2023 – 3 – Grand World 3.3 of 5 More of Africa

We were at sea in Africa on Monday, March 13, 2023. We’ll be in Cape Town tomorrow and I have two excursions plus dinner at GOLD for 23 people, so I paid attention to all that stuff. 

Then I reserved the big table in the Pinnacle for May 7 and found out the ship expects me to pay full freight for the dinner, even of the guests are 5*.  That sticks in my craw and I’ll be planning a work around.  I had 16 copies of the GOLD restaurant list printed to go in with the newsletters and delivered same.  The entertainment was “Shades of Africa” a white male pianist with two African ladies with fabulous voices.  The guy gave me the creeps, but the women were wonderful. 

On Tuesday, March 14,we docked in the much anticipated Cape Town, South Africa.  We had a private tour out of Cape Town today, with Tsiba-Tsiba.  It means “Hop Hop”.  Colleen Mes was our guide.  She was dressed in soft rainbow colours, all the way to her shoes.  Addy loved it and we were sure not to lose her on Table Mountain.  We had paid extra for FastTrack tickets up the Cable car and we went straight there.  It was brilliant sunshine and no tablecloth at all.  We really got the view.

You could see that the fog was moving in, though in this picture of the cute little animal that lives up there.  She’s called a dassie, and she had two little ones, but this is my best picture. 

The ship’s tour buses had started arriving, so we didn’t stay too long.  As it was, the line up for the cable car back down was getting long.

Our next adventure was Chapman’s Drive, one of the most beautiful drives in the world.  It reminded me of the west coast of California, that was in our back yard for so many years.  We were tourists enough to go drive it every so often, especially when we had guests, but often just because it was a beautiful day.  This was a beautiful day, for sure, and this drive took us from one coast to the other, Atlantic Seaboard to Indian Seaboard.  We went through a Scottish named village called “Glencairn” and a navel base at Simon’s Town.  Colleen had lived here, having been an officer in the South African navy.  It had boom town fronts, like Calistoga and was near Boulder Beach, aptly named, and home to a large colony of penguins. 

We walked down to visit the penguins.  It was exceptionally windy and we collected rather a lot of salt and sand on our walk to the beach, but it was well worth it.  It’s interesting how close to town this penguin colony is.  Look at the houses just above it.

I got a close up of one, too. I thought he was looking very dapper in his tuxedo.

And I love this one of a class of schoolchildren:

Luckily there was a little market there, or I might have no souvenirs at all.  As it is, I now have a goodly number of them, so I won’t be coming home empty handed.  The patchwork pants I bought ripped the very next day, but the beadwork should stand up nicely.  We had lunch at Harbour House on Kalk Bay.  It was delicious and the view was breathtaking, but the service was slow, and we were an hour late getting back.  That only gave me a half hour to shower and get ready to meet everyone for dinner out.  Almost everyone was on time, except for Cindy and Frank, who had taken the HO-HO bus and only got to table mountain later in the day, when the wind had picked up so badly that the cable cars were being filled with ballast and could only take half the number of passengers.  They ended up with a nice dinner on the waterfront, though. 

The rest of us ate at GOLD, the African experience, complete with a drumming show and Mali puppets.  Contrary to the warning I got from the Scipios, the food was excellent.  It was not a buffet.  It was served family style at the tables, piping hot, by attentive, colorfully dressed wait staff, who couldn’t do enough for us.  There were fourteen different dishes and we could have ordered seconds of any that struck our fancy.  We didn’t need them.  We were pretty full with what we got.  The whole thing was ridiculously inexpensive, including the beer and wine and the shuttle bill for the ride there and back, came to $2 each. 

On Wednesday, March 15, we were still in Cape Town, and Cape Town is close to Stellenbosch.   When I visit a famous wine growing region, I go wine tasting.  Dee had gone on safari to Etosha, so Wells was happy to join me.  We booked with Tsiba-Tsiba, and got Eileen, who had been recommended by Linda and Bob Eckert.  Doris, Frank and Cindy decided to join us, as the ships tours were all sold out by that time.   Eileen was great.  She said she knew so much about wine because she had been drinking so much of it for so many years, kind of like yours truly.  She wasn’t drinking today, though.  She had a lot of driving to do. The first thing she pointed out was how lucky we had been, having been to Table Mountain the day before, because today it had a full tablecloth.  It’s pretty, but not from up there.

We were going to Stellenbosch, about 35 minutes away, where they have been growing wine since 1685.  You have to wonder why they are considered a “new world” wine growing region.  I guess because Europe has been making wine since Roman times.  The Dutch colonists tried their hand at it first, but it was the French Huguenots, who had to come and teach them how to do it.  Still, that was in about 1688 to our 1970.

You say “geezers” I say “guysers”.  These things are geysers and, with a lot of sunshine, they deliver nice, free, hot water.  They are mounted on the roofs of all the newer public housing.

And on every kind of housing, to the very poorest, you’ll find satellite dishes.  I took a picture, but you know what they look like.  There’s not the reverence for Nelson Mandela here that we saw in the Eastern part of the country.  His promises haven’t been fulfilled rapidly enough and the natives are restless again. We passed the township of Khayelysha, and it went as far as the eye could see in all directions, second only to Soweto, which is outside Johannesburg.  It’s no fun living in corrugated tin shacks where the summers are hot and dry, the winters cold and wet, and the roofs leak.

In contrast, the town of Stellenbosh is very pretty, all white and grey Cape Dutch architecture.  There are no high-rise hotels.  They are mostly old mansions with tasteful additions.  The people walking the streets are almost all white.  So are the students in the university, which we passed through.  The industry was and still is, farming, cattle and viticulture, mostly.  Eileen tells us it can be a wonderful place to shop and she is happy to lead a shopping tour, but that will be for another visit. 

95% of the grapes in Stellenbosch are hand picked, due to the ready availability of cheap labour.  Our first stop was Rustenberg, which stands on 800 hectares and has been in the Barlow family for four generations.  It was the kind of tasting I love, where you sit in the old family garden, cooled by a gentle breeze.  Just look at us.  We each bought one bottle, which is all the ship will allow, without charging us $18 to drink it.  I got a good Peter Barlow C.S. for $33, where the very nice S.B. was going for $6.  It is very good. 

We moved on from there to L’Avenir, where Ryan greeted us with a lovely 5-pair cheese and wine pairing, including a 50-year old vine Chenin Blanc.  That was served outside, too, and was lovely.

We had a delicious lunch at another winery and I am sorry, but I forgot to write down the name.  I did take a picture of the whimsical sign in the loo, though.

  Our last stop was Meerlust, which has been in the same family for eight generations.  They are important in South Africa for having been the first producers of a Bordeaux blend.  We tasted inside, surrounded by history, and the wine was good, but it wasn’t nearly as lovely an experience as Rustenberg and L’Avenir.  We were somewhat delayed getting back, by a herd of cows crossing the road.  Nice. 

For some reason, a day of wine tasting always takes the stuffing out of me.  I try to drink a lot of water, but I think it’s the dehydration.  I was the only one of the six of us who made it to the table and that was fine with me.  I was too tired to be good company.  I had an onion soup and a “Brazo de Mercedes”, which is custard and meringue and I went to bed, missing the South African Youth Choir, who were doubtless great. 

We were back at sea on Thursday, March 16.  They upgraded the Navigator App last night and today there’s no Internet at all.  It goes through the Navigator App, you see, and that’s not right yet.  It wasted hours of everyone’s time.  The ship ran a Silent Auction to benefit the Bernhard Nordkamp Centre in Namibia.  My Maori blanket wasn’t auctioned after all, it was on sale for $25, but the nice lady who bought it said she planned to pay $50 for the charity and because she liked it so much.  There are a good few of us on board, who know how to run a silent auction, who were pretty disappointed for the children. Shades of Africa were on stage again after dinner.

On St. Patrick’s Day we were in Luderitz, Namibia.  It is a tender port, so I just delivered a newsletter and stayed on board to work some more.  The sailaway was a mess, with a St. Patrick’s Day party Lido Poolside and sailaway on the aft deck.  One didn’t know which to go to.  I circled and gave up and went to the Crow’s nest.  At dinner, I ended up selling Lynann one of my necklaces because she hadn’t hardly got to shop.  She was out with one of her former students and his family.  He’s twenty-nine, now.  Having been a first grade teacher has its rewards.  The comedian on stage, Martin Beaumont, was not very funny at all.

The next day, Saturday, March 18, 2023 wasWalvis Bay, Namibia.

Walvis bay is a good port and has a number of good tour operators.  Nancy Martyn and Jim Place had booked one, expecting Nona to join them but she was on safari and had replaced herself with me.  It was the Dune Ride, which I had always meant to take some time.  Nancy and Jim live in the other Pinnacle suite, so now I have seen both of them.  Lucky me.  It was a half day tour that started at noon, which suited me fine.  Our driver/guide, Leo, first took us to Sandwich Harbour to see the flamingoes and pelicans and the salt pans.  Our tour company was mctoursnam@gmail.com, if you want to do this after you read the whole thing.  Namibia has only been independent for 33 years.  It was first colonized by the English, then the Dutch and latterly, the Germans.  There’s pink algae in the water, along with the salt and you see it best in the salt ponds.  The company exports almost a million tons of salt a year and seawater in the only raw material. 

Leo is the tour company’s best guide, so we went first into the dunes, blazing the trail for the others and finding things like this little gecko that Leo spotted by the seven holes he digs to stay covered by sands.  I’ll bet his translucent little body burns in the sun.

Leo spotted a seal on the beach, too, and took us in for a closer look.  The next time I come here, I am taking the catamaran tour out into the water, where seals and pelicans come aboard and play with the tourists.  Out in the dunes, there are also oryx, springbok, ostrich and jackals.  Apparently, there is a lot for them to eat but it didn’t look too appetizing to us.  It just looked like a lot of sand with a bit of scrub here and there. 

And then we started driving through the dunes.  OMG.  It was like a natural roller coaster.  I whimpered softly for Mama, a few times, and at one point let out a blood-curdling shriek, embarrassing myself thoroughly.  Here’s our guide, with some very close dunes to give you a sense of the size of them. 

We stopped at a valley in the dunes, and they fed us a delicious lunch, put us back in the jeeps and shook us up again.  It was fun, and I am glad I did it, but you won’t catch me coming back for more.  That’s ticked off the bucket list.

Back on the ship, there was a Biergarten Festival in the Lido, poolside, for a sailaway with a wonderful sunset.  Dee was back on board after a fabulous safari at Etosha.  Her pictures are incredible.  We had Maja, the Guest Services Manager, for dinner at the table.  We all like her a lot. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023
At Sea

I was planning on making this the day I broke my fast early and went to Sunday Brunch on the ship, which, I am told, is wonderful.  But I had a major tightness in my mid section, which a whole can of gingerale had not managed to dissolve, so I decided to skip that.  Al and Sobie Toledo were down in the atrium, using the phone provided for emergency calls.  Al’s niece had died, and they had to go home for the funeral.  They will get off in Luanda, tomorrow, and back on in Dakar, Senegal, ten days later. 

Addy came back.  She still hasn’t got her photos backed up.  Vicki is helping her with it but Vicki couldn’t get off the ship yesterday because of a stomach bug.  It’s going around the ship.  We’ll all be spending a lot of time washing our hands.  I had a few cocktail party and dinner cancellations because of it. 

In the end, only 40 people came to our 5th cocktail party and 24 to dinner.  In a time of norovirus, that’s a good, brave turnout.  As usual, we had a lot of fun at dinner. The singers and dancers were back on stage again and we like them a lot, too.

Send it in 23.03.22