“A kiss is just a kiss…and Bliss is who I miss,” Gunter sings as I hum along.  I put my hand in his as we power walk around Sail Bay on the sidewalk fronting our condo in San Diego. It’s an unusually warm day in February, the lovers’ month. And we’re both thinking of another love, one we both shared.

Go-with-the-wind

Her name is Pacific Bliss. We knew her well. She’s the 43-foot Catana catamaran who faithfully sailed us around the world. On August 28, 2008, we crossed our path in Canet, France where we had started out eight long years before. Seven voyages. 34,000 miles. 62 countries. So many adventures and misadventures. So many Moments of Bliss.

Forlorn and seemingly forsaken, Pacific Bliss waited patiently on that same dock outside the factory where she was built. She pined for a new owner throughout the turbulent winter and the balmy Mediterranean spring while the stock portfolios of expectant buyers descended into a financial sinkhole.

Meanwhile, back in San Diego, my friends inquired, “In your entire circumnavigation, which was your favorite place?”  I searched my memory bank, struggling for answers. 

My most precious memories relate to people we met along the way. I admired how the teeming masses of Sri Lanka managed to eke out a living.  Regal women in bold saris and determined men in crisp shirts defied the steaming climate and the diesel-polluted streets clogged with tuk-tuks, taxis, bicycles and even the occasional working elephant.  When the 2004 tsunami devastated that lively southwestern coast I had photographed, I sobbed my heart out.  I mourned the wizened “lace lady” in Galle who sold me the intricate tablecloth I will forever treasure. I remembered the blind man with the missing front teeth at the souvenir-stand-by-the-sea, the one who taught us the many uses of a coconut. I pictured the family with handsome dark-eyed sons who ran the turtle rescue operation south of Colombo. All gone now.

The remarkable Ni Vanuatu of Waterfall Bay, in the Northern Banks Islands, stole my heart. They have no electricity, no cars, and no landing strip. Their island is accessible only by boat. Yet they are the happiest, most generous locals we met. We had the good fortune to anchor off their bay while we attended a festival honoring the installation of a new chief.  After three days of dancing, kava drinking, and teaching us how to make lap-lap (a pizza-like food that is their national dish) a chorus of young people belted out a song honoring the gathered sailors. Each one came forward to sing a special tribute, “My name is Joy and I love you, my name is Peter and I love you.” By the end of the song, we were all in tears.

vanuatu chieftan

Photos from pages 270-271 in Sailing the South Pacific

I first fell in love with the Aussies during the Port2Port Rally from Vanuatu to Oz, sponsored by the town of Bundaberg. A farm girl from Wisconsin who grew up in the fifties, I found it easy to relate to the sugar cane farmers of Queensland and the cowboys working the vast ranches of the Outback. Many of them became our friends. We decided to spend an entire year in Oz, traveling the length and breadth of that great land.

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Bundaberg: “I love you” balloon and bouquet, page 292, Sailing the South Pacific

 

I also find it impossible to rank the flora and fauna of my favorite places.

An avid flower-lover my entire life, my heart stopped when I viewed acres upon acres of winsome wildflowers north of  Perth, then stopped again when a child guide in Borneo led me to one lone flower, two feet wide. The bloom was a rare Rafflesia—a flower that took nine months to mature.

DSCN9652 Rafflesia, Borneo, RTW 2004

Rafflesia, World’s largest flower, Borneo (this photo will likely appear in my third book, The Long Way Back

My heart soared when I came upon the ancient, graying Tane Mahuta, the Lord of the Forest, in Waipoua, New Zealand.

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Lord of the Forest, page 197, Sailing the South Pacific

Which rates higher: the majestic rock the outback Aborigines call Uluru, rising red in the pale dawn, or the brooding widow’s peak of Mount Kota Kinabalu, the symbol of Borneo, “the land beneath the clouds?”

Were the deadly saltwater crocs and ubiquitous kangaroos of Australia more thrilling than the playful orangutans in the Sepilok Forest Reserve of Borneo, the cute baby elephants in Sri Lanka’s orphanage, or the magnificent tigers raised by the monks in Thailand’s lush interior? 

Petting the Beast, Tiger Temple, Thailand

Petting the tiger; this photo will likely appear in my third book, The Long Way Back

Because I could not begin to answer the question posed by my friends, I invented a stock, smart-ass answer:  “My favorite place is the one I haven’t been to yet.” Then I would add a few lines about my next dream destination, such as:  “Right now, I’m researching Bhutan. I like the idea that they have a national happiness index. Instead of our GNP, they have a GHP. I want to check that out.”

Then we sold the boat. They say that the two happiest days in a sailor’s life are when he or she buys the boat, and when it is finally sold. 

On the one hand, I am happy to know that Bliss is no longer pining for Gunter and me, her Captain and Navigator of years gone by. She is no longer alone. Now she has other masters to care for: a family of four traveled from England to France to make her their home. They sailed her across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, as we did during our Maiden Voyage. Anticipating new adventures to come, enthused about new places to discover, they settled in. They learned to use her high-tech systems, evaluated her strength, and tested her resolve to keep them safe and secure, just as she did for us.

On the other hand, I’m sure of this: despite achieving my mission of sailing around the world, I’m still affected with wanderlust. I must continue to travel! I just may go around the world again, this time by air, land and sea. There might even be a few elephants, camels, mules and trains—and who knows what else—thrown into the mix. But it won’t be the same; this much I know. Any other mode of transportation from now on will be just that—mere transportation. 

Because now I realize that this question is all wrong. It’s not about the people, places, flora, and fauna I loved, after all. It’s about who took us there. Pacific Bliss is where I left my heart. 

WHERE I LEFT MY


One of my new year’s resolutions is to complete writing the text for the third book in my nautical trilogy, In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: The Long Way Back. This sailing/travel odyssey covers the final third of our circumnavigation: Australia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East, and on to Turkey and the other Mediterranean countries we sailed through until we “crossed the line” back in France where it all began.

I spent most of yesterday writing just one of the many sidebars in the book: Did You Know? Australia. And I’m stuck. Australia is awesome! I fell in love with the land and the people. I could write an entire book on the year we spent there. But to give other countries a chance, I must be selective in the stories I tell. As for sidebars, each country in my books gets only one Did You Know of 750 words or so.

HELP! Which part(s) of this list below do you think is either not important or not interesting? I appreciate your comments.

Did You Know?

  1. Australia is about the size of the contiguous United States, but with less than ten percent of the population; it is an elliptically-shaped mass about 2500 miles in length from east to west, and 2000 from north to south.
  2.  “Australia is the world’s sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent, and is the only continent that is also a country. It was the first continent conquered from the sea, and the last. It is the only nation that began as a prison,” writes Bill Bryson in Down Under.
  3. The Boomerang Coast, the curved southeastern corner of the country, covers 5% of the land surface but contains 80 % of its population of about 23 million. It contains nearly all of its key cities, including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide.
  4. Australia is a land of extremes, from alpine snowfields to searing deserts and lush tropical rainforests. Of the continents, it is the lowest and flattest; it has the oldest soils and fossils. Only Antarctica experiences a lower rainfall.
  5. The largest living thing on earth—the Great Barrier Reef—grows in Australia. This country also contains what I believe to be the most remarkable monolith in the world: Ayers Rock (Uluru).
  6. Australia is quite dangerous to humans, no matter what their station in life. “What other country could just lose a prime minister?” Bryson asks.  He reports that in 1967 the Prime Minister, Harold Holt, was just walking along a Victoria beach when he dashed into the surf and disappeared, never to be seen again.
  7. Australia has been called the home of the deadly.  It hosts five of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes.  The country’s saltwater crocodile has the most powerful bite of any species. The pain of its stinging stonefish alone can be lethal. The bites of the blue-ringed octopus can cause paralysis within minutes and lead to heart failure. The Sydney funnel web is one of the world’s most dangerous spiders. But the box jellyfish is rated the most dangerous threat to visitors, based on the likelihood of encountering one. Be careful! Pick up a cute cone shell on a Queensland beach, and you may be stung by the venomous snail inside. Step into the water and you could be chomped on by a shark. Go to a zoo, and you could get bit by a fierce and aggressive cassowary!
  8. There’s no place like Australia. Eighty per cent of the flora and fauna in Australia exists nowhere else. Its creatures evidently did not read the script. Mammals bounce like basketballs across the vast landscape, fish climb trees, foxes (large bats) fly, and crustaceans, like whales, grow large enough to contain a grown man. Termites ingest houses, fences, and electric poles which they regurgitate to form tall, catacombed structures to house their pampered queens. “Darwin, after his visit to Australia, wondered for a while if the country’s bizarre flora and fauna pointed to the possibility of two parallel creations,” claims Australian-born writer, Peter Conrad. “Had rival gods designed the northern and southern hemispheres? Conrad speculates. “Such creatures must, after all, have a creator, a designer of almost rococo wit and grace.”
  9. The Australian outback is so large and remote that only a few lonely souls in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia witnessed  an explosion that set seismograph needles twitching all over the Pacific region.  Yet on May 28, 1993 the seismograph traces did not fit the profile for an earthquake and the blast was 170 times more powerful than any recorded mining explosion. There was no crater showing a meteor strike. The incident remained an unexplained curiosity until in 1995 Aum Shinrikyo gained sudden notoriety when it released huge quantities of the nerve gas sarin into the Tokyo underground, killing 12. Investigators found that Aum owned a 500,000-acre plot in Western Australia near the mystery event. There, they found evidence that the cult members had been mining uranium and had built a sophisticated laboratory staffed with two engineers from the former Soviet Union. The cult’s goal was the destruction of the world.  The event in the desert may have been a dry run for blowing up Tokyo!
  10. Compounding all the mysteries of Australia are the enigmatic aborigines. When Cook arrived in Australia in 1770, he encountered a race that seemed unrelated to any of their neighbors in the region—the Polynesians, Melanesians, and Micronesians. Could they have invented and mastered ocean-going craft 30,000 years before anyone else, then abandoned all they learned to settle the interior and to forget about the sea?

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For more on our Australian adventure, visit the Pacific Bliss website Log & Journal:

http://pacificbliss.com/journal125.html

http://pacificbliss.com/journal121.html

http://pacificbliss.com/journal120.html

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award winning nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page. Lois’s books can be purchased for the holidays on Amazon.