Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Deep Blue


Its been a while between blogs, but since the Philippines I’ve been having a quiet time.
From Dumaguete, we sailed for Sarawak. Having read up on the history of Sarawak and its amazing white Sahib beginnings, I was hoping that there might have been something of that era left to see, but if there is it certainly wasn’t on view at the ports we visited. At Miri, we stopped but briefly, and there being no port sufficiently great to hold our ship, the cargo had to be floated out to us on barges. That in itself was an interesting operation to watch, but of Miri itself we saw nothing.
Bintulu, which was indeed founded by the white Sahibs, is a much bigger place. Very much bigger nowadays since the discovery of vast offshore fields of petroleum gas. The approach to the port was littered with drilling rigs, and the town, which I took a taxi to visit, is a two part affair. On the 28km drive from port to town you pass by immaculate double carriageway highways, past impressive new industrial buildings, and through area of spanking new and modern housing. The town itself, however, predates the boom era and is a rather ordinary though not unpleasant town whose streets of older buildings are perforated by large modern constructions, mostly public buildings. I zoomed around for an hour, had a good grin at the logo for the Sarawak Turf Club (I think ours at Rangiora is rather racier!), snapped a few rather desultory pictures and trundled back to the ship.
And there I have stayed.

After Bintulu we visited Singapore and then Port Kelang (an hour’s train journey from Kuala Lumpur). I have been to both places in the past, and taken in such ‘sights’ as they have to offer. Both are large, busy, overpopulated paradises for those with a shopping bent, or a yen for a variation on the ship’s menus. I don’t shop, and am very happy with the ship’s menus. I am also allergic to hot, busy, traffic-filled cities. So I simply stayed ‘home’ and, as at Honiara, contented myself with lazing in the sun with a book and a bottle, watching the busy shipping action in the harbours and some amazing bits of cargo loading, including some particularly heavy work from a huge floating crane.
The most enjoyable thing was, however, the actual voyage itself, down the Singapore Strait and then the pirate-infested Malacca Strait. We didn’t, thank goodness, encounter any of these very real pirate vessels, although Max, our third officer, who was doing night watch reckoned he saw a suspect. What we did encounter were some very beautiful sea, sky and sun views, including one sunrise which I managed to catch on camera, and of which I am very proud. At the moment when the sun breaks free from the horizon, the whole sky flashes orange for a split second. My finger pressed the shutter, it seems at just the right moment, and here is the result.

As I write, we are nearly a day out from Kelang, passing Sumatra – a grey silhouette on the port side – and heading (if my geography and terminology are correct) for the Indian Ocean.
The weather is glorious. Veiled (thankfully) sun and wonderful warm breezes … true lotus eating weather, than which (for me) there is no weather more wonderful. So, of course, it’s the book, the sunbed, the bottle of Hawaiian Tropic suncream, another of iced water (until 5pm), and all the lotuses I can gather. Boring? Lord, no! Bliss.
And now we head for the Red Sea and Suez and ultimately Hamburg … its our homeward leg, unsplit by any further cargo stops and promises four further weeks of sunny idling. Hopefully, it won’t go too quickly.

No comments: