A Dinghy Trip to Home Island

Cocos Keeling Islands

The winds were down and the sun was bright as we dinghied across the lagoon to Home Island. We skirted around bommies in a zigzag pattern and finally connected with the channel into Home's little harbor. The shallow waters prevent supply ships from entering. We'd watched for two days in the outer anchorage while a ship had unloaded supplies with a crane onto a lighter and a barge and then reloaded empty containers.

 

lighter and barge

 

We passed the ferry dock and jetty and beached the dinghy on the foreshore. We climbed up to the main road, a brick-paved, single lane thoroughfare which was perfect for the quads and motor bikes that everyone seemed to be driving here. As we approached the jetty, we saw the Welcome to Home Island sign and an info kiosk with an island map.

 

welcome sign

 

The map and several signposts directed us to the Shire Council's office. We needed to pay our anchoring fees to the shire … $50/week. Like many other small island communities we've visited, the pace was slow and things were laid back. That said, the payment process was computerized and they accepted credit cards. No complaints.

 

shire office

 

We had passed the island museum on the way in and inquired as to the opening hours.

“I'll give you the key”, said the young Cocos Malay woman. And just like that, we had access to the museum.

 

key to museum

 

Housed in an old white-washed brick copra storage building, the museum was small, one large room, in fact, but it held some interesting items and provided some background information on the Cocos Malay population. I was particularly intrigued with shadow puppetry which is an entertainment art they're working to revive here. The Clunies-Ross family, the owners of the old copra plantation, did everything possible to maintain the isolation of their workers, forbidding fraternization with visitors or even use of communications. Having left their homeland generations before, much of their culture, including their language, has morphed into a unique Cocos Island culture and only recently have they had the opportunity to explore their roots.

 

museum collage

 

We had also asked the shire office for a recommendation for lunch.

“It's Friday … nothing is open today for lunch”, she explained. “On Friday, we only work a half day and everything closes. You might try the supermarket for some fruit.”

Hmm … all restaurants closed on Fridays and evidently throughout the weekend, because why would anyone want to eat out over the weekend? This is island life. We headed to the tiny Shamrok Supermarket. Though there wasn't much in the way of freshies and the frozen food section was pretty empty, I was glad to see that civilization had indeed come to Cocos … there on the shelf were Hello Kitty and Angry Bird animal crackers. We passed on those in favor of a couple of apples for lunch.

 

cocos keeling supermarket

 

We wandered along well-worn paths, past rows of pre-fab houses with antennas stuck on the roofs.

The Clunies-Ross family had built Oceania House during the heyday of the copra industry. The remains of the building still exist although a new Oceania House, which looks to be a luxurious place, is in the process of being built. The walls of the old estate are crumbling and little is left.

 

oceania house callage

 

The cemetery was at the northern end of the island and we decided to dinghy north along the shore for a visit rather than walking. The graveyard was a beautiful, serene clearing, well-tended and cared for. Cocos Malay grave markers incorporate an Islamic motif on each grave. Many were draped with the traditional scarf worn by the women. Some had umbrellas and some tiny canopies to protect the graves from the sun and elements.

 

cocos keeling malay graves

 

We also found the family burial site of the Clunies-Ross family dating from the mid-19th century.

 

clunies ross burial site

 

The tide was low and we pushed and pulled the dinghy quite a ways offshore before finding enough water to set down the engine. We passed tiny Prison Island, the island to which Alexander Hare and his seraglio of women were relegated, and thought about a stop there, but the entrance was too shallow at the moment and decided to leave it till another day.

 

shallow exit

 

A 20-minute ride around those same coral heads and we were back at Cups, hot and dusty from our little excursion ashore. Once again, the turquoise blue water invited us to cool off and relax. A refreshing dip, a sundowner in the cockpit, dinner and a movie. Really … it doesn't get much better. It really doesn't.

On Leaving Australia

Australia is one of those places that Americans dream about visiting. It's exotic, Down Under, and the people speak English, but with great accents. It was certainly a tick on our bucket list when we arrived in Bundaberg in November 2011. Nine of Cups has been here for nearly three years. The crew has had its family issues back in the USA, but still we've managed to be in-country the better part of two years. Australia is a huge, glorious country … as large as the USA and just as diverse. We took a moment the other night to try to identify highlights of our visit here and it was tough. Off the top of our heads, we came up with 25 … way too much for a blog. So we whittled it down to the Top Ten. Seeing our very first kangaroo ... in Bundaberg ... and hearing a kookaburra's song for the first time

(The animals in particular were always a highlight)

kangaroos grazing

 

New Year's Eve anchored in Sydney Harbour watching the fireworks with friends in 2011

sydney fireworks

 

Watching the start of the world-famous Sydney-Hobart race on a friend's boat in Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day 2011

sydney hobart race

 

Tasmania's wild west coast including Port Macquarie, the Gordon River and Port Davey

west coast of tazmania

 

Being tied up to the wharf in downtown Hobart, Tasmania for the Christmas season 2012

hobart tasmania

 

Anchoring in front of Port Arthur and visiting this national landmark known for its severity and tragedy

port arthur

 

The magic of Deal and King Islands in the Bass Strait

deal island

 

South Australia's beauty and hospitality from Adelaide to Streaky Bay

adelaide to streaky bay

 

Crossing the Great Australian Bight in a rather non-traditional fashion

great australian bight

 

Rounding two Great Southern Capes … Southeast Cape (Tasmania) and Cape Leeuwin (Western Australia)

two southern capes

All these highlights are places and things, but be assured that Australia's number one asset is its people and they have truly been the highlight of our extended visit. We have been overwhelmed with friendship, kindness and generosity. We thank you all!

And then, of course, we think of all the things we haven't seen and the places left unvisited and the friends we haven't met yet. Makes us think we need to come back and continue our Aussie travels. By the way, I'm singing Waltzing Matilda as I write this … just sayin'.

Last Signs of Australia

We've posted lots of signs and ads we've seen along the way and here's the last the of Aussie sign collection … at least for awhile. From Rottnest Island …

 

no quokkas

 

Geraldton barber's sidewalk sign gives fair warning.

 

grumpy barber

 

What better icon for a porta-loo?

 

portaloo sign

 

For sure, this ain't California.

 

give way

 

No wash, no dry, no wake

 

no wash

 

Sign on a boat for sale in Two Rocks

 

boat for sale

 

Obviously, sailors moved ashore.

 

old sailor

 

We weren't sure what they expected us to do. Take cover?

 

explosive power tools

 

Do they carve grave monuments or are they really monumental masons?

 

monumental masons

 

We're definitely in Australia. They're keeping out the bogans!

 

no thongs workboots or singlets