Posts Tagged ‘australia’

180˚ Course Change

November 29, 2016

This is an interlude from the present time, as there are still three posts from the Tikopia project in the pipeline, which are duly scheduled to appear every Thursday for the upcoming weeks. Attentive readers might remember our ambitious plans for the oncoming cyclone season mentioned at our outset from New Zealand six months ago. Dreams like going up North to Kiribati, then Marshall Islands and the big brave jump all the way up North. Well, all of a sudden all the enormous sea we’d have to cross to do that started to seem a bit too brutal. Also our intense experience in Tikopia grew on us a bit like a finishing point of sort. Could it be that we had seen enough of the Pacific? Did the Poly-, Mela- and Micronesians all of a sudden look a little shallow, as if we had explored them to death, their charm now looking a bit empty, their cultural adaptations morphed to a solitary dead end street waiting to be crushed and cursed by modernity?

It came out of the blue, without wanting it, but then almost logically emerging from the few options at hand. Why don’t we go to Australia? That southernmost continent never had exerted any attraction for me with its white arrogance, dark history of penal colony and brutal annihilation of a native people with a skin tan too scary for the Europeans.

One month of humiliating maneuvers later, striving to fulfill the stringent visa requirements, and with a good chunk of cash having evaporated in the doldrums sun, it feels a little bit like sometimes life wants you to do things you never really wished for. Something must be waiting there ‘down under’ for us to do. It certainly is a great privilege to be able to radically change our life’s direction whenever the calling rings in our ears.

We have spent the last week and half in what must be one of the most miserable places in the South Pacific: the Solomon Islands noisy, dirty and faceless capital of Honiara. An impossibly small and exposed port, where half the time your vessel is bouncing up and down on short choppy swells coming in the tiny bay from the North, makes for a miserable existence at best, with torrential rainfalls that purge the creeks of their accumulated human throwaways, which ends up washed out into the sea, a slurry of plastic bags, food containers, plastic bottles of all sizes swimming around the boat at anchor and lining the beaches with their non-floating peers the tin cans. Landing our canoe here at the ‘Yacht Club’ always implied wading through a meter wide band of debris of modern mankind’s industrial excrements, where the Tikopia’s poop on their pristine beaches was allowed to quickly fade into memory, whipped out by a yet more disgusting manifestation.

After undergoing medical exams to prove that we will not infect the Aussies with some solemn diseases and staring at a wall of faceless refusal to communicate, finally last night an email confirmed that now the two of us are deemed suitable for visiting the terra australis. We will set to sea tomorrow morning and set an ambitious course for Brisbane in Southern Queensland, with Bundaberg as an option should the gods of the winds be less then favorable. We will report from the Eastern seaboard of the notorious Coral Sea as soon as we shall have passed unscathed the just as notorious Australian border controls with our unconventional vessel and our still mighty non-conventional attitudes!

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Keeping The Very Needed Calm

May 28, 2014

Yes, her name is BEATRIZHELENA RESTREPODERETTENMUND! Yes, this is her passport number! The young lady in her globalism-diluted Arabia wear sitting behind the Emirates Airlines counter at the Auckland International Airport’s departure lounge types it all in again. But something does not seem to jibe. Beatriz and I are standing with a weary premonition amidst our pieces of luggage, which contain whatever we thought we might need during our half-year stay back in the lands of my origin. I’m leaning on the counter from our side and switch on my mind-over-matter accelerator. It has all happened many times before. Being born in Colombia and travelling the world is like looking for constant trouble, and it helps a lot if you know just how to best keep your calm.

We’ve had suffered through extra searches, answered all kinds of strange questions, walked many separate lines and received many more shapes and forms of special treatments when crossing the numerous borders of our modern world with Beatriz’ Colombian passport. So what is it going to be this time? The lady in the still shockingly bright red hat and matching lip gloss waves her slender wrist up in the air and signals for her supervisor. Soon there are three of those distinctly uniformed ladies standing behind the counter, furiously typing on the keyboard and staring at the screen with bewildered puzzlement. Enlightenment comes in a flash, as it usually does. ‘Does your wife have a transit visa for Australia?’, the supervisor, the tallest of the three red hats, asks, looking me sternly in the eyes. Australia? Our itinerary said we were to take off from Auckland bound for Dubai and then Switzerland! ‘All Emirates flights stopover in Australia, did you book your flight through our website?’ There was now a menacing tone in the lady’s voice. Of course we did not! We got it on the cheap, through cheapoair.com. And while those invisible folks do give you access to the lowest airfare rates on the planet, their customer service sucks! It just cannot be described in any civilized way. Soon after I had booked our trip on their site, they came fast and furiously after the money I had just saved. They wanted this much for reserving our seats and so much more for travel insurance, offers which I respectfully declined. Now that we needed something from them, they simply cut me off in mid-conversation during an attempt to reach their help desk through Skype and the half hour of free WiFi you are graciously granted at the airport.

To cut a long and miserable story short, one that is filled with intents to control upwelling anger, a row of apologizing officials at the edge of their goodwill, the eternal dance of one party blaming the other, and a series of politically not very correct discussions about rules, regulations and responsibilities, after our surprisingly unsuccessful visit at the airport we find ourselves once again at the cozy house of our friends Don and Denise in West Auckland. They are the proud owners of the beautiful Wharram cat ‘Katipo’ that sits peacefully right outside their home. katipodragon12 katipopanDuring the ample spare time of the three days it takes to go through the superbly useless exercise of applying for the Australian transit visa for Beatriz, so that she will be able to sail without too many hitches through her one and a half hour stopover at the Melbourne International Airport while the Emirates Airbus A380 will refuel her thirsty wings, the conversations turn to those amazing adventures on the high seas that etch permanent acidic traces in our subconscious memory, and then gravitate inevitably to the accumulated treasure troves of highly personal tricks and trinkets that help us survive the rough and rumbly wavy-gravy watery world out there. Even a visit on Don’s motorized tinny to yet another Wharram cat of world traveler fame is fitted in our leisurely schedule. Dave Vinnicombe’s Tiki 38 with the fiery name of ‘Dragon’ rests with a brand new coat of fine topside paint just behind the green promontory across the inlet from our host’s house, and a quick putter across its gently rippled waters brings us over there for the detailed contemplation of one of Aluna’s sister ships. She suffered alterations to James Wharram’s original design and the raised cabin tops make here lines just a slight bit more imposing. On her journey along the waste line of Mother Earth from South Africa to the shores of New Zealand she has no doubt brought her happy builders and owners improved comforts with the increased interior space this intelligent deviation from the plans must have created.katipodragon05 katipodragon04 katipodragon02katipodragon03katipodragon01

Three days later we drag our packed belongings through the Auckland International Airport once again, now with all the required paperwork at hand, but also an even bigger hole in our pockets because of the need to rebook our flight. We are now ready to begin this mighty journey towards economic recovery that will bring us also half way around the circumference of our beautiful and mighty planet Earth.