Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sydney, Australia: Ticket to Ride

My Ticket to Ride...
March 18th was an unusual day.  Unusual in the sense that for the first time in about 2.5 months we returned to a place we had already been (Sydney, Australia).  Although this might not seem all that strange, it really is when your lifestyle is accustomed to hopping around from place to place, never staying in one spot for more than a few hours (except for the occasional over night port).  And so the repetition raises a good question…would I be board in a place that I have already explored?  Fortunately, the answer was a resounding no.  For one, Sydney is filled with far too many things to do for a person to get bored after just one visit.  Despite there being plenty to do within the city, I set my sights on Glenbrook, a suburb that lies quite a ways from the city center. 

But why visit a suburb when I could explore Sydney?  The answer is simple, Glenbrook marks the start of the Blue Mountains, and I wanted to see what they had to offer.  For a short while I considered not going.  Not because I didn't want to see the blue mountains, but because the guy at the train station seemed so skeptical of my decision.  "Glenbrook?…It's just a Suburb" he told me.  And so I paused, do I really want to go?  Will it just be a waste of time?  It's a bit of a risk.  I could ride a train for an hour to find nothing more than a residential area.  BUT, I might find something good, it might turn out to be something really great.  Besides, if I don't go, I'll never know, and I don't want to live my life wondering "what if?"  And with that I decided to go.  I would take the risk.  I would buy a ticket and go to Glenbrook.

As the train rolled across the Australian landscape I sat back and took it all in.  I watched the houses and towns flash by.  It was a great way to see Australia, to get a feel for the place beyond just what Sydney had to offer.  Before too long we were in Glenbrook.  A short walk across the train tracks lead me to a sign indicating that there was a national park a little more than a half mile down the road.  This is perfect I thought, all I have to do is run down the street and I'm there.  So I took off.  I tightened the straps on my hiking pack and set off in search of the park.  A few minutes later I was greeted by a sign that said Blue Mountains National Park.  After taking a few pictures of the trail map posted at the visitors center (a picture of a map can be very useful when your in a strange place), I hid my pack in the "bush" and set off for a run on the trails.  For the next couple of hours I had a great time running all over the place. 

Before too long, however, it was time to catch the train back to Sydney.  After digging my pack out of the bush I strapped it to my back and ran back to the train station.  At approximately 4:20pm I hopped on the train and by approximately 5:45 pm I stepped off the train in Sydney, just a few hundred meters from the ship.  Extremely pleased with how my day turned out I walked around Sydney for a few minutes and boarded the ship at 6:30pm.  And so my risk proved to be worthwhile.  Had it turned out to be a bust that would have been ok too, for you can't live life with too much caution, or you'll fail to live at all.

"Sometimes the biggest risk of all is not taking one" - ?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Milford Sound, New Zealand: Finding Wonder in Today

The other day my sister Ashley wrote to me and said that she hoped I would find wonder in today.  Well, I'll have you know that on the 16th of March wonder was aplenty.  Although March 16th was technically a "sea day", it was far and away the best sea day yet.  And what was so great about this particular sea day you might ask?  Well, the day was so phenomenal because we were sailing through Milford Sound on the southern end of New Zealand's south island.  To put it simply, Milford sound BLEW MY MIND!  It was as if the sound was trying to redefine my perception of beauty.  It was jaw dropping, breathtaking, and flat out amazing.  I am including a few pictures, but please keep in mind that my camera didn't stand a chance at truly capturing the wonder of Milford Sound.   

Friday, March 15, 2013

Welcome to the Southern Hemisphere

One of the best things about traveling is that you get to observe how the Earth changes as you go from place to place.  For instance, right now we are sailing in the southern hemisphere and there are quite a few noticeable differences from other places that we have been.  For one, sunset is much later in the day.  There was once a time when I would walk upstairs (my office is in the very bottom of the ship and does not have any windows) around 4pm and it would already be dark.  Nowadays it's plenty light at 4pm and the sun doesn't sink below the horizon until about 8pm (check out the pictures of tonight's sunset).  Another difference is the constellations.  No matter how hard you look you will not find the big dipper down here, it simply is not visible in the southern hemisphere.  You can however, find the southern cross.  Unfortunately my friend Jan and I were unable to locate it tonight from deck 13.  We searched for a good while, but there were so many stars that it was a bit like searching for a needle in a hay stack.  No worries though, I thoroughly enjoyed gazing at the star filled sky, even if we couldn't find the southern cross.  Enjoy the pictures and look for more to come as tomorrow we are sailing through Milford Sound and I expect there to be quite a lot to take pictures of.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

And the Winner is...Akaroa, New Zealand!

Although I realize that I have been making an attempt to keep my posts in order, today's port demands that I diverge for a bit.  At least to give you a sneak peak that is.  Today we ported in Akaroa, New Zealand.  Akaroa is located on the south island and according to Wikipedia it has a population of 567 people (2006 census).  Having spent the day in Akaroa I can honestly say that so far Akaro has been the best port on the World Tour.  And by best I mean hands down, flat out, the BEST...nothing else comes close!  I will probably write another post to give you more details but for now here is a sneak peak...take a look and see if you agree!

When you step off the ship and this is the the first thing you see you pretty much know it's gonna be a great day.

This side of the mountain was like The Sound of Music...the hills are alive (with sheep)!

Making my way to the top...

They views were spectacular!

I started way down there near the water.

If the First Side of the Mountain was The Sound of Music, the Second Side was The Jungle Book!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Egypt: Transiting the Suez Canal

Upon leaving Greece we headed South for Egypt.  One of the cool things about sailing to 
Egypt was that we got to sail through the Suez Canal.  Sailing through the canal was pretty cool because we are were so close to land that you we could see all sorts of stuff, including people.  In fact, there were so many people along one part of the canal that it felt a bit like we were in a parade.  Perhaps one of the best ways to share this experiance with you is by way of pictures.   Enjoy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Herklion, Greece: Greek with a capitol G

After spending the day in Barcelona we set sail for Piraeus, Greece.  At the last minute, however, we received word that, due to high winds, we would not be going to Piraeus.  Although I was a bit concerned that we would not get to go anywhere at all, my concerns were laid to rest when I was informed that we would go to Herklion instead.  Herklion, which is also part of Greece, lies on the island of Crete. 

Upon arriving in Herklion I exited the ship and set out for a run.  Given that there were some beautiful mountains in the distance, I pointed my run in their direction.  Although I did not have enough time to reach the mountains, I very much enjoyed gazing at their splendor.  In fact, these mountains were quite the sight to behold.  Although my camera failed to capture their true beauty, you will have to take my word for it when I say they were magnificent.

And what, do you ask, was the town/city of Herklion like?  Well, perhaps the best way to describe it is with one word…GREEK.  The place simply wreaked of Greek culture.  I didn't even talk to many of the residents, eat the food, or attend a big fat wedding, and yet I found the place to be very Greek.  It wasn't really anything that anyone said or did that made me feel this way.  The place just felt down right Greek.  From the landscape, to the architecture, Herklion was without a doubt GREEK.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Barcelona, Spain: A Park, a Castle, and a Mountain that Could have Been

After three days at sea we finally reached Barcelona, our first official World Voyage port of call.  Although I had never been to Barcelona before, I had heard good things about it and was interested to see what it had to offer.  With the streets of Barcelona awaiting, I tightened up my running shoes and set out from the ship. 

Soon after leaving the ship I was forced to turn around as I found myself facing a dead end.  As it turned out, the ship had docked on a pier that was connected to the city via a large bridge.  Like the tourist that I was, I  missed the bridge.  Fortunately a couple of u-turns was all that it took to get me back on track.

Once across the bridge I quickly made my way through the city streets to a park perched on a nearby hill.  This park proved to be an excellent place to run as it was filled with hills and all sorts of interesting vegetation.  Little by little I climbed may way through the streets and pathways until I reached the top.  Awaiting me at the top was an old building that looked like a castle.  A quick trip inside revealed what seemed to be some sort of military/army base.  Aside from its interesting architecture and weaponry, the building also also provided fantastic view of the city below. 

Standing atop the building one couldn't help but notice how crowded Barcelona was.  But perhaps what was more intriguing than the cramped nature of the city was the mountain lying in the distance.  This mountain, which seemed too far away for me to run to during my limited stay, was capped in snow.  Unfortunately all I could do was admire it from afar and imagine how nice it would have been to run the mountain instead of just look at it. 

Having moistened my appetite with a small taste of Barcelona, I descended the streets and pathways of the park and returned to the ship.  Soon after boarding the ship we set sail once again, this time for Greece!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Southampton, UK: The Official Start, A Paper Delivery Mishap, and a Jammed Photosensitive Drum

The Journey Begins...
To all those who are somehow still following this blog, sorry for the long hiatus.  Over the past few months I have seen and done a lot of different things.  Unfortunately, updating my blog has not been on my list of activities.  Nonetheless I am back!  Although it may take some time, I am going to try and fill you in on what you have missed.  And because I would like to keep things in order I am going to start from the beginning.  Hence, today's post will summarize the departure from Southampton.

What do you Mean this was Supposed to go to Port Kelang?
Southampton, which is a city not too far from London, serves as the home port for Queen Mary 2.  Hence, it is this city that marks the official starting point of the World Voyage.  More importantly, however, Southampton is where I load the majority of supplies needed in the print shop.    As you may have guessed there were just a few things that I needed to pick up in preparation for the World Voyage.  And by a few things I mean a TON of paper, quite a bit of toner, and a fair amount of printer parts.  All such things are what I need to keep my print shop running as we sail all over the World, far away from any sort of printing supply store.

Looks Like Fun, Doesn't it?
As my boss wondered about the ship in Southampton he made a rather important discovery.  Unfortunately, I received a bit more paper than I was supposed to.  Somehow the people shipping the paper loaded a few extra pallets on the ship.  These pallets, which were supposed to be received later on in the World Voyage, were now on board weather I wanted them or not.  Fortunately, me and the provisions guys were able to find a place for everything.  Please note, however, that I said that we found a place for everything, not that we found ample space for everything.  In fact, you may or may not have to turn sideways to walk through my storage cage.

Let's Hope I Remember How to Put this all Back Together
Having sorted out the loading issues, you would like to think that everything would be smooth sailing.  Unfortunately this could not be further from the truth.  In fact, not far into the voyage the photosensitive drum on my black and white printer got jammed.  As a result I spent many hours in the print shop trying to figure out how to unjam the drum.  Although I was able to contact my boss via telephone and email, the job still was not easy.  Eventually I resorted to dismantling the printer to try to free the drum.  Although I like taking things apart, it is not quite as much fun when you are working with very expensive and sensitive equipment that NEEDS to go back together CORRECTLY and function PROPERLY when you are finished.  Fortunately, I was able to free the drum and get the printer up and running again.

Paper, paper, and more Paper...and my Friend Bernard (way in the back).
As stressful as these sorts of problems may sound (and are), in some way I do enjoy them.  Even though I prefer that things run smoothly, a problem such as a jammed drum provides me with an excellent opportunity to develop my problem solving and trouble shooting skills.  Furthermore, it makes excellent use of my grit and determination.  Not only do the problems make use of such traits, but they also leave me with a great sense of accomplishment when solved.

Enough talk of the print shop woes though.  We will be in port soon enough and that will supply me with a whole new set of adventures…preferably ones that don't involve broken printers.

"An adventure starts when something goes wrong" - ?