A Travellerspoint blog

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Delhi

March 24

sunny 91 °F
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Hi everyone and sorry sis for not acknowledging all your comments. That includes Jack, Paula (don’t be jealous just do it!), Maria, Skip (Tell Mom Iraq is beautiful this time of year) and my flight sim buddy Lou. Again, thanks for the comments and please keep them coming, its keeping me sane believe me.

On arrival in Mumbai the temp was about 86 degrees and a bit humid as expected. Wow, getting from the international terminal to the domestic terminal was a mixture of the movie Mad Max and a news clip on CNN from Islamabad, Afghanistan. I was met by 2 Indians from India Tours who I used to book my domestic flights here and my tours of Agra, Taj Mahal and Mumbai City. Let’s just referred to them at this point as Laurel and Hardy! Not even a hi how was your flight just come, come and then one started off to fetch the car while his side kick stayed with me having me sign numerous ridiculous pieces of paper I guess acknowledging they had successfully met me and had given me paperwork I already had for months from the company. The guy fetching the car came back quickly without the car and handed me his cell phone and said speak to this person. I said hello and the person on the other end said my flight had been changed to Delhi and it was leaving much earlier which was good news to me as the sooner I get to my hotel in Delhi the sooner I can literally collapse. Then the person said you must go quickly to get to the domestic terminal. Anyway, I felt the rush of adrenaline and soon the driver returned with the car. There seemed to be massive construction going on in the airport area but honestly it looked more like a bomb had gone off in Bagdad. As we tried to speed away from the terminal we were soon in the craziest traffic I have ever seen and I’ve seen a lot around the world. I honestly do not know how we didn’t side swipe and knock a rear view mirror off our car and all the others that we narrowly missed making contact and then there were the 3 wheel motorcycle cabbies (like the ones we used in the northern part of New Zealand Cindy, remember those?) Honest to god, my butt checks were so tightly clamped shut I guess just trying to hold on the seat. We never got faster than 10 miles an hour at best so I wasn’t afraid of dying or anything. Soon I was laughing uncontrollably as the two weaved and pointed out opening in the traffic. I wish I had filmed it because it was priceless. It turns out the flight was an hour late taking off anyway and even if it wasn’t I arrived in plenty of time without the mellow drama but if was a good laugh for me although Laurel and Hardy didn’t understand my joking.
I feels weird to be so dependent on others on this portion of the journey but I couldn’t take a chance on navigating this country on my own. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing some country side and the Taj Mahal (voted the #1 Wonder of the World. I’m going to try to get something close to 5 hours sleep which seems to be a lot in any one night these days.
March 26 - I will write tonight about experiences in Agra and Mumbai where I am now. Mumbai looks much better than Delhi already. Got to run to meet my guide for city tour and Elephant Island. Hugs, Mark

Posted by marksrtw 20:50 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (4)

Delhi, Agra & Taj Mahal

March 25-26, 2010

sunny 92 °F
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We are off bright an early this morning with my 5 hr battery recharge (rest of course). Honestly, I have no idea what is keeping me going except shear will power now. My driver arrived and was the same as the person who picked me up at the airport and very likable older gentlemen who spoke very limited English. I honestly did not know much about what this portion of my tour would be. The main attraction today is the Taj Mahal and Fort Agra, other than this I was clueless. I was already alarmed by the dirty industrial patina of what I was able to see in the back seat of a car at midnight from Delhi Airport to my hotel. The hotel was the type I had stayed in many time in various parts of the developing world. Very worn but clean and that’s my main requirement as I knew I was not staying in a 5 star hotel. OK, I was not prepared for all I would see on this day. First, Delhi or New Delhi depending who you ask looked eerily like something out of an apocalyptic movie where humanity and its infra structure had been altered by some event that left the human inhabitants living in decay and chaos. I know that sounds dramatic but I have been too many third world countries and I know the difference between an under developed and economically challenged and this was something my brain still struggles to understand. My driver who’s name was Jejjeda attempted to share tid bits if info as we drove in the morning rush hour but this was not rush hour you could ever imagine. Concrete building appeared tobe under some sort of construction but their were no workers to be seen and I could only imagine that these projects had been years in the making and seemed as though they had been abandoned with rebar jutting out of unfinished stories and lacking windows or anything close to conclusion. The traffic consisted of those 3 wheel motor cabs putting along at painfully slow speeds while cars and many trucks weaved in and out of lanes to keep a decent pace. The sound of horns and occasional shouts were constant. The driver was safely buckled up while I was deprived of the safety feature not that there wasn’t seat belts but they had tucked them back behind the seat and impossible for me to use. Someone apparently convinced them that rear passengers could not harmed because they were in the back seat of course. Made sense to them but made me not only fearful but I was getting more and more angry after each near collision with something. The driver pointed to the elevated train pilings and proudly proclaimed this was the new expansion of the subway train system that would support the upcoming Common Wealth Games that August. First I was amazed that this city dirty and decaying could not only afford to host such an Olympic event but that they would ever be preparation for the increased demand on their chaotic system that would be needed to move visitors as this is a sprawling city. I really got a kick out of the driver making some humor asking me what three thing were need to drive in Delhi. He grinned and said, 1. Good brakes, 2 Good horn and 3. Good luck and believe me he was relying on all three as I said a lot of prayers. I finally realize that this guy was a great driver and I was going to completely stress myself out if I didn’t just let thing flow and trust this process he had mastered.

We were soon in the suburbs and country side and there was a continuous lining on both sides of the separated motorway with shops and decrepit housing. Garbage was either smoldering in piles long the road or just laying there as if meant to be there because no one really gave a damn and they were too lazy to really care. The sacred cows were everywhere so now we had nuisance 3 wheelers (built to maybe carry three people and the driver but most had at least twice that many crammed inside and even of the roof) but now was added free roaming sacred cows and buffalo meandering across the road. I asked the driver why they were just wandering around aimlessly and he explained that its any agreement between the cow and owner that they be allowed to be free in return for the life sustaining milk that they provided the owner. Its also because they can get pregnant and make their owners very happy with more milk and more income. Hindus of course do not eat cows but I was told they can eat the buffalo but most are vegetarians Many bikes could be seen hauling stuff from metal cans filled with milk strapped to the frame of the bike and headed to market I suppose. I saw a 3 wheel manual powered rickshaw with believe it or not a boxed refrigerator. Must have been a Sears delivery to someone lucky enough to actually have electricity in the small village along the countryside.

Every so often there would be a grouping of people and traffic light to stop at or speed through under a red light (ok not going to stess about the driving right!?). Guys were casually stopped here and there relieving themselves in plain sight (oh, that immediate satisfaction in their own little world, the world that was very normal to them but very disgusting to me). I think I would have been happier if the driver had just thrown a black hood over my head, stuffed me in the trunk like some terrorist abducting an infidel. I just couldn't believe that there cash crop of tourists had to pass through this crap to get to the most prized destination in India, the Taj Mahal. This went on for 3 freaking hours with one rest stop that I reluctantly agree to do as it was that tourist trap stop where as soon as you enter the structure to go to the bathroom you were bombarded by tourist trinkets and cheap souvenirs. Sort of a gauntlet of shop owners, each trying to get something in your hand so you would feel committed to purchase their overpriced junk. I did enjoyed the trained monkeys outside and you can see the picture of me with one on my shoulder and one shaking my hand but that picture was far from free and my driver instructed me what to give them which was the equivalent of a few dollars but they saw my wallet as far game and demanded much more. At one point I felt worried they would open my door, drag me out and rob and beat me. Little over dramatic on my part but very stressful for any westerner. My driver described these people thieves and wasn’t about to disagree although I would have described them in a much less favorable way .

Finally, we arrived in Agra and the only thing that changed was the traffic that returned to chaos and grid lock. All I wanted to do is see the beautiful Taj Mahal and actually began doubting that it was really here in this armpit of the world or that it was as magnificent as I had hoped it would be. I was not disappointed thank God, it was more incredible than I had imagined. A guide had now joined me and he described the structure, its history and nature and its was impressive. White marble inset with patterns of lotus flowers and other nature of precious and semi precious metals that created a façade of unbelievable beauty. This was a man’s (a Mogul King) expression of love one of his wife who had died giving birth to their 14th child (poor women!). Much more history I can share personally if you are interested in my more complete stories when I see you. The drive back was equally as miserable and so much traffic that I had to rush to try to clear the security and get to the gate to board for my return flight to Mumbai. When I reached the final stage to finally board the bus that drives you to the parked 737 on parking lot of numerous aircraft with airline company names like King Fisher, GoIndigo, Mango and mine Jet Lite. So close and all I had to do is present my boarding pass to the armed military unsmiling boarding pass checker. Security had screened my two bags and made me nearly unpack my carefully loaded bag in search of my tiny scissors in my overnight case. These same scissors had cleared countless US security checks and all other international checks up to this point but this guys was like a kid in a candy store extorting his power over little old me and my little old scissors. I quickly repacked and there I was about to breeze through the guards check point to board the bus when he mumbled in Hundi pointing to that same bag and the incompetent security had forgotten to put the clearance stamp on the tag attached to the bag. My heart fell out of chest as I was pulled aside like some criminal who was trying to escape this disgusting place ( I was trying to escape but not a criminal). I had begun to accept I would never see my family and friends again as a young girl from the airline escorted me to an obscure security machine that would have to screen my bag again. My pulse raced as I watched the bag enter the machine and come out the other end. About 4 armed Indian police beat me up with their stares showing no humor at all. I wondered where the hell the gentle and comforting land of Mahatma Gandi disappeared to. These people made me want to pick up a gun and rid the planet of their miserable presence! Very unlike me I have to say. Finally boarded the flight and made it back to Mumbai. A sign greets all incoming passengers with a simple statement from Gandi that reads “We must become the change we seek”, how profound is that and it sort of calmed my passive aggressive mood. Before I knew it, my young professional non English speaking driver had delivered me safely at my new home for the next two days, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, the icon of Mumbai located next to the old harbor and Gate of India monument. At last I was in the India I was searching for.

Posted by marksrtw 21:44 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mumbai and Last Day In India

March 26, 2010

semi-overcast 94 °F
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My room is overlooking the Gate of India on the 15th of 18 floors. If you look at the picture from my ferry boat to Elephant Island you will see the Palace, Tower and Gate of India and that is my hotel the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel. It’s very luxurious and I was one happy camper. I still only got about 6 hours sleep but this beautiful hotel seemed to given me new life and hope that my last day in India would heal my wounds of yesterday and make it all better once again. After breakfast I met my guide as arranged in the lobby. She was something between my mom and Indirha Gandhi. She spoke and understood English very well and comforted me with her calmness and intelligence. I had really scored a winner with this guide. We took the ferry to Elephant Island that had the caves that had been carved by Hindus and Buddhasts centuries ago depicting their many gods especially “Sheba” god of war I think. She told me a fascinating story about each carving. When the Portuguese discovered these caves as the first Europeans to round the Cape of Good Hope I shared with you earlier in Cape Town South Africa, and arrived in Mumbai in the late 1500’s I think. They used the caves for target practice so some of the carved panels where missing body parts which was unfortunate but very common to see around the world like in Egypt where the Sphinx was target practice for the Germans in WWI and II and proves the stupidity of man at its finest. Its about 90 degree and the same in humidity so this former Alaskan was drenched in sweat and glad to return to the boat to enjoy the breeze created by the ferry chugging the hour distance back to Mumbai. I took a 20 minute break to run back up to my room and freshen up and fire off a few pics to let you guys know I had survived the journey to India (I know you were not able to sleep wondering ).

I had three more priorities to see in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) the Prince of Wales Museum, the Victoria Terminus Train Station and Chow Patty Beach. The museum was housed in a beautiful European style building that you might see in London. The same was the case for the train station building. I think the pictures are worth a thousand words here so please enjoy. Its was my labor of love to share them with you guys. Chow Patty Beach is the place where the locals enjoy a long, wide beach with lots of food vendors and places to just relax and picnic and escape the grind of this crowded city. The poverty here is a sharp contrast to the beautiful sights. Many Indians come to the city desperate for work only to find none and unaffordable housing even if they could find a non living waged job. I guess the Dell and HP call centers can only employee so many Indians these days (L0L). We drove by the place where the Pakistani terrorists had come ashore in September or November of 2008. They were young guys with duffle bags. The local fisherman who lived where they came ashore asked them who they were and why there were here and they apparently replied “You mind your business and we will mind ours”. In retrospect, they should have contacted the police but didn’t. The terrorists had dinner and we passed that restaurant. They were approached to pay their dinner bill and opened fire on the staff and patrons inside. They then split into two groups one attaching the Oberi Hotel and the other my hotel the Taj Mahal Palace. My room overlooks the Palace portion that was sent afire and many guests and staff lost their lives. That historical portion with its rich history from being the residence of the Maharashtra and other royality and celebrities over a century it has stood. It’s a great story I will share if you want. Just ask me when I see you. My fantastic guide had saved my India experience and now I am off to Perth Australia via Bangkok and Singapore. When you see this I will have arrived and I hope you enjoy the stories and pics of Hong Kong and India. I am really looking forward to one plan for the next 3 days and that is rest and spontaneous activities.

See you later in my last continent Australia and the Western State Capital of Perth! Wow what a mind blow this trip has been..... All the best and miss you all!

Marco Polo

Posted by marksrtw 03:23 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Mumbai to the Land Down Under and Fifth Continent Visited

March 27-28-29, 2010

sunny 79 °F
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March 27, 2010
Interesting day this was to say the least. I left the regal Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel in Mumbai at the ridiculous hour of 2 am to catch my Cathay Pacific flight from Mumbai to Bangkok. Got a few hours sleep and while waiting for my driver to pick me up I checked out the disco at the hotel. The music filled the lobby and it was 70’s to the bone and really contrasted with such a conservative place so checked the action out for a few minutes. Local Mumbai group and they were pretty good. The familiar songs took me home for a few minutes and were a nice send away. I absolutely loved the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The staff we’re excellent and very accommodating so if you ever do come to Mumbai there is no other place to stay in my now expert opinion. Funny story, as I check in the last evening the receptionist who checked me in asked me if I was a relative of Brad Garrett in a way that told me he had anticipated my arrival and hoped I knew the star of "Everyone Loves Raymond". I grinned and told him I wasn’t but really was a fan. I went on to tell him “my dad invented the security scanners that are now in every airport around the world”. Ok, the scanners are in most airports I have flown through including on this trip. You know them of course as we all hold our breath going thru praying they don’t beep and force into a body search area and the paddes they run up and down our legs and arms say GARRETT in big black letters and its was funny and ironic to each time I saw them coming at me as I have traveled around the world. Oh ya, I lied about my dad inventing them but hey, it was the first thing that popped into my head because I obviously needed to impress this guy somehow (LOL).

The most challenging part of my visit to India was the extreme poverty. On the way to the airport was the tragic evidence that my guide had alluded to during our great day together: People coming to Mumbai because they believe the streets were lined with gold and their village can not feed or care for them but housing is simply not affordable and especially for the many who can’t get employment of any sort other than begging and that looked to be millions in this city of 13 million. I need to share my feelings because this trip has and will continue to evoke so many. My heart literally broke yesterday as I watched a desperate Indian woman clutching her malnourished baby whose skin was calloused and scabbed and lay limp and lifeless in her arms. My guide spoke to the women through the closed car window in English so it was more to me than the women and said “why don’t you take care of your baby?” Those words and the sight of that mother and baby will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’m crying as I write this because that was the most poignant moment on my journey. The women knocking on my window as the driver speed away when the light turned green because the traffic demanded it. That feeling for helplessness to make a difference in her life has changed me forever I think. I still don’t know how but those words at the airport in Delhi from Gandhi that read “we must become the change we seek” must have some additional relevance. I have always believed in fate and fate found me in a big way at the moment in time at that place in the world that brought us together. Hey, you bought the ticket for this ride along with me so I need to share all I have experienced. I know that it will take me some time to process everything I have encountered both good, bad and ugly as the spaghetti western goes (ok, that’s for us old folk who know Clint Eastwood early movies). Rest will come very soon in Perth but my soul will probably not for a while, as so many moments come into focus and leave me with a lifetime of stories to share with my friends, family and especially dear nieces that I am Great Uncle to (how cool is that!). Thanks for letting me share. My flight nears Perth and I was able to watch the movie Amelia (quite appropriate). Darn, now I’m crying again, but I could really relate with this brave women whose dream was also to circumnavigate the world and understand in a special way some of her passion about flying. I loved the line in the movie at the end when she says just look up in the sky and I will be looking down at you (from about 39,000 ft I'll add). It’s a line I will have used at me remembrance when I’ve departed this earth because it so true! Bye the way you should have seen Singapore as we departed. The lights of the roads looked gold and the lights within the framework looked silver creating a tapestry of light and motion and it was pretty awesome not to mention the lightning storm right outside my window a short time later and not a bump of the airplane! Pretty cool…

March 28, 2010
G’dday from Perth Australia and my fifth continent on the journey and a city of a comfortable 1.5 million. Can’t express how much I have been anticipating this grand finale and the physical comfort it will bring and English. Even Aussie’s English I finally am able to communicate and this is a huge relief mentally. Last night’s 7 hour sleep was great and I thought I would sleep 12 hours or more and that was the plan but this, like every other stop, the anticipation of seeing where I am and enjoying as much experience while I’m here was too much and I hit the streets. I am staying in the CBD a common term overseas and means Central Business District. Not in the middle of huge building, they begin down the street, but a cross the street from the main Catholic cathedral and a great statement of classic ancient architecture in such a young and new city. It’s pretty pleasing to the eye and next to that is some fancy estate with gardens that blend with the church and where the Pppe stayed on a recent visit to Perth and that church. The balcony off my room overlooks that scene across the street and though it’s not completely without noise by some traffic it’s a sharp contrast to the other hectic and loud locations I have resided before here and it’s a very welcome change and is like Heaven. Weather is like San Diego I was told today so in a word PERFECT with consistent 70’s 80’s and is the sunniest city or capital city on the planet again something I was told on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour I took today. I love these buses because they really get you oriented and aware of interesting sights you can return to on your own on local bus or subway and really check out. I bought a pair of shorts and sandals today and couldn’t get them on fast enough and now I’m in bliss. Didn’t take any as I was unsure about customs and I didn’t want to piss off the natives with these legs! LOL. Heading to the coastal city of Freemantle and probably Robbins Island tomorrow to bask in the clear skies and do what you always do at the beach, drink beer, people watch and maybe even do a little body surfing. Catch you next time with more details so do stay tuned!

Amelia for Marco Polo you take your pick…

March 29, 2010

Ok now I slept 11 hrs a new record and I’m feeling like Superman! Having breakfast at McD’s not only because I like the breaks here and anyone who really knows me knows that simple fact but they have free WiFi as I was not about to pay the hotel $20.00 per day (ouch!). After I upload this I will head back to hotel and pack the computer, grab my suntan oil and head to the coast. It’s a picture perfect day in paradise and I’m going to “Become the Change I Seek” today!
See ya,

Posted by marksrtw 19:43 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Perth and Coming Home

March 28-31, 2010

sunny 81 °F
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March 28, 2010
G’dday from Perth Australia and my fifth continent on the journey. Can’t express how much I have been anticipating this grand finale and the physical comfort it will bring and English again. Even Aussie’s English works for me. Finally able to communicate and this is a huge relief mentally. Last night’s 7 hour sleep was great and I thought I would sleep 12 hours or more and that was the plan but this, like every other stop, the anticipation of seeing where I am and enjoying as much experience while I’m here was too much and I hit the streets. I am staying in the CBD a common term overseas and means Central Business District. Not in the middle of huge building, they begin down the street, but a cross the street from the main Catholic cathedral and like great statement of classic architecture. It was restored recently and has the most unusual look as half appears hundreds of year old while the other half is very modern and the blending is amazing. It’s pretty pleasing to the eye and next to that is some fancy estate with gardens that blend with the church. The balcony off my room overlooks that scene across the street and though it’s not completely without noise by some traffic it’s a sharp contrast to the other hectic and loud locations I have resided before here and it’s a very welcome change welcome. Weather is like San Diego I was told today so in a word PERFECT with consistent 70’s 80’s and is the sunniest city or capital city on the planet again something I was told on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour I took today. I love these buses because they really get you oriented and aware of interesting sights you can return to on your own on local bus or subway and really check out. I bought a pair of shorts and sandals today and couldn’t get them on fast enough and now I’m in bliss. Didn’t take any as I was unsure about offending the locals and I didn’t want to upset of the natives with these legs! LOL. Heading to the coastal city of Freemantle and probably Robinest Island tomorrow and relax in the sun and do what you always do at the beach, down beer, people watch and maybe even do a little body surfing. Catch you next time with more details so do stay tuned! Amelia for Marco Polo you take your pick…
March 29, 2010
Ok now I slept 11 hrs a new record and I’m feeling like Superman! Having breakfast at McD’s not only because I like the breakfasts and anyone who really knows me knows that simple fact but they have FREE WiFi as I was not about to pay the hotel $20.00 per day at the hotel (ouch!). After I upload this I will head back to hotel and pack the computer, grab my suntan oil and head to the coast. It’s a picture perfect day in paradise and I’m going to “Become the Change I Seek” today!

Today was my best day of vacation and provided opportunities to finally have some great conversation and good times with the natives. I love Aussies (and Kiwi’s) and their sense of humor so much because they are not bashful and love to speak their mind and it was fun drinking West Australia wine with several couples my age. My planned day at Freemantle changed once I walked downhill to the harbor from my hotel. While inquiring about the boat ride to Freemantle I was offered a 10% discount on a lunch and wine tasting cruise up the Swan River to the Swan Valley and wine country leaving in 6 minutes. It sounded great to get on the water and enjoy another part of the river area. The Swan River runs from the Swan Valley, through Perth and out to the ocean through Freemantle on the coast. I was last on board and lucked out getting assigned table 2 with a couple my age and a single older gentleman probably in his 80’s. I introduced myself right off and knew I was going to enjoy this company. I didn’t have any idea what the 4 hour cruise involved so they filled me in on the instructions about the order of tables who would be allowed to hit the buffet so that the mob mentality I have been dealing with throughout this trip would be controlled and the experience would be pleasant for everyone. No worries by me and heck we were the second table in line to hit the buffet so I knew I could get to those prawns before they had been scooped up by the crowd. I eat, laughed and learned that these Aussies are steadfast that global warming is all natural and not a single dime should be spent to change course as it was all inevitable and why waste money on it. Not wanting to get heavy on the subject I did share my opinion that man was greatly accelerating the process and conservation and movement away from petroleum was a good thing and worth the effort. They also congratulated me and the country on finally legislating better access to healthcare and benefit they already enjoy and that is accessible, affordable and portable health insurance for all. Australia and New Zealand seem to like their health care system and are quite proud of it. Many I spoke with have private insurance as well to get even better coverage. The couple was from New South Wales state and own an earth moving and hauling business so I asked about the recession impact for them as I had been told earlier that Australia was completely unaffected by the world crisis. They set me straight and affirmed that it had impact their country and their business personally but things were rebounding. The only negative I can say right now about Perth is its very expensive. I told you yesterday that I did a little cloths shopping, well I didn’t tell my surprise at the register when a pair of shorts and simple short sleeve cotton shirt totaled $170 Aussie (about $150 US). I knew the shorts were on sale for $35 and was told by the clerk the shirt was also on sale so I can only imagine what the shirt cost before the markdown but I removed it from my bill and left with only the shorts. I had also check for some 3 or 4 packs of boxer shorts because I have going through the undies and didn’t want to wash. The cheapest boxer was a single at $24 yah, I’m not kidding. I must have picked the Nordstrom’s of West Australia. Wow, as the free wine flowed so did the humor and my soul was in heaven laughing and sharing funny stories from our travels. The older gentlemen in his late 70’s was from York and was well traveled so we really connected and swapped travel recommendations and confirmed similar experiences from our many years enjoying what travel can offer. Experienced world travelers and frequent flyers are weirdly related by our joy of the experience and love to exchange suggestions and great values for the buck we have discovered. Even the couple offered a clipping from the newspaper that advertised a value cruise down the coast including meal and drink for around $85. Just the gesture was refreshing as I had experienced a lot of attempts to remove me from my hard earned money through some of my shady tour guides and shop keepers in the numerous countries I had just visited. Travelers take care of travelers and that was a nice thing even thought I could do that trip they suggested. We ended up at the Waters Edge Estate winery and home of the oldest cellar in Western Australia. Didn’t take me long to get off the boat and pass the mostly elderly co-passengers to get to the tasting bar. A lady in her 80’s had actually beat me there so I knew she was my kind of gal and we bonded immediately and joked and sampled until we finally decided to each buy the Frogmouth Tawny Port described as rich, round, luscious flavors of raisins, plums and citrus along with chocolate flavors are present on the palate. The residual sugar and acid are balanced to give a fruit driven Australian tawny style which finishes soft and clean (right off the back label). Its damn good and I can’t bring it back due to the 1 liter limit for carry on so darn, I’m forced to drink the whole bottle myself in the next few days. NO WORRIES MATE! On return back to Perth harbor jetty where we started we passed some beautiful riverside homes and communities. This place is so clean and so attractive it’s no wonder it’s a very desirable place to live or visit if you can afford their economy long term. The American’s cup race that was held here around 1987 I think. You might remember they won the trophy after the US had held on to it for over a hundred years. The win by Perth was a major coup for them and was remarked to be the greatest boost to their ego ever and was the catalyst for the cleanup of the city and harbor area in prep for their hosting the race. American regained the cup but Perth really won because they have a city to be very proud of. What the America cup started, the rich mineral industry, oil and gas and other resources sustained so this place is rich without a doubt.
I was told I had missed a freak storm that hit Perth a few days ago. Hail pounded the city for about 20 minutes and did enormous damage to the produce crop that will take 5 to 6 mouths to rebound (a salad was already $12.00). Cars were dented severely and could be purchased off car lots at great discount. Skip, please tell dad there’s another opportunity to get that new Chrysler at a big discount. He will know what I’m talking about as same type of storm hit Sydney just days before we arrive for our great trip here in 1999. Had a brew and a delicious dinner of sea trout (in season) at the Lucky SHAG bar on the jetty and had a good time with some Kiwi’s for awhile before heading home for rest. Had to buy the bar t-shirt as a souvenir. Sorry, no picture day as I left everything at the room because frankly, I’m sick of hauling the equipment around and remembering to power on the camera and figure out if I’m in video or picture mode and then finding the shutter cover closed and by the time I had stressed through all that crap I had many times missed the shot I was going for. It felt great to be free and just taking care of me!

March 30th
This seems to be the perfect time to visit Perth as it moves out of summer. Really, picking spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in southern was a no brainer but I have not hit any rain except a nice mist is Toledo, Spain that lasted for an hour at best. I really enjoy the walk from the hotel to the harbor jetty this morning with several rest stops along the way. This city really feels a lot like San Diego and Seattle combined (that would be moving Seattle to San Diego). There is a big park that was the first commercial airstrip in Perth back in the 1920-50’s I’m thinking I heard. It’s a grass strip that vintage planes still use during air shows. Speaking of air shows, the Red Bull races will happen here mid April. I love flying this race on flight simulator on my computer back home and you can pick several location but I don’t remember Perth being one of the them. This morning a bunch of guys were playing some aussie rules football. Lots of locals use bikes for commuting and they really fly through this mostly park area and seaside walk. Looks like a lot of fun and with San Diego weather I could really be a perfect way to commute. The air is clean and temp is going to get up to 80 or so today and humidity is about 35% and this is my last day so today I’m heading for the outlet of the Swan River and the city of Freemantle. Already had ticket from the discount package I bought when I first arrived. Left at 9:45am and the water is smooth as it is a river of course so not much boat motion and that’s good as motion sickness is my enemy. The water is a light green color and you can see about 4-5 ft down so able to see brown spotted Australia jelly fish but that’s about it from the jetty. There is no litter to speak of anywhere and that means no garbage floating in the river. A sharp contrast to the masses of garbage floating down the nearly dry stagnant river behind the Taj Mahal. Delhi was the ying and Perth is the yang! This kind of trip makes you compare and I know that’s not good in general but I love the contrasts and being about to objectively respond with just my senses so it’s made me challenge my own perception and prejudices. Funny that those same prejudices are being discussed in the paper here as Perth as a spike in violent attacks against Indians and Asians and Australia has a big debate around immigration from neighbor countries desperate of work and opportunity (sound familiar?) Jobs and education is always the key and if we could just set some priority for the world to increase human knowledge and skills and regulate population growth it would probably only take a few hundred years to turn this ying yang around but who the hell thinks that far ahead in any government or society other than the real string pullers who are mining this earth and controlling the masses including at home but time for fun. Singles are as rare as diamonds here and even when I stumble across one they’re so paranoid to smile and respond to hello that I have now made it a game. I read an article on the last flight that you will live 8-10 years longer if you smile big, the kind that causes wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. It’s a small sacrifice and it’s helping with the boredom and loneliness. My goal is to find a single who was also traveling the world and we could swap stories and console each other. Well shazam, that single seat I saved next to me in the best seat section on the ferry worked and I got a young guy to grab it like a fish going for the perfect bait. He is also doing the around the world thing and has been traveling for 3 months and we had a great conversation during the 1 hr ride up the river to Freemantle. One in three residents have a boat of some sort and we past 6 yacht clubs and many more rowing clubs. Wealth is evident big time on the waterfront passing by. We were told about a house that just set a new sale amount record of $56 million (by the way the Aussie dollar is about 90% of the value of the Dollar). Camera’s were really clicking as we past the cascading home that had over 40 rooms and a 40 seat theater and bowling alley under the swimming pool. Why anyone takes pictures of such overt decadence is beyond me. An Indian business mogul in the fertilizer business in India is building the largest house to date called the Taj on Swan. He has told his contractors that they can’t eat meat on his property because of his religious beliefs. An probably for a little added marketing for his wifes opening of a string of vegetarian upscale restaurants in Southern Cal. I told you the Aussies are strong minded and but they are also chauvinist pigs to put it nicely and that’s pretty common knowledge and the guys would probably add a “you better believe it” if confronted. The workers and their Union told the guy where to put his veg only rule. Hey, these guys are descendents of criminals dropped off my Britain (lol). Aussies are great people and I have always enjoyed meeting and sharing travel stories. They really are a mobile nation and many my age had been to US several times and well traveled.
Andy was from England and heading to Robbenest Island from Freemantle. I decided to just keep my original plan and get to know Freemantle and eat some great seafood from the source. Originally this sea port had a narrow opening blocked by a natural jetty when first settled in 1829 blocking larger ships so in the early to mid 1800’s they tied up to the jetty and then merchandise was ferried up the river to Perth and Swan Valley. This was very expensive so an enterprising guy said he knew how to solve that with a little gun powder. With the opening larger is changed a swampy slew into a flowing river that started the prosperity. Before that enlarging the entrance was known worldwide as the worst hell hole on earth because they lost so many ships navigating through it. Sydney had already had its gold rush and now it was Freemantle/Perths turn. In the late 1890’s they hit is big and with the wealth they bough their independence from England and became self governed. I walked into the oldest church in Western Australia to get out of the heat and check out the great stained glass. I scored big as another lonely person who loved to talk about the subject he loved jumped up and greeted me and began filling me in on the history. The church property was a large tack of land in the center of town and the old church sat right in the center. The city fathers need a place to park their town hall so a deal was made to divide the property with a road through the middle which meant the church would be demolished and rebuilt new. Technically it may not be the oldest church after all but I didn’t pop his bubble. He described a stain glass window that was donated by one of the founding families who came from York and settled in the early 1800’s. To make a long story short, they were making a statement that they were not descendants of criminals and apparently important to keep the good name of the family. I think this is where the evolution of prejudice started for the Aussies. I think we all need to check in on our own so enough of that. I was very disappointed there really is no great beach area although I did find a short stretch near the fishing boat docks. Got my feet wet in the Indian Ocean and had so fish and chips and headed back to Perth on the last ferry. Met an older couple who own the Kia forklift franchise for northern England and I told them about Alaska because they are doing the Canadian railway from east coast to Vancouver and a inside passage cruise. They were fun and Peter and I exchanged email addresses. They had a train to catch to the suburbs where they had a time share so I headed back to the room to pack one last time as tomorrow I starting heading home. I have a 5:45am flight from Perth to Sydney and a very short layover for the Sydney to LA flight. I was going to wait until morning to finish packing but decided to do it all and then I could sleep a little longer.
Damn, I woke up at 4:08am and my shuttle was going to pick me up at 4:20 sharp. I have never moved so fast from a dead sleep in my life. I was not about to miss my ride home for anything not even the Lady Gaga concert I was going to miss April 1st (love her music and its been my sound track throughout the trip). I was down stairs at 4:15 feeling pretty relieved as I’m zipping up my fly and tucking in my shirt. Thank God I pack last night. I waited and waited and at 4:30 I asked the Indian receptionist to please call the shuttle people and make sure they were arriving any minute but their office was closed. Being a seasoned traveler I knew I need to back up plan know. I asked him to call me a cab and he kept insisting that I should wait and shuttle would probably be here any minute so didn’t ask at that point I demanded he obeyed and the taxi arrived at 4:45am. My flight leaves at 5:45 remember I still had security to clear so once again the stressed returned. Made it to the airport fine and was on the plane in short order. Got in late to Sydney. The flight departure screen was blinking go to gate message for passengers on the flight to LA. I was in the domestic terminal and had to find the international transfer lounge wait for the shuttle that buses between the terminals, then go through security again and also immigration. Man am I sick to death of this cattle herding, intimidation tactic with customs nighmare I have endured by 7 countries! I decided they could leave without me and just maneuvered bad back and all through the confused masses trying to comprehend the process. I knew it like the back of my hand and made it to the gate on the third and last final boarding call. Man this A380 is an amazing aircraft I'm coming home and I won my amazing race!

Posted by marksrtw 11:05 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

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