Journey to Australia

Better than a kick up the backside


Chris Ambrose

Part 1

How I enjoyed my journey to Australia!  

This magnificent cruise ship is every mans dream! Shota Rustaveli, in 1968.

What better way for a newly graduated student or young man, than to celebrate life and sewing your wild oats, than to take a cruise where you are out numbered by the female species? A young mans paradise ! My cabin was fully equipped, to include roommates that liked to party just as much as I did. The cruise had an almost around the clock entertainment to include a non stop bar with the exception of a short time that the bar was closed.

But first, let me share with you where my journey had taken me, as this is a series beginning with a delightful cruise. I plan to take you on a first class journey for 35 days with the most enchanting and riveting adventures, with a few surprises that a man may never expect.

I would like to share a bit about the ship and Australia with you from what I know and loved. The history of the Shota Rustaveli, was also one that could make you marvel at how luxury once was and how today it has changed so much, yet it offered great pleasure in the 60’s.

My journey or walkabout began in Sydney and the next few weeks were packed with a variety of jobs, adventures and places I had never seen before. But, my cruise ship escapades were anything but ordinary!

If you are used to having the best, you will enjoy the  exquisite accommodation with a perfect breakfast, even served with champagne until noon, a bed made with German satin bed linens, and a room complete with comfort and silence. Yet at the same time, if you are used to being in the center of events, where everything is there to entertain you, then you will love this cruise!

This stately ocean liner was built by Mathias Thesen Werft of East Germany as the SHOTA RUSTAVELI in 1968. It was the fourth in a series of Soviet vessels called the IVAN FRANKO or poet class ship. The ships were ones named so after famous Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian poets, so the class became know as the poetclass.

The Shota Rustaveli, was named after the famous Russian writer, Ivan Franco. He was a Ukrainian poet, writer, social and literary critic. He was also a journalist, interpreter, economist, political activist, doctor of philosophy, ethnographer, and the first detective novel author in the Ukrainian language. The same for modern poetry though by the time he was nominated for the 1916 Nobel Prize in Literature, he had been suffering from rheumatism of his joints which led to paralysis and depended on his sons to write his works.

In 1916, Josef Zastyretz and Harald G Hjärne, (although I researched, I was unable to identify who these two people were) nominated him but he died before the nomination ever materialized. He died in poverty at 4 p. m. on May 28, 1916. Those who came to pay their respects saw him lying on the table covered with nothing but a ragged sheet. His burial and burial-clothes were paid for by his admirers, and none of his family came to visit him.

Ivan Franco, was a political radical, and a founder of the socialist and nationalist movement in western Ukraine.

The Shota Rustaveli, sailed from Southhampton on October 14, 1968 bound for Australia, and arriving in Sydney on the 15th of November but departed the following day back to Britain. I stayed behind to see more of Sydney and Melbourne. 

This ship was among the last built with a fully encircling, enclosed promenade decks. It was the subject of much cold war scrutiny with speculation that they operated as a spy ship against the West but never proven. 

SHOTA RUSTAVELI was laid up at Iliychevsk in 1998. She was maintained by a crew of thirty or so who lived on board in the shipyard, making sure her machinery and accommodation were well-tended. In 2000, she was given an extensive refit and renamed ASSEDO. Although the ship was enjoying a renaissance in European cruising, she sailed to Alang for scrapping in late 2003.

Now, for the surprises I spoke of before!

One of those surprises, I mentioned was a chance meeting with a lovely Fräulein that could party the night away on our cruise, as I did. Even after she departed the cruise, she had invited me to join her family at Christmas. Now so you do not conjure up thoughts of white snow lined streets where you could enjoy sleigh rides, let me remind you this is Australia and it was summertime. Nonetheless, Australia was a lovely country in any season.

I happily accepted her invitation for Christmas. However, she neglected to tell me one very important thing. It may not have been important to most but for me, it did make a difference. Perhaps I would have thought twice, dressed differently  ven a different car. Oh well. 

As I maneuvered up the long driveway on Irving Road, Toorak, driving in my Volkswagen  my immediate attention was drawn on this most incredible mansion. She had neglected to tell me her family was very wealthy, beyond any imagination. There were twelve bedrooms in this mansion and a west wing, east wing, north and south wings too. I would say a typical mansion but I had never seen one before. Though her parents were mucky mucky big shots, they were very nice and down to earth. Her (Margie) parents were high society and held prominent employment positions. Her mother was the daughter of the governor of Gibraltar and father owned his own civil engineering firm, which was of particular interest to me being a newly graduated student from an engineering school.

Soon after arriving, I learned her mother’s cousin was none other than Tony Roach. If you do not know who he is, let me tell you! His name is Anthony Tony Dalton Roche, and if you are sports minded at all, you will be as impressed as I was! He had to his name, an earned reputation of being as fine a tennis pedigree as any player in history! He had been coached by Hall of Fame, Harry Hopman, who also mentored fellow Australian contemporaries Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall. Meaning he certainly moved in the right circles for success.

Roche was left handed, broad-shouldered thick in the chest, attributes that didn’t hamper his mobility, but rather enhanced his punishing serve and enabled him to possess one of the greatest backhand volleys in tennis history. 

His record stands for itself and very mind boggling to think I now knew a relative of his. It goes to show you that one never knows how life will develop unless you take a chance and experience new adventures. 

Christmas in Australia! It was summertime 

Celebrating Christmas in Sydney, Australia. Photo courtesy of 


There are many sites in Australia that would impress the most elite and the commoner as well. I being a newly graduated engineer am taken by different structures. 

Australia, is a country and continent surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. Its major cities – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide – are coastal. Its capital, Canberra, is inland. The country is known for its Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, a vast interior desert wilderness called the Outback, and unique animal species like kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses.

Australia’s Greatest Engineering Marvels 

Courtesy of

This intriguing architectural design is one of Australia’s greatest treasures and accomplishments. The final cost was $102 million and it was largely paid for by a State Lottery. But over 233 designs were submitted in 1956 for the international design competition held in the same year. The competition design was won by Jørn Utzon from Denmark. The designer received ₤5000 for his design. The construction began in 1959 and it took 14years to complete and over 10k construction workers and in 2007, the . Sydney Opera House was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There are more than 1 million roof tiles covering the structure made in Sweden. FYI: For those that know Arnold Schwarzenegger (former actor and Governor of California), may be interested to know he won his final Mr Olympia body building title in 1980 in the Concert Hall. More than 8.2 million people visit the Opera House every year. There is a lot of history regarding this structure, so please feel free to visit a web site for further information.

Please stay tuned for our next story about Australia and the sites to visit of interest and learn more about my journey through the country…jobs I worked and special interest that kept me roaming from one place to another. 

 Until We Meet Again!,

Chris70 is the new 50`

No matter what Life throws at you, 

it’s where Giving Up, is Never an Option!


You are also welcome to write to me for a signed copy of my book.

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