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Fiji the long way with our last QFi JASA.

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drron

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16 days and we are off again.First on QF BNE-SYD-NRT.A JASA booked before March and all the fuss.A bit of fun when booking it as we are flying into SYD at 1200 and leaving on QF21 at 2130.The agent was adamant that he could get us onto a later flight into SYD but I politely declined.As long as we are checked through it will be a nice long Flounge visit.Got to enjoy it while we can.
From NRT it is a JR railpass with a stop at Sendai and the westin before continuing on to Shin Sapporo helping the Sheraton celebrate it's last couple of weeks with SPG.Finally on to Otaru where we board the Silver Explorer to Fiji via GUM.

Now the Explorer is currently making it's way through the North West Passage.It's first voyage there.In 2012 the route was virtually ice free and so Silverseas were confident global warming would ensure a passage in 2014 was incident free.Then today this image appeared on the internet-
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It was in this blog-
Northwest Passage 2014: M/V SILVER EXPLORER stuck in Northwest Passage ice escorted by Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker

Mrsdrron emailed the director of Expedition cruising for Silverseas and after a few hours of nervousness we were reaaured when he replied that the blog had just one fact wrong-the icebreaker was not stuck and has guided the Explorer through 4 days of thick sea ice and it is now in ice free waters.

So from Otaru we will have visits to Hakodate then a succession of small Japanese islands renowned for volcanoes,birds or both.
Miyake-jima.
Hachijo.
Torishima.
Chichijima.
Haha-jima.
Then we set course for the Mariana Islands visiting-
Pagan.
Saipan.
Tinian.
Before we reach Guam.This is the end of one sector.We will only have about 6 hours though so probably just go to the shops and have some ribs for lunch.
Then it is the Yap islands.We visit Gaferut and Ifalik.
Another sea day and we reach PNG.Stops there are-
Vanimo.
Ali Island.
Murik Lakes and Kopar village.
Tuam
Tufi.
Fergusson and Dobu Islands.
Then through the Marovo lagoon to Honiara n the Solomons.
Then Santa Anna and Santa cruz.
Finally before reaching Fiji we cruise through the islands of Vanuatu.
Loh.
Rano Island.
Tanna.
Finally reach Lautoka and transfer to the Sheraton Denaru.
Then FJ to Syd for some family time and our second last domestic JASA back to BNE.
 
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Fifa

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What an amazing trip!
I just cannot wait until you are in the FLounge and posting your first pics :D.
Thank goodness the Silver Explorer is on its way...
 

drron

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So back to an old habit and a little of Australia first.Over the last month I have worked in Armidale and Townsville.I took note of the buildings in both places.first Armidale.one thing that stands out are the churches-
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drron

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Now places that were or are now used for accommodation-
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You must have a great agent, or infinite patience to work all that out. Looking forward to the next saga. Oh the vicariousness of it all.
 

drron

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Of course if you are interested in buildings then in a regional centre you cant go past the old pubs.Of interest here are a couple of Art Deco examples.
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And now a special set as I believe there used to be a Saints supporter on AFF-
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drron

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Ah local knowledge.
The first time I worked at Armidale there were pictures everywhere of the former Independent State member.Seem to be missing now.He also attracted the attention of ICAC and had links to UNE.In fact he took over as chancellor for the fellow mentioned in the link.
Richard Torbay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

drron

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Now a little old and new.First the civic buildings starting with the old Town hall,a later extension and the new-
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Now I don't dislike the new building but still does not match the beauty of the old.The new courthouse though to me just doesn't cut it compared to the old.
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Now the banks.Old bank buildings I enjoy even this first that is being defaced by a real estate agent.Then a more modern example followed by the new.I think all these buildings have a character.
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Some other commercial properties though detract from the overall impact of the CBD-
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drron

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Some more commercial buildings all having some interesting features.
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And now 2 of the old department stores.The first has been redeveloped into a reasonable small covered mall.the second has some sensitive redevelopement but at the wrong end of town,the arcade is deserted.
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drron

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The last of the Armidale building pics.
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now one point about Armidale that needs to be mentioned are the educational facilities.some very well resourced schools and of course UNE.So anyone with children really needn't worry about educational opportunities.First The Armidale School and the last is one of the church schools.
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drron

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Now the last of Armidale.It is well provided with public parks.Not in great shape as it is the end of winter and it has been very dry.
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Now a little known fact is that I share something with HRH Prince Charles.I think I can talk to birds-particularly magpies and butcher birds.This fellow gave a good impression of knowing what I was saying walking right up to me-
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if Armidale has a city bird it should be the magpie.They are everywhere.
Now for someone who has lived in QLD for 22 years July,August in Armidale are not the greatest.Morning temps around zero are not my preferred numbers.But at least I get to try out the heated seats the Hyundai has.Very nice.
Spring though was about to come and the first signs were apparent-
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I really feel lucky that now I can be paid to travel Australia.It also gives me time to look around and get a feel for a place.Armidale I like.I hope I have shown what can be experienced if you just take the time and look around.
Next Townsville.
 

love_the_life

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Enjoy Silver Explorer. We were on her when she was named Prince Albert II, leaving from Tromso and up to Svalbard before ending up in Iceland. We enjoyed the ship (and of course the ice, polar bears, zodiacs) very much. It is not quite as plush as the regular Silversea fleet as it is an expedition ship but is pretty good. We were so busy anyway we did not miss the more formal cruising style. The naturalists and expedition staff on board were fabulous, many well-respected in their own fields of study. We would go back on her in a heartbeat (and planning to if we can get our Antarctica trip organised).
Your itinerary looks great - so envious! Hope you will be able to post often so we can follow as you go along.

There's something special about magpies!
 
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drron

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Our first cruise on Silverseas was also the PA11 but from Longyearbyen to Tromso.We are very fortunate I can still work to fund our travel so the upcoming cruise will be our 4th and 5th sectors on the Explorer.Two more booked for next year.As you can guess we love it.The TR on that first cruise-
http://www.australianfrequentflyer....s/drron-takes-cruising-arctic-here-24607.html

But now for Townsville.The first time I worked there I was put up in the suburbs.This time very close to the CBD in South Townsville.So I was able to walk around the CBD.There are a lot of markers explaining the history of various buildings so no guide book is needed.lots of grand old buildings though several have not been shown much love.So now to the pictorial-
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One of the better "new"buildings sqeezed in there.The next is now an apartment block-
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drron

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Some of the pubs-
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and looking southwest over a big development site.but there is some interesting street art-
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On the other side Castle Hill overlooks the CBD.Some old queenslanders with a view-
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And although the facades might look good sometimes underneath the awnings things are different-
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love_the_life

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Cruising the Arctic was one of the highlights of our lives so far. Just loved it (except for a very large number of Captain's Choice tour passengers on board - astounding considering the cheapest cabin and cheapest airfare was over $28,000 per person). The ship was 70% Australian passengers - the only time we have had this sort of number on an international cruise. Unfortunately I could not get off in Longyearbyen as I had been struck down with Noro 36 hours before - Norway has a 48 hour exclusion. I was right for Jan Mayen though.
We have been looking at the Silver Discoverer out of NZ to the sub- Antarctic islands later this year but think we will end up on the E&OE train instead for something quick.
Can't wait to hear who are the expedition staff as last time I looked some were on our cruise as well. Was Sue Flood on the ship when you were in the Arctic?

Can't wait to read your TR.
 

drron

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Now why can't we build railway stations like this anymore?
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A pity that a better use could not be found for it.
 

drron

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I don't think Sue Flood was aboard when we were in the Arctic.Expedition leader was Robin West with his partner as back up.Fantastic bear guards-Chris the Canadian is a great fellow to talk to and I did love the tall lass from Longyearbyen AKA the chick with a gun.Met them both again cruising from Reykjavik to Churchill.
If you go to the sub Antarctic islands make sure it includes Macquarie Island-a Tasmanian gem.
 
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