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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Discovering the Remote Islands of Indonesia - Page 5

Written by Roger Marks
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Dinner was a “Ring of Fire” barbeque buffet which was superb. The cold buffet included items such as fresh fish marinated with ginger and spices, marinated seared baby octopus and scallops, rice paper rolls with crab/coriander/vegetables and a dressing, garden greens and a selection of cheese. Fish soup was prepared with tamarind, local greens, butternut pumpkin and lime leaves. The hot buffet included stir fried vegetables, chicken with coconut and exotic spices, Thai barbecued beef short ribs, Australian banana prawns, whole roasted suckling pig with Balinese flavors and a dessert buffet which included an ice cream bar with toppings, and platters of fresh seasonal fruits. As it was my birthday, we invited some friends to join us at our table and my wife ordered a passion fruit cheesecake as my birthday cake. It was delicious and the six of us had no problem devouring the entire cake. The dining staff always congregated around any table celebrating a birthday to deliver a special dessert with candles and sang Happy Birthday.


The Orion had visited the Asmat in 2012 and 2010 and so our voyage was the third time within a five year period that the Asmats had outside tourists. We were informed by our local guide in Agats that no other cruise ships visit West Papua.


Two Days at Sea


The next two days were at sea. We were cruising through the Afafura Sea which is notorious as a breeding ground for tropical cyclones. Fortunately the cyclone season did not coincide with our visit. Seabirds were scarce, but on a few occasions passing groups of ducks and shorebirds hinted at the large scale migration that was underway as birds depart the northern hemisphere and head south to avoid the onset of winter.


We spent the day on deck reading and indulging in the afternoon tea, and taking a half-hour tour of the galley to see the kitchen and how it is organized to produce three meals a day. Almost all of the food for this cruise is refrigerated from the beginning of the trip so the boat did not need to pick up food supplies along the way. At lunch, there was a whale sighting. Before dinner, there was a cocktail hour on deck to raise awareness (and funds) for the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund in support of the Pristine Seas project, which is focused on marine conservation issues.


In the evening, we listened to one of the staff colorfully recall tales from his many years as a guide traveling with Lindblad. As the staff continued to ply him with drinks from the bar, he revealed increasingly more graphic, colorful stories behind the scenes of Lindblad. He was an excellent storyteller and we ended up buying his book, as well as Lawrence Blair’s book relating to his encounters with the Asmat, both sold onboard in the gift shop.


We sailed through the Torres Strait that lies between Australia and New Guinea. We spent another relaxing day reading, eating and attending presentations by guest lecturers and had occasional sightings of dolphins and several schools of small tuna.


Thursday Island, Cape York & the Great Barrier Reef


After breakfast, all passengers cleared Australia Immigration through officials that boarded our ship. We then took Zodiacs to Thursday Island which is 1.4 square miles. After landing on this sleepy island, we took a leisurely stroll around the sights. We visited the Cathedral with brilliant stain-glass artworks. We then ascended the road to Green Hill fort where we were rewarded with spectacular panoramas of the surrounding islands. The fort was built in the 1880s to defend against Czarist Russia. We visited the museum in the lower level of the fort. We then visited the local culture center which has many interesting exhibits, including artworks by the local Torres Strait Islanders.


In the afternoon, we went ashore to Cape York, the northernmost point of the Australian Continent. We did a natural history walk (around 1 mile on a rocky trail) and then we walked along the pristine beach before returning to the ship by Zodiac. For dinner, we were served an Aussie barbeque on the outdoor deck. The cold buffet included items such as smoked kangaroo, smoked emu and smoked crocodile, blue swimmer crab and roasted fish and seafood chowder. The hot buffet included lamb cutlets, tropical crayfish and grilled barramundi fillet, a carving station that included roasted leg of pork and apple sauce, and desserts such as lemingtons, mud cake and pineapple pie. This was one of many superb dinners aboard the National Geographic Orion ship.


(Page 5 of 7)
Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2016

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