The Journey Pt. 24 – So Long Ceylon – Sri Lanka it’s been good to know you – Photos

The Journey

Posted on  by Opher

            Sri Lanka – Ceylon, The pearl of the orient, the teardrop of India – probably a teardrop of joy as it was such a friendly exciting place.

We had quite a day – tearing round the streets in Tuk Tuks, interacting with elephants, king cobras, monkeys, weird ducks, pythons and egrets, visiting mosques, temples and shrines, lakes, palaces, parks and McDonalds, walking miles and being lurched around at great speed in a local bus.

We ate curry in a small café and drank glass after glass of coke, cream soda and iced chocolate shakes to combat the dehydration from the humid heat.

The bus ride on the local bus was an experience. You jumped on as it was moving and hung on for grim death as it hurtled through the streets wrenching you from side to side. Fortunately we were packed in so tight that you couldn’t fall over though getting off was extremely difficult – five miles for less than 15p


Colombo was a great city – not so crowded, chaotic or dirty as Chennai. The people were elegant and friendly but less colourful.     

We saw snake charmers with king cobras and pythons, people with monkeys on lead and temples with elephants. I was extremely torn. I do not like the way animals are used to attract tourists and make money but at the same time they looked well and the animals were beautiful. To be d        

The red mosque was extremely beautiful – what it must have looked like prior to the entire city being built around it. The Buddhist temple, on the festive day, was full of worshippers, offerings and incense and packed with an array of the most incredible assortment of things from stuffed elephants to vintage cars. It was more of a museum than a temple. I have rarely seen so many Buddhas but some of the engraved teak murals were spectacular as was the array of Buddhas and stupas and lavish ceiling paintings.

At the market there were guys mending your shoes while you wait, sitting there in the dirt with a box of needles, glue, thread, spare soles and bits and bobs – so resourceful.

Up in the Hindu temple near the port the breeze from the sea was cooling, the wonderful murals were illuminating, the acolytes, all dressed in white, friendly and smiley, the huge stupa splendid against the rouge of the setting sun. What a fitting end to a day of bustle, wonder, excitement and fun.

Ceylon it’s been good to know you.

Next stop Maldives!

Journey Pt. 12 – Borneo – Banda Sera Begawan – tropical city with stilted village, mosques and temples.

The Journey

We have just crossed the equator heading for Borneo!  As usual there is the same silly pageant on deck with people dressed up with seaweed and gowns, covering volunteers with shaving foam and  dunking them in the swimming pool. The Captain asked Neptune for permission to cross the equator. It was a farce. Yet it was a farce with a history. At one time, back in the days of yore, this was a solemn ceremony. Sailing was dangerous. The seas could be terrifying as mountainous waves swamped ships and little wooden craft were tossed about like toys. Back then they believed the Gods created the storms and needed pacifying. We see in the Odyssey how sacrifices were made. Back then gods such as Neptune were real. Now, we look back at those beliefs as daft. The ceremony is now ‘a bit of a lark’. 

There were amazing feats of creativity on deck as the chef did the most amazing ice carving in no time at all!

We were back into the northern hemisphere. Just 50 days left!

Borneo is hot. 31 degrees!!! We headed off to the local town and boarded the local bus. The locals were extremely friendly and interested in these Westerners joining them, fascinating for us. It was a 30 minute journey, bumping along and hurtling down the roads. Around us was the lush tropical rainforest. We were heading for Banda Seri Begawan – the capital city.

Off the bus we walked along the waterfront looking over to the stilted town and back towards the impressive bridge. Then it was straight off to see the wonders of the Mosque. There was a fantastic reflective water pool in front complete with large colourful tiled ship. As mosques go it was a beautiful example. They build to impress and Muslim architecture, ceramics and abstract art is extremely beautiful.

The next stop was the stilted water village. We took a local boat and he took us round the village, out to the mangrove swamp, complete with crocodile, and over to the Royal Palace. The village was extensive with stilted hospital, schools, fire-station and police station.

Back on land we headed for the shopping mall to cool off with air-conditioning and a local cinnamon and honey ice-drink with tapioca – very different.

Refreshed we set off to check out the Chines Temple. The gruesome warriors, demons and gaudy red, blue and gold, bells, dragons, drums, idols, incense and bonsai trees all part of the rich pageant. It all goes into the rich tapestry of religion. You have to wonder at what people believe.

Hot, and sweaty again we headed back to the boat on the local bus.

Quite a day!!

Off somewhere else tomorrow!! Just have to plan a five-course meal in the restaurant for today. It’s a hard life but we’re not wilting yet!!

Journey Pt. 3 – Oz and Newcastle

The Journey

Journey 3 – Oz and Newcastle

When you are weary after a long haul flight and your mouth feels gritty and rancid as if you’ve been sucking gorgonzola cheese through a sweaty sock, your eyes are stinging with fatigue and your body has a strange, unreal hum, there is nothing better than finally getting through customs and out into the foyer to find the beaming face of a friend waiting to give you the biggest bear-hug in the world


Welcome to Oz. The temperature is hot – like pressing 40 – but the fizzy is on ice and the pool is cool. What could be better. We’ve only been going three days and the cold and drizzle are already a fading memory.

Unfortunately the heat was such that camping in the outback would have been a misery. Plans were altered. Instead we spent time soaking up rays, covered in more sunscreen than is present in most nuclear shelters, and lurking in the pool with bubbly, food and cockatoos!

When it was too hot we visited the cool of the local jail where they locked up the desperate,

and drowned our sorrows with shakes. We visited the bay of caves and crawled through tunnels as the surf pounded in.

We visited Art galleries.

There were cool walks by the lake as the sunsets and ice-creams dripped into the water – one leaving stains of orange and red and the other splashes of chocolate,

as roosting Corellas chattered in the trees and we consumed unknown fish and necked wine.

We sought the magnificent cuckoo, tracked down the huge mighty owl, marvelled at the splendour of lorikeets, saw the fruit bats hanging and hunted the water dragons.

We walked the cliffs and stood on rocks while mighty rollers crashed into the rock and sprayed us.

We rose early to walk along beaches laden with friendly dog walkers or breakfasted at the boogie hole with friends, swimming and laughing while the populace slept around us and a pair of kestels watched from the top of a lamppost.

We walked through shaded woods, observed by kookaburras and noisy mynahs.

We ate oysters, drank more wine and had a big music jamboree on the porch with frogmouths looking on.

We saw a giant huntsman the size of a house whose feet were in the front room while his body was in the hall, who could run like lightning but who was eventually caught and expelled.

We circuited the lake and watched the black swans, pelicans and plovers while two heron performed a mating dance for us.

We danced all evening to the Red Hot Potatoes who blasted out their brass reggae, jazz and soul. We listened to the mighty performance of Emma Rugg.

New friends, lots of music and frolics. We put the world right again.

No time was left unfilled, no seconds wasted. No senses unsated. No sensation unfulfilled.

The hot scent and dust of Australia seeped into us. At dusk we watched the Cockatoos noisily go to roost like a mobile wrecking crew and the fruit bats took to the sky. The possums tail protruded from his nest in the heat and the scent of flowers and gum tree filled the hot air.

Learning to snorkel in the pool as we drank more fizz and ate delicious barbies. Visiting an old cinema to sit with a glass of wine and an ice-cream in a vintage seat.

What could be nicer!!

We are well and crazy in Newcastle Australia!  The music thumps. The new friends grin a lot. The country is wonderful. The wildlife is colourful and plentiful (though becoming scarcer by the day). Pete  and Trudie are keeping us busy!!

The wildlife sanctuary with wombats, wallabys, koalas and lorikeets.

The Wetlands with the nesting ibis and egrets, parrots, swallows and geese.

We have not been bitten by sharks, spiders, crocodiles, scorpions, snakes, box jellyfish, rabid dogs or sting rays. We have had the odd mossy bite though. We can cope.

We’ve been swimming, snorkelling, walking, climbing and seeing an array of amazing things! It has been hot – 45 degrees. But now it is cooler. We are heading off for the outback!

Java – Borobudur – ancient carvings – reliefs, wonders. Buddhist art.

Climbing around the immense structure is a delight. Everything is ornate, richly embroidered. The art is stunning.

One of the wonders of the world.

The ancient Buddhist world lives.

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Java – Arriving in the morning glow to a welcome on the quay.

Java – Arriving in the morning glow to a welcome on the quay.

Posted on  by Opher

More music, dancing and costume. A backdrop of mountains shrouded in morning mist.

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Journey Pt. 9 – Kimodo and the Dragons – Photos

Journey Pt. 9 – Kimodo and the Dragons – Photos

Posted on  by Opher

All is well. We have quelled the fire of the mighty dragons in the incandescent caldera of Komodo where the rim of the huge volcanic crater that spawned it is visible as a ring of rocks in velvety folds of green and orange. The trees and vegetation provide cover for the dragons and their prey of deer and wild boar. It was very warm there (probably the result of all that fiery breath!). Supposedly they consume whole deer or boar and use handy trees to help force the animals down their throats by bashing them against the tree with such force they sometimes knock the trees over.

There is no known antidote to their lethal red gooey saliva. The tens of sharp curved fangs are buried in the flesh of their mouth waiting to lacerate and inflict fatal wounds. We didn’t get eaten once!

We now have a photo of us touching one of the huge beasts. He was facing the other way!

We arrived in the morning with cloud and sultry heat. The kids came out in canoes with outriggers and frolicked around the ship, diving into the water for pennies. Seemed a bit too much like begging to me. These people have an outwardly rather idyllic, simple life, fishing in a beautiful natural setting, warm and peaceful (apart from being eaten by dragons) and then us Westerners arrive with all manner of rubbish and they are seduced. Which life is best I wonder?

We walked round the jungle trail to the water-hole where a number of huge lizards lurked. All the guides had to fend off the massive reptiles, with their venomous saliva and huge sharp teeth, were forked sticks. Not many people have survived a komodo dragon bite. We wanted machine guns at least! But they must have been full of previous tourists and were bloated and full, content to flick a tongue in our direction, stalk about menacingly and dribble red saliva.

Our guide (mandatory) showed us round the village. There were semi-comatose dragons stretched out all around. He poked one with his stick. It raised its head but seemed disinterested. It was hard to imagine that they were fast, ferocious hunters, but they were. The deer and wild boar had no chance, but people seemed to happily co-exist.

The bay was delightful with the blue water, yellow sand, palm trees and rippled orange hillsides covered with trees and undergrowth. The sort of picture postcard scene we see so much.

The sun was setting as we sailed away wrapping it back up in its orange tints. I wanted to spend longer walking in those hills. Maybe another time?