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Pretty much nothing happened on January 6. There was the Captain's farewell cocktail and dinner (and it may be farewell indeed: he's thinking of retiring after 30 years). People slouched around, having packed rather fast, with very little to do. The weather was lovely and the sea was smooth, so the walking-circles-on-decks crowd had scope. However, early in the morning of the 7th, something did happen. Unfortunately.

Fog had condensed all over the ship, on railings, decks, stairs, windows, etc., and it was slippery as sin outside. I myself opted not to go out, although the stars were fine and bright, because I didn't want to finish up with a strained something or a broken something else. (Remember, everything "outside" is metal and moving. And badly illuminated, at night.) However, quite a few people did go, some up to the flying bridge, and one of those slipped and fell on her way down, hitting her head and getting bad cut---possibly worse. She lay on the deck for only five or ten minutes afterward, conscious but stunned I surmise, and was fortunately found by a group including a passenger who's a paramedic. First aid was rendered, the ship's official physician and its technically-off-duty-passenger other physician summoned, and the poor woman was well cared for. For such a thing to happen hours before the end is bad not just for the accident victim, it rattled and shook the staff, who were beginning to relax having avoided any emergency save seasickness and bad colds on the ship for five weeks.

The ship arrived in Fremantle just after sunrise, after an amusing kerfluffle (related to me, not seen). When the port radioed the ship to ask when they intended to meet their escort at a certain marker, the ship radioed back that they expected to meet the escort at 5:30, and port retorted that given the ship's present position on radar, that was impossible. What charts was the ship using, asked the port, and the ship replied Russian charts (as they have been, all along, dated 1981---the year of Kapitan Khlebnikov's commissioning, I believe), and the port crisply retorted that the ship is in Australian waters and should be using Australian charts, specifically chart 113. The ship replied that they had requested them from their agent and had not received them, and the port came back to *that* with, We have your agent on the phone and he says that you should have an old copy of chart 113 (the ship was last here in 1998, and I suppose the chart might have been current then). The captain and chief mate pulled apart the map drawers, searching frantically for the chart, and found it. They then had to correlate the Australian chart to the Russian chart, find the ship's position on the Australian chart, and figure out their arrival time at the rendezvous. They were supposed to be there at 5:30; they managed to get there at 5:45.

Fremantle harbor changes faster than the Arctic and Antarctic, the icebreaker's native element.

But the tugboats and the Khlebnikov rendezvoused and glided into the harbor, and the remarkably fast and painless disembarkation began. First off was the woman who'd fallen; she was accompanied by the doctor in an ambulance to the hospital. Customs and immigration officials came aboard; they were polite, friendly, and pleasant to everyone, unlike the customs and immigrations officials of, say, the United States of America; the passengers were processed, granola bars presented for inspection, and all cleared in jig time. (I never did hear what happened to the Swiss guy who hadn't gotten his tourist visa before coming. Or to the woman who'd very, very optimistically booked herself a 10:00 am international departure from Perth Airport.) Then the baggage was wrangled ashore and lined up, the passengers straggled down the gangway and sorted out the bags again, and the buses and taxis began to arrive. Slowly. All the taxis ordered for our ship dutifully presented themselves at the dock, but at the wrong ship; a big cruise ship had come in also, and the passengers of this cruise ship, who had not ordered taxis, hijacked ours.

Having finally managed to get to my hotel less than a kilometer away, with luggage, I was told that my room wasn't ready, and was not as clever as D, the other passenger who asked whether another room was ready when the room they'd planned to give him wasn't ready either. He ended up in a room right away. My stuff went into storage and I drifted out and wandered around the Esplanade, a small, attractive park, and the so-called "cappucino strip" with disembarked fellow passenger A.

Fremantle has been acclaimed for its cappucino strip. This comprises a section of South Terrace and several other streets, some connected with old pedestrian arcades, with one small area fully pedestrianized. The main South Terrace shopping zone has the most outdoor cafe seating (on the sidewalk, under verandahs), and would be a very pleasant place were it not for the very loud, fast, and frequent traffic on the street. One can hardly hear the person in the next chair speak. This is true of the other streets around also; there is too much traffic for it to be genuinely pleasant to be outside there after 7:30 in the morning. The pleasantest place to sit at a table, that I found, is in the Esplanade park, at a small kiosk offering coffee and breakfast and lunch food. It is unpretentious and low-key, the woman who gets your coffee calls you "love," and, surrounded by grass, trees, and birds, it is hands-down the most agreeable cafe in Fremantle.

I suspect that the people who praise the cappucino strip in Fremantle have not actually been in a genuine pedestrianized cafe and shopping district with better-regulated and corralled traffic. It is one of those things where a concept has not been fully understood and thus the implementation is fatally flawed, at least in my view.

At least a lot of the buses roaring past are CNG.

Fremantle has a Target, but it is cluttered and grimy, not sleek and bright like USA Target.

The hotel room, when I finally am allowed to occupy the room, is at the end of a long corridor that takes me halfway up the block (no, really) and is fancy but spartan. An odd combination, but possible. For instance, there are no bedside lamps. Illumination is provided by bright halogen lights immediately over the bed. To turn one on, you use a rocker switch installed on the nightstand. If you are inaccurate, you hit the switch for the room's central light, which would better serve in an operating theater. Miraculously the room, though at street level, is quiet; right across the street is "Outback Jack's" bar. Powerful soundproofing has been used. At street level, the room still has a "balcony" or mini-terrace but a note on the glass door admonishes the occupant not to leave the door unlocked. It is not a particularly welcoming lump of concrete out there, untabled and chairless, and I can't imagine anyone actually sitting across from Outback Jack's and a bunch of parked cars with their croissants and coffee. (Later I see someone smoking a cigarette out there. Perfect use.) No desk lamp; no table lamp anywhere; no comforts. A little card beside the bed offers me seven kinds of pillows, but the comment card beside it is soiled with coffee stains. The colors are all blandly neutral. No character. It could be in Zurich or Beijing. I may try to get a different room tomorrow. At least one not at street level so I can look out the window.

All of this hotel's charm is on the outside; inside has been sanitized in a typically late-twentieth-century way.

At dinner time I walk to the train station, joined on the way by A who is staying at the Backpacker's YHA. The Khlebnikov is still in the harbor, still hooked up to the sewage-pumping barge according to D whom we meet at the station. (D lives in Alice Springs but is a font of useful maritime information. I have suggested he buy a boat, dock it in Melbourne, but register it in Alice Springs, just so he can paint Alice Springs on the stern.) Four more ex-passengers arrive on foot or on the Perth train and we amble over to a steak house on the harbor, because D has a hankering for steak. It is chaotic and deteriorating. There are just two waiters for a huge dining room and outside area, the bartender appears to be drinking, and it takes an awfully long time to get steaks cooked only approximately to the specifications. Then it takes more than 45 minutes to get a second round of drinks, ordered before the steaks are brought but delivered well after. Unfortunately we are there for the steaks as much as for the water view and I am badly disappointed; my "medium rare" Scotch filet is raw at one end and past medium at the other. The accompanying green peppercorn and onion sauce is about a tablespoon of onion and half-a-dozen green peppercorns. My salad was never served. It is clear this restaurant should die and be replaced, but it has been written up favorably in guidebooks and so a steady stream of tourists come. Truly, it's best to avoid anything in a guide book, at least for restaurants, whenever possible. I'm looking forward to having the camper van and its kitchen!

We cut our losses, pay, and flee, disgruntling the member of the party who wants dessert. Instead, a walk in the last light of the setting sun, under bronzy clouds, leads us to a bit of beach and we bump into two of the expedition staffers, finally out of the mandatory corporate logo clothes. They're having a walk after their dinner too, which was a barbecue thrown by a friend with an art gallery. I don't want to intrude on this private, blowing-off-steam party; they've been dealing with passengers for weeks. The ship is rumored to be due to leave at 21:00, and I hope to get a photo of it leaving the harbor. It hasn't appeared by 21:30; by then, there's no light left in the sky, and my camera is not equal to a nighttime exposure. So I walk back to the hotel to read and sleep.


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