Day 5 – Lifou

Beach! Snorkel! Fish! Fossils! Grottoes! No more needs to be said.

Day 4 – Noumea

Ah Noumea. We sailed through the Dunbar passage at the splendid hour of 5.30am. Sunrise coloured the waves in a photogenic manner. Forty minutes later I arrived on deck. It was still reasonably photogenic.

After a stroll around town and lunch at a patisserie, we embarked on a tour with wine and cheese. Our tickets stated that it was not a wine tasting tour. After a brief drive through town we arrived at a restaurant and were provided with three cheeses and three glasses of different wine to consume (but not taste). The consumption of cheese and wine was undertaken with grace and fortitude and delight. One could say it was a tasty experience.

Okay, this isn’t working for me. You see, we embarked on a tour but I feel quite conflicted about recording it. Our tour guide had not moved beyond his 1960s education and provided an unremittingly negative view of the Indigenous population. On one hand, I don’t expect everyone to have the same world view (some people find all of Today Tonight’s advice applicable to their life’s experiences). Our guide demonstrated one world view that is held by an expat Australian in Noumea. That’s an education in itself. Even with anonymity, I don’t know that it’s right to publicly humiliate the guy by quoting verbatim what he said then picking at it for posterity. On the other hand I’m still angry, embarrassed and disappointed that the view presented by our guide is what a bus load of people took home with them. With my third, equally attractive and functional hand, I lodged a complaint and expect that P&O’s internal processes will address the issue in a reasonable manner – the crew on the ship is made up of a dozen different nationalities. I hope changes are made with limited suffering.

Some background reading on New Caledonia

But what about now, you say?

  • Here’s a polemic paper discussing emancipation and colonialism in New Caledonia
  • And if you still have time, why not read about the census in New Caledonia and the politics and implications for national identity that ensue.

Day 3 – Somewhere else in the South Pacific

By day three my world view was in disarray. Cruising was enjoyable. Horizons, cocktails, free time to read books, write, sketch, decent dinners and snacks to balance out the plantation buffet. The staff on the ship were exceptionally good at their jobs while also being patient and good humoured. The passengers all seemed happy, even with hangovers and motion sickness. Sure, group activities continued unabated with cued interaction and the same requisite banter could be heard in adjacent rooms simultaneously. But more importantly, some seriously messed up shit happened in the book I was reading.

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Who doesn’t love a towel elephant?

Day 2 – Somewhere in the South Pacific

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs that didn’t taste like scrambled eggs, bacon that didn’t taste like bacon, starchy fried things that masqueraded as hashbrowns I decided to have a second breakfast of rockmelon, watermelon and honey dew melon. These fortunately tasted as nature intended and provided sufficient sustenance for an hour massage. The massage was such that I forgave the quality of my breakfast and accepted all future buffet lunches and breakfasts on the cruise with grace and fortitude.

I also participated in group activities with grace and fortitude (provided that your understanding of grace and fortitude includes some scowling at the hosts’ inducements to cheer, yell and otherwise express enjoyment on cue). I made a gecko from wrapping ribbon and cheap flourescent beads, sat in on music trivia and played word games. At times my friends and I retreated to our respective books. Cats were harvested, boys were caught up in Oedipal curses and the space between conscious and group sub-concious merged as our ship ploughed its way through the ocean.

Sunset provided entertainment, though this too was cued by perogatives other than my own. Fortunately I had received no advice from Today Tonight regarding how I should relate to the movement of Earth through the solar system so felt free to enjoy without impediment. It would, I reasoned, be an enormous conceit to reprove the will of celestial bodies.

Cruising Day 1

On the 26th September I boarded a P&O cruise ship. The itinerary included New Caledonia, Port Vila, Lifou, Mystery Island and the Isle of Pines. My friends had thoroughly enjoyed their previous cruise. I was a little more sceptical.  Today Tonight had provided a glowing advertisement of the Pacific Jewel to its audiences. I generally find that taking the opposite view of current affair programs is a sensible approach to life. For example, I think taxi drivers on a whole do a good job. I try not to misrepresent people I’ve never met (like immigrants and people on welfare). I am not interested in diets or shopping and I think Media Watch, libel laws and accountability are fine ideas. What could a business who targeted Today Tonight viewers possibly offer me? Two thousand people drinking, partying and participating in group activities in a confined space? If only pyramids could float.

It could be an upside-down floating pyramid if you squint really hard

I joined my friends at Hickson Road wharf in Sydney, dreaming of a stress free holiday with cocktails and tropical islands.We were effeciently herded through large temporary shelters that evoked a certain post apocalyptic atmosphere, through check in, identity photographs, customs and onto the cruise ship.

First we stopped at the Plantation restaurant for a belated buffet lunch. There was a lot of food that reflected its mass production and cheap, frozen ingredients. Knowing that this was my future breakfast and lunch for the next nine days made me sad.

We made our way to the Sailaway Party on the top deck. Waiters handed out cocktails and beer. The MC required that the people on deck respond to her question “Are you ready to party?!” positively, loudly and in unision. On stage, entertainers dressed in Australian flag shorts land skirts sung a medley of Australiana songs. Vanessa Amarossi, Men at Work, Christine Anu, Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, Waltzing Matilda. There was a mistimed countdown to pass under the Harbour Bridge. One of the circus performers waved an Australian flag. As we sailed past the Opera House, people happily waved to one another – ship to shore. Behind us, some individuals tried to raise an ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi” but lost enthusiasm after two rounds. The Governor Bligh harbour master guided us out of the harbour and the sun began to set. The jingoistic performance petered out and people begun to drift back inside the ship.

Exploration of the ship ensued. Today Tonight had not lied. I was on some kind of bogan-boat – a floating amalgam of a live-in RSL and Westfield. I booked myself into an overpriced massage to get over the shock.

More from Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island and the Bienalle Festival

On the last day of the Bienalle arts festival in Sydney, I caught the free ferry over to Cockatoo Island. The island has changed a lot since my last visit in  2008. There have been some interesting choices made regarding the historical values of the island and their integrity in order to make the island a functional venue. Quibbling aside, it was a beautiful sunny day and many people were out enjoying their weekend.