Travellin’ man

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1977 Arcadia menu, with names and addresses
of the lovely girls I shared my table with.
Pity they were in Sydney and Brisbane.

Things change overnight.  Yesterday’s West carried an ad for a ship cruise from Fremantle to Singapore departing Thursday 6 March.  That’s next Thursday!  It’s for 6 nights/7days on the ship, plus two nights in Singapore and the flight back to Perth.  This suits me perfectly.  I have an appointment on 24 March so I’ll be back in time.

Therefore at 7am today I was on the dog and bone getting all the details and by 10am I’d booked and paid.  In fact I’ve ditched their choice of Singapore hotel as too expensive and added three nights in Singapore to the itinerary, so I return on Tuesday 18 March in the evening.  I’ll book a hotel myself of my choice.

The ship is the P&O Arcadia.  I actually travelled on this ship in 1976 on a Pacific cruise from Sydney.  Here I am boarding in Sydney at The Rocks terminal:

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Boarding Arcadia 16 May 1977.
Oh so young and slim. (Aged 30)

I’m sure the ship has been refurbished at least once since then. It better have been, because it was a bit crude even then – shared cabin, separate men’s bathrooms with complimentary cockroaches, steel framed double bunks.

This time these berths are late sales due to cancellations (I presume) and I got the last inner cabin – but I’ve got it all to myself and it has its own bathroom. And a fridge for my insulin.  And 220V power for my CPAP machine.  No porthole, I’m afraid, but the travel company has told me that if there’s a balcony (outside) cabin unsold when we depart, they might upgrade me. Nice.  The cost to upgrade when I booked was going to be + $793. No thanks, I can go on deck if I need a view.

Nearly forgot to mention – the itinerary includes a one day stop in Bali.  I wanted to talk to some friends there and was considering a trip, so it’s perfect timing.  And  I’ve got SE Asia maps on my TomTom now, including Bali.  Not sure I need to carry that extra item, though. I’ll know where I am:-)

Now I start the process I love – planning, even if only in my head at the moment, what I’m going to pack and what I’ll buy in Singapore.  As little as possible in the former case and not much in the latter.  I’m afraid Singapore bargains are long gone.  Web prices are the only way to go now.  The last time I was in Singapore was actually in 2004, but I doubt anything’s changed.

But what I do look forward to is second hand photo gear!  Singapore is a camera gearhead’s Mecca.  And by buying second hand, I don’t have to worry about Customs coming back.  They’ve told me they aren’t interested in used equipment for duty or GST purposes.

The other thing is the incredible range of stock.  I see all the exotic items that I can’t find here.  The web has mostly changed that but I still love browsing these actual shops.  I’ll be taking a camera bag that I can afford to ditch if I find something better, for example.

Oh yes, after I’d paid the full price for the trip by BPay this morning, I drove to Whitfords to go to Medicare to reclaim some bills.  I had a lot – I haven’t made any claims for about 12 months. So I was delighted to find that I got refunds totalling about $100 more than the cruise cost.  Very nice.

So all in all, I’m very chuffed.  Although I loved my dogs deeply, they were a ball and chain around my ankle. This is the first time in 10 years I’ve been able to do this – make a spur of the moment decision and just go – and I was only able to do it in 2004 because a neighbour fed them each day in my yard.

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That 1977 cruise took in Noumea, Vanuatu, Port Vila and Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides and Suva and Lautoka in Fiji. It was good, helped along by the food on board! Wow, I’d never eaten so well and I didn’t gain weight easily then. All the drink was duty free of course, a can of beer was 70c, a bottle of wine with dinner was about $2 and a liqueur on ice was about $1.50.  (Actually, a bottle of wine now is only $10-$15 with full excise – it hasn’t increased in price that much. Wine is still cheap.)

Memories?  The French feel of Noumea and the New Hebrides and the roughness of Fiji.  Dusty, not all that attractive, and now not a very good place to go either. I won’t go while it’s still a military dictatorship.

I filmed all this trip on Super 8 Kodachrome.  The four edited and spliced reels are in the wardrobe now.  I can’t project them any more (I can barely remember ever seeing them projected), but I could get them transferred in high quality to DVD by a Sydney company if I was willing to pay the $400 cost.  It was too high a few years ago, but I might reconsider now.  I’ll be disappointed, of course.

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