Thursday 2 January 2020

Silver Muse cruise, Day Ten - End of days? End of cruise, anyway

With thanks to Silversea for this cruise
Yesterday was a glorious clear, sunny, blue-sky day, a perfect start to the new year/decade. Today? Apocalyptic. I opened the curtains to thick yellow smoke outside that quickly got even thicker, almost blotting out the already dim and orange sun. It, and its smell, soon infiltrated the ship, making the Arts Café look like a coffee bar back in the smoky seventies, the corridor outside full of haze. The captain had to make a special announcement that it was all from outside, there was nothing to be done, and nothing to be concerned about engine-wise. Certainly, there was no avoiding it, inside or out.
We are glad we decided not to hang around in Sydney when we arrive there tomorrow morning, and have arranged to fly straight home. The locals have had occasional breaks from these conditions, thanks to varying winds, but they've been living with this bush fire smoke for several months now. Even returning to New Zealand will not be the escape we'd like, though: the wind has carried the smoke across the Tasman to cover the whole of the South Island, and even up in Auckland people are able to look at the blood-red sun directly, and outdoor security lights are turning themselves on.
The pool deck was closed for most of the day, and back in the cabin suite our suitcases had, in a too-obvious hint, been put onto stands, so we wandered off to have a last buffet lunch at La Terrazza. Then we attended an interesting lecture (not by the boring Major-General OWM) about women convicts in Tasmania - none of them transported for being prostitutes, by the way, but many driven to it on the transport ships, and in Van Diemen's Land, for an income; and consequently blamed, by men, for the depravity, of men, that their presence caused. But at least one of them did so well that her face is on Australia's $20 note. Wonder how well the others might have done, given half a chance?
Our quiet afternoon was interrupted by the captain announcing that the change of course we might have noticed (er, no) had been caused by an emergency services request to go to the aid of those people on the beach in East Gippsland, at Mallacoota, and help with the evacuation; but then we were stood down because they weren't ready for us. Bit of a shame, really - that would have been interesting, and it would have been good to have helped. I (and everyone else on board) had already received an emergency text about information meetings in Mallacoota. Poor things - my eyes have been stinging a bit even out here at sea. Must be horrendous, right amongst it all.
After hours of being in a sort of vacuum, with nothing to see outside, not even the sea - it was as though the world had been erased - the smoke began to clear later in the afternoon, as we headed to the Dolce Vita lounge for our final Team Trivia game. There was a jolly atmosphere, lots of joking and friendliness, but not a lot of actual success as our team scored only 16/20 and the winners had a clean sweep. Questions included the capital of Armenia; where is the Sandy Desert; what is hypnophobia; what's the diameter, in inches, of a basketball hoop; what is Cd on the periodic table; and what body part was Alfred Hitchcock missing?

We cashed in our precious prize points - the most expensive item, for 160 points, was a Silversea umbrella, the least, at 10, a pen; I claimed a (second) fridge memo holder for our hard-won 30 - and finally gave in to the necessity of packing. Which at least took a lot less time than it had back home.
Dinner was back in Atlantide - meltingly tender filet mignon again, which I wasn't able to finish, and will remember with sadness and regret for some time to come - and the table was shared with a UK/Oz/NZ trio, with whom we had a lively conversation that included jury service, rain in England v the Waikato, Team Trivia cheating, returning home to doing our own chores, and polo. One of them had ash stains on his shirt, which were clearly going to be a souvenir.
And that was that, for the last day. Labelled suitcases outside the door at bedtime, the cabin suite looking impersonal again, and tomorrow just the tedium of travel to look forward to with an eventual arrival home at probably 9pm. It's been fun, weather and bush fires notwithstanding. Thanks, Silversea.


the queen said...

It seems from the news reports that Australia is ringed with fire. How can people even get to the coast to evacuate?
Armenia City! Canada! Fear of falling asleep! 36 inches! Copper! His spleen! No idea on anything but “hypno.”

TravelSkite said...

The total area of fires equates to Belgium, apparently - but it's a very big country. Continent, actually.

Yerevan apparently; Australia' yes!; 18 inches; cadmium; his belly button apparenlty, though it's hard to believe and demands googling. We got two of these ones.


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