Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise, day 88, Richards Bay, South Africa

Don't pay any attention to the names of the places or the dates, just enjoy the posts and the pictures!

I have nothing to report today so I am going to watch TV.

Photos of the day!      Kween Karen, the last 2 days!

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

Postcards from Paradise!
 Maputo, Mozambique April 2, 2013 Tuesday

The Amsterdam arrived early to the port of Maputo, the capital and largest city of Mozambique. We have reached the mainland of Africa finally. The country's history is a mixed bag of different cultures, such as Portuguese, Arab, Indian, and Chinese, along with the local Bantu natives. Because of its location on the Indian Ocean, Maputo grew in importance with the exports of coal, cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwoods. And with the construction of the railroad in 1895, linking Maputo to Pretoria, South Africa, the city's population soared. Unfortunately, the African majority did not profit from this great prosperity, so when the Mozambique Liberation Front fought for independence from the Portuguese rule and won it in 1974, the government was turned over to largely unskilled workers, causing the economy to bottom out. The Soviet Union and Germany tried to help, but eventually lost everything by the 1980's. The country was bankrupt. A 30 year Civil War broke out and lasted until 1992, when it was finally over, and the country began a recovery, but slowly. For that reason, no cruise ships stopped here until much later, when stability returned fully. We can say that we have seen a marked improvement since we visited here in 2009, proving that tourism has played a part in boosting the economy. At least we felt a lot more comfortable, and the attitudes we encountered today were far more positive than in the past.

We still felt it wise to stay with a group when going off the ship today. Booking a tour with our travel agency, we joined bus C with Maureen, the arts and crafts teacher onboard, and 10 other passengers. Our first stop was at the Train Station, built in 1910 by Gustav Eiffel, famous for designing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This station is an architectural highlight of the city with its bronze dome, constructed in South Africa, then assembled here. On our last visit, this station was bustling with passengers heading for South Africa. Today, we must have arrived later, because the station was empty of locals. But that gave us all the chance to really see the ironwork and classic colonial designs. Two locomotives, one built in France and one here were cool to photograph.

Of course, as with every major site, there were street vendors. Lots of them. These fellows were selling masks, fabrics, drums, wooden jewelry, beads, and cashews by the bag. We quickly bargained for a few things, but knowing their typical routine, we knew they would follow us to the next stop.

That happened to be the local produce and fish market. At this stop, we walked among the several stalls of hearty-looking veggies and fruit. That market led into the fish vendors, where we quickly made our way past the piles of fresh fish, squid, octopus, shrimps, and live crabs. The smell was not offensive, or perhaps we were lucky to still have the remnants of our headcolds blocking the aromas. Continuing deeper into this market, we found household goods and souveniers. Some of the interesting items being sold to locals were hair extensions. We were told that the ladies have these woven into their hair to give it great lengths. And the hair pieces were really human hair. Some of us tried to bargain for some carvings and drums, but these vendors were not bargaining well. We knew that by going outside the building, the other fellows would be waiting for us. 

The next stop brought us uphill to the Independance Square and the adjacent Roman Catholic Cathedral. We did not have time to go inside, so we took pictures of the exteriors. Very close to these buildings was the Iron House, another one of Eiffel's doing. Walking inside briefly, we decided building a house out of iron in this hot climate probably was not the smartest idea. It had been meant for the governor's residence, but was never used for that purpose. Outside the gates, we ran into the same vendors from the Train Station, and had some more luck buying some fabrics, a beaded bracelet, and two stick people carvings. One of the vendors was chasing us with a pair of masks that we really did not need, but would have bought if he met our price. He never did, so we didn't either. 

Continuing on, we visited the Museum of Natural History, a place we remembered well from our last visit. Full of life-sized African animals either grazing, in flight, or on attack were the focal point here. Even more intriguing was the display of elephant fetuses from one month old to full size newly borns. This is the only place in the entire world with a collection like this. Our time was short here, which was fine.

Now we were off to a drive through the upscale Polana area to see a modern Catholic church and the summer home of Nelson Mandela. That brought us to the beach and a road that housed resorts, hotels, a casino, and shopping. Our driver stopped at a spot where there was a craft market and a beer stand. We ended up with a wooden bowl with colorful carved wooden fruit, 16 pieces total. It was a good thing we had run out of time for this tour, because our room won't be big enough to hold all the stuff.

We were back to the pier by 12:30pm, with enough time to board the free shuttle to check out the shopping situation in town. Still searching for a good camera store, we hoped we would go to a regular mall or something like it. Instead of the regular shuttle, we went on a commandeered bus that had just arrived back from a tour. Well, unknown to us, the driver did not know where he was supposed to take us. Handing him our ship's map, we tried to tell him the name of the market. But it was obvious that he headed in the wrong direction, because he kept turning around and going back. Maybe he was from other parts, like South Africa. Four years ago, all the guides had come from South Africa to do these same tours, because there were no qualified guides here. Anyway, he stopped and asked a local where the Feima Market was located, and we were soon on our way. As it turned out, it was a total craft market. We would have no chance to find anything close to camera supplies. Making the best use of our time, we strolled the many displays of carvings and paintings, vowing not to buy anything else. Well, that lasted 10 minutes before we found a good bargain. There was a neat tray made of sandalwood with two carved giraffe heads used as handles. Since we noticed a "fixed" crack in the wood, we bargained for far less than the vendor wanted. He knew it was flawed and got permission to sell it for cheap. It's nothing that some glue could not fix if it did break. It smells really nice too. We got back on the next shuttle and were back to the ship by 4pm.

Another ship had silently slipped into the pier while we were gone this morning. It was the MSC Sinphonia, an older vessel about the size of the Amsterdam. It looked like it held a lot more passengers than us with more tenderboats than we have. We figured it had about 1600 or more people. They left ahead of us by 1/2 hour.

All aboard was 4:30pm, with the sailaway beginning at the same time. It had gotten so windy by then, we thought we would blow overboard the aft deck. The flags were flying wildly. What was nice was that the wind cooled us all off. Before we knew it, we were on our way, following the MSC Sinfonia out of the harbor.

At 7pm, we joined our tablemates along with Aussies, Stuart and Pamela for a lovely dinner in the Pinnacle Grill Restaurant, compliments of Barb. She said it was a "birthday" gift for each of us, whether we already had one, or were going to have one soon. We ordered one filet mignon and one New York strip steak. They were both cooked perfectly and were delicious. Tonight we had dessert too....chocolate ice cream and bread pudding with berries. The meal ended by 9:30pm, and we were all happy to call it a night well done.

Tomorrow, we will be in Richards Bay, South Africa. As we recall, it was a very nice port.

Bill & Mary Ann

 Cheetah Plains 1st Morning Game Drive, South Africa

This morning was just one of the best game drives that I have ever participated in……  First of all, I saw my first leopard, in fact we saw five!  Then there was the black mambo, a very, very deadly snake…  throw in tons of elephants and other assorted game and it was just magnificent,  Justin, our guide, is doing a fabulous job….

This morning was just one of the best game drives that I have ever participated in……  First of all, I saw my first leopard, in fact we saw five!  Then there was the black mambo, a very, very deadly snake…  throw in tons of elephants and other assorted game and it was just magnificent,  Justin, our guide, is doing a fabulous job….

Kween Karen

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