Day 48 Friday 1 May
Durban A$1 equals around 10 Rand
24c partly cloudy, some wind
Just a bit on last night's wild weather; the Cruise Director said he's been at sea for 15 years and had never experienced a night like it and another crew member said the same thing to Gail when she was doing her morning walk, so it was something to experience.
We had a leisurely breakfast and went down to the pier to board the bus. We were obviously berthed at a different dock to the last time we were here because it was much more pleasant. The bus drove out through the city, luckily it was a holiday for Workers Day so there was much less traffic than normal.
We drove out on a 4 lane highway to the Tala Game Reserve where they gave us morning tea then we boarded an open truck for a game drive. It was good even though the only one of the big 5 they had were the rhinos. We saw them with their armed guard in a jeep to prevent poaching. They have had some. We saw giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, Kudu, warthogs, ostriches, various types of antelopes, blue ibis and some monkeys. It was not bad and for those who had not seen the animals in the wild before it was exciting. The Masai Mara which we saw on our last trip to Africa, is a real wilderness and sort of spoils you for even a semi controlled experience. The rhinos are the only animals that they control in any way, giving them veterinarian treatment if they get ill or injured. All the others are left to survive on their own. They had no elephants or large predators as they said they did not have enough land to provide them with a suitable environment. Evidently you need at least 10,000 hectares and they only had 3,000.
When we got back on board we had a drink and watched the sail away. We had a much better impression of Durban this time than last time we were here.
The entertainment was a double show with George Casey the "comedian" and Simon Bowman. His part was not long enough.
Day 49 Saturday 2 May
At sea in the morning then East London in the Eastern Cape Province
23c, light, cool winds, some cloud.
We had a leisurely breakfast and read. At about noon we docked in a pretty small port where the tugs turned us completely around in our own length with only a couple of metres on each end.
We disembarked (like the nautical terms?) and boarded the bus and drove to the Khaya La Bantu village which is a Xhosa settlement. The Xhosa speak with clicks as part of their language which was interesting. They only have there clicks unlike the Bushmen who have many.
When we arrived at the village they welcomed us with singing and dancing to drums. The singers and dancers were the young people. We had a look at their stalls then they assembled us and told us a bit about their culture. There was a 96 year old woman Mumma Tofu (pronounced Torfa) who was very lively and articulate. The men were all taken off to a Krall where we sat in a circle and went through some men's ceremonies that included drinking Brandy to simulate the blood of our ancestors (there's a familiar concept) and some Xhosa beer which was a bit like Khava. We were all taken down a path to a grass hut some way from the village to the initiation ground. The central part of the initiation ceremony is circumcision which is performed between the ages of 18 and 21 which made us all wince. We were taken through the whole process which takes about 6 weeks depending on recovery time. The final act was to burn the hut that the initiates live in through the whole process. It was some blaze.
Then they gave us lunch cooking the way they do although most of the food was pretty much the sort of food that we eat, just prepared differently. Then there was some more dancing and singing which was very good before we boarded the bus and went back to the ship. While it was a little bit of a set up it was still really interesting and worthwhile. The landscape was very reminiscent of Australia as was the country side out of Durban even to the prevalence of gum trees and acacias.
We had our dinner in the Bistro then went down to the Cabaret Room to watch Lauren Heavener who is one of the singers in the productions do her first ever solo cabaret. She was quite good. This was followed by a wooden horse race and a video of the highlights of the cruise. Finally, what we had all stayed up for, Singing With the Stripes where the dancers had all chosen a partner from the crew (officers) from various sections of the ship and taught them a dance routine. They ran it like Dancing with the Stars with a expert panel making comments and audience voting. It was great fun and surprisingly of a good standard.
It was a really good day, and night.
Day 50 Sunday 3 May
At sea along the southern tip of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope.
23c partly cloudy
We did the Zumba class then Jen and Naomi came up early for the cruise long quiz which was actually the presentation of prizes. We didn't feature in the top prizes but I got the geography prize and Gail got the prize for the most "I don't know, who cares and no idea" answers. Her total correct answers was higher than mine so yet again another test that we both did where she beat me as in all the others. The
Staff had bought up champagne and pastries so we had a little party and talked to the staff because Chris had stayed after Zumba and Helene came early for line dancing. They are a great bunch of kids.
For the rest of the day we watched a bit of TV, read and watched the Ocean until the afternoon when we walked around the deck and then did the stretch class. There was a Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party, then we had dinner and went to the show which was another production "Cinemastastic" which was as good as they always are.
Day 51 Monday 4 May
20c cloudy with some wind.
As we came into Cape Town it was very foggy and the ship was blasting its foghorn so we did not get the sights of Table Mountain as we came in which is a bit of a pity.
We had breakfast out on the deck and watched the mountain slowly become visible. It was a bit chilly out there.
We went ashore and walked through a an area of construction to the Victoria and Albert Centre which is really pleasant. After some searching we found the tourist information centre and got some information on tours to the Cape. Then we went to the Rugby Museum which is pretty new and not bad except that most of the international exhibits concentrate on their games against the All Blacks.
There was a complementary beer with the museum ticket at a bar called Quay 4 right on the water front which turned out to be the bar we had a drink in last time we were in Cape Town. We had a couple of drinks and some mussels for lunch and looked at the various brochures on the Cape tour. We went back and booked a tour for the next day and did a bit of shopping for presents. By this time the fog had lifted so we went on a catamaran tour through the harbour and along the coast. Unfortunately the fog had started to come back down so the tour was cut a bit short.
We went back to the ship and had a shower then went up to the early show which was an African Folkloric group. It was interesting and they gave us all tubes with different coloured rings and a beating stick. They were all the same circumference but of different lengths. Without any oral directions they got us playing at different times with different rhythms which sounded really good. We had to leave early because we had arranged to meet Sue and Allan for a pre dinner drink as they are leaving tomorrow.
After dinner we went to bed and had a bit of an early night.
I finished "Rome 1960 , The Olympics that Changed the World" by David Maraniss which dealt with the influence of the Cold War and the associated spying that was going on around the Olympics, the US racism, shamateurism and the 2 China controversy. It was also the first Olympics that drugs became a visible issue. Very interesting book.
Day 52 Tuesday 5 May
22c, foggy, cloudy, cool, some rain
The tour mini bus picked us up just after 8.30 and we headed out of the city. Unfortunately the weather was so bad we couldn't see the mountains or the beaches but our guide, Noul, kept us engaged. He was classified as "coloured" under Apartheid and told us what that was like. He said the 4 best days of his life were his wedding, when his 2 daughters were born and the day when he could make his mark alongside Nelson Mandela's name in the first election he had ever been allowed to vote in.
Our first stop was Hout Bay where there was an optional boat ride to see some seals which we chose not to go on so walked around the village looking at the markets and the diamond shops. We bought some souvenirs/gifts. There was a guy cutting strips of cheap meat, putting it in his mouth and leaning over the edge of the wharf so the seals could jump up and take it out of his mouth. People were putting money in a tin so he was doing ok.
As we drove along the road we came on a troop of baboons. There young ones and mothers and the Alpha male who was an impressive figure. The young ones were climbing the trees and swinging on the electric cables. We went into an ostrich farm where the ostriches were kept in large yards, two to a pen. The Ostrich leather purses and bags on sale inside the shop were beautiful but very expensive ($US2,500 for a shoulder bag). It was raining while we were there.
By the time we went into the Cape of Good Hope National Park it had stoppedraining and we went to the most southern part of the African continent and had photos taken by the sign. Then we went up to the lighthouse which had been built in 1860 didn't really do it's job well because of the fog which a pretty constant feature in winter. It was relocated in 1919 after the wreck of the Lusitania in 1911. We walked from the bottom up to the lighthouse where there was a spectacular view of the coastline in both directions. As we walked down we went into what had been accommodation huts where a longitudinal meteorological project was being conducted. When we reached the bottom we had some lunch in the Two Oceans restaurant which is close to where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans come together. Unfortunately because it was overcast we could not see the two colours (green and blue) that show where they meet.
From there it up the west coast of the Cape to Simons Town to see the African penguins. They were really interesting. They dig nests in the sand and then line them with grass. We saw one down a hole digging furiously with the sand flying out behind her. There were some with eggs, some with small chicks and some with almost fully grown chicks. We also saw a rabbit sized animal called a dassize or a hyrax and another that looked like a small weasel called a genet.
The next stop was the National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch. Set right up into the back of Table Mountain they are spectacular and really worth a visit. We went there when we were in Cape Town before but they have put in a tree walk since which gives magnificent views across to the city.
We had free WiFi in the bus so Gail paid some bills and I looked at emails from ATP about our Vietnam trip next year.
Then it was back to the ship. When we arrived there we were so tired that we just had a snack, a shower and went to bed. Josie and Leonard who were with us said they did the same.
Day 53 Wednesday 6 May
20c cool wind, cloudy
It was foggy and cool so it was jeans and jumpers today. After a late breakfast we went down town and did a bit of shopping for things like toothpaste and boot polish and just wandered around looking at the sights. We also bought wine and snacks for our pre dinner drinks on our balcony. The wine is pretty cheap here.
We had a cup of coffee in MacDonalds and used their free WiFi with limited success. I had a haircut at a pretty flash looking barber shop, very old English, but it only cost the equivalent of A$17.
When we got back to the ship there was a long line to go through South African immigration. We kept on getting confused messages about this process. The ship keeps our passports most of the time to facilitate immigration with the various countries but this time they told us to collect them the night before and take them with us when we went off the ship to go through immigration but then when we went off they took them back. The result was that those who went off early had their passports but not the receipt they needed while we had to line up to get ours. Don't know whose fault it was but it was the first time they have really stuffed up.
The sailaway was spectacular (I use that word a lot don't I). The ship sailed right alongside of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles on the port side which is where our cabin (they call it a stateroom) is. The view was so good that we rang the other couples on our table who are on the starboard side to come up and watch which they did.
It was an early show as a bit of a taster and introduction for those who have joined the ship yesterday. The dancers were good as usual and the comedian who gave a short performance was better than the others we've had which is faint praise.
I finished Candy.and by Evan Hunter and Ed McBain who it turns out are the same person.
Day 54 Thursday 7 May
At sea sailing north westerly along the coast of South Africa and then Namibia
21c some cloud
Gail was up early and walked for another hour. After breakfast we did Zumba then followed it up with line dancing. I went to a lecture on Sudden Dinosaur Death by an earthquake expert who is our scientific expert this sector. It wasn't too bad.
We did some washing then went to a lecture entitled Rome's Eternal Moments by our Classic History lecturer this section. He is an American professor who has Jnr after his name (enough said?). He is very dramatic plays classical music as backing to the lecture and speaks a very profound form of English.
We read upstairs until it was time for Gail's nail appointment and I went to the cabin to do some writing. Then it was time for a walk and the stretch class. As we were walking we saw the most amazing sunset. It must have lasted 45 minutes and the sky kept on getting deeper and more brilliant shades of red. It was the Captain's Welcome Party so we put on our formal clothes and went to the lounge. He gave us the statistical breakdown of everyone on board: 33 nationalities in the 332 crew members; 29 nationalities among the 605 passengers; 296 Americans; 106 Australians; 86 Canadians; 39 from the UK; 19 from New Zealand; 12 from Taiwan who all lost their luggage and the rest from a variety of countries.
The show was a Scottish girl, Seonaid Aitken who played classical violin and piano and has a beautiful singing voice. She was very versatile and very good.
Day 55 Friday May 8
Luderitz Namibia Australian $ equals 10 Namibian $
16c in town but much warmer out in the desert.
We got into Luderitz at about 6.00am and went down to go through immigration just before 7.30 as instructed for a tour starting at 8.00. That was optimistic. It was the slowest immigration process I have ever been through and included handwritten answers that they had to put in in about four places on the stamp they put in your passport. The tour staff were very frustrated as were some of the passengers.
We finally got on the mini bus at 9.00 and set off through the town out into the desert. Our destination was Kolmanskop which was a German diamond mining town but which is now a ghost town. When the diamonds were first discovered they were so plentiful that they actually mined them by crawling on their hands and knees. It was a very well resourced town when it was in full operation but now the sand is taking over and the mining is now 250 metres out to sea using vacuum hoses.
It was cool at the dock side so we rugged up but it was very warm out in the desert so we kept taking things off.
After the tour we went back to the ship, changed into cooler clothes and then went on a walking tour of the town. It is very German as they were the main influence on the development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact Namibia was previously known as German South West Africa. It is a very rocky place with many of the major buildings actually built on the existing rocks.
They delayed our departure by an hour to allow for the immigration delay so we sailed out at 2.30 in brilliant sunlight only to disappear into thick fog 30 minutes out. We could see it on the horizon from the town. The townspeople told us they like the fog because it means the wind isn't blowing.
When the ship finally left we went up on deck and watched Luderitz fade away, it looked very pretty with the colourful buildings and the rock and the sand dunes behind.
We walked, did the stretch class then listened to the pre dinner music. The show was another presentation this time called Do You Wanna Dance which was again very good. Naomi, one of the dancers was injured so didn't perform, but if you didn't know there were supposed to be three female dancers you would not have realised one was missing. Very professional.
Day 56 Saturday May 9
Walvis Bay, Namibia
29c, cool by the ocean warm in the desert.
We had breakfast on the back deck and watched a container ship being loaded.
We boarded a bus just before nine. It was in pretty poor shape, broken seats and windows that wouldn't open but a girl got on and said "This is Africa. If it gets broken it doesn't get fixed." Luckily we were only in it for five minutes until we transferred to a 4 wheel drive.
There were only the four of us (Annette & Geoff were with us) in the vehicle so there was plenty of room. The driver/guide was Lawrence which he pronounced the Afrikaans way "Lowrinz".
We drove in a convoy of ten vehicles out of the town and into the desert on a very smooth road made of a sand salt mixture which Lawrenc said was the way most of their roads were constructed and was very good except when it rains when it gets a bit crusty. This is not a big problem because the region only gets 15mm rainfall a year.
We turned off to a huge sand dune known as number 7 because it is seven miles out of town. It was about 100metres high so off course we had to climb it. Hard work going up but the view was worth it. Sand then more sand then even more sand. It was much easier going down.
From there we drove further into the desert into the Namib-Naukluft Park where we stopped to look at the Welwitschia plants which only grow in Namibia and even there only in selected areas. They are very slow growing and one of the ones we looked at is estimated to be 1500 years old. They get their moisture by reverse osmosis the leaves taking it from the fog which can go as far as 150km inland.
We then stopped at a look out that showed a weird landscape. They joked that it is where Armstrong made his film about the moon landing. It looked like it too.
After that we drove into an oasis where there were trees but no surface water and had lunch. Very nice, oysters, champagne, schnitzels all very acceptable. From there we drove through some very dusty canyons and on to the town of Swakopmund which was back by the Ocean and had some very nice German type buildings. We stopped for a while at a weaving plant where they use the local wool which seemed very coarse but they made it into very nice mats and wall hangings.
After a stop by the coast and a walk out on the jetty we headed back to Walvis Bay along the coast road. We stopped at a platform they had built just off the coast for the sea birds. They clean it off every now and then to harvest the guano. Smelt like it had been a while since the last harvest.
By this time it had got cold again and the fog was coming up. When we got back to the town we went around to the bay where all the flamingos were, hundreds of them. From there it was back to transfer into old bus and back to the ship.
By the time we left it was dark so we walked and did the stretch class then dinner. The show was a comedian so Gail went to bed. I watched him and he wasn't too bad. Had a long talk to Becky, one of the dancers after the show. She had been going to go sky diving on her shore day but they wouldn't let her because their contracts forbid them doing dangerous activities so she went quad biking in the dunes instead. ??
Day 57 Sunday 10 May
At sea up the western coast of Namibia
28c some cloud and wind
Gail did tap dancing and then we signed up for the cruise long quiz and did a line dance class.
Then we opened up the computer and checked Gail's Mothers Day messages. They had a bit of a special lunch on for Mothers' Day so we went had a light lunch.
Didn't anything special in the afternoon, read walked did the stretch class then had a pre dinner drink in the lounge and dinner. After dinner we listened to a Canadian singer, Claude Eric and went to bed.
I finished "Crooked Letter Crooked Letter" by Tom Franklin.
Day 58 Monday 11 May
At sea sailing north easterly up the west coast of Africa. Slight seas.
25c some light cloud
After breakfast we did a Zumba class which was very energetic, then the quiz and a line dance class.
Gail had a swim while I went to a lecture on Jerusalem which was interesting although the presentation left a bit to be desired. Later I went to another talk this time on the nature of science.
After that we read for a while then I walked and did stretch class. Gail's leg was hurting so she stayed in the cabin and read.
We went down to the Club Bar at 7.00 to meet for the Chef's Dinner which we had shouted ourselves for our anniversary. There were 10 of us and we had to put on white coats and walk through the dining room into the kitchen. They talked to us about the operation and we could see the waiters going back & forth. After washing our hands (20 seconds in 80-100c) we went downstairs to an area they had set up with tablecloths and fruit and vegetable carvings. The Maître D and the Executive Chef joined us and the Deputy Maître D talked to us about champagne and then we had some (plenty). They bought out 4 entrees and the Chef explained each one to us. One of the women felt ill and had to leave. Her husband stayed but eventually left, reluctantly.
We all went up in the lift to Sabatini's Restaurant where they had set up a beautiful table and they served us another three courses with the Chef introducing each one and the Maître D telling us about the wines they had chosen to match. It was all very pleasant and the food was fantastic but there was too much of it.
Day 59 Tuesday 12 May Anniversary
Luanda, capital of Angola.
35c and very humid
There were balloons and a congratulations certificate outside our room when we went to breakfast. We hadn't booked any tours as they were very expensive so after breakfast we went ashore into town. We looked around the big square outside the docks then walked down to the harbour foreshore which they have developed into a promenade which they call the Margin. The main language is Portuguese.
We walked along it right up to the San Miguel Fort at the other end of the harbour. It was a very pleasant walk and we could see the city over the road. They had warned us against taking photos saying the police could confiscate your camera but we took some just making sure we avoided any government or military buildings etc, well almost. The walk took us just over two and a half hours and was very hot. We saw a school of small fish jumping out of the water then saw a young guy in a boat catch a large fish right in the middle of the disturbance which must have been chasing the smaller ones.
When we came back to the ship we had lunch then a swim. We didn't walk or do stretch as we felt we had done enough. Before dinner I went to see the comedian Tom Briscoe who I thought was good. Gail stayed in the cabin and read. After dinner we went up to the deck party and danced for about an hour. It was very hot but still good fun.
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