Happy Easter! Several things have happened since my last post. Our starboard engine was successfully started. Hooray! We were going at a good clip of 14 knots until at about 5 am yesterday, something happened and the ship slowed to about 13 knots. The bridge noted the slowing but had no explanation. When the sun rose, someone noticed we were dragging some rope or something, and after much discussion, the captain decided to slow the boat, drop a zodiac with some crew, and detach whatever it was that we were towing. They soon discovered we had somehow run across a trawler fishing net and it had caught on the port propeller. Apparently when they slowed the engine, the net was sucked more tightly onto the propeller and stopped it (they say this is very rare!). So now, we’re back traveling at about 8 knots with only one engine working. At this rate, we’ll never make any headway, as until we pass the equator, we’re going against the wind and currents, and if something happens to our starboard engine, we will be dead in the water. Thank goodness we have good weather and a forecast of more of the same.
The captain altered course and we’re headed for the Valdes Peninsula of Argentina. There is a safe anchorage at Puerto Madryn, where we can hire professional divers to remove this fishing line. We’re told that this area is not known for trawling fishing, but junk can travel vast distances in the ocean and it’s our unfortunate luck to have caught something.
The scenery in this area is supposed to be gorgeous and there should be a lot of wildlife around the peninsula. There’s also a Welsh community close by (yes — a large group from Wales populated the area in the 19th century). In the town of Gaiman they are still teaching the school children the Welsh language. Our Welsh historian is very excited about making this unplanned stop.
We’re having a wonderful time listening to lectures, eating far too much yummy food and meeting the lovely people on the ship. Spirits are high. We’ll see what happens and how our trip evolves.
It’s 2:30 in the afternoon, we’ve just had lunch, Barnaby is snoozing away, and I’m watching the black-browed albatross soar along as our ship sails up the coast toward Brazil. We’re so happy to finally be ensconced in our cozy room and cruising after three days of airports and long flights.
Last night, our captain announced that one of the ship’s main engines (there are two) is not running (apparently they can’t get it started), so we’re going along at around 9 knots — half the speed we need to maintain our schedule. At this rate, it will take us 9 days to get to Rio. While our captain seems in good spirits, I’m sure he’s very stressed. His crew is working around the clock trying to fix the problem. All of my shipmates seem content, we did just arrive, and we have all signed on for a long ocean voyage. There are terrific naturalists and scholars on board that are lecturing about the ocean, wildlife and history of the area — so there’s no shortage of activities. But this will surely affect our trip, and the longer it’s not repaired, well, we’ll just have to wait and see how it unfolds. I’m glad the weather is gorgeous and we’re not trying to outrun one of those terrible storms this area is so famous for.
We learned today that the Brazilian’s call a glass of beer: “A loura suada” — the sweaty blonde. (That may be what they call me when we arrive. Ha!) I wish my friend Trudy were along, she would really enjoy sharing stories with our Brazilian naturalists. One of them spent many years in Northern Brazil documenting folklore. He said he also spent a lot of time at the beach — studying. I’ll bet!!!
Life flies by so fast. It seems like yesterday that I got an email from a friend telling me about a 7 month old papillon that needed a home.
At the time, our little dog Theo, also a papillon, seemed to be longing for a pal. We picked up Abby the next week and she’s been an important part of our family ever since.
Abby loves everyone. She’s a great watchdog and she’s a lot of fun. I just hope she’ll be around many more years!
Barnaby’s sweet mom passed a year later, much more suddenly, and having never, thankfully, gone through that wasting away stage. We miss them both so much.
We are thrilled Idyllwild Arts new concert hall has been completed. We attended the first performance, a “soft” opening, it was a wonderful concert. Alumni and students performed a variety of originals and standards in honor of Marshall Hawkins, their beloved teacher.
My sister Ren spent some time in Mexico earlier this month at a yoga retreat. She loved it. Later this year we’re going to do a sisters trip to a spa in Mexico just outside of Mexico City. It won’t be as rustic as her yoga retreat (it includes a massage every day!).
I have to add a recent photo of my sister Lorna. She’s still very happy to be living in Carson City, Nevada. Her daughter Amy is close by, and all of her old friends. Yeah, we spend too much time shopping, but we can’t help it — it’s in the DNA!
I’ll sign off for now. This time next week Buenos Aires and then we head south to Ushuaia, my favorite place to board a ship!
There is no arguing that Cape Town is a beautiful city, blessed with one of the most breathtaking settings anywhere in the world. It’s also a city that’s had a somewhat checkered past, a history that still haunts many people.
From 1948 until 1994 apartheid – “the state of being apart” – was the law here. We all remember the pressure put on South Africa by the world, and with the hard work of Nelson Mandela and the ANC, apartheid was abolished in a peaceful manner. But there are still vast economic differences between the races. Blacks in South Africa are slowly catching up educationally and economically, but it’s a slow go, and in the meantime, millions still live in huge ghettos or townships.
We visited one of those townships yesterday — Langa. Our guide was articulate, charming, and has built himself a successful business starting with nothing. He took us to one of the local businesses — a beer shop. The beer is homemade and is sold in 5 liter jugs. Traditionally every one sits around and drinks from the same jug (it’s really a metal pail). Most of us had a sip – it was pretty tasty, kind of like watery beer (it’s low in alcohol – only about 2%).
We had lunch with one of the local families, still in Langa, a middle class family with a comfortable house. A marimba band entertained us and after lunch we were all given a djembe drum, a brief lesson on how to play it, and we all drummed until we couldn’t feel our hands.
Today we saw a different side of Cape Town — Stellenbosch and the wine country. By contrast we were driving through vineyards against a backdrop of mountains, we could have been in Tuscany but the wine estates are more luxurious here.
We’re heading home in a couple days, it’s been an amazing trip and it won’t be our last to Africa.
August 13, 2013
I’m sitting in the Victoria Falls airport waiting for our fight so I thought I’d write a little since I’ve already had one water, two beers, three bags of chips and two chocolate bars (every time I buy a beer the bartender can’t make change so I take it in chips). I’m trying to keep my hands occupied. We’re flying to Johannesburg and then we’ll fly on to Cape Town. We have another long layover in Joberg (more time for shopping which is what everyone in my group is doing at the moment) but we’ll probably be starving by then and need the time for eating.
Speaking of eating, we haven’t missed any meals on our safari. Our days generally start with a 6 o’clock wake up drum, knock or call depending on the camp, then breakfast at 6:30 and a game drive or some other activity at 7. With a stop for nature and tea, coffee and cookies (always homemade and always delicious — still debating if our favorite was the rosemary shortbread or peanut butter), then back to camp for brunch at 11. Tea time at 3 which consists of tea, coffee, a savory snack and a cake or some other sweet like banana bread.We usually had an afternoon drive or activity that would include a “sundowner” drink and snack, then back to the lodge for dinner around 7.
After dinner we would generally go back to our cabins where we had to stay until our wake up call the next morning. All of the cabins were stocked with an air horn which we were to use if we had an emergency. Some nights we would sit around the campfire and enjoy the bright stars but generally we were pretty tired and would retire early.
You may be wondering why we had to stay in the cabin at night. All of the camps are located within or just adjacent to the national parks. The animals were almost always active, and at night the predators come out, though many of the animals that seem docile can be dangerous. We had one incident on a game drive where a baby elephant crossed the trail in front of us and just as we passed the mum came running out of the thicket to cross behind us. She flagged her huge ears out, trumpeted, and charged our jeep. Luckily we were safely out of her way.
Cape Town, August 14, 2013
We’re back in civilization now. Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa and certainly one of the most beautiful in the world. We spent the morning visiting a penguin colony and touring the shoreline around to the Cape of Good Hope — the southwestern most point in Africa. Rain was forecast but our luck held and we had nice weather, if perhaps a little chilly at times. I have been so surprised by the weather — I don’t know what I was thinking but southern Africa can certainly be cold this time of year.
After lunch we spent the afternoon at a botanical garden then back to our hotel for another wonderful meal — another great day.