We anchored in Mayotte, Comoros and tendered to shore. Comoros is a French protectorate and is therefore also a European Union protectorate. The official currency is the euro and it is one of the few places we have visited that would not accept dollars. We took the tender into town and explored with friends. There was very little to see in town and it was very hot and humid.
It was a pretty port with lots of little islands.
When we got to the dock in town, there was a welcoming band and singers. It is a Muslim country, so the residents were fully covered in colorful attire.
We walked along the waterfront.
The destination was the little shelter at the top of the hill. I and one other person were too overcome by the heat to make the climb, so we sat on a wall in the shade while Susan and three others continued up the hill.
There were flowers along the way with viewa of the ship and city from the shelter. Above is proof that Susan made it.
We took two one night overland trips on this cruise and they have both been highlights. The first was Iguazu Falls and the second was to Thanda Safari Lodge in a private game reserve in South Africa.
The accommodations were luxurious with a living room, bed room, and bath room that was larger than the bedroom. Outside was a huge private balcony with a plunge pool, eating area, several lounge chairs, a shower, and a multi person circular bed.
This is a small part of the bathroom. There were two identical vanities and a large shower area. Two antelope wandered through the area just outside the balcony. We were told that elephants might want to drink from our plunge pool and we should give them the right of way if they did. The philosophy on the game drives was to not interfere with what any animal wanted to do.
The game drives were in four wheel drive Land Cruisers with tired seats so you could see over the person in front of you. Susan sat in the center seat so she had body guards on both sides. We had a game drive the afternoon we arrive and another one the next morning. This is from the morning game drive. There had been a tremendous thunderstorm during the night which explains all the mud. Susan said it was the worst storm she ever experienced. I slept through it.
In addition to the driver, there was a tracker who sat up high in front unless we were near lions or elephants. In that case, he would sit in the back with us. This road was as good as it got. Many of the roads were two parallel tracks. We went off road if we were tracking an animal, but that was not generally necessary
We saw all the major animals in the reserve except for the leopard. They are always the hardest to find. There are no hippopotamuses on the reserve. The zebra needs no introduction.
The impala is the most common antelope and is easily recognized by the McDonalds advertisement on its rear.
We encountered a pride of lions walking down the road toward us. We stopped and watched and then backed up when they approached us. After a while, they all decided to lay down on the road and rest. The young lions at the bottom had a good time playing with a root. Some of the older lions seemed to enjoy that also. Finally, we sat in the road and let them pass us. Each adult eyed us carefully as they passed. Susan was glad she had a center seat.
We had to do some tracking to find these elephants.
The nyala was distiguished by its orange lower legs
The scenery was nice also. We both enjoyed being on safari again.
On Friday we were docked in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Our tour was a 1.5 hour drive to the town of Knysna where we were supposed to explore a shopping street before driving back to the ship. We chose the tour because the drive was along the Garden Route, which we had heard of but never been on. The shopping street turned out to be a mall and the drive was pretty but nothing spectacular.
The mall was on the waterfront and was attractive. Oysters are a specialty of the area and we each had a sampling of four raw oysters at the restaurant on the right. The restaurant is named 34 degrees south after its latitude. They had a map of the wall of famous cities at the same latitude and also cities at 34 degrees north. The example city on the east coast of the US was our hometown of Wilmington, NC.
We made a photo stop on the way home. To say that we were disappointed in driving over three hours for one hour and twenty minutes at a mall is an understatement. But the oysters were good!
In general, Cape Town is a beautiful, clean city. However, we have seen a number of spots where people are sleeping on the streets in makeshift housing made from plastic sheets or tarps. Today we visited one of the townships with a tour guide from the ship and a guide who grew up in the township. There were big contrasts between the township and the remainder of the city, and also contrasts within the township.
Many of the streets were lined with shops such as these. We opted to wait until we get home for our hair cuts.
Yet just a short distance away is this modern coffee shop which has been under construction for the last six years. It takes so long to build because they can’t get loans, so they build as money becomes available. New houses are built over time also.
These are some of the houses in the township. Despite the poor housing, notice all the satellite dishes.
But other sections of the township had much more attractive housing. The areas with the better housing also had much less trash in the street.
Someone put this memorial on the street.
This is an art installation in front of the performing arts center in the township.
After the township tour, we returned to the ship and had a quick lunch before visiting a new museum in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a short walk from our ship. It was new, modern, and was a unique design with a nice art collection.
The museum is in the Silo, an old grain silo which has been converted into an upscale hotel and the art museum.
These are some pictures of the museum lobby. We both found we needed to hold onto something to keep our balance when looking up. The top picture is from the lobby looking up. You can see the walkways joining different sections of the building on each floor. The bottom picture is from one of the walkways looking down at the lobby.
We took an elevator to the sixth floor which had an open air courtyard with the hotel on one side and glass over the tops of the silos. There were views of the harbor and waterfront.
The art was all by African artists and related to Africa. The bottom picture is a small part of a collection of photographs where the subject is looking directly at you.
The museum had an entire floor devoted to paintings of African people. Most of them were by African residents but some were not. To my surprise, the second painting I looked at was by Romare Bearden of Charlotte. I was familiar with his work because when I was a docent at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, I led tours for fifth graders of an exhibition of his works. They had another painting by an artist from Gastonia, which is about 20 miles from Charlotte. I found it interesting that of about ten paintings from the US, two were from the Charlotte area.
This was an interesting tribute to Obama. Cape Town is truly a city of contrasts: from the very poor to very attractive areas, from shopping malls that rival those at home to shops you would never consider entering, from very clean areas to litter filled areas, from world class museums to tours of townships. I truly hope they are able to resolve their problems.
On our second day in Cape Town we did a cultural tour of Cape Town with a Tours by Locals guide. The tour included the Jewish museum, a visit to two wineries, and a stop at Kuykendahl Gardens.
One of the government buildings in the downtown. The downtown area looks clean and well maintained, but many stores are closing as people are shopping at the malls instead of the neighborhood stores.
Our first stope was the Jewish Museum which is located in this old temple.
Right next door to the museum was this modern temple. The people who designed and built it were unfamiliar with temple design, so the exterior resembles a church. The new temple was closed due to the beginning of Passover, so we could only visit the museum and the adjacent holocaust center. We had limited time at the later building because they expected a Palestinian demonstration and were closing the facilities so we would not be trapped there.
The museums gave an interesting history of the original Jewish settlers. Surprisingly, many of them were ostrich farmers and made their money from selling the feathers for women’s clothing as well as selling the meat. The museums were very well done.
We headed from the museum to the wine country. There were many beautiful estates in the wine country.
We had a delicious lunch with this view of the wine estate. The portions were huge and we wished we had shared a lunch.
After lunch we visited this much larger wine estate where we bought some wine to take back to the ship. Oceania is one of the few cruise lines that allows you to bring your own wine on board.
Our final stop for the day was Kuykendahl Gardens. Above are a few images of unusual tree trunks (you know I love tree trunks) and a bird of paradise flower.
We went on the canopy walk, which was added since we were last there.
Several guides have told us of the problems in South Africa. There seems to be a general dissatisfaction with the present government. Much of the unhappiness is centered around the government run electric company. The country is subject to daily load shedding or what I would call rotating blackouts. They are scheduled, but the schedule is not always adhered to. There is an app for that which gives you a warning when the blackout is about to occur. The government is not forthcoming on the reasons and says it could be six years before the problem is resolved. They suggest solar panels but few can afford them.
Prior to leaving on this trip, we started watching the Netflix series, Somebody Feed Phil. He was a writer for Everyone Loves Raymond and now has a show where he visits restaurants in various cities around the world. He has a nice personality and is often very funny.
We decided to visit Faeeza’s Tea Garden in the Bo Kaap area of Capetown as it was near the port and we had a day with nothing else planned. The restaurant is very small and the “garden is about ten tables squeezed under umbrellas across the street from the building. She specializes in Cape Malay food (unique to the western cape of South Africa and influenced by slaves brought to Cape Town by Dutch settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries) and offers cooking classes and tours of the colorful Bo Kaap area. Everyone was very friendly and the food was unusual and delicious.
Our guide has lived in the same house in Bo Kaap all her life and everyone on the street knew her. The area is predominantly Muslim. She said all races and religions liven in Bo Kaap and they all got along as a community where your first priority was your neighbors. If you had a problem, your neighbors would be there to help you. If you we’re celebrating an event, you would invite your neighbors first and then think of your family.
Table Mountain looms in the back of many views in Cape Town. The green building in the bottom picture is a mosque. She said the sun is intense here and the colors fade quickly so the buildings need to be repainted every five years.
Some of the cars were pretty old. But on our walk back to the port, the car dealers we passed were BMW and Porsche.
We couldn’t leave without a picture of Faeeza. I can’t emphasize enough how friendly everyone we met was!
We took a taxi to the restaurant and walked back to the port. We passed this tree with roots hanging down everywhere. It looked like it was trying to copy our Spanish moss.
We went to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront with Table Mountain in the background again.
On Sunday we visited the port of Luderitz, Namibia and the ghost town of Kolsmankop located in the southern Namib Desert in the heart of an area know as “the forbidden zone”. In 1908 a railroad worker was shoveling drifting sand from the tracks when he discovered shiny stones which his supervisor identified as diamonds. The supervisor didn’t tell anyone of his discovery and silently obtained mining rights to the area. The worker who found the first diamonds received no reward. Soon, hordes of prospectors descended on the area. By 1912, a town had sprung up, producing a million carats a year, or 11.7 percent of the world’s total diamond production.
Wealthy Kolmanskop became a well of luxury in the barren desert. There was a butcher, a baker, a post office, and an ice factory; fresh water was brought by rail. European opera groups even came to perform. The diamonds were lying on the surface of the sand. Mining was done by a number of men lying in the sand side by side and crawling forward to pick up any diamonds they found. German authorities wanted greater control of the riches and declared a large “forbidden zone” where ordinary people could not enter and all prospecting rights were reserved for a German company. X-ray machines were used to insure that workers did not smuggle out diamonds by swallowing them. If the X-rays showed swallowed diamonds, they were given laxatives to recover the diamonds.
But the extensive mining soon depleted the diamonds and the towns fate was sealed in 1928 when the richest diamond fields ever discovered were found on beach terraces to the south. By 1956 the town was completely abandoned. Today, it is a tourist attractions, but there is concern that the desert is slowly taking it over as sand fills the rooms and builds dunes against the buildings.
Kolsmankop as seen from the nearby highway.
The Quartermaster’s house was one of the nicest in town.
This house was the only one we were not allowed to enter. The picture above shows how the wall is cracked and the rooms are full of sand. The guide said it is the sand that keeps the building from falling down.
For some reason the bathtubs had been removed from many of the buildings.
This is the interior of the casino, which was not for gambling but for entertainment. This is where the visiting opera singers would perform.
Almost all buildings had a lot of sand inside.
This second floor room is looking over the shopping street below.
They had running water and bathtubs in the buildings.
The 250 bed hospital from the front (top) and rear. They had a population of 300 so they were expecting a lot of growth.
This tram ran in front of every building in town to take residents where they needed to go.
There was a bowling alley beneath the casino.
The town of Luderitz as seen from our ship.
Luderitz was built on very rocky terrain, but it changed to sand as you went inward. The town was small, but was very clean and nice. It was founded by Germany and still seems very German.
On our second day in Walvis Bay we took a tour through the Namib Desert to see landscape which resembles the moon and the welwitshia plant. It turned out to be more of an adventure than we expected.
The welwitshia plant is a tree with two leaves that can live for one to two thousand years. The plants in this area are a youthful five to seven hundred years old. The plant is found only in the Namib desert. There are only two plants in existence at botanical gardens outside their natural habitat. It is very fussy about its habitat and will not grow outside its comfort zone which includes altitude limitations. While it looks like it has numerous leaves, there are only two which split and shred with age
This picture of another plant shows the short trunk of the tree. It is a very unattractive, but interesting plant.
On the way to see the plants, there was a loud bang in the rear of the bus. When we stopped, there was a large cylinder behind the rear wheel dragging on the ground. My understanding was that it was part of the clutch system and without it the bus was unable to change gears. To further complicate matters, the cell signal was intermittent here. Plan A was to have the other bus on our tour take its passengers to the next stop and come back to pick us up. Plan B was to have a repair person come out to fix our bus. Plan C was to have another bus come out to pick us up. Plan A was rejected as taking too long. Plan B and C were both put into effect. The repair truck showed up after an hour. You can see the foot of one of the repairmen sticking out from under the bus. Susan was losing confidence in both plans and hoping to thumb a ride. Good luck with that plan as we had only seen two trucks pass us in the last hour. After a half hour, the bus was repaired but deemed unsafe for carrying passengers. About that time the Plan C bus arrived and our original bus left. As soon as it left, a leak in the water cooling lines was discovered on the new bus. Fortunately, the repair crew was still there and in a half hour more we were on the road to the moonscape. Both buses looked in good condition, so maybe we were just very unlucky.
After miles of sand, we arrived at the rocky moonscape. It was a canyon and we set off down the dirt road at a higher speed than any of the passengers would have driven. It was a very jarring ride, and we wondered what could possibly be at the bottom.
What we found was a resort in an oasis at the bottom of the canyon. We were supposed to only have a drink here, but because of the two hour delay, we were allowed to order lunch of the menu at no charge. Most of us chose the hamburger which must have been over 0.75 pounds of meat with cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and sautéed onions. It was better than the hamburgers on the ship!
We drove back to the pier behind the dunes we drove in front of the previous day. The color of the sand was a little redder and the dunes had more ridges created by the wind. Despite the two hours lost due to bus problems, it was an interesting tour. I guess we can be bought with a good hamburger!
On the way off the pier today, I saw something I had never seen before, a smack of jellyfish. That would be a typical trivia question.
We’ve had few good sunsets, but we had a nice one the other night.
Our first port after leaving West Africa was Walvis Bay in Namibia. It provided quite a contrast to the countries we visited in West Africa. Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. The Namib desert, the oldest desert in the world, occupies much of the country. They also have set aside 40% of their land area as National Parks.
The first thing you notice is how clean it is – whether you are in the country, in the city, in a township, or by the ocean. The second thing you notice is how modern and well maintained the buildings in the cities are. And while there are a lot of good, well maintained roads, there is very little traffic. And finally, there is sand everywhere. There are some plants and gardens in the city, but once you get in the country, the plants are few and far between.
The first town we visited was Swakopmond, which has a German heritage.
The former railroad station which is now a hotel.
Our destination for the day was Mondessa Township. A township is an area primarily occupied by low income, native people. They typically have their own culture and traditions. About 60% of the residents of Swakopmond live in this township. Unlike in the city itself, there are a lot of vendors on the street. For the purpose of receiving government benefits, these vendors are unemployed.
There are many shops and restaurants in the township. Beer is the most popular drink and that is what is filling the crates stacked by this restaurant.
We visited this 72 year old woman, her daughter, and her grand daughter outside of her home. She spoke minimal English, but her daughter spoke it well. We asked her questions about living there. She is wearing a traditional outfit of her culture. She said she wears a similar outfit daily – she didn’t put it on just for us. The scarf is tied to resemble two cow horns in front. The number of cows you own is the measure of your wealth in her culture.
The children in the street were curious to see us.
We also visited this woman who is a herbalist and explained the herbs she uses. She also explained her language. They use clicks to change the meaning of the word. Each word will have a different meaning depending on whether there is one, two, three, four, or five clicks. For instance the word on the board means hug with two clicks and kill with three clicks. If you are asking someone to hug you, you can imagine the consequences if you use one too many clicks.
In one area of the township, the government is building new housing. If you are employed, you qualify for a free house, but you have to maintain it.
We visited a restaurant in the township and were entertained with traditional African songs.
These children had no trouble climbing the wall to watch the show.
The snacks consisted of traditional Namibian food such as caterpillars. The chef on the ship and I were the only ones at our table who ate the caterpillar. They are first harvested and dried. Before eating, they are soaked in salt water to rehydrate them and then boiled before serving. To my surprise, it was chewy. It was also salty. All in all, I thought it was surprisingly tasty – though I only had one. It is popular in the townships as a cheap source of protein.
We think that we remember this pier in Swakopmund from our previous visits there.
There are high sand dunes between Walvis Bay where we are docked and Swakopmund. We walked in the sand, but didn’t climb the dune.