Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Across the Pacific

When I was a boy our family would go to Bowen Island for our summer vacation. We kids would be looking forward to time at the beach across the bay while Dad would be looking forward to the hours spent in a boat fishing for salmon, sea trout and cod. Although I did not enjoy this activity, it went without saying that both Alda (my oldest sister) and I would have to spend one day each in that boat.

I remember one afternoon sitting in the boat bored (not even one nibble at the bait) and looking across Georgia Strait towards Vancouver. While I was watching a P & O/Orient Line steamship hove into view. Oh how I wanted to be on that boat and sail away across the Pacific.

Approximately ten years later on September 16, 1960 I did just that - I was aboard the steamship "Iberia" on my way to Australia. Being able to afford only the lowest fare, I had a top bunk in a six berth cabin on the lowest passenger level - "F" Deck. Once out at sea with the ship rolling somewhat in the swell the porthole in our cabin resembled the door window in a washing machine! Fortunately, I have good 'sea legs' and never get seasick.

This photo was taken when we were greeted at the dining room door by the Captain. The man shaking the Captain's hand would become my roommate in the boarding house in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. I am immediately behind him.

Five days later the ship was obviously slowing down when I woke up so I went to the porthole, looked out - and saw Diamond Head! We were docking in Honolulu.

Thanks to Michael W. of Vancouver I am posting two of his photos. This is Diamond Head but from a different angle than I am used to seeing this view.

                                                           Waikiki Beach

Like on any cruise we were given a choice of 'shore tours' to choose from. I opted for the Oahu Island tour. This included Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and a circle of the island. While crossing back across the island we stopped at a pineapple farm and I had my first taste of that fruit freshly picked and sliced. Oh was it ever good!

Our next port-of-call - five days later - was Suva, Fiji Islands. Again we were offered a choice of tours and I opted for a day in a village quite a few miles away from Suva. There we were entertained by musicians and dancers and treated to a feast. The meat was cooked while buried in the middle of hot coals. It was very tasty. My most vivid memory from that outing was the Fijian elder who was sitting cross-legged with a bowl of liquid in front of him. Those of us who agreed to do so were invited to sit cross-legged in front of him and ceremoniously accept a bowl of that liquid - fermented kava. Rather musky tasting but I felt honored to have been there.

Leaving Fiji it was ten days at sea before we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. In the meantime we were told that we would pass close to Midway Island (we never saw any island but then the ship was shrouded by misty rain) and crossed the equator.

In the ship's dining room. My roommate to-be is to the left and I am seated to the right. Who the other two were I can no longer remember.

We sailed into Auckland on a Saturday morning which was bad news. Then, on Saturdays, all of the shops closed at noon. By that time one of my cabin mates and I had become fairly chummy so we went ashore together. We should have taken one of the shore tours!

Life on board ship was not without its moments. One day while we were at sea one of the other cabin mates told the rest of us that he would be hosting a party that evening so we would have to remain out of the cabin. When the hour approached midnight we wanted to go to bed so we found our cabin steward (a gentleman from Goa, India named Mr. Menzies) and told him. He was furious so he stormed into the cabin, ordered all of the guests out and gave the 'host' quite a tongue lashing. I remember going to bed that night with the bunks all ruffled and the pillows smelling highly of perfume. Yuck!

On Tuesday morning. October 4, 1960 we sailed through the Sydney Heads, all the way through that magnificent harbor to the west end to the P & O/Orient pier. Our voyage was over - but ahead of me lay a little more than five years of adventures.

N.b. I took hundreds of slides during those years. However, when I left Victoria, B.C. to drive to Toronto I had no room in the car for the large carton containing the slides. A friend, George Ledig, offered to store them in the spacious basement of his house (which was off of Admiral Road and faced onto The Gorge Waterway). Upon settling in Toronto I wrote to ask for the box of slides to be sent but was informed that George had gone to San Diego where he died suddenly. If anybody who reads this has any idea where my slides might be, please let me know so that I may reclaim them.

1 comment:

  1. In 1960, (maybe '59) my Uncle Don was stationed at Scofield barracks. He was a Colonel in the Army then. My grandparents loved to travel and took me with them to see him in Oahu. It was my first trip to Hawaii. We traveled on the SS Lurline, a pretty fancy ship at the time.
    Later, in the '70s I was teaching bridge, professionally. I took several cruises on the Mariposa to Sydney. It was pretty cushy since they paid me, plus I was a passenger AND they wanted me to give parties in my stateroom so I could order anything, including caviar and champagne. It was really first class and fine. Over 5 years I took 5 cruises with them, stopped in Oahu, Papeete, Suva as you did, Raratonga, Bay of Isles, Auckland and Sydney. It was a wonderful time.
    Enjoyed your account.