|It was also our second visit to Manilla but enjoyed returning to have a more relaxed visit. The previous time we were there with the British Trade Mission and it had been punctuated by formal engagements. Mountain region Papua New Guinea walking along the Kokada Trail Eating again! . . . this time in Manilla Market in Papua |
New Guinea We found our stop at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, was a particularly memorable part of our tour. As we walked from the ship into the centre of the town we were struck by its beauty and simplicity. It was an intriguing island with lovely exotic flowers. We especially enjoyed an organised outing up to the Highlands, a mountainous region. Whilst on that trip, we went along a track through the dense forest area in the company of three former Australian soldiers who had fought against the Japanese. Mabel had got to know them and their wives when on board ship and found out they were anxious to find the exact location on the Kokada Trail where they had been fighting as part of an Australian defence force. Mabel and I were deeply moved as they described how after an epic battle when 2000 Australian lives were lost and 13,000 Japanese killed they forced the Japanese to retreat. They had seemed invincible, as they captured island after island, but now for the very first time during the Second World War they had been defeated and halted in their advance to get a foothold on Australian soil. .The cruise took fourteen days, passing the Great Barrier Reef before arriving in Sydney where we stopped for a week and celebrated Christmas Eve by attending a dinner which had an Old Time Music Hall cabaret but spent Christmas Day on Bondi Beach. Whilst in Sydney we were invited by Australian Press Association friends to picnic on the Hawkesbury River (shark infested!) With friends on the Hawkesbury River, Sydney Shoes off on the banks River Yarra,
MelbourneJourneying by road we visited Canberra to see the Parliament buildings then on to Melbourne where we had another enjoyable week. A special trip was made to Phillip Island to see the hoards of fairy penguins coming in from the sea at dusk as they did each evening at the same stretch of beach. Their young were ready for them, peering anxiously from the burrow entrances dotted all over the sand dunes. We also attended two receptions in Melbourne: one with The Agenewspaper and the other at the offices of the Melbourne Herald and met a number of senior journalists. Mabel enjoyed meeting up with a woman reporter who had just returned from Queensland and told her about her family and of the crocodiles and reptiles that were commonplace. Then to Adelaide by coach where we had hoped to book sleepers on the train to Perth but told that had to be done six months in advance. We spent another seven days exploring Adelaide and its lovely unspoilt beaches and making friends with a lady whose house was close to the sea who collected shells and with a power saw cut into these to expose their lovely colours and made then into brooches and ear-rings. We then had to undertake a journey of some 36 hours by coach, supplied with pillows and blankets, to Perth crossing the Mallabar Plain and the ‘Great Australian Bight’. The year before it had been a red dirt track but now the road was tar-macadamed, and around midnight we stopped at a large hotel complex which was crowded with cars and caravans as their occupants used the showers and had a meal. When we reached Perth we stayed with Mabel’s Aunt, who had a property on the edge of the city. Mabel had two uncles, brothers of her Mother Sarah Ann Johnson, who emigrated from Bedlington Station in the 1920s. George married a Bedlington girl before going to Australia had worked as the Superintendent of the Parks in Perth, but sadly he died suddenly when back in Northumberland on holiday in 1948. The youngest of Mabel’s Uncles was Stan and he worked as a sheep-shearer but during the Second World War had served in the Australian Army and saw service in Darwin in the Northern Territory. He had married Elsie, now his widow, and Mabel was now meeting her for the first time and planned to stay with her for about six weeks as we took her out and about. Mabel would relate her mother’s story that when Stan had left Bedlington Station his mother had sewn a number golden sovereigns in the lining of his coat so that during his early days in Australia he would always have some money to fall back on! Sarah Ann’s sister Elizabeth married George Colpitts in Bedlington and they, too, emigrated in 1929 but to America where they both worked in large retail stores. Emigration is a sad reflection of the economic times in the years following the Great War. We had a wonderful time in Perth, a beautiful city, picknicking in the extensive parklands on the banks of the Swan River. We attended one of Tom Stoppard’s plays, ‘Night and Day’; a ‘Glyndebourne-style’ event in the grounds of the University of Western Australia for an open-air performance of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’; and a Searchlight Military Tattoo which had The Scots Guards Military Band and their Pipes and Drums. Perth was a place where many from my home town in Peebles in the Scottish Borders emigated to in the early 1950s, including a nephew, so it was great meeting up with many well-known faces. However, it was terribly hot and at midday the temperature was unbearable and on beaches not much shade for shelter.