs for his farm.  Then we drove to the little restaurant they had built out of rocks, where we were served tea and cakes.

Tim’s wife, Jane, was famous for these cakes (and believe me, is was easy to see why!).  The story was that some royal highness from Denmark was marrying a girl from Hobart (our tour guide’s daughter had gone to school with the girl) a few years ago, and they held a contest to see who could come up with the best cake recipe that would incorporate Tasmanian ingredients or something for the wedding.  Anyway, Jane won the contest.  The recipe is a secret, though, and she wasn’t about to divulge any of the ingredients.  It was kind of spicy and had some sort of seeds on the top, but it also had a bit of a crust on the bottom, which made it really good.  The other cake, a chocolate one, was to die for too!!!  (Mom, I tried to get her to sell me some & mail them to you, but she wouldn’t do it.)

After we all ate, Tim and his 2 cute little sheepherding dogs (they looked like something of a cross between Australian Shepherds and Border Collies) herded a bunch of sheep over behind the restaurant so we could see how the dogs performed.  The bigger one was named “Johnnie,” and Tim had bought him (already trained) for about $750.  (He said his cousin’s 4 dogs were worth about $1,500 each.)  The younger one, “Trixie,” was only about 3 years old, & he was trying to train her himself.  He hadn’t gotten too far, as he called her over & she wouldn’t even sit when he told her to!  But she was doing a good job of herding.

Next we walked over to the shearing shed, where a professional shearer (he looked like a typical Australian bloke, wearing tight pants, a tight tank top to show off his big muscles, and wore one earring) gave us a demonstration with one frightened sheep.  Then he took the wool and threw it out onto a wide table & showed us how it was all in one big piece.  Then they told us how they wash it and spin it, etc.  (They did have some woolen  socks & other items for sale in the restaurant.  They also made lanolin lotions, which smelled really good, but were too expensive.)

After that, we drove farther on to Mt. Field National Park.  We stopped first at the gift shop/restaurant, where we were served bar-b-cued steak, potatoes and salad, and also some good Australian wine.  Bill and I skipped the dessert and hit the walking trail that led up to Russell Falls.

It was just beautiful along the trail.  It meandered through some huge Eucalyptus trees and other kinds of trees, such as Fern Trees (which were all over NZ too) and Myrtle Trees.  We followed along a pretty little stream until we came to the falls, which were also very pretty and reminded us somewhat of Fern Grotto in Hawaii.  There were lots of other trails branching off here and there, but we had to get back to the bus to head to our next destination, which was Something Wild Wildlife Sanctuary (you can check it out at )

Here we saw a bunch of animals indigenous to Tasmania in their native habitat (as much as possible).  Sean, the guide here & who had taken care of most of these animals ever since they had been found as babies in the wild (many found in the pouches of their dead mothers who had been hit by cars, etc.), showed us over to the Tasmanian Devils area first.  There were two of them in the enclosure.  The little Devils look somewhat like bear cubs, but also have sort of a piglet look to them.  Anyway, they’re really cute and have cute personalities.  I got lots of good pics.

Then we walked through a large area that held several kangaroos and wallabies.  We got pretty close to 2 of them.

Next we walked to an area which looked down the bank at a river, where there were a couple of platypus.  They were completely wild and the people at Something Wild do not feed them or enclose them in any way.  In fact, Sean said that they built Something Wild in that exact spot because of the platypus in the river.  We didn’t have the greatest view of them, since we were far up on the hill, but we did see them floating around and diving for food.

Then Sean took us back over to see the koalas, Golden Brush-tailed Possums (beautiful!), a cute wombat, some emus, and other birds.  The only animal we were allowed to pet was one of the koalas.  Sean held him while we petted him, but you weren’t allowed to touch his face, since “he doesn’t like that.”  I asked what he would do if you touched his face, and Sean just said he would be annoyed.  I guess that’s about as indignant as a koala gets.  Sean said they sleep about 85% of the time!

By this time, we were all getting pretty tired, but we had one more stop to make before we headed back to the ship.  It was The Salmon Ponds, Australia’s oldest trout hatchery.  This place was very serene and beautiful.  They had planted trees from all over the world (with signs on them telling you what they were) around several different sized and different shaped ponds with many kinds of fish (trout or salmon) in them.  They even had some albino trout in one.  It was a nice place to visit after our long busy day.

Upon our return to the port (I had previously told our bus driver, who seemed to think it was quite funny, about my predicament with the missing photo ID), I was again nervous about what was awaiting me.  After all that worrying all day, the inspector boarded the bus and asked to see our boarding cards.  Thankfully, he didn’t specifically mention anything about photo IDs, so I dutifully showed him my card only.  Bill and I were sitting in the first seat, so maybe he had forgotten to ask us about the photo IDs.  Anyway, he didn’t backtrack to ask me for mine, so apparently I didn’t look too much like a terrorist.

Today is an at-sea day again.  The weather is finally getting nice and warm, and people are able to sit outside for a change.

Tomorrow, we stop at Melbourne.  No ship excursions for us, since Bill and I have our AUSTRALIAN OPEN TICKETS!!   (Rafa and Roddick are still in, but Isner’s out.)  I hope we get to see a great match!