Archive for the ‘Pacific’ Category

Fade to Rust

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

“Look at all that old junk.  Why would they put that here?” Words spoken by the unappreciative.  The seemingly discarded and forgotten old trucks and farm machinery scattered around the grounds of the Blue Heron French Cheese Company’s property is art.  Prized possesions of a knowing collector.  The collection of former workhorses doesn’t get the same attention as the collection of cheeses and wines on the inside of the establishment’s interior but it is definitely worth looking at.

Faded patinas, flat tyres, cobweb filled cabins and peeling signs make the old Macks, Whites and Willys more appealing.  If you stop long enough you can almost hear the stories being told – conversations of the men and women that drove them, maintained them and treasured them.  Cursing, laughing, crying – it all emanates from these proud rusty hulks.

For a selected few these beautiful old “out of action” chassis are collector’s items.  Indeed, with a lot of sweat and money, they could be restored to their former glory and driven once again.  Not a likely outcome in the short term.

If you are planning a trip to Oregon’s beautiful north coast don’t just visit Tillamook for its famous cheese.  Take some time to savor the delights of some of the other attractions too.  Hidden gems that make the mouth water are right under the nose.  They might not smell like cheese but they do make you salivate – if you’re into old metal that is!

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A Whale Of A Time On Whale’s Tale

Monday, June 16th, 2014

A glass of cold champagne in one hand and my Princess’ knee in the other. A warm ocean breeze blowing across the deck of the old schooner “Whale’s Tale” and the friendly Fijian crew serenading us with beautiful harmonies as the captain holds course for Schooner Island.  What a magical scene.  It feels like we’re dreaming.

The sun’s reflection shimmers on the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and, in the distance, the ancient volcanic mountain ranges of the Koroyanitu National Park tower above the outskirts of Lautoka.  The slow rate of advance of our vessel fazes none of the day trippers – we are all here to soak up the ambience.

The trip from Denarau marina to Schooner Island takes around 90 minutes and along the way we sail past many of the small islands that lie off Viti Levu’s west coast.  Each Fijian island is unique and we remind ourselves that we will have to return to explore more of this nation’s beauty.

The hospitality of the crew is as a warm as the mid morning sun.  They continue to offer cold drinks, fresh fruit and recently baked delights.  Knowing that lunch will be served on Schooner Island we finish what is on our already laden plates and take some time out to photograph and video the sights and sounds onboard.

Schooner Island grows larger on the horizon so the captain orders the huge mainsail to be taken down as he reduces the revs on the engine to slow the 100 foot boat.  The crew prepare to drop the anchor and we are guided onto the dinghy that has been towed astern.  It’s time for these sea legs to return to the land.

When the dinghy’s loaded the crew cast us off “Whale’s Tale” and we motor to the beach.  The dinghy’s crew negotiate the complex reef surrounding Schooner Island before securing the boat and helping us ashore.  We’ve arrived.

The rest of the crew and fellow shipmates join us on the island and we are asked to congregate in the “village hall” for a traditional welcome ceremony and kava drink.  A new chief (one of our unsuspecting shipmates) is appointed “Chief” for the day and the ceremonies begin.  After the compulsory sip of kava we are free to roam the island and explore the surrounding reef.

Being keen snorkelers we fit some of the gear provided and head into the warm water.  Upon placing our heads under the surface we are immediately greeted by an array of beautiful fish.  The colourful coral, white sand and blue water are just like the pictures you see on postcards.  Sea life abounds here in Fiji’s nutrient rich waters – one of the world’s best places for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Returning to the beach our crew let us know that lunch is served and that there is plenty of it.  These Fijian locals love their food and they want to make sure we don’t go home hungry.  No chance of that.

Freshly cooked meats, salads and fruit make up the main fare and cold beverages are served at the bar.  Strangely, despite the amount of food we ate during the voyage to the island, our stomachs are up for another feed.  Must have been all the exercise we did while we were snorkeling. Just sayin’.

With the words of our parents ringing in our ears (“Let your food go down before you go swimming again”) we wait patiently under the shade of a beach hut and get to know some of our fellow travelers.  One of the bonuses of a trip like this is that you meet some interesting people and learn about other places in the world.

Lunch has started to make its way through our digestive system so we don our snorkeling gear and head out into the water once more.  Diving in a different area exposes us to a new reef and some different species of fish.  Despite being very small, Schooner Island has offers a variety of experiences for those keen to get into the water.

The sun is approaching the other side of the yardarm as we exit the water and the ship’s crew have started to transfer people back to Whale’s Tale for the trip back to Denarau.  We return our snorkeling gear, freshen up and wait for the boat to return.  A passing thought enters our mind: “What if we hide and become castaways”?

From the beach we can see people diving into the water from the ship’s upper decks.  On returning to the ship I decide that I will give that a go.  Can’t have too much fun here in Fiji!

The trip back to Denarau marina is not long enough.  The sing-a-longs over a cold beer, a beautiful setting sun and some friendly banter are all good reasons to extend the trip.  However, the crew have to prepare for tomorrow’s outing and the experience they want to create for the next lot of travelers. Maybe we should book for another trip tomorrow!

Whales’ Tale slips back into the marina at the pre-arranged time and the well oiled crew bring the old vessel smoothly alongside – no stress and no fuss.  The crew sing a traditional farewell song to us all and there are a few wet eyes amongst the crew and day trippers.

The wonderful hospitality shown by the crew continues after we step ashore and beyond.  Genuine Fijian goodbyes are sung out to us as we walk along the pier toward our transport.  What a magical day.

When in Fiji make sure you take a trip to Schooner Island on Whale’s Tale.  From the time you board the old schooner until the time you are dropped off at your hotel you will experience Fijian hospitality at its best.

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