Day 46

Today we tendered in Esperance, a cute little town about 500 miles southeast of Perth. The French stopped here in 1792 while taking shelter from a storm and named the town Esperance, which is French for hope. Today, its economy is based on tourism, agriculture (8 million tons of wheat annually shipped to Asia), and fishing.

Our morning excursion brought us to something unique: A local couple decided to make a replica of Stonehenge in England as it would have looked when it was built about 3500 years ago. This was completed in 2011, built entirely of pink granite and aligned with the solstices of Esperance. It was very interesting to see how Stonehenge originally looked, since we did see the original in its weathered and partially collapsed condition some years ago. Mac took lots of photos, as usual.

We then headed to Cape Le Grand National Park about 30 miles away. This is a coastal park, famous for its beautiful white sand beaches and clear aqua waters. We had a ½ hour stop in Lucky Bay to explore the beach area and walk in the cool water. We didn’t have enough time to swim, but one brave soul in our group took a dip. An added bonus was the viewing of a mother and baby kangaroo in the brush next to the beach. They weren’t afraid of us and just continued eating, as they became the stars of everyone’s vacation pictures. We next had ½ hour to enjoy Hellfire Bay. This was equally gorgeous and uncrowded. I can easily see why families camp here for a week during their summer break.

We made this journey in a luxurious bus with padded seats, seatbelts, and air conditioning. Our bus driver explained that our tour buses were actually their school buses and he was a regular bus driver. Jeff was so knowledgeable and easy to understand that he certainly could match any tour guide. I mentioned that our kids didn’t have wonderful buses like these. He explained that schooling begins at age 3 ½ and many of the children live on farms spread out over a large area and spend many hours on their school bus, getting to school and then home after 3PM. Our ship was using all their buses for our tours (and we only have 500 people on our ship) and all the parents had to transport their kids to and from school today. That is indeed a community effort to support their new tourist industry. I would return here in the future if I could. Jeff dropped off some folks who wanted to explore Esperance on their own, and returned to the pier with just 20 minutes to spare for us to begin our afternoon tour.

Mac and I had also signed up for a boat excursion entitled “Cruising the Archipelago”. There are more than 100 islands in and around the harbor of Esperance. Now we would get up close and personal with some special ones. Several islands had Australian sea lions lounging in the sun. We got to see some unusual geese called Cape Barren on another. The highlight was seeing sea eagles, a lot like our bald eagles with a white head. Our guide threw a frozen fish into the water (frozen fish float and these eagles don’t enjoy getting wet) and the eagle swept down, grabbed it in his talons, and brought it to land. We also had a pod of dolphins bouncing through the waves as they followed our boat. Later we went into a sheltered cove and were served muffins and tea, a late afternoon snack (actually lunch for us). We had a busy day.

When we returned to the ship, I went for a pedicure. I had one right before we left, so it had been about 6 weeks and it was time. This was my first pedicure on a cruise ship. Prudence did a good job.

Sette Mare had veal parmesan tonight, so we went there. It was quite good. Mac had sea bass. We passed on dessert and thanked the staff.

Tonight’s show was Jumping Jack Flash, the Beatles group doing Rolling Stones. The lead singer did look and act like Mick Jagger. The guys sang “Ain’t Got No Satisfaction,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “Jumping Jack Flash,” and other Stones favorites. They were good and loud. As I write this tonight, the ship also is rocking and rolling. Sea day tomorrow, hurray.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac