Friday, April 26, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise day 111, at sea!

The ship and I are both at sea...and I did not even take a nap!
I did not take a nap because I slept until 9:00....yes, I did think I was back in San Diego!  lol!
So, I guess that sleeping in is a good reason for being at sea and also for not taking a nap.

Now that I think about it ....where did the day go?  This is weird...I think I must have been out on the deck reading a book and dipping in the, I don't think that was were I was.  I guess I must have been in my closet rearranging some of my clothes and then I think I went to see Rosine...yes, that is what I did...where did the day go?  lol!

I think my daughter is working very hard as I have not heard from her for 2 days but I did read on Facebook that she was in Atlanta last night!  lol!  I knew that?

At least I know where some of the family is, I think!  lol!

Where  we did not go today....but the Amsterdam did!

 Devil's Island, French Guyana

Our port of call for today was Devil's Island, belonging to French Guyana, a mere 9 miles away from the three islands comprising the Iles du Salut. These islands have a dark side, having been a notorious French penal colony founded in 1852, then closed as recently as 1952. Typical inmates would have been thieves and murderers, as well as political prisoners. The most dangerous of those prisoners were the political ones, so they were kept isolated on the smallest island, Devil's Island. The famous movie, "Papillon", depicted the true story of one such prisoner, and his escape from the island. Because of yellow fever, leprosy, and malaria, more than 80,000 prisoners, guards, and their families died. Those that tried to escape to the mainland faced treacherous currents and waters full of sharks. Like we said, this place is both mysterious and intriguing.

The Amsterdam dropped anchor very near the tenderboat landing on the largest island of Ile Royale, a 70 acre rock. From the looks of it, this was going to be a very hot and humid day, with a chance of showers. A little rain would have been nice, since it may have cooled things down somewhat. We were in no great big hurry to go to shore, because we have been here so many times that we have lost count. Knowing what to expect, however, would only add to our enjoyment here today.

By the time we tendered over, the priority exit had stopped, and we were asked to use the forward exit. Little did we know that something would go wrong with the aft hatch, causing a long delay in leaving. Anyway, once off the boat, we took a counterclockwise walk around Ile Royale. The first creatures we saw were the sea turtles lazily swimming along the shoreline. Some of them were pretty large as they surfaced quickly for a breath of air. A few large iguanas were sunning on the rocks, also watching the turtles swim by them.

Three years ago while on the Grand South America/Antarctica voyage, we had planted our amaryllis bulb at the base of the insane asylum. Hoping it would have survived, we went in search of it, but there was no trace of the plant anywhere. It was a long shot anyway, because with all the rain here, it probably had rotted or got eaten by an agouti. Right around the corner from there, we ran into a troupe of monkeys. We are not sure of the exact breed, but these are not the cute-looking squirrel monkeys. We did get some good photos, but there were too many folks doing the same thing, and they got spooked and ran off. We would look for them later.

Directly across from this point of the island is the real Devil's Island, the smallest one of the three with 34.6 acres. Although our map showed a footpath around this island, we have never seen anyone walking it. An interesting fact here is that a concrete cable tower is still standing that used to connected Devil's Island to Ile Royale with a rope. Food and supplies were put in a large bucket, then sent over to the prisoners by that cable. That was really solitary confinement, although the prisoners lived in their own huts.

We slowly made our way uphill to the ruins of the director's quarters, which serves as a museum now. Climbing more steep steps, we found ourselves at the restaurant and hotel, which used to be the guard's mess hall. Directly across from the restaurant are the chicken houses. Other birds hang out here too, such as peacocks, pheasants, and three beautiful Amazon parrots. Squawking loudly, these birds were quite territorial as they defended their space from the invading tourists that insisted on getting close-up photos of them. When they felt pinned in, they sought refuge in the canopy of the trees nearby. For that reason, many of our buddies never saw them.

It was close to noon, and beer time. We bought two almost cold ones in the restaurant, and sat with the rest of the hot and sweaty tourists on the island. The currency used here is the Euro (.75 US to 1 Euro). There were other groups here today from the mainland. Some were French, but many other groups were military guys in uniform. We are guessing that some of them were there to work clearing some areas of the island, as we saw weedeaters being loaded on their boat when they left.

As a note to ourselves, we must remember to carry a small flashlight with us at all times. We could have used it when going into some of the restrooms on this island. Guess they never thought about a window when they added the convenience of toilets here. Once the doors closed, you were in total darkness. This is not the first time that has happened in the course of this 115 day trip.

We took our time walking through the old barracks, chapel, lighthouse, and prison hospital, taking more photos of bees and hummingbirds feeding on the blue-flowering butterfly bushes. One path led us down to the road that continued the walk around the island. We passed the cemetery of the guards, their wives, and children. That's where we found the monkeys hiding in the trees once again. By now, most of the folks had headed back to the ship. It was just too darned hot and sticky. At least we had the monkeys to ourselves for a while. Thinking ahead, we had brought along a ziplock bag full of trail mix with added yogurt chips resembling chocolate chips. By now, they had melted with the nuts, making nice large clusters. Boy, did those monkeys come flying out of the trees for that, or what? Sure got some good pictures as they licked their little fingers with the unexpected sweet treat. A few stray passengers strolled down with us, and were very happy to have gotten some pictures also.

It was a long walk back in the heat, but with the many palm trees, we were mostly in the shade. It sure was a pretty sight when the ship came into view through the palms. We hung around the little bay near the tender landing, watching the many sizes of sea turtles eating along the slippery rocks. All aboard time was 2:30pm and we had stayed until 2pm, long enough to appreciate the coolness of the ship and our room.

The sailaway, one of the last for this voyage, was planned at around 3pm. At the same time, there was an ice carving demo held at the aft pool, with the commentary given by Adele, the social hostess. However, halfway into her written reading, she commented that no one was listening. Of course, they were not, since they were deep into early cocktail time and visiting with their friends. Actually, we heard that Adele has formally resigned, and this will be her last cruise for the time being. Most all of Bruce's team will be leaving when he does, which will be at the end of this trip we think.

Pool games also kept some folks busy, as well as the Grand Voyage Swap Meet, where some guests brought stuff to swap or sell around the aft pool. To our surprise, the items some people chose to sell were the gifts kindly given to us by the staff. One couple brought the entire collection, but must have been asking way to much for each piece. We're not sure they sold anything. Maybe we are wrong, but we believe that selling the gifts was an insensitive thing to do while onboard. And stupid, because if they attempted to sell these treasures online once at home, they could make a whole lot more money. We know for a fact that the dated gifts become valuable collector items for those who are serious HAL memorabilia collectors.

Well, we all waited and waited for the ship to leave, but it did not. Remember there was a problem with the aft hatch? Well, the hydraulics had failed, and it could not be closed. There was no way we could sail with it open. Hanging over the aft railing, we could see several workers and their bosses trying to figure it out and getting nowhere fast. The sun was setting by the time the Captain announced that the hatch was manually pulled in, and we could leave. That was finally 7pm, and we wondered if that meant that we would miss the last port of call in St. Lucia. No, the Captain said that if he put the pedal to the metal, and did a speed of 20 knots, we could still make it there on schedule. Hope he is right, since our last visit there was in 1995, and we sure don't want to miss it this time.

Dinner was fun with our group of five, as we shared island stories of our visit today. There was no entertainment this evening....only a movie, appropriately, Papillon, a chilling story about convicts on Devil's Island. Also, a pajama party was held in the Crows Nest at 9:30pm, where guests were invited to wear their craziest pajamas for prizes. Don't know how many people will show up for that activity, because the dining room was half empty tonight. We think most people called it an early evening due to the hot and humid day we spent here off the coast of South America. At least, we got certificates with proof that we were here today, not as prisoners, but as honored guests.

Got a day at sea tomorrow, which will be great

Bill & Mary Ann

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