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Travel Diaries – Blogs, tips, clips n Slips

From the Saddle or Travel – the reality!  by  Capt’n Cork n Cruisin’ Cate

30 May 2009      The Bridge Bugle Blasts On
Hi troops, we are ‘steaming’ ahead at a very few ‘nots’ (sic). We are under a good luck charm with the weather too. Must have rubbed some Buddha’s paunch correctly.

“GOOD AFTERNOON! THIS IS THE CAPTAIN SPEAKING FROM THE BRIDGE” this greeting sounded from every speaker on the ship, bow to stern, top deck to bilge. “ WE HAVE A SERIOUS INCREASED INCIDENCE OF A HIGHLY CONTAGEOUS GASTRO-INTESTINAL VIRAL ATTACK.

THIS HAS BECOME EVIDENT SINCE LEAVING INDIA” – now there’s a nice parting gift to nearly 2000 sphincters. Precautionary measures involve quarantining the sufferers (in their fumigated cabins)–I don’t know how they get food, although the probably don’t want much—maybe the old’ pizza slid under the door trick.

Alcohol infused antiseptic hand gel  dispensers are at all congregation sites e.g. dining rooms, lift lobbies, staircases, bars, gyms etc. We are told to wash our hands for at least 20 secs after the toot. We are also told to avoid door handles, balustrades and other peoples mouths–(that will take some getting used to!). I suppose I’ll need to be very conscious of not putting my foot in my mouth (which Cate tells me I am want to do).

Touch wood! We are, as yet, clear although many people are also coughing like TB clinic cases. Apparently ship-board contagions are common.

Another common regular is the ship-board myth of fighting passengers who get ‘put-off’ at the next port. The most frequent battleground is the Laundromat followed by the ironing room. I never realized washing and ironing elicited such pent-up rage—must the disappointment of ones clothes failing to match the TV commercial’s white imagery. Certainly our women in the Kleenmaid battle zone don’t match the TV dollies (therein lies the problem).

More factually, cruises pitched at the youngies (20 something’s) have massive grog/drug behavioral issues and a security staffer told me they have an absolute zero tolerance policy. Alas, Dianne Bramble, too little too late.

Any reference to smooth sailing and mild seas has been fully superseded. A ‘severe’ low pressure cell has formed in the South Atlantic & we are several 100knts SE of Capetown now heading directly into force 6/7 westerly winds and 6+ m. swells. Not quite the seas encountered in the 1998 Syd-Hobart race, but serious big waves and wind ripping the tops off cresting swells creating that ‘stretched’ appearance down the back of the wave. You know, the sort of sea you would swim in!! We are steaming at 17knts. This mother weighs 79,000 tons and has a beam of 30 m.–can you imagine the bow wave spread?–there’s white water everywhere, and still a couple of albatross soar off our stern—they are good luck omens, aren’t they? (I think it’s the vulture albatross that’s to be avoided).

Our first footsteps on South African soil was at Richards Bay. Actually, we trod on coal dust first—Richards Bay is a materials handling port first (and nearly last) and inexplicably this cruise has picked the most industrial docking wharfs since Singapore. No passenger terminals, no, it’s coal loaders and container land for us. Analogous to docking at the La Perouse end of the Botany Bay container terminal. Thereafter buses to Circular Quay via Zetland and Redfern. It’s unusual to arrive at someone’s home via the night cart lane—but there must be some explanation. We just haven’t been told, so assume the worst! $$$.

Richards Bay is a gateway to Zulu Natal province. Zulu is the dominant tribe throughout South Africa, (< 60%) and the new Pres. Is a full tilt Zulu (including 4 wives)–keep you eye on that space. South Africa has a population growth of 0.08% pa—aids related deaths running above 2000/week—sic. However, annually 2,000,000 are illegally streaming over the borders from their northern neighbours, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique etc. Did I say keep an eye on this space?, hell!!.

The whites are only 5%—now there’s an uncomfortable minority for you (or more correctly ‘them’).
Mid 1800’s saw Sharka , a Zulu king, treacherous and blood thirsty with a great deal of clout—no pun intended. He used (one of old Mohammed’s) recruiting tactics on any and every other tribe—decapitate the Chief, his wives and children. Thereafter he seemed to have a progressive loyalty and support.  The Zulu population grew rapidly. I asked about the role and success of the church missionaries. It seemed they didn’t fare too well amidst the decapitating Sharka however in a murderous act of sibling rivalry, Sharka copped his and the church established a toe-hold. It eventually played a major role in educating negro kids up until Apartheid was abandoned.   

We will arrive in Capetown shortly. If poss. I’ll check out Table mountain, particularly since it hosts a very serious international cycling event where more than 30,000 cycos ascend it’s steep access roads to ascend the  1600m+ rise to the plateau. The descend would be the better half.
Thereafter it’s off to a 3 day safari, fully be-decked in pith helmet and camera.
I’ll be back soon

7 June 2009  LATE NEWS, on that, near Seychelles piracy incident (in April), of the Italian owned passenger liner “Melody”.
I read in a local South African newspaper (like the North Shore Times) a scathing and critical account by a local builder bloke & his wife who, with another couple strolled onto the unlit after deck at about 11pm. To discover the pirates 6m outboard powered ‘tinnie’ at the stern and a Somalian pirate using a long pole and hook to grapple the rear hand rail. The blokes sent heir wives to raise the alarm whilst they tore deck furniture at the scaling pirates. That elicited a few rifle shots from another ‘tinnie’ standing off in the dark. Eventually the alarm call flushed out (probably from the Limoncello Bar) armed security who returned the fire and drove them away. The Italian navy escort ship arrived later the following day. Caustically, the builder asked “what if we hadn’t gone for a stroll?”

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