Category Archives: Australia and Pacific

Australia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa

A Photo with Memories

I mis-read a photo challenge a few days ago and after much thought and recollections, I dug out some memorable photos only to realize they were not what was required. Regardless, I’ll put the first one up as when I looked at it again it carried me back a few years to a brilliant holiday in Sydney with a young friend who died of Covid last year. We had a simply perfect holiday with him, his wife and two children and I miss him still. He’s not in the picture by the way. This is just one I took on a day that sticks in my memory. So, thank you John, RIP.

Lifeguards on Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW

A Cricket Match in Samoa

My recent post in Silent Sunday of an image of a Samoan house brought me not a few ‘phone calls from friends who read my blog but sadly, don’t comment. They all reminded me of an article I wrote some 30 years ago and which has been re-published many times by magazines in different countries and even won a prize back in the day for best published journalism from the Society of Women Writers and Journalists.

I have no photos of the event, it was in the days of transparencies and the last magazine to use them lost them, but I was well compensated for the loss as was the custom in the days before digital – would you believe £90 per trannie?

It’s strange reading it now and thinking of how travel writing has changed but I thought I’d put it up as a blog – so here it is.

Image by Simon Steinberger, Pixabay

Apu, our driver, was a big man, two metres tall and weighing about 100 kilogrammes.  He stood before us, barefoot in an ankle-length blue and white lava-lava, a crisp white shirt, and a jaunty red hibiscus in his hair.  Like most young men in Western Samoa, Polynesia’s most traditional and gentle island, his arms and legs were covered in tattoos, lending him an appearance that inspired awe in those who met him. 

We had been invited to Apu’s village for the monthly cricket match, known as kirikiti, and our international group of three – one English, one Irish and one Australian – were the travelling supporters come to cheer on his team.

Once past the wharf and modest row of wooden offices and shops that line the harbour road of Samoa’s capital, Apia, we swung inland through small plantations of coconuts, yams and the pagoda-like kapok.  Within an hour we had arrived at a clearing in a coconut plantation where the cricket match would take place.  

Samoan Coconut Plantation by Simon Steinberger, Pixabay

Kirikiti is the Samoan version of a game only marginally recognisable as cricket.  Rules are widely flexible and, since most of the young men and many of the girls like to be involved in the game, the number of participants is unlimited.  The only proviso is that each team fields an equal number of players.  Matches can last several days, with the losing team able to buy itself back into the match by donating a generous sum towards the host village’s catering bill.

There is never a dull mlment in Kirikiti.  The odd shape of the three-sided bat and the wickets that resemble thin bamboo poles allow the totally unexpected to happen.  Bets are made as to where the ball will land, with spectators and players kept in a constant state of suspense.

The players on the field were a wondrous sight.  The 23-a-side teams had hitched their lava-lavas up to their knees and were rushing around the pitch waving to their friends and blowing tin whistles.  They were followed by a group of only slightly less boisterous girls.

Apu’s team was sent in to bat first.  The opening batsman strode to the wicket with a fierce look on his face, clutching his three-sided bat like a club.  Even the yellow double hibiscus he wore in his hair which echoed the yellow flowers on his lava-lava barely managed to dim his ferocious appearance. 

Samoan Image by Holger Detje, Pixabay 

The warrior like Samoans scorn protective gear on the face and legs and I flinched as the ball hurtled towards the batsman accompanied by what sounded like a war-cry.  As it cut through the air towards his hip, he drew his bat back and whacked it clean out of the clearing to murmurs of appreciation from the rest of the team most of whom were lying around the pitch like exotic birds at rest.  If Samoan cricket can be said to have a fault, it is that anything less than a hefty swing of the bat is regarded as a serious weakness in the player.  Usually the ball –  light, and made from strips of raw rubber bled from local trees – flies way over the boundary, resulting in a long search through the undergrowth or in the sea, depending on the location of the pitch.

In this case, the ball flew into the nearby plantation, prompting two fielders to saunter off in search of it.  During the ten minutes they were gone, the remaining players and spectators sat and gossiped and smoked banana-leaf cigars.  The umpire picked up his guitar – conveniently left by the side of the field before the start of play – and began strumming.  Others joined in singing.  No one seemed to mind the game stalling, and it would have been churlish of us to complain.

Thwack!  The second ball went the same way, soaring overhead to more appreciative whistles from the spectators who followed its flight with shaded eyes.  We listened for the sound of it thuddng against the earth, but heard nothing.  This one would take longer to find.

Some village boys and girls and two opposing team members vanished into the undergrowth.  Two minutes passed, then five, ten: fifteen minutes elapsed before they emerged holding the ball aloft, three of them now wearing leis of blue and purple morning glories around their necks.

Those not fielding or batting sang and danced on the sidelines.  It was difficult to know what attracted the spectators more, the cabaret or the cricket.  Whistles were used throughout the game to emphasise good hits and the teams occasionally broke into exhuberant bursts of dancing.

Play continued for the rest of the afternoon, interspersed with singing and guitar playing when the ball was out.  Apu’s team was losing the game as evening approached, prompting a heated debate as to whether it should continue.   In the end, finances dictated that they concede the match, just as the tropical night descended.

Samoan Cricket on the Beach – Photo by MAM Ashfaq on

What sealed that day in my memory was not the match, however, but what happened after it was finished.  Samoans love music and their rich, melodic voices entertained us with a song about the events of the day, in which we, their visitors, figured, ending on a plaintive note of farewell.

Then they sat back and looked at us expectantly.  It dawned on us that local etiquette demanded we return the compliment.  We protested our lack of music, our harsh voices, and our inability to sing like the Samoans, but all in vain.  Gently, but firmly, it was explained to us that the day could not conclude without our offering a song.  There was no hurry.  The night was still young and we could remain there as long as we wished.

We huddled together, desperately trying to think of a song the words of which we all knew.  Waltzing Matilda was discarded early; Danny Boy nearly won but none of us could get beyond ‘the summer’s gone’.  Finally, our voices quavered on the air as we nervously began to sing the only song we all remembered from childhood.

No one laughed.  Encouraged by the looks on the faces surrounding us and by their evident enjoyment at our attempts at a cappella, we embarked on a second and third verse in louder voices.

Samoans have an uncanny ability to pick up a melody garnered from years of harmonising in church, and as we came to the final chorus, their rich, deep voices blended effortlessly with our reedy falsettos and the entire village echoed to the massed voices of the Kirikiti teams and their supporters, as we all sang out con brio –

               Bring back, bring back, Oh bring back my bonny to me, to me.

               Bring back, bring back, o bring back my bonny to me.

It was the first, and last, time I’d cried at a cricket match.

The Cassowarry!

Featured image credit: andyasskwoo from Pixabay

It’s one of those OMG moments when something I’d been told about but could scarcely believe, actually happened.

I wrote about the Australian Cassowarry in a post a few months ago and now today I read that the bird has actually killed someone.

Image by Anja Schröder from Pixabay

The cassowary, a large, flightless bird native to Australia and PNG, kept as a breeding bird, had attacked and killed its Florida owner on his own property in Gaineville, Alachua County, when he fell last Friday. It is thought the bird killed his victim using its long 10cm. dagger-like claws.

Cassowaries can be 1.8 metres (6 ft.) tall and the website of the San Diego Zoo describes them as the worlds most dangerous birds and says that it can slice open any predator with a single swift kick.

So, our Australian guide wasn’t just winding me up when he told me about them. Sorry, I misjudged you, Ray!

Dreamtime on the Daintree

I found the site by following a link on a recent post by restlessjo and this has prompted me to enter Cathy’s prose challenge.  Intention?  Just to try to convey some of the fun of that particular day.

My Australian images are not in the computer, nor can I find them on my external hard drive so I shall have to search for my photos of the group clad in royal blue ponchos eating damper in the rain – and all smiling.  I will find them eventually and upload them. Meantime, these images are all from Flickr.


Ray had a string of Pom jokes with which he tried to wind us up.  “I reckon Captain Cook was the first whingeing Pom to reach Australia,” he said. “Think of the names he gave to places around here, Mount Sorrow, Mount Misery, Cape Tribulation, Weary Hill”.  As I stood there in my rain-soaked oilskins and bush whacker’s hat I muttered that maybe Cook had a point.

This wasn’t what we’d planned for our week at the Great Barrier Reef when we’d flown up from Sydney to Cairns ready to dive into the warm, underwater world of the coral paradise, but ‘unseasonal weather’ had turned the normally turquoise waters of Cairns into a steely grey.  This did, however, provide the perfect time to visit the Daintree National Park – the Aborigine’s Dreamtime that Never Wakes – travelling up from Cairns along Cook’s Highway on roads lined with pink trumpet trees and Cookstown orchids.


Which was why we were standing on the sands at Cape Tribulation where, on June 12th, 1770, Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of Australia ran into trouble.  The Captain wasn’t to know that the dense wall of green jungle he spied from the deck of the Endeavour would one day be recognised as the oldest rainforest in the world, nor that where we stood would be the only area in the universe where the world’s two most complete eco-systems – the Great Barrier Reef and tropical rainforest – would meet.


Like any red-blooded Australian, Ray, our guide/driver/lecturer/cook,  took great delight in telling us about the deadly flora and fauna that inhabit the forest, like the taipans whose bite is 200 times deadlier than that of a cobra, the terrifying saltwater crocodiles  that can break a cow’s neck, and the vines that inject poison into your skin if they touch you and for which the only remedy is to burn off the top layer of flesh!  Then there is the protected cassowary, a huge flightless bird that will attack and tear you apart if you appear in the least bit threatening, poisonous spiders, leeches, mozzies and sundry other bizarre insects.  Oh, and if you meet a wombat don’t pat it, he warned.  Wombats, despite their cuddly appearance, can be very aggressive.


I thought we might have to hack our way through snarling creepers and dense, thick undergrowth, but thankfully, the Daintree is very civilised, and we walked on wooden pathways surrounded by trees, lush palms and huge ferns, all labelled and sign-posted.  The magical, cool, dark rainforest, home to many rare and threatened animal species, is laced with waterfalls and fast-flowing streams dotted with boulders that shine like polished agate and contains plant species over millions of years old.

We sauntered through this cathedral-like space, humidity being too high for anything faster,  keeping our eyes peeled for tree-climbing kangaroos, green tree frogs, rainbow lorikeets and Boyd’s forest dragons.   When the forest canopy parted occasionally we glimpsed elegant white cockatoos flying high above, darting in and out between the trees.  Accompanying us all the time was the demented cackle of the Kookaburra.


Ray rewarded us for not complaining about the humidity by brewing up a billy-can of tea and handing out ‘damper’, a doughy mix of flour and water which fed generations of bush travellers but is inclined to lie heavy in the stomachs of pampered ‘poms’ such as we.   Then it was on to the little town of Daintree through Mossman, where the boulder-strewn icy waters of the gorge tempted one or two to risk a paddle.

Somewhere before Daintree, Ray produced a lunch of fried fish and salad, washed down with a light Australian wine, only slightly diluted by the steady drizzle that had been falling for some time.  It was surprisingly good, and the ordeal by damper that pride had made us eat (in the surety that Ray was testing us in some way) was quickly forgotten.

Once a thriving timber town, Daintree is now the centre of the eco-tourist trade. An Aboriginal walking trail departs from here, focusing on the flora and fauna of the gorge, but to fit it in requires an extra day in the forest.   Ray convinced us we’d made a mistake by only opting for the one-day trip, but we all promised to come back again and do the walk.


We boarded the cable-driven ferry for a trip down the crocodile infested Daintree River in the charge of Bill Brewster, the acknowledged authority on the Daintree and a  man who knows the favourite spot of every crocodile in the chocolatey brown river.  We were warned not to dabble our hands in the current as the crocodiles lurked just under the water when they weren’t resting on the creeper-swathed river banks and we weren’t actually over-the-moon when Bill steered our flat-bottomed vessel towards a patch of jungley green and pointed out what looked like a log.  Then it moved, a split second before we hurled ourselves to the far side of the boat.


Our 4WD was awaiting us at the end of the river trip to take us back to Cape Tribulation through a wilderness region of undeveloped coastal scenery and rainforest, making frequent stops along the way to examine some particular species of tree and to check out more dinosaur-like lizards.  Fortunately, Ray was well supplied with a bad-weather collection of umbrellas, rain-hats and waterproof ponchos to counteract the steady drizzle that preserves the eco-system of this ancient rainforest.

And then we were back on the sands.  Less than ten metres from the edge of the dense greenery and we were walking on the reef again.


Captain Cook didn’t have our luck.  He didn’t know that just beyond the dense jungle, shrouded in mist and rain, lay a stunning, beautiful world, nor did he have the benefits of a guide with a quirky sense of humour and a vanload of blue plastic ponchos.

The pinkish tinge in the sky promised better weather tomorrow for swimming with the multi-coloured fish.  But none of that mattered now.  In The Dreamtime that Never Wakes we had all found something special.   A pity Captain Cook didn’t find it too, he might have renamed those mountain tops.

Australia: Destinations Perth and Cairns

Perth offers a gentle welcome to the visitor heading for Australia for the first time.  Its superb location by the Swan River, white sandy beaches on the nearby Indian Ocean, cultural attractions and a cuisine to rival that of Sydney, makes every visit a pleasure.

Apart from beach activities, including great surfing, the city itself  offers many attractions: like King’s Park with it’s superb views over the city, the 42 acres Botanic Garden, and the Aquarium of Western Australia where you walk through a 321-foot tunnel lined with glass, behind which thousands of colourful fish, sharks, and stingrays lurk.  If you want to get up close and personal with the sharks, “no probs.” as they say in Perth, you just trot off to the Discovery Pool where, if you are a qualified diver, you can have a face-to-face shark experience.

The “fun” part of the city is in the district of Northbridge where you will find a range of nightclubs, pubs, cafes and eateries, offering an eclectic mix of cultures and cuisines, but better still is “Freo” (Fremantle), located 20 minutes south of the city but almost an integral part of Perth itself.   European in appearance, Freo is a café-lined port with spectacular beaches and a more sophisticated lifestyle, but still distinctly Australian with verandaed beer-houses and pub barbecues a regular sight.

From Freo, take the 80-minute ferry ride over to RottenestIsland, accompanied (sometimes) by migrating whales, dolphins and sea-lions.   Once an Aboriginal penal colony, Rottenest is now a weekending town thronged with people who gather for karaoke bar singalongs as well as a closer acquaintance with the beer culture.

It would be a shame to spend all your time in the flesh-pots of Freo though, as Perth is an ideal stepping-off point for one and two-day-trips.   My own favourite is the wine producing MargaretRiver region on the Indian Ocean.  Although 155 miles away it is well worth a trip, if only to sample on site the lush, jammy Shirazes for which the area is famous and to revel in the ancient karri forests, beautiful countryside and heavenly beaches famed for their surf.

Second favourite is the journey north from Perth to see the Pinnacles, thousands of eerie limestone pillars up to four metres tall that dot the stark desert of the NamburgNational Park, and Monkey Mia where dolphins come into the shallow waters to feed.  I combined both trips over 3 days which gave me time for sightseeing, swimming and hanging out.

Perth embraces families, adult singles and couples alike and the range of entertainment for children and adults is a fair indication of why so many people come here for a vacation and then find it hard to go back home.


In sharp contrast to Perth is Cairns, right bang at the point where two world heritage sites meet – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest – and the closest thing to tropical paradise I’ve found.

Few places can match Cairns’ concentration of activities, indigenous culture and pure natural splendour.  The Esplanade, up and down which the pelicans parade in undisputed ownership, has budget hostels, bars, eateries, boutiques and a great night time atmosphere.  The Pier waterfront complex has five-star hotels, some really super Australian designer shops and an eclectic range of restaurants.

The glitz has been totally absorbed by the town, but no matter how luxurious the suite, how chilled the champagne and how blue the pool, there is always a sense that a salt-water crocodile lurks not far away: Cairns has a primeval feel underneath the luxury, that’s what makes it different.

It’s essentially a stopping-off post for other trips, whether it be a trip to the Great Barrier Reef or any one of many rainforest trips.  The GBR needs no introduction to most people as its coral reefs are one of the most photographed sites in the world.  Snorkelling through the forests of staghorn coral, surrounded by round fish, flat fish, fluted fish, giant sea turtles, crimson squirrelfish, and sea cucumbers is exciting, but sensory overload really sets in when you spot the giant clams, their purple and green mottled lips open to their full 1 metre size.

There is an inner reef suitable for novices and beginners, an outer reef bordering the open sea with canyons and deep water, and the island reefs which are combination of both.  If you are staying on one of the blissful Islands, then your hotel will have a boat to transport you to the reefs, but if you choose a mainland hotel, then there are plenty of snazzy boats with scheduled trips out to the reefs from the waterfront.

For my money though, the rainforest is the most awe-inspiring place outside Cairns.  Having taken the Scenic Railway trip which chugs through 15 tunnels as it climbs 300 metres towards the AthertonHighlands and the village of Kuranda, and a boat ride on the crocodile infested DaintreeRiver, I was keen to spend a few days in a Rainforest Lodge.  Although I wore a rain poncho most of the time, the life of the forest was so absorbing that the constant misty rain was forgotten.  Central to this was the trip on Skyrail (a world first in ecotourism).  Sailing high above the rainforest canopy your gondola passes over eucalypt woodland, waterfalls, and trees in which white cockatoos nest, with panoramic views to Cairns, Trinity Beach and Green and Fitzroy islands.  You can alight at different stations en route to experience the forest floor from the comfort of boardwalks surrounded by trees, lush palms, ferns, animals and birdlife.

Whatever your style, Cairns can offer you an experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world.