We awake to a sky filled with an ash haze and the ship vibrating as the captain puts in close to the dock. The volcano that destroyed Rabaul in 1994 is belching smoke and ash just across the harbor!
There are two three-hour ship’s tours, but they are in open air, 12-passenger vans for $89 apiece. We have passed on this experience! So about 10:00AM, we head off the ship to explore the town on our own. There are many ruins all over the island from the Japanese occupation and in town from the volcano damage. As we leave the secure area of the dock, we have to walk through the maze that is the street market set up for the passengers. Here we pick up six, 6 to7 year old, boys who follow us around as we walk down the main street to the Rabaul Hotel. There is an entrance to the Japanese bunker system at the back of the hotel, our goal for the morning. Along the way, we stop at the Catholic Church that was heavily damaged by the eruption. We see many houses and buildings that have gaping holes in both the roofs and walls, but are still occupied.
The people are friendly and there are many children running around. Most of the adults have bright red teeth from chewing on beetle nut. After about two hours, we are soaked to the skin from the humidity and a rain shower so we head back to the ship.
Dick goes on board, but Carolyn makes a stop at the market to buy several bead and shell pieces. There is a man with some very nice basketwork. She stops to admire it and he quotes prices that are dirt cheap, so now we own a really nice basket with a top and a pretty platter. It reminds us of the sweet grass work we have collected from South Carolina except they use a heavier reed with which to weave. Now we just have to find a big box on Guam!
Security is really tight! A crew member is fishing off the dock and talking to the security guard. Back on the ship, we go for a swim and order lunch from room service.
The ship sails at 1:30PM. About two minutes before they put the gangway up, a small boat docks on the edge of the pier and off loads a group of passengers who have been diving…they were really cutting it close. The captain does a sail away very close to the volcano so we have a good look at the damage from the eruption and the cone. It throws a towering new column of dark gray ash into the air as we pass and sounds as if a big jet were revving up its engines in the distance. We then sail between the islands of New Britain and New Ireland and into the Bismarck Sea along the edge of the Bismarck Archipelago.
Carolyn works on the pictures and the blog while Dick takes a nap.
Tonight is Italian night in the main restaurant. Our headwaiter has made us a special pasta dish…Penne with a good red sauce to go with the Caesar salad that has been excellent. We also have melon wrapped with prosciutto and the minestrone soup. It is nice meal with bottle of Shiraz. What a nice ending to an interesting day. Now we have three days at sea on our way to Guam.