Our voyage was much more than just exploring the geography of the globe, by far the more fascinating aspect was the people we met and above all our diverse, international cruising fraternity.
Because the places we visited were mainly remote and not much frequented by tourists, we often developed special relationships with families and village communities. This would have been impossible had we just stepped off a plane in a developed tourist area.
Our cruising colleagues were mainly like us, experienced sailors who had retired early to roam the globe. Very occasionally one came across a couple with a young family who had escaped the rat-race to educate their offspring in a floating classroom and the amazing school of the real world. We were like a floating village of several hundred who met up periodically in remote anchorages for joyous reunions and exchanges of experiences.
Here are some examples, roughly in the order we came across them, followed by some of our cruising friends (mainly, as Di's Mum noticed, with glasses in hand) :-
Australia is a vast continent with just a few huge cities but in the main one remembers those remote and far flung communities. Naturally, we should firstly regognise the indigenous aboriginal peoples who had the place to themselves until around 400 years ago. Now over 65% of them live in the Northern Territory in a protected area known as Arnhemland where we needed a permit to enter the towns.
This jovial gentleman was sitting outside a shop in Bamaga, an exclusively aboriginal town on the Queensland Carpentaria Coast at the very north of the continent, just beyond Cape York. The place is so isolated that there are virtually no industries, jobs or any constructive means of passing the time. People live off relatively generous welfare payments but inevitably alcohol plays too prominent a role in their lives.
Whilst touring Tasmania, off the southeast coast of Australia we naturally called in at the small town of Sheffield, named after our birthplace in England. The antipodean version is famed not for steel but a plethora of large murals adorning almost every wall in the town centre.
The Andaman Sea coastlines of northern Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) are the home of the Moken, a nomadic boat people. They live on small craft like the one below amongst the remote island groups which are largely unpopulated, their existence unknown and undocumented by the authorities.
The matriarch of this family we saw at Koh Surin Nua island in north west Thailand very close to the Myanmar border was one of the very few we were able to approach easily.
We met these four young ladies in Songkhla, a very Thai resort on the south east coast, close to Malaysia. Typically, as there were very few foreign tourists around, they were very curious, friendly and keen to have their photographs taken. This province is Thailand's Muslim area where there is political unrest and an active separist group.
These Cambodians in traditional costumes were roaming the world renowned Angkor Wat temple built in the 12th century in the reign of Suryavarman II. This is one of tens of amazing sites of that period scattered around an area close to the town of Siem Reap, the relics from a huge civilisation that declined during a period of climate change.
This young lady was abroad on the streets of Luang Prebang in Laos early in the morning, deftly balancing the elements her mobile liquid refreshment business on one shoulder. The town on the banks of the mighty Mekong river was a resort in the time of French colonial rule and is a centre of culture and fine cuisine.
Same transportation solution but this time by a purveyor of this wide assortment of basketwork in the streets of Bangkok.
In Vietnam's Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) an eminently sensible way to transport balloons. If they were helium filled one might wonder how many more it would take to lift the back wheel off the ground. Many young ladies in SE Asia wear face masks, not as a precaution against pollution but against the sun's rays. Skin colour is such an important social discriminant that a tan is to be avoided at all costs.
Motor scooters dominate the roads of SE Asia, just try crossing a road at a junction in Hanoi in Vietnam. Sometimes you just have to resort to stepping out slowly but determinely, preferably in a tight group. Hopefully a hole will form in the oncoming flood of bikes and move with you across to the opposite pavement. However, do not in any circumstances attempt this further south in Saigon, unless that is you need to make a quick transition to the local hospital. Here in Bangkok, Thailand they are being used to transport a bigger load of textile products than seems possible. A guy on a bike wearing a yellow bib usually designates a passenger seat for hire. Dave often availed himself of this mode of transport for a quick and frightening trip.
I'm not sure what this guy's got in the sacks here in inland Vietnam on the road to Da Lat but either he's also worried a sun tan or he's just done a bank job and its bank notes in the bags.
These two lads seem to be enjoying being let loose with their families oxen in the moutainous region of Vietnam near Sapa, close to the border with China. Oxen are still the only motive power for carts and ploughs in these remote communities.
Meanwhile, back at the coast in the kitchen of a Nha Trang French restaurant, the staff are recovering from their exertions producing the fare for lunch. Not sure what the hygiene implications are?
Throughout this country with such a sad history, the indominable spirit of the people is evident in many ways, one of which is the preservation of their traditional culture and the enthusiasm they demonstrate performing to the public. This informal dance goup were performing in what appeared to be a large room of a private residence in Hoi An, a charming coastal town much frequented by tourists.
Also in Hoi An, this river ferry is doing a good trade with standing room only.
This old guy in Hoi An had a great job hanging around the famous, old covered wooden bridge, a popular tourist haunt. Smile for the camera followed by a quickly extended hand.
Under the cover of the bridge they were holding a photo-shoot for contestants in the 2008 Miss Vietnam contest. What hot blooded tourist with a half decent camera wouldn't gate-crash the event.
Chiang Rai, was an ancient capital of Thailand but being in the far north of the country was prone to recurring attacks from the long term enemy, Burma. Just to the north of the town is Nanglae, a settlement for displaced Karen hilltribe refugees from northern Vietnam. Old traditions are jealously maintained and costume worn.
.....and even more charming than her aloof mother was her daughter striking a naturally seductive pose.
and yet again........maybe an aunt?
Buddhist monks in their orange garb are a common sight in the streets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Many parents, especially the poor send their children often as young as ten to join an order where they are cared for and educated. These carrying their books were abroad at lunchtime in the royal quarter of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Just after dawn, these novitiates, each carrying the food bowl their parents had sent them off with, were in an early morning line-up for alms in a street in Luang Prebang, Laos.
After receiving the arms they return in line to the monastery where the contents of their food bowls are consolidated and shared out. As far as we could see, it was mainly wrapped junk food and rice.
Here are two girls on a scooter using a phone in the midst of busy traffic in the centre of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Dave had a convenient viewpoint from on the back of an open tuktuk.
Back now to the steep hillsides on the outskirts of Sapa close to Vietnam's border with China where the traditionally dressed hilltribe women are having a break from a terraced field.
This young lady invited us in to see her home with basic furniture on an earthen floor that she was immensely proud of.
An unusual viewpoint from which to capture a picture of a family at prayer at a shrine in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Li Fang was a good guide and friend to six of we cruisers who arrived in Beijing. for a tour of China. We learned of her through her good friend Ammie who had come to the aid of some German yachties a year before (Ammie had just moved to Perth, Australia on a scholarship). Though just about to take important post-graduate exams Fang devoted several days to showing us around her city with great pride.
She was there to meet us when we arrived at our hotel and in the ensuing days not only explained a great deal about what we were seeing but about Chinese culture and the way of life for modern Beijingers. Under her tuition we also mastered the intricacies of negotiating the bus, underground and rail services which gave us a high degree of independence early on in out travels. Here she is on our first full day of touring in a newly opened tea shop in the brand new central shopping district.
The Forbidden City, historical home of the Chinese bureaucracy is a favourite tourist destination in Beijing. Below are two generations of a family enjoying a good day out at the heart of their capital.
Often its as much or more interesting observing these local tourists than the oft impressive sites we visited. This lady was spotted at the amazing Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
We also came across this group of tourists swirling these colourful, distinctive banners at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Across the road, to the north of the Forbidden City in Beijing is the Jing Shan Park which has a lookout on a high point on the southern end that makes a wonderful viewpoint to overlook the city. On Sunday afternoons it is a focus for the populace to gather in large numbers to take part in home grown musical and cultural performances.
This lady in all her glory at the top of the hill was part of a dress-up-in-costume and have your photo taken outfit. Nevertheless she was cooperating with free-lancers too.
Whilst down on the other side of the park people were dancing to music provided by others on a large paved area. Some were in costume but mainly not.
Some just wanted to go through their motions.
Whilst some just wanted to make a spectacle of themselves (interesting face & kinky boots?).
Some more organised groups of up to a hundred or so had their own mini orchestra complete with conductor.
This group were singing stirring revolutionary songs, one of the popular ones we recorded was called 'Mother River'.
Couldn't resist snapping this Beijing shop assistant in a tabacconists.
Thousands of kilometres south west of Beijing in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Here there is a theatre specialising in traditional opera where the costumes are all outstanding.
The colourful traditional stories they portray are interspaced with recitals on rare local instruments like single string violins and clever, mind-boggling, almost instantaneous costume changes.
Many thousands of kilometres to the west over the high Tibetan plateau lies the capital Lhasa. This venerable lady was a pilgrim at the Ganden Monastery, a couple of hours drive outside the capital.
Once in the monastery we found that by an incredible coincidence we had arrived on the principal day of devotion in the year and the whole site was a hive of activity. Below the senior monks were gathered for prayer in this room.
Whist some way away in a larger, wonderfully bedecked hall the young noviciates were seated performing their devotions. Not in view here were a number of very large kettle drums that later in the ceremony produced a formidable cacophony.
Another Ganden pilgrim but this one a young lad doing the Kora (clockwise walk around a religious site).
Lhaktun was our charming guide in Lhasa, Tibet. Here she is at a roof top restaurant with the Potala Palace behind.
Lhaktun passed us over to a relative to guide us the rest of the way through Tibet to the border with Nepal.
One of our very skilled and tireless Land Cruiser drivers who took us across rough terrain to the Everest base camp and beyond.
Driver of the other car.
This gentleman had brought his own statue of Buddha on his pilgrimage at Shigatse, Tibet.
Monks were generally pretty reserved but this one at Shigatse seemed keen to be photographed.
This young lad was playing with his older sister in a Shigatse street.
Tigri, where this girl is from is a half horse, one street town straggling the main 'Friendship Highway' across Tibet to Nepal.
This either the other Tigri girl's younger sister or close friend.
This holy man was sitting by a shrine in Kathmandu's Durbar Square.
The old lady here was begging at the temple, high up the hillside at Marpha on the Annapurna Trail in Nepal.
This character latched onto us whilst we were having a break so got to share some 'scroggin'.
These friendly children lived in a very small community on the quiet side of the river, away from the road on the Annapurna Trail, Nepal.
This holy man was sitting under a tree at the site of Lord Buddha's birthplace at Lumbini in the far south of Nepal, just a few kilometres from the border with India.