February 16th
“Welcome to Freo” (you know how the Aussie’s love to shorten everything….)

What a weird night.  You know how you can be in the middle of a dead sleep; & all of a sudden an alarm goes off in your head.  Well, that’s exactly what happened a little before 1 am.  I smelled smoke; serious smoke.  My first thought as I looked around the room….did I leave a battery on the charger & it caught on fire?  No, nothing on fire in the room.  I opened the cabin door & looked down the hall…..didn’t smell a thing.  So, I opened the door to the verandah, heavy smoke.  I looked toward the bow & could see hazy smoke reflecting off the ship’s lighting.  Nobody was out & about taking notice so the initial moment of panic passed.

The thought crossed my mind that I might be dreaming; looked back out in the corridor (nothing & not a soul in sight).  I dialed the reception desk & the ‘night auditors’ answered.  They assured me that I was not going crazy; other people had been calling too.  All they knew was that smoke from ‘somewhere outside’ had gotten trapped in the ventilation system; & that the engineers would correct it in a few minutes.  I was relieved that the ship wasn’t on fire & that I wasn’t losing my mind. 

I knew we had been sailing very close to land; so I checked outside again to look for fire.  And I even turned on the TV to the camera mounted on the bridge, halfway expecting to see western Australian in a blazing ball.  Pitch black out there.  I took a wash cloth, soaked it in water, put it over my face hoping to go back to sleep.  It took a long time for the engineers to stop the smoke from coming through the air ducts; but I did finally go back to sleep about 3.

I woke up about 6:15 & stepped out on the verandah, I could still see some smoky haze in the air.  Realizing that I wouldn’t get back to the ship until way after lunch time, I had to go somewhere to get some breakfast.  Since I had plenty of time, I went to the main dining room.  I asked (tall) Peter about the smoke last night; and he said “what smoke”? 

I wish I had taken my (crappy) camera to the D.R. because I had a ‘beautiful’ breakfast.  I started with kadota figs & grape juice.  This was followed by 2 cheese blintzes with strawberry puree & sour cream with a side order of ‘extra crispy’ bacon.  The blintzes were dusted with cinnamon & powdered sugar; & they had garnished the plate with a ‘tower’ of fruit.  At the bottom was a circular slice of orange, topped with a slice of watermelon in the shape of a butterfly, topped with a little ‘pillow’ of honeydew melon, & on the very top was the cutest most perfect little strawberry.  It was ALMOST too pretty to eat.

When I left the D.R., I walked over to the reception desk to pick up a map of Fremantle; & I asked the reception desk about the smoke in the middle of the night.  They’re response was “what smoke”?  Could it be that the crew deck gets air from a different ventilation duct than the passengers?  Right now, there’s about 8-9 crewmembers that think I’m crazy!

I did get vindication later when Capt. Glenn came on the PA system to report that the ship had been cleared & addressed the problem with the smoke during the night.  Unbeknownst to the rest of us, there has been a wildfire running rampant in the bushlands of southwestern Australia for the last 7-8 days.  Last night with the winds in just the right (or wrong) direction, the smoke enveloped the Serenity, & therefore got sucked into the air intake.  Maybe it would have been wise to give us this info beforehand, so as not to panic some of us unnecessarily.  FYI, his thought for the day…..”You can’t reach for the top while sitting on your bottom.” 

These first four photos show you what a funky little town Freo is (& that's a good thing).

My morning tour was the twin cities & river cruise (PER-EW), which left at 8:45.  As we were leaving the ship, a woman told us that the TV crew was filming at the end of the gangway.  She said don’t wave or look at the camera; just ignore it & keep walking.  I saw the camera, on a tripod & nobody manning it.

Bus #1 was a little too full; I got off & changed to bus #2.  I’m glad I did because I was able to get a row of seats to myself; & we had the most wonderful guide & driver.  Gitte (pronounced GEE-tah), a 23 yr. transplant from Holland & our driver, Jeff, who is a native.  First thing I noticed….lots of FLIES; swarming around my arms & crawling up my legs.  Eewwwww.  But she says it’s just the nature of the bush land.  It was a gorgeous day & not as hot as had earlier been predicted (ended up in the upper 80’s).  The part of our tour that was on water, was really delightful with cool breezes.  I didn’t realize until much later than I got more than just ‘pink’ up around my neck.

The port of Fremantle is basically a commercial port.  The docks are overflowing with new autos, stacks of tires & imported heavy equipment used for mining.  Mining is VERY big here.  As soon as we left the port area, we headed north along the coastline & through the more affluent sections of North Fremantle & eventually Western Perth.

We made a short stop at Cottesloe Beach, THE place to live with price tags at $20M AUSD & up.  It is along this stretch of beach that Heath Ledger’s family & friends held his memorial.  Four hundred surfers on their boards, formed a circle & prayed in the beautiful blue waters of the Indian Ocean.  This is one of many in a long stretch of beaches on the western shores, protected by high dunes.  Lots of people running their dogs on the beach; & there’s a lifeguard school there.

From there we headed into western Perth & a suburb known as King’s Park, which is the largest inner city park in the world (1,000 acres).  Natural bush land butts up against the Botanic Gardens & some beautiful (expensive) homes.  We made a stop here (Mt. Eliza) to see the war memorial & admire the views of Matilda Bay.  Despite the haze, it’s a beautiful view of the Perth skyline.  There were student groups posing for photos in their caps & gowns (Pat, Snobirdcruiser) struck up a conversation & got in the photo.  There was even a professional photo shoot taking place up there.

From there we headed into the Perth business center, a mish mash of tall modern skyscrapers & quaint, restored Victorian buildings.  In one building in the financial district, they kept the original Romanesque facade at street level; but built a modern skyscraper behind it.

We zigzagged along Hay St., St. George’s Terrace & Riverside Dr. & admired the vast contrast in the city’s architecture.  About 12:30 we arrived at the Barrack St. Jetty to board a boat that would sail us southwesterly, down the Swan River, back to Fremantle.
Swan Tower at the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth

The boat was not for our exclusive use; & it was very crowded.  In fact, quite a few of us had to stand during the 1 hr. cruise.  It wasn’t too bad; there was a nice breeze; but I did get a little too much sun around the collar of my blouse.  I remembered to bring bug spray; but not sunscreen.   We were offered tea/coffee & pastries; but I didn’t see any of our group partaking of any.

We passed numerous yacht basins & lovely homes.  A pod of dolphins followed us for a while.  A couple of them tried to put on a show for us by leaping out of the water.  But the ‘crappy’ camera wasn’t quick enough to catch them.

The boat ride portion of the tour ended just a few yards down from the Serenity.  In fact there were a few passengers who asked to be dropped off at the ship, even though there was about another half hour left in the tour.

The few that remained were driven up to Monument Hill & a drive by of the old prison.  So, those who chose to leave the tour early didn’t miss much.  But a few people wanted to be dropped off in town; & of course, I was on a mission to the Camera House.  The driver let me off on the corner about a block away about 1pm.

I was waited on by a very nice young man named Duncan Wright.  Luke (the person I spoke to on the phone a few days ago) was busy upstairs.  I explained my story to Duncan, showed him my ‘sick’ Sony; & then told him the 3 cameras that I wanted to look at.  I also told him how I was so comfortable with my CyberShot; & wasn’t looking forward to learning a new camera.  As luck would have it, just yesterday they got in a new Sony Cybershot DSC-HX100V.  The controls look a good bit like my old one; but with a longer zoom, more megapixels & enhanced features.  There is a little more weight to it than I’m used to; but it was a fairly easy decision to make when comparing the 4 side by side & ‘fondling’ them (as I like to call it).  Duncan & I went out on the street to test drive it; & I left there just as giddy as a kid at Christmas.

I ran into Liz on the street just outside the Camera House.  She looked so pretty in street clothes & happy to be out like a normal person.  Duncan had pointed me in the general direction of King’s Square, the pickup point for the free Crystal shuttle back to the ship.  I just didn’t know WHERE in King’s Square to look for it.  I didn’t have to be in a hurry since we’re docked here overnight; the only driving factor to get back to the ship was hunger.  It was 3 o’clock & breakfast had long since disappeared

Lots of people in the square; street vendors, a very chatty Red Cross volunteer guy, couples eating ice cream, women pushing strollers.  There was a street performer who was belting out a very apropos “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.  I sat down on a park bench under a big shade tree just taking it all in.  An elderly man came; & sat down at the other end.  Pretty soon we were talking American politics & his immigration to Australia from Italy.  He wanted to know what it was like on a ‘big ship’; & where all we were going.  Very sweet little guy.  Off in the distance I spotted a bus that might have had a Crystal logo on the windshield; it was stopped a half a block away.  When I realized it WAS the shuttle, I jumped up & made a dash toward the corner hoping that they would see me when he made the turn.  He did; & I was relieved to be going home with my new toy.

Back on the ship, the logical place to get something at 3:30 was the Trident Grill.  So, Andres fixed me another grilled cheese sandwich & some fries.  Ed brought me my Dr. Pepper; & I proceeded to read the camera manual.  All the Lido guys were gathering around to check out the new camera.  I couldn’t wait to charge the battery & take some shots before it got dark.

I got on the computer for a little while; & then around sunset headed out on the aft deck to take photos.  Duncan was wrong about the sunset.  The haze had lifted; & it was basically a big ball of orange going down behind some cranes.  But I went over to the port side to get some shots of the landscape; trying different settings to see what it would do.  Thankfully, there won’t be much of a learning curve.  So, I’m confident to be going out on tour with it tomorrow afternoon.

I transferred the photos to the computer; started today’s blog before I ordered dinner.  I’m pretty beat; & hope to get more sleep than I did last night.  Liz brought dinner about 8:15.  I hadn’t had any of the soups yet, so the cappuccino of sweet corn soup with crisp leeks sounded really good.  And it was.  Crystal excels with all cream soups.

I had an appetizer portion of the pasta puttanesca.  It had a little more anchovy than I’d have preferred.  But it was nice & spicy.

My entrée was a light one…..pan seared sea scallops that were topped with an orange tomato confit (relish).  The hint of citrus was perfect with the mild fish.  It was served on a bed of asparagus risotto.  Excellent meal.

So, now at 11 pm, I’m going to settle into bed with my book.  See if I can get through a whole chapter before falling asleep.


John Paul &Sandra Ferguson said...

The photo of you in the camera store is just priceless !

Anonymous said...

Yeah...what an emotional roller coast with the camera situation. I am so happy you got a new one!
I am really enjoying your story. I'm trying to catch up...reading the whole darn thing in one night. I may have to stop and finish tomorrow. But it's soooo good. :)
01 Cobra/ CC