World Cruise 2013 - Part 5

Part 5 of the 2013 World Cruise report runs from Sri Lanka over to Africa -- ending in the rather new country of Namibia.

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The ship is now moving on toward Africa, with the first stop at Sri Lanka. There was a nice welcome on the pier, in contrast to the poverty and some still-lingering damage from the Tsunami of 2004 evident around the town. Next stop is the Seychelle Islands, and as we were reminded by our ship's "new look" (yes, that's razor wire and fire hoses on our Promenade deck, and one of our 4 LRAD's -- Google can tell you more about these "non-lethal weapons") that our route across the Indian Ocean is in waters frequented by Somali pirates. We made it just fine to the Seychelles (where a NATO warship was just heading off on pirate patrol), whose lush greenery and beautiful beaches reminded us somewhat of the Carribbean.

The island nation of Madagascar (trivia question: what is the 4th largest island in the world?) is just off the African east coast. It has all sorts of animals and birds found no where else in the world -- sort of like the more famous Galapagoes Islands -- but the big image visitors take with them is not the cute lemurs, but how poor and backward this former French colony really is.

Next, the ship came to Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, on the mainland. (By coincidence, a team from Habitat for Humanity-East Bay, where Mike regularly builds houses, spent a week building homes in a Mozambique village just last year.) This is another really poor country, this time a former Portugese colony, with the added burden of a recent 15-year civil war. Sandy helped the local economy a bit, visiting a craft bazaar in a park.

One of the highlights of this trip is South Africa, where the ship made several stops. The first port was Richards Bay, where a game drive was on offer. While no lions or elephants made an appearance, Mike and Sandy saw Rhinos, Buffalos, Hyenas, Warthogs, Zebras, Baboons, and more.

Durban is a very large city, with old and new history. The Vasco de Gama clock marks the spot of early explorers landing, while the huge new soccer stadium hosted the 2010 World Cup. Mike and Sandy enjoyed a visit to a mock Zulu village, and then spent the afternoon in one of the "townships" where the population is close to 100% black of Zulu ancestry. (Townships were areas set aside in the apartheid era for blacks to live -- vaguely like Indian Reservations in the U.S., but but right at the edges of cities -- convenient for construction and domestic labor -- and suitable for gardens and small farms.) They visited a center focused on troubled and pregnant teenagers, offering educational and life skills training and support (even with 25 year old PC's).

Capetown is clearly South Africa's jewel of a city, with a spectacular setting, and clear influences from both the Dutch and English colonial periods. The first day was devoted to a tour of the Cape peninsula, starting with an amazing road "tunnel" cut into the rock face high above the ocean. Mike & Sandy saw beautiful beaches and wild ostriches along the way down, braved the winds at the tip of the continent, and then enjoyed baboons sitting by the road and a penguin colony on the way back. Table Mountain, which overlooks Cape Town and is seen in most postcard views of the city, was unfortunately shrouded in fog, making a trip on the cable car to the top pointless.

On Mike and Sandy's second day in Cape Town, touring headed north into wine country. Here's our tour group, with our guide (who happens to also be a winery owner), a view from one of the winery tasting rooms (beautiful countryside), and the quaint wine country village where we had lunch.