MELANESIA (Part 1) – December 2010


Through the Heads and Out to Sea

And so it began.

The three families had long been awaiting their return to the Rhapsody of the Seas and our north-eastern passage to Melanesia. And now the day was finally here.

For Huckleberry B and me, the trip commenced with the customary trauma of parting ways with our three CKC Spaniels. We knew that our separation would be brief. However, the brevity of our parting was a difficult concept to convey to the girls. All they knew was that we were abandoning them once again.

As always, my sweet shadow was the worst. She squealed the moment I took her car harness out, probably having an inkling of the ordeal which was soon to befall her. She had, after all, seen `Mummy’ packing our luggage several days earlier. She resorted to furious licking of my face in the earnest hope that it would persuade us not to go. It almost worked.

Perhaps one day our mutual separation anxiety will diminish. We are still waiting.

In any event, with that distressing episode behind us, we headed to the Overseas Passenger Terminal to board the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Once settled in, we hosted a `sail away party’ on our balcony overlooking the wake of the vessel.

Joining us were Huck B’s third brother, FY, his muscular son, AM, and his delightful daughter, MC; together with B’s sister, ML, her husband, D, and their cheeky but adorable children, J, M and S.

Champagne in hand and cameras at the ready, we joyfully caroused as the Rhapsody of the Seas traipsed slowly down the Harbour, through the Heads and out to sea.

The three families were in a festive mood.

Food was nibbled, champagne was sipped, and gossip was exchanged; whilst photos were composed, jokes were traded and stunning views were admired. Most of all, however, shared holiday memories were created.

We were fortunate to be blessed by a spectacular sunset. Looking back to land from our position on the high seas, we were met with a remarkable sight; a deep mauve coloured ocean sat in blissful harmony with a brilliant orange sky, divided only by a thin dark band of familiar shoreline.  Our wake pierced the ocean in a gentle arc from left to right.

As chance would have it, however, the sun was thoughtful enough to set directly behind the city, giving the dark silhouetted buildings a divine hallow.

It was, by any measure, one of the most stunning sights I’ve ever seen.

Maintaining a Healthy Perspective

Monday, 20 December 2010, saw us spending our second day at sea onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas.

For Huckleberry and me, it was a day spent in frolicsome leisure. We kicked off the day with an hour or so in the gym – although B proved to be more determined than I – followed by a rock climbing challenge. More about the rock climbing later.

After a lunch without time limits, we decided to indulge in a nap. When we opened our eyes we were surprised to find it was north of 6pm! Almost time to start preparing for dinner…

By any reckoning, it had been a pleasing day.

By contrast, our thoughts turned to some dear friends who were each enduring very different days to the one we were enjoying.

First, we spared a thought for my business partner, AG, and his family. Monday, 20 December 2010 will always be remembered by those in AG’s extended clan as the day they buried his mother-in-law; the grandmother to his children; the mother to his wife. Doubtless, their day was less tranquil than our own.

Second, we took a moment to think of another friend, IW, who was preparing to undergo surgery to remove a cancerous tumour which bridged both his bowel and his bladder. Not yet 40, IW had bravely battled his affliction since it was diagnosed earlier in the year. I use the word `bravely’ most deliberately. I have never seen an individual maintain such a positive attitude in the face of such dire circumstances. For IW, Monday, 20 December 2010 will forever be remembered as the day before the surgery which would either mark a new beginning or the beginning of the end. We pray that the former shall prevail and the latter vanquished.

Pausing to reflect upon the plight of two such dear friends, as we enjoyed ourselves in frolicsome leisure, served to underscore two things. One, that we were very fortunate. Two, just how important it is to relish our time together whilst we can. Who knows how long it will last.

Scaling the Dizzy Heights

Perched at the rear of the Rhapsody of the Seas, just outside the gym, is a unique feature for vessels we have sailed upon; a rock climbing wall.

Whilst enjoying our second day at sea, Huck, MC and I decided to accept the rock climbing challenge.

Standing at the foot of the escarpment, the climb looked rather daunting, particularly to one, such as I, who may find climbing a ladder somewhat intimidating. It’s not so much a fear of heights which discourages me from leaving the safety of the ground, but the concern that I might fall and break every bone in my damn body… and never bloody walk again. That’s what worries me!

In any event, before we could say `I climbed it because it was there’ we were suited up and ready to go.

Huckleberry was the first to launch an attack upon the wall. As she climbed, with quiet assuredness, I contemplated how far I might get when my turn came. I decided I’d be happy if I made it half way. Surely that would be a reasonably respectable achievement. At that point, I determined, I could abseil back down whilst maintaining my dignity.

Looking up, however, I saw that B was steaming towards the summit!

She had some difficulty with a part of the wall which had been constructed to create a concave aspect. However, once past that impediment, there was no stopping her. Moments later she was joyously ringing the bell positioned at the top of the wall.

So now it was my turn.

I started gingerly, with little belief that I would be able to complete the climb. Once I gained confidence in the hand and foot holds – and realised I was making progress – I gained in self-belief. Remarkably, I found myself north of the halfway mark and heading for the pinnacle. With a couple more steps, I looked up and saw that I could reach the bell. Stretching out, I grabbed hold of the rope and rang the chime merrily, before descending to the ground.

Next in line was MC. She proceeded to put us both to shame by attacking the wall with vigour and scaling her way to the peak without even pausing to consider her next move. She made the climb look so easy and her aunt and uncle so ungainly by sad comparison. On the other hand, MC a freak of nature and we must accept her as such.




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