Travel Journal About A Cargo Ship

Kylie Phaup-Stephens’s Travel Journal About A Cargo Ship

It’s all a bit surreal that I’m here, on a cargo ship, winging my way across the Tasman Sea – across the ditch, that infamous trough of water that separates  Australia from New Zealand. I was beginning to think this day would never come.

It’s all a bit surreal to realise that the next land I’m going to see, going to be stepping foot on will be ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ New Zealand’. Aotearoa. Godzone. To me it’s home. It’s sure been a long time coming!

Surreal to think that my journey is nearly at it’s end. Yee ha! Here is my travel journal.

Kylie Phaup-Stephens's Travel Journal
Rough day at sea

And it’s all thanks to you, my supporters that I am here, on board this cargo vessel CC La Tour. Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for making it happen and getting me home before Christmas.

I’m feeling crook as a dog even on this monstrosity of a boat. I don’t understand it. I never used to suffer from seasickness?!

The boat docked in Melbourne earlier than expected. A 3 day wait to unload in Sydney, the Captain decided against this and headed straight for Melbourne, completely skipping Sydney. The poor passengers that were supposed to disembark in Sydney…just tough luck for them. They’ve had to get flights back there today that hopefully match up with their connecting flights. Aaaaagh the trials and tribulations of travel.

Meanwhile I was required to report in at the security house at West Swanson Dock, at 2200 hours on Tuesday evening the 8th of December. The agent had given me the most vaguest of directions!

I gave a shout out to Beti, an awesome girl I had met through my blog. She’s been following my journey since Iran and had left a message in my Bugbitten guestbook hoping to meet up when I got to Melbourne. She had even offered me her rooftop to pitch my tent!

Entering the dock area was a hive of activity. It felt like I was part of a Transformers movie! Cranes, containers and all sorts of strange looking machinery buzzing around! This dock was a slick operation….it moves 4 million containers a year.

I didn’t have any real expectations of my voyage. All I knew was that it was to take approximately 5 days to get from Australia to New Zealand. Conditions were to be a lot more pleasant than the Indonesian ferries I had grown used too… seriously not a rat or cockroach in sight. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

I put Tankini (my bike) on my shoulder and and carried her up the long gang plank. The crew entirely amused. Chivalry is dead.

I was assigned a temporary cabin until 4 passengers disembarked……rich Europeans who had been on board since Rotterdam ….that’s months back! Imagine how much that would cost?! It’s about  %u20AC120 a day on one of these babies…..but still cheaper than a cruise liner all the same. Backpacking is definitely a cheaper option!

This boat is owned by a French company called CMA CGM. The vessel CC La Tour is 195.9 metres long and built in Taiwan 9 years ago. It flies the Cyprus flag. It has a dead weight of 30,442..00 MT and travels at an average speed of 21.5 knots. To put this into perspective when I crewed the boat sailing from Indonesia to Australia we’d be lucky if we hit 6 knots.

The La Tour has 19 crew. The Captain is from Montenegro. He loves his fishing and his hunting and hence he loved me cos I was from New Zealand. And he just loooooves New Zealand! His idea of paradise. The Chief Engineer is from Croatia, the Chief Electrician from the Ukraine and the remaining crew are all from the Philippines. Cheap labour you see. What they earn here enables them to live like Kings in the Philippines. Their contract is for 6 months and then they are home for 3. Some do 8 months on, 1 month off.

CMA CGM manages more than 360 ships worldwide and is the third largest shipping company in the world. This boat has 969 containers on board right now; it can take 2,200. It started out in Tilbury Essex of all places (close to where I worked in the UK which seems a lifetime ago)!

Three meals a day, and 3 course ones at that. I’m struggling. Breakfast is at 7 30am and one gets to choose from a menu. Lunch is soup, followed by meat and vegies followed by fresh fruit. Oh and wine. The Captain and his senior crew eat at the next table from us.

It feels like we’ve only just finished lunch when the siren for dinner goes and it’s time to eat again.

There’s a recreation room with TV, DVD, chess. A swimming pool. A gym with weights, rowing machine, table tennis table and (groan) as was so kindly pointed out to me…..a bicycle.

My cabin is a room with a view, of containers of course! A double bed, couch and coffee table, a desk with table light, an ensuite bathroom complete with hot hot water. Plus a deck chair?! I’m on Level E, the 5th of 8 levels.

There are two other passengers left on board. A German couple that boarded the boat in New York 2 months ago and will disembark for a 7 week holiday around New Zealand in Tauranga., before flying back to Germany. They don’t understand my funny accent.

I didn’t even know the boat was going to Tauranga?! I was only told about Napier. If I can stay on until Tauranga that would be perfect ….it’s closer to Auckland.

The agent that I’ve been dealing with needs a good kick up the bum. Slack. I was mortified when I showed up at the security office on Tuesday night to find that I wasn’t even on the Passenger List? Deep breath Kyles, don’t panic. A few weeks back I was told to make contact with the Melbourne Agent so off I trundled down to St Kilda. Found their building, and an empty 7th floor where they were supposedly located. My blood literally ran cold. The Captain didn’t even realise a new passenger was joining his ship in Melbourne. All my paperwork had been completely finalized from my end over a month ago, payment, medical and health insurances, declarations, the works. As I said the agent needs a kick up the bum. Or someone does!

Day One
Stayed on boat all day and watched them load containers out my window.
It’s raining.
I wasn’t allowed off.
Was moved into my new (very flash!) cabin on E Deck
Customs and Immigration finally arrived at 1700. They are bemused. The first thing they ask me is WHY? What’s the attraction of travelling on a cargo ship? My map comes out.
I told them not ONE single country in all 24 has even attempted to check my bags. They reckon they could fix that! They pull out my wet weather gear out of my front pannier bag when an RT radio transmission comes through that they have to get off the ship! Funny. I then chase them downstairs – they forgot to stamp me out of the country.
Rang and sent texts in Australia saying goodbye and trying to use up all my credit rather than let it go to waste!
Left the dock around 1800. Pouring down with rain! Bye Australia!
The Great Southern Land has been fun, but hard too.
Smashing sunset later on.
Sure we went past the lighthouse at Wilsons Prom (where I spent Saturday night)!

Day Two
Breakfast, french toast, cereal, coffee and juice.
Used the gym
Read my book (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Inspiring)
Was summoned to chat to the Captain in his office for about an hour. Talk fishing and hunting.
Lunch (soup, pork cutlets with all the trimmings, rock melon)
Third Officer took me through safety instructions and rules of boat. Demonstrated how to look like a teletubby by wearing an immersion suit. Got to check out lifeboat, engine room, bow.
Read more of book
Dinner (soup, spaghetti bolognaise, salad, icecream)
Watched movies; Serving Sara, Traveller, MacGyver.
Ships clock advanced by one hour…remembered to change before I went to sleep.

Day Three
Breakfast (eggs on toast)
Used the gym – lasted about 5 minutes. Can’t be bothered. Bovvered?!.
Still feeling seasick (waves are 3m so no dam wonder I’m feeling so crook)
Started another book (Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami)
Lunch (soup, beef stroganoff, fresh fruit)
Read more of book
Helped Filipino crew put up Christmas decorations!!!!!
Watched more DVD’s ….had a British afternoon. Keeping Up Appearances, One Foot in the Grave, Monty Python.
Dinner (soup, chicken with tomato and onion, mashed spud, green beans. Followed by apple strudel for dessert)
Went to bridge of boat and stayed there watching sunset and stars come out.
Watched more DVD’s …..yee ha! Found Sex In The City!
Stayed up for hours writing. No internet on board but I have lot’s of gaps in my blogs to fill!

Day Four
Couldn’t be bother with breakfast %uFFFD too much food!
The shower curtain in my bathroom is driving me nuts! It slides on the rail back and forward with the motion of the boat. Trying to find a way to kill it without really killing it.
Lunch (fish curry today  – gross!) I filled up on bread and cheese instead. Fruit salad for dessert.
Went to bow of boat and sat there a while. Nice.
Scrubbed Tankini (my bike) until she shined like the Christmas star on the top of the tree in the dining room. Waterblasted her for extra measure too. Think NZ Customs should be satisfied enough. I’ll be so proud of them if they even bother to check! Make me proud.
Sleeping for England. Other passengers gave me seasickness tablets which helps heaps but they make me so snoozy as….
Dinner (soup, roast lamb with all the trimmings (YUMMMMM!) , pancakes for dessert!) and wine. And some more wine.
Watched more Sex In the City
Gorgeous sunset.
No dolphins or whales tonight.
The stars are bright and the moon new.

I’ve asked the Captain to ring through to my room as soon as the crew spots land!!!
We should reach Cook Strait in the morning (the stretch of water in between the North and South Islands). I reckon it’s weird we cross that way and not go round the top of the North?

Day Five

Okay it’s going to cost me an extra %u20AC120 but I can stay on until Tauranga. A lot of money but in the scheme of things it would be worth it.
My friends Mike and Dee are considering taking the day off work and driving down to meet me in Tauranga. HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?! Sigh…..someone to meet me. Awesome friends. They rock.

Have to try and get my hands on the paper when I get to land. The NZ Herald interviewed me last week and I’m keen to see what they wrote. Supposed to be in Saturday’s paper.

A text message?
About 6:30am it was.
I thought it was part of my dream.
It was Dee.
“Are you in range yet?”
I guess I am!

I raced to the Nav Deck, the bridge, looking for the chart. I think I’m worse than a little kid in a sweet shop?! “Can we see land yet?”
And there she is….starboard side, a long white cloud. Except it isn’t cloud.
It’s New Zealand.

It’s not raining today. The sun is out and the sky is blue.

Later in the morning, starboard side is Mt Taranaki (formerly known as Mt Egmont). A snow capped volcanoe. Emerging from the sea.
Can’t see any other land. Just Mt Taranaki.
Port, on my right, is the South Island, Farewell Spit. The Mainland.

Did some washing. Had fun stringing a clothes line up in my cabin.

Fire alarms tested for about an hour. Bloody loud! Ears still ringing.

Ginormus lunch!
Onion soup, canapes, potato salad, fresh French bread, cold meats and like 5 types of cheeses! Then pork cutlets with cauliflower, and chips (french fries). Then honeydew melon for dessert..
Red or white wine as well. Need a Nanna nap after all that food! Beached as Bro!

Bright red coastguard helicopter flew overhead at about 1400. Mobile signal is good.

After 4 days of seeing no other boats…..have just spied a couple of fishing boats.
Lot’s of wind farms…impresssed.

Past Wellington, the capital city. Even saw the Arahura (one of the InterIslander ferries that runs between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South).

Watched another bad movie ‘Quigley DownUnder (starring Tom Selleck and Alan Rickman).

Dinner, I like food, actually make that I LOVE food but this is ridiculous!
Soup, pizza, fresh French bread with the 5 types of cheeses and all the cold cuts, plus coleslaw. THEN the main course of beef mignon with gravy, chips and zuccini. THEN icecream and more wine to was it all down with….

The coastguard helicopter I spotted earlier this arvo, I later learnt was in the area to rescue a sailing ship with 4 Canadians on board who’d got themselves in a spot of bother.

Pilot due on board at 0630…going to get up and watch and see. Due to berth in Napier at 0800.
Have requested shore leave for the day (sweet!)….will just have to wait for Customs and Immigration to clear me. I’ve only ever been to Napier once before. Was wiped out by an earthquake years back (30’s ?) and rebuilt in a stunning art deco style architechture.

Here’s a video I put together!!/video/video.php?v=10150102933260240&comments

Day 6

Got off the boat – to no-one. No one waiting for me. Nothing.
I just got off the boat. And I was IN, New Zealand….on NEW ZEALAND soil. And I had no one to share it with. No one to take a photo even.

Napier was a bit crazy!

The sea was just so blue, the accents funny but strange and comforting. The pohutakawa trees, the NZ Christmas tree were out, bright vivid red, bursting with colour. I just couldn’t stop smiling!

I wandered the streets for ages. Napier is a real pretty city.!/video/video.php?v=10150103741305240

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