15 December, 2007

Welcome back to civilisation, and it doesn’t get much more civilized than Singapore. We have been here for two weeks now and seen only one bit of graffiti, no tagging, pretty much no rubbish, which after Indonesia is a real treat. Still I suppose a few lashes with the cane will deter most spray-can wielding youths.

Yes it’s been a while since we updated, sorry Doug, nice to see your comments back, we missed you, how’s the Earnslaw?

From Bali we took a wee trip north, to Paris for the Rugby World Cup. Why you ask, good question. By the time we arrived I (Shane) was down with the bot, the weather was freezing and the rugby, well what can you say. The only up part was that the French were so embarrassed with the win and the ref, call the man a ref?, that they bought us drinks and were quite embarrassed by the whole thing. Needless to say we then got behind the Froggies, “Allez Les Bleus”. Alas, they then crashed and burnt. Maybe we should support Aussie???, (with the new coach….who knows) Despite all that it was great to catch up with two of my bros in a tiny apartment in Paris. We also managed to catch up with two of Heather’s old work mates, Geoff and Simon, and brother Kim in a very smoky pub for the final.

Plus, Heather caught up with a (won’t say old) friend; she had last seen here on a school exchange in Tahiti…..well some years ago (like over 30 years). They were great and took us for a tour of their area including a nice little estate we thought we might buy at a later date, much later.

Thanks again Eric and Dominique. After Indo the budget took a bit of a hammering in Paris, two beers, about $30. Ouch!! Oh, and it was sooooo much fun being there during the first of the metro strikes. Fortunately we could walk to the middle of town from where we were staying in the apartment, but what a mess the traffic was. Now, as most of you would know, I might be accused of tending a shade to the left, but really, those Metro (train) workers, working a 35 hour week and retiring around 50, get real guys.
While the world cup was on NZ must have scored one of the best advertising coups I’ve ever seen. Smack in front of a really big aerial where everyone was visiting (The Eiffel Tower), a huge football shaped pavilion advertising 100% Pure NZ. Very smart

Aunty Helen was there to open it. I was sick in bed so missed the opening complete with the mandatory Haka and blessing but Heath trouped along with Kim and his new, as in just proposed to in Paris, fiancee Diana. After a few days and some good medication I started to come right just in time for Heath to get crook for a few days. Still we did manage to see all the usual sights, The Louvre, Palace of Versailles, etc. Brother Campbell and wife Ande even got me back to the Picasso Museum to try and awaken my love of modern art. Alas, it still lies dormant. We found good lattes still hard to find …but… if ever in Paris, go to Maccas, Champs Ellysses and you can get very good coffee for about 2.5 euros and sit outside for free. Best deal in Paris.

Thence on to Santorini in Greece. We were there about a month after the main holiday season. A lot of stuff had shut down and the following week just about the whole place was due to close for the winter break. Had the odd cruise ship still coming in with the grey brigade, but very quiet. Beautiful town though built on cliff edges.

Now I still can’t get more than five photos on one blog so carry on reading below!
Stopped in at Athens for a couple of days on the way back, which was probably the best bit of the trip. Both healthy, costs back to a manageable level and a very interesting city with the Acropolis etc and good shopping and cafes. Went to the movies there and there were about six advertisements pre kick off. Very unusual for us to see adds for smoking but they were there with avengence. All the actors looking very youthful, healthy and loving life. Must have worked because just about everyone smoked in Athens. Same in Paris. Bars reeked of smoke. Athens is also home of the world champion of the silly walks competition, and they take it very seriously. Still it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and they have had a few scraps in their time.

And that was the end of Europe.

Getting back to the warm weather in Bali was nice and coming around the corner in the cab and seeing “Enzwell” still afloat was very comforting. Home again. We didn’t hang around too long as we still had a few hundred miles to go before our visas ran out so after a couple of stops, headed off to Kumai at the bottom of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. This is one of only a couple of places in the world where you can see the Orangutan wild…ish, in the jungle. We hired a river boat and crew to take us up the river for an overnight trip.

The first day we visited the conservation station which was set up some years ago to study the orangutan in the wild and has since become well established. Each day the ranger puts bananas and milk out to supplement the orangutans’ diet. Here we saw quite a few orangs come down and grab a feed, nearly all with young ones.

Pretty cool and the babies are always cute.

Staying on the boat in the river that night was really great. Beautiful food dished up by the cook, sitting out chatting and having a couple of beers with the crew of three serenaded by the cicadas and frogs. Now if anyone tells you about the serenity of the jungle, they have never slept there. What a racket. You could not believe the noise those tiny animals made!!!!! Fortunately they only keep it up until about two hours after sun down. Next day we visited a couple more feeding stations and a river village. At the last station the big alpha male came down. This guy was huge! And very full of himself. When he climbed through the trees quite a few branches broke off. And he knew he was kingpin.

Another male was in the trees but wouldn’t come near the feeding platform because he knew what would happen. He didn’t appear too happy about this and snorted and bellowed and ripped branches off the trees he was in. Now this was seeing them, as they should be. Very impressive. When the big fella had his full he moved away about 40 meters and then just “hung” around, literally. The other males stayed well clear but one female came down with her young one and munched away quite happily, goes to show who really holds the power eh. All in all a great experience and certainly one of the highlights of Indonesia.
From there it was time to seriously get bailing out of Indo. Had a rotten trip for the first couple of days, bashing into a sharp chop and fighting 2-3 knots of current meant we were only making about 2 knots over ground at times. It was about then while thinking back to the lovely calm river voyage we considered selling the boat flying to Europe buying a canal boat and making it all very easy. Not a bad idea actually and we may consider it. Still after a couple more stops we checked out of Indo and now sit blissfully in a flash marina in Singapore at Sentosa Island with the gym and pool nearby. Fortunately amnesia is a wonderful thing and the horrid trips are just an unpleasant memory.
Singapore is soooooo nice after Indo. Talk about extremes, just 15 or so miles between them but about 50 years apart. Singers is spotless, as I said at the start, no rubbish, no tagging, no graffiti etc. It really is a very rich country with building going on everywhere. Massive housing, shopping and the biggest casino complex going up here at Sentosa. The main occupation here seems to be shopping which we have managed to do quite nicely. We will leave in a couple of days and head about 50 miles to another flash resort, with golf course attached, at Sebana Cove, Malaysia. We will spend Christmas there; and with that all there is to do is wish all and sundry a very Merry Christmas wherever you are and hope to catch up in the new year (we’re planning a trip back home in February/March.

Shane and Heath.