27. ⚓️Voyage Across the Indian Ocean, And This Time I’m the Passenger; 🛳R.M.S. Strathmore –

Puri and lamb curry, yum!!  Yes, you read it right, the meal served on board the TEAL flight from Nadi to Sydney helped eased any tensions I experienced up there in that wild blue yonder!  I’m trying real hard to remember this; I think it was about a 6-7 hour flight and I’m sure I took a good long nap.

When we landed in Sydney there was a bus which took those of us who were continuing on to the P&O Liner towards Bombay and beyond (London), to a Sydney hotel for the night.  I believe it was called the Wentworth.

One of the Beautiful White Sisters by which the five sister ships became known, was awaiting our boarding the next afternoon; the R.M.S. Strathmore.  There would be four ports of call en route to Bombay.

I was set-up in a cabin which was shared with a fellow Hindu passenger from Fiji; nice guy, calm and kept mainly to himself.  He too was headed for England.

From Sydney we traveled south along the Pacific Ocean, turning right to now head west through the Bass Strait with Tasmania port-side, to dock at Victoria’s Melbourne.  We arrived the next morning.  

How exciting!  This was the first time I traveled on a luxury liner not to mention, as a free-to-relax-and-enjoy passenger and not the ship’s staff!   It completely changed the dynamics of this journey.  A different aspect and certainly not one to be missed!

We were there till nightfall and then onward in a northwest direction, passing Kangaroo Island and to the next port of South Australia’s Adelaide.  Another morning arrival for a full day’s stop.  

Once more we depart in the evening for our continued journey out on the open sea.  As we traveled west as we made our way through where the Great Australian Bight mingles with the Indian Ocean.

We went around the southern tip of Western Australia to arrive at the next port of Perth.  This would be the ship’s final continental port; it was just over an 1100 nautical mile journey from Adelaide.  Our ship docked for the full day and night.

Morning came again, as she tends to do, and we put out to sea.  This time our voyage took us clean though the Indian Ocean, crossing the Equator and looking towards Ceylon.

The air at sea to me was sensational!  It wasn’t hot or cold, it was amazing, it felt so good, so comforting and in a big way, helped to heal my soul.

At just over 3100 nautical miles this voyage was four nights at sea, setting us into the Northern Hemisphere, and on the 5th day we docked in Colombo.

This port was calling to me and so I disembarked in Ceylon to pay my respects to this ancient land and also to see and taste whatever I could in a full day’s time.  I enjoyed my visit, I did.  The seafood I sampled was absolutely delicious!  

The sights were fulfilling, the people beautiful and finally, a bunch of us took a bus up to Kandy Mountain where I experienced a real visual treat!

The following morning our ship departed for what would be my final destination via the R.M.S. Strathmore; Bombay, India.

There was plenty to do on board.  While strolling the decks was certainly my favorite, besides sampling the morning and afternoon tea spread, there was swimming, bowling, shuffleboard, poker, dancing and mechanical horse racing too.  

I probably should’ve used the gym more often but I thought being skinny was good enough.  The ship’s library looked interesting but in the end I ignored that to!

The ship took us around the southernmost tip of India and now in the Arabian Sea we passed Kerala, Goa and finally reached Bombay.  This journey, just over 800 nautical miles took nearly 3 days.  We arrived in the dark hours of the early morning.  

After breakfast it was time to leave this ocean voyage behind me and begin my adventures in India.  On  my way to London of course!  I disembarked this beauty for the final time and touched the soil of my father’s homeland for the first time.

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Strathmore and her four sister ships were given white-painted hulls and buff-coloured funnels.

http://www.pandosnco.co.uk/strathmore.html

R.M.S. Strathmore  ~  After a little research I have discovered this ship belonging to P&O Steam Navigation Co was launched by the Duchess of York  (the Empress Consort of India, wife of King George VI and of course the Queen Mother), 10 days before I was born – how about that!

26. I’m Leaving On An Aeroplane ✈️

The day prior to my departure came quickly and I found myself on a bus for the 3-4 hours drive towards Nadi.  I had a relative by marriage who was a Customs Officer there in Nadi and I spent this night at his home.

The 18th of July was here at last!  My flight was scheduled for the afternoon and I knew my family would be there to see me off.  Sure enough they arrived in my brother-in-law’s bus, scores of them, the bus was full!

My wife had arrived with her family in her uncle’s taxi.  I met with everyone who came to see me off.  When she and I spoke again it was a reminder of our previous conversation on the subject.

My mother cried of course and so it began, everyone else started up.  It was like contagious or something!

Hemma said to me in final parting, “I love you always.  Hurry and get settled so you can call for me as soon as possible.”  Wouldn’t you know, just like an old movie, it was all about timing.  In these tear stained moments the announcement came for my flight’s boarding.

We hugged, we all hugged.  My wife and I held one another.  It wasn’t one of her lady bear hugs but that’s okay because I think she was being the normal coy Indian wife, what with all eyes on us and everything.  What else right?

It’s okay.  I could see through the tears in her eyes she was going to miss me.  She would miss ‘us’.  I know she really didn’t want me to leave her.

I walked out to the passenger boarding steps of the TEAL airliner, not the color.  That’s Tasman Empire Airways Limited for those of you scratching your head trying to recall.

daddy's 1st airline ticket 1956

Yes I was a bit nervous; this would be my first flight ever!  I had no idea what to expect.  I’m climbing aboard a Douglas DC-6 and heading for Sydney, Australia.  I turned to wave as I ducked into the aircraft.  I too was crying.  

Another adventure of this lifetime was beginning and those spinning propellers on the sides of the aeroplane were going to get me there well, at least part of the way there.

As I said before this was going to happen in steps.

First step, board an aeroplane, second step, fly over the ocean in that aeroplane to a country I’ve actually already been to.  This oughtta be good!

I do remember the meal that was served; it was Indian food and it was actually very good!

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25. Hope Is Still Alive Beyond the Horizon

Life was like playing hide & seek with Hemma’s family.  Of course I maintained my husbandly status but it wasn’t comfortable.  No matter which room of what I thought was our house alone, that I would go into there was always at least one of them in there;  here or there.

When we escaped to our own room more often than not, there would come a knock at the door.  Really?  I remember when we lived at my family’s home (prior to our son’s birth), the one thing which was sacred was a closed bedroom door.  Clearly it was not practiced within this family unit.

So now let’s get on to the planning of what’s next.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it was about the beginning of winter, 1956.  I had heard before from various sources, that there were many individuals heading out to England, as a life-change move.

One could migrate there easily as we [Fiji] were already a British Crown colony.  While migrating closer to say New Zealand, or Australia, a visa was still needed.  As holders of a British passport, getting into a life in England was not at all difficult, other than securing transportation.

A big push, a tempting plus was the memory of my father telling me to use my government sponsored trip to India.  The British crown was sending each one of us kids, one-way to India if we wanted it.  “Go and see your father’s homeland, if you can.”  I could still hear him telling me this.

Now I could feel the wheels turning in my head.  My brain was starting to formulate the way it would go down.  If I take the free one-way passage to India, then it should be easier to get over to England from there.  From where I am currently positioned in the South Pacific, the journey would take me north-westerly and I would hit Bombay first.

I went into town one day and made an inquiry at the Labour Department.  Could this really happen?  Of course, this was absolutely a service they could provide for me!  To open this chapter up, they supplied me with the necessary forms and the requirements.  This would be my birth certificate and expected date of departure.

Can you even imagine how this re-sparked the 🔥within me?

That evening when I returned home, I made sure to have a private conversation with my wife.  I told it to her like this:  ‘Once I get settled down in London, I’ll call for you.  I’ll have a job and a place for us to stay.  You can travel to me on your own or I will come and get you myself, whatever you need.’

Hemma said she would have to think about this very big change.  She then also said to me, “Why are you always trying to leave Fiji?”  I responded quite calmly to my surprise, ‘There is no future or happiness here for us.  The memories here are becoming to painful.’

She seemed somewhat confused.  ‘Once you go away from here you’ll see what I am saying.’  I told her with great confidence.  It took some time but Hemma finally agreed later that evening; yes you can go she told me and seemed to mean it.  I mean the part about migrating to England.

I submitted my birth certificate, my requested travel date and the filled out forms to the Labor Department the next day.  It was all rapidly processed and my airline ticket to India was booked for Wednesday, the 18th of July, 1956 – Nadi, Fiji to Bombay, India.

TEAL ticket jacket 1956

Of course you understand this had to go in steps.  Of course!

 
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