A Travellerspoint blog

Arrive home

I was getting tired after midnight and lay down in the check-in area. I dozed for an hour before waking up, as the check-in counters were being prepared for opening.

I got a boarding pass for my flight back to Auckland [Auckland-travel-guide-1139106] immediately. It has been a good trip with all going smoothly until the little hiccup at the end. Considering how badly disrupted the Cocos and Christmas flights can get, I got away very lightly.

The flight home was perfect. I shifted to a spare row to catch up on my missing night sleep. A hot breakfast was supplied followed by a well-filled pack of chicken sandwich before landing. Auckland airport showed its true colours, with a remote (bus) gate arrival and long queues at quarantine which saw me get to the outside an hour after touchdown.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Back to the mainland

View 2016 Cocos (Keeling) & Christmas Islands on alexchan's travel map.

First thing I did when I woke was to check on the internet whether my aircraft had departed Perth [Perth-travel-guide-156950] to come for us. The internet was broken. Fortunately it livened up again and the plane had a 10 minute delay.

Weather was cloudy and drizzly. I filled up the car (1/3 empty) for AUD44. Must have had a bloody big tank as the price was only AUD2.22 per litre. Check-in at the airport went smoothly but things got less certain afterwards.

The weather didn’t look too bad for the incoming aircraft until around arrival time when fine misty rain set in. It cleared eventually and the aircraft landed an hour later on our scheduled departure time; it had circled for 45 minutes. I was relieved that I'd be getting out of this expensive and remote location. I certainly didn't want to be stuck here for another couple of days.

We managed to leave only 45 minutes late and it was looking unlikely I’d catch my connecting flight to Auckland. Considering all the things that could have gone wrong this trip with the unreliable Cocos/Christmas flights, I’ve done very well.

By the way, most accommodation here are prepaid with no refunds due to flight cancellations. I bet the hoteliers love flight cancellations as they keep the money from the people who didn’t arrive but charge the people who have to stay longer.

There was a former inmate on my flight. Some of the passengers, presumably, the detention centre workers recognised him and congratulated him on his successful appeal and ability to remain in Australia. It was good to see that hardened guards treating him as a person still.

The flight was uneventful and we landed in Perth about 45 minutes late, meaning that there was no chance I would make my connection to Auckland. Nevertheless I've never been so happy to be in mainland Australia. Long queues at immigration due to under-staffing led to a very slow exit. What a bugger that my delay and this queue occurred when I needed to make a connection; my previous three arrivals have been super-swift.

I took the bus into town for dinner and to kill some time. I had some time to think about how lucky I had been with standby travel from Perth to Cocos (Keeling) and back, and then Perth to Christmas Island [Christmas-Island-travel-guide-1314531] and back too. This had been all at a fraction of the commercial price of over AUD1100 return for each of the destinations, meaning a total of around AUD2300 for the four flights! This trip would have been prohibitive commercially. And then there was the flight from Auckland to Perth return as well, on standby.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Spawning Take 2

View 2016 Cocos (Keeling) & Christmas Islands on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_14801949506601.jpgSpawning in progress.
I had set the alarm for 0240. I had messages from Andrea and Diane cancelling due to rain. I looked outside and saw that the ground was wet but the rain had died to a drizzle. I decided to press on and drive to Ethel Beach.

I parked and realised that it was pitch black. I could have used my phone for illumination but others arrived and I went down with them. It was a short walk followed by some steps to the beach where a much denser presence of crabs (compared to yesterday at the Cove) had gathered for their spawning.

In some ways, once you’ve seen it once, it was enough. But this was a more spectacular display and it was good to not be under pressure to take photos. I did take some photos and also some videos but largely took the time to enjoy the spectacle.large_5550_14801949579918.jpgSpawning in progress.

Again I left around 0430 when the sky showed a hint of light. I managed to sleep from 0600 till 0830 and continued to have a lazy morning.

After once again trying to consume my canned food, Andrea and I went driving. Our only real option in view of the road closures was Ethel and Lily Beaches. But the last stretch of the road was now closed. As we had no better options, we walked about 45 mins down to Lily Beach.

There was kind of a small natural pool but with the pounding surf further out, it wasn’t actually calm during our little swim. There was a very nicely constructed plankwalk to a viewpoint which overlooked the sea and the Christmas Island Resort (aka Casino) in the distance. It looked in good shape despite being mothballed but locals tell me it is now ruined.

It was starting to drizzle. We waited for it to past. It didn’t so we started walking. The torrential downpour arrived soaking us. The crabs on the road didn’t seem to mind (I was told the migration halts when it rains?).

Andrea had some errands in town so I waited in the car to avoid getting wetter. I had the last of my food to finish off in the night but offered to drive her to dinner. She bought me a wine and we chatted at length and we seem to have a common interest in faraway small islands (eg. Sangalaki, Maratua, Kakaban, Christmas, Marquesas, Saipan etc).


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Christmas Island Comments (0)

Spawning Take 1

View 2016 Cocos (Keeling) & Christmas Islands on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_14801947921673.jpgSpawning in progress. The crabs stand on their hind legs and raise their front claws. With a shake and a shimmy, the eggs are released.
I set the alarm for 0330 as I needed to be at Flying Fish Cove for the spawning at 0400. I cycled in. A group of people were at the boat ramp. There was a group of crabs but it wasn’t impressive. I looked further to the beach head to see some people there. Heading in that direction, I wasn’t disappointed.

There were crabs on the sandy stretch, the rock face, the boulders. Some were crawling into the water and same were crawling inland. On the waters edge, when each wave came in, the crabs would raise their front claws while standing on their back legs and do a shake and shimmy to release the eggs. The fall into the water as a brownish powder which gets swept away and will return as baby crabs in about a month.

The eggs are held in the body by filaments and after they are released, one sees hairy strands left on their belly.large_5550_14801948061866.jpgThe eggs are released and show as a brown powder in the water.
It would have been very difficult to see all the action without torches. Even better, we had film crew filming and their light helped tremendously. Photos of the actual shake-shimmy-spawn were still difficult as it happens very quickly; a point-and-shoot camera has some shutter lag at low light.

At 0430 the sky had a hint of light. It was my cue for the crabs to wrap up their activity and mine to return to the hotel for some sleep. It was an awesome sight and I was really glad that my visit to Christmas Island [Christmas-Island-travel-guide-1314531] had been impeccably time with good research. But I was also supported by good luck as the Christmas Island flights are notoriously unreliable due to weather.large_5550_14801948114679.jpgAfter the spawn, filaments that held the eggs are visible.

I returned the bike midway and continued back to my room on foot for a nap from 0600-0800. My car got delivered at 0900 but I didn’t venture out till late morning with Andrea.

I tucked into an awesome rending (accompanying my nasi lemak) at the Penang Chinese place. It was so good I was surprised the chef was mainland Chinese! It cost AUD18 which was good; Andrea’s omelette was AUD22! We later found that eggs are flown in along with chocolate cakes etc in cafes. Nobody makes anything here?

I asked the Penang lady a few question (but corrborated the answers with others) :

1. Where are the Singaporean Chinese? Most of the people I’ve met are Malaysian Chinese, perhaps more Penang. The Singaporeans have moved to the mainland where they kids go to uni and they enjoy their retirement.large_5550_14801948173028.jpgRed crabs galore.The Malaysians came later to backfill the Singaporeans, running businesses.

2. Are the red crabs edible? Apart from being protected, they are not meaty or tasty. They feed on leaves and things on the forest floor. Back in the old dyas, the crabs were so numerous they were crushed up as chicken feed but then people realised the eggs tasted funny.

After lunch we tried driving to West White Beach but the road was closed. We took a detour through the other side of the island stopping at picturesque Margaret Knoll before cutting across the island.

We ended near West White Beach and the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). The walk down to the beach would take an hour each way and we didn’t have enough time. We took a look at the outside of the IDC.large_5550_1480194823964.jpgRed crabs galore.

The facility was built to house refugees (boat people) bow now that they have dwindled, they mainly house convicted criminals awaiting appealing their deportation (many of whom are New Zealanders).

My hotel cleaning lady’s boy friend works in there. He is finding the work unsatisfactory now that the ~200 inmates are criminals. Refugees were normal people, some with their families. Hardened criminals are a different kettle of fish. But contrary to that, I later met a prison guard who said that refugees are harder as they sometimes cut or hang themselves. As always, different people, different views.

Overall, the outing was quite unproductive. Road closures made some sights inaccessible; some sights were questionable (Pink House, LB4 Lookout) and others (The Dales, Martin Point) involved walks longer than we had time for also due to road closure.large_5550_14801948535282.jpgRed crabs galore.

We were back for a brief rest at the hotel before picking Diane (arrived on the same flight) to go to South Point Temple for God’s (Kang Tian Tai Di). The nearby ruins of the railway station were nowhere to be seen, so we proceeded to the temple. There were many banners and giant joss-sticks outside the temple that looked out to the ocean.

After a little while, a medium went into a trance and walked around with a whip. Then another medium followed. At its height, there were four media (plural of medium?) in trance. Would that make it a multimedia extravaganza? Lol!

I was hoping for skewers through the cheeks and razors through the tongue but it just wasn’t my night. However, we were treated to a free buffet and beer (yes, this is Australia). It was good to have some free food as eating is expensive on the island; having said that I just had a light bite as I had food to finish up in my room.large_5550_14801949624119.jpgView from Margaret Knoll.Strangely I had lost my appetite here; I was hungry a lot on Cocos and finished the same amount of food whereas I’m having trouble finishing it off here!

When darkness fell, the media led attendees across the symbolic bridge. It was symbolic of leaving the bad and past behind and progressing towards a good future. I thought that was the finale and started driving before the mad rush to leave.

It felt late when we returned to the township but it was only around 0730. Tha happens when one wakes early I guess.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Christmas Island Comments (0)

Initial explorations

View 2016 Cocos (Keeling) & Christmas Islands on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_1480194019849.jpgHalal BBQ in front of mosque. Not any different from Singapore food courts that have Halal crockery racks.
I started the day going to the Tourist Information Centre to get an update on the spawning. While it was originally expected on the mornings of Sat 26th and maybe Fri 25th, they now thought it would be more Thu 24th and Fri 25th.

To explore the island I also needed a car. But the minimum was 2 days. It worked out that I could get it on Thu 24th and return it at the airport on Sat 26th, saving myself an airport transfer.

I explored Flying Fish Cove further along by the Kampong and the Jetty. It was largely rocky with a small sandy stretch. Yes, I can see for myself how things are a little glorified in the brochures. I toyed with the idea of swimming, snorkelling and diving but didn’t end up doing any of it after advice from others during the stay.large_5550_14801940296386.jpgPhosphate was/is an important part of the island's economy.Snorkelling and diving were expensive and for what you see, it wasn’t worth it (according to Andrea and Brian whom I met on the plane coming in).

I rented a bike in the afternoon and cycled along the road that was closed to cars. The closure started just after the hotel. The road took me past the Chinese and Muslim cemeteries and the grotto before I got to Ma Chor Nui Nui temple (whic was a non-event for me because of my origins). The road continue to the mothballed Christmas Island Resort (aka casino) but I wasn’t sure of the distance and didn’t want to press on.

On the return ride, I stopped at the grotto thinking I oould swim. It was a rope steep and slippery descent with a rope to assist with the ascent. There were some crabs around too. Being alone, I didn’t feel comfortable going down for a swim and called it a day.

Andrea and I had dinner at her regular Cafe 1888 which did an excellent pork roast with crackling and apple sauce for AUD18. We retired early in preparation for the early morning wake-up for the spawning.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Christmas Island Comments (1)

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