Mining Weekend

A long weekend with friends was ahead of me (the group as for my Basel or Vienna trip); this time we had picked the Ruhrpott – a former coal-mining region along the Ruhr river – today comprising a metropolitan area of more than 5 million inhabitants – and a strong industrial history. With one of us from Essen (one of the cities comprising the Ruhrpott), we had a great program ahead of us – putting together the must-sees of the region.

I left home Friday morning and made my way to Düsseldorf; with some time to kill, I made my way to the K21 art collection – a museum of 21st century art – this included some time in orbit. As things happen I met two other from our group in the museum and we made it back to the train station – just to meet the next two – for our journey to Essen. We stayed in the Parkhaus Hügel, the former executive and manager canteen of the Krupp company right next to Lake Baldeney.

On Saturday we had a full program – starting with a visit of the Hügel (hill) Park and the Hügel Mansion – the headquarters of the Krupp company and the residence of the Krupp family. This was quiet impressive and must have been intimidating back in the days, when the Krupp company was the largest company in Europe, specializing in steel and related products – from vehicles to plant engineering).

From here it was to a change of perspectives, as we made our way to the Zeche Zollverein – a former coal mining facility and coal processing plant (complete with coal washing and coke ovens). During a guided tour we could get a glimpse of the process and a feeling of what must have been the (inhuman) working conditions here.

A visit to the German mining museum completed the view – now with a focus on the activities underground – with a small mine rebuild under the museum, complete with machinery and equipment from various periods and good explanations around that. From underground a lift got us up the conveyor tower for good views of the Bochum area.

Of course we also had plenty of time in between, to catch up, share a drink or two and have some incredible food – overall a great weekend to a region, I’ll definitely have to come back to.



Final Impressions of Palau

Today was the final day of the trip, our flight home was to start in the evening from Palau’s international airport.

An all day excursion was included, to fill the gap between us leaving the ship after breakfast and the flight in the evening.

We were first heading for Palau’s National Museum for a guided tour – with great insights into local traditions and customs, but also colonial and war-time history. From here it was on to the aquarium for an overview of the different sea habitats around Palau, their significance for the environment and of course related showcases – there was also the option to touch sea cucumbers and sea stars (Patrick?).

After this education experience, it was on to lunch (again with the opportunity, to try the local beer) – and then into the Etpison Museum, with a good overview of local artifacts and an opportunity, to apply for a Schengen visa (the Dutch consulate is in the same building). The tour conluded at Airai Bai – the men’s meeting house at Airai; the tour operator had set up refreshments and snacks, there were demonstrations of local craft and a final opportunity, to stock up on souvenirs. The surrounding area also had some things to explore (like the small harbor).

Temperatures were high and the refreshments did not last too long, so we continued to the airport very early – making it there, before it even opened (the airport receives up to two flights a day, so only opens like 2,5 hours before scheduled departure time). We were eventually let in, were able to check in and start the long journey home.

Overall this has been an amazing and mind-blowing trip – with so many different things to see and experience. The cultural performances may have sound repetitive – but they were not – they were all unique and different – as were the costumes and the people.

I don’t think there is one single highlight of the trip for me – it’s really the complete package of cultural performances, exploration in the villages and on the islands, stops at beaches (most people would not dare dreaming about) and nature at its best – all of this combined with the amenities of cruise ship. A truly epic journey has come to an end – and I can only be thankful, that I was able to be part of it.

Sunset Cocktail at the Beach

I originally had booked a flight around the rock islands; that trip however got cancelled due to an issue with the plane equipment – as such I now had free afternoon, which I used for a bit more relaxation and time in the spa.

In the late afternoon I used the tender shuttle between the ship and the nearby beach resort, to get ashore. Here I made the short walk up to a view point – followed by a beach cocktail (rum punch right out of a coconut) just before sunset time – accompanied by the final cultural performance of the trip – this time showing off Palau’s cultural heritage.

After the performance it was back to the ship – for dinner, last drinks and packing.

Relaxation at Sea

We had left Papua New-Guinea and were now on track for Palau, covering a distance of 775 nautical miles. This translated to two days at sea – great for relaxation and processing of all the experiences and adventures of the previous days in PNG.

In the morning of the 21st we crossed the equator; this included the traditional visit of Neptun and a celebration (complete with a bite of fish, champagne and a Linie).

Later in the morning I had the opportunity, to get to see the technical internals of the ship during a chief-engineer-led guided tour. The tour covered the engines, the desalination plant, sewage facilities, garbage management and the laundry. It took us more than 2.5 hours and was getting us well below the waterline (and into areas, that other cruise companies won’t show).

Partial Eclipse

After lunch I made it back ashore. Here I had a long walk along the beach – with a constant eye on the sun – as a partial solar eclipse was about to happen this afternoon. It surely got darker and twilighty (if that word exists). With clouds coming in, there was no way, to catch the eclipse on a photo – however watching it actually worked well – with polarized sun glasses and using the clouds as added cover.

Coming back from the beach, I had another look at town, before heading back to the zodiac landing spot for a final step on Papua New-Guinean soil. Good-bye PNG, I have enjoyed the days spent here.

Madang Sunset

We made it back to Madang and the ship just before sunset. Below my final impressions of town (of which I had not really seen anything – except for the airport) and the sunset over the bay.