Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise, day 95, at sea!

Here we are and what a busy day we had!

We started out at 8:00 and went to a Weight Watchers meeting so that we could check out the lecturer.  She is great and such an improvement over the woman that does the Monday night meetings.  She has a great sense of humor and so do many of the members of the group!  The room was filled!

After the meeting we went and had coffee with Irwin and Sandi.  A nice man bought Irwin a dozen bagels.  He was quite confused and spent some time running around outside looking for the person so that he could thank him.

Next stop was QT where we indulged in our wonderful peach tea.  No my boyfriend was not there!  lol!

On to Applebee's where we met Bonnie and Diane...they are leaving to go back to Denver on the 20th...bye bye, snow birds...come back soon!
        " We need to get on the road and get back to Denver as we have a lot of things to take care of!"
                                    Yes, Diane and Vicki had the same thing they had last time!

Now did we get to go home?  No no no!  Next on the list was Vicki's doctors appointment...the pulmonary doctor.  He, like the other doctor, gave Vicki a clean bill of health.  Yea!  He is such a great doctor and we enjoy paying to go to see him so we can entertain him!  Hmmm something is wrong here....but what can I say....he loves us! lol!

Now do we get to go home?  No no no!  Off we go to the grocery store and bought a bunch of stuff for our new food plan!  Now we can run home and put everything away.

Do we get to stay home?  No no no!  Off we go to Rosines!  Can you believe that this 94 year old woman was sitting there painting her fingernails.  She is absolutely amazing!

Now can we go home?  No no no!  Its off to the beauty shop to have my hair cut!  Can you believe that my hair grew 1/2" in only 2 weeks?  lol!  No wonder I look like the wild woman from Borneo!  lol!
                  Well, my hair is looks better...wish I could say the same for my face!                  

It is 5:30 and it is almost past my can we go home now?  Yes yes yes!  lol!  It has been a long day but we accomplished a lot.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?  I hope it is good and does not make me crave sugar.  I know what is not in the cards for donuts!  lol!

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

At Sea!
It was a cold and windy day today….  Sat inside by the Lido pool visiting with friends for most of the day.  It was my birthday and I really enjoyed it.  I do get a bit embarrassed with all the singing going on during the day.  At dinner one of the entertainers, Debby Bacon, was dresses up as Marilyn Monroe and sang happy birthday.  It was fabulous!  I certainly was overwhelmed by all the attention.  Great day!  Tomorrow we visit Walvis Bay, Namibia… going out into the Namib Desert….


Postcards from Paradise!   

Durban, South Africa April 4, 2013 Thursday
The Amsterdam docked early this morning, which was great, because we knew that would make getting off here a little easier, or so we thought. We had a scheduled driver to take us to the airport at 11am, so there was plenty of time to enjoy a relaxing breakfast in the dining room. Chances are we would not have time to eat again until we reach the game reserve.

Our small bags were packed with the minimum essentials for five days. We were ready to go. By 9:30am, we decided to go outside the terminal building to see what was happening, just in case our ride was early. But there seemed to be a problem with people getting out from the ship. A line had formed near the building, where it was obvious that all of the passports were being checked for the entrance stamps. Groups of crewmembers were coming outside to clear the immigration check as well. So we changed our minds and came back later.

By 10am, we thought we would try again, even if we had to wait outside. Four years ago, we also left this port for a safari, but there was no ride waiting for us. The connection had not been confirmed, and it was not a good feeling, since it was barely 5am in the morning with no one to call. You can understand our anxiety about a repeat performance this time. However, we were pleasantly surprised when a young well-dressed fellow approached us with our confirmed travel itinerary in his hand. He placed a call to our driver, who was already on his way to the port gate. What a relief.

It took 30 minutes to get to the Durban airport, since there was little traffic. Our flight was at 1:45pm, so we had lots of time to check in and relax for a bit. There was absolutely no line at the check-in point, so we logged in, with the help of a real desk person, and got our bags tagged and on their way. There was no charge at all for luggage. That's nice. All we had to do was keep the weight under 44 pounds. As it was, they each weighed 23 pounds tops.

We checked out the cafes and shops down on the lower level first. Being a small airport, there was not too much available...just the basics. So we went through security on the main level. That was easier than in the US, because we did not have to remove our shoes. We sent the hand carrys through the xray with no problems, however one of us set off the walk-through xray. A quick pat-down was done, and then we were on our way.

Sharing a candy bar, we waited patiently while the few seats around us began to fill with passengers. The plane was a small one, that was parked out on the tarmac. A large bus came to the terminal gate, and we boarded it to be driven to the waiting plane. By the time we boarded the aircraft, it was 15 minutes late. Flying at 55,000 feet, we arrived to the airport at Nelpruit, Kruger Mpumalanga Airport, an hour away from Durban.

Carved on the top of a large plateau, this neat airport was what you would expect in the far corners of South Africa. Vaulted wooden ceilings framed with logs and natural bush colors, this airport looked like it could only handle smaller aircraft and private jets. Our luggage was there on the turnstile before we got out of the restrooms.

Our camp driver was waiting with our names printed on a large card. This was waiting, we were whisked into his car and were off to the Sabi Sands area near Kruger National Park. Once we were out of the small town of Nelspruit, the roads were pitted with deep potholes. Trying to avoid most of them, our young driver apologized for the bumpy ride. He said it was an "African Massage". We did not mind the bumps, because we had the car all to ourselves instead of riding with 5 other people as we had been expecting.

Passing through hillside villages and miles of eucalyptus groves, we arrived to the camp after a 2 hour drive. We later found out that we had been lucky to have gotten through easily, as there were two over-turned logging trucks blocking the road for three hours later on. We arrived to the camp around 5:15pm, and the staff asked if we would like to join the game drive already in progress. Sure, we said, so we were guided to our "cabin", our home for the next four days, where we dropped off our stuff, and immediately joined the driver. We were driven to one of the land rovers and hopped into the vehicle with some other guests, who took the time for introductions. Nice welcome.

In minutes, we saw rhinos, elephants, impala, waterbuck, kudu, and francolin natal birds. The roads were still wet and muddy with deep puddles from rain the previous day. It was cloudy and overcast, but at least the rain had stopped. The one good thing was that we were not eating dust along with the drive. And to help quench our thirst, the driver unexpectantly stopped on a knoll, where he and the tracker set up a makeshift cocktail and snack table on the front of the land rover. How civilized was that? He proclaimed that it was "gin and tonic" time for all, or whatever suited us at the moment. Coke light was our choice, although the alternatives were wine, mixed drinks, iced tea, or water. Snacks included canisters of mixed nuts, dried fruit, and dried jerky of some kind of meat (we never asked what).

With about 15 minutes to stretch our legs, finish our cocktails, and take in the quickly setting sun, we boarded the vehicle, and slowly made our way back to the camp. The driver used dim headlights, since it was dark by now. The tracker, who was perched on a seat in front of the vehicle, shone a strong floodlight that he swung from side to side. He was looking for the red eyes of the animals that should reflect in the artificial light. If he did spot any wildlife, he had to turn the light off, since it temporarily blinds the animals for many minutes afterwards. That can make them vunerable to attack.

We were back by 8:30pm, and glad to be there. It had turned very cool once that sun had gone below the horizon. Now we finally had the chance to get the layout of the camp and their facilities. The very first thing we noticed was the total lack of electic lights in our room. We had been handed a large rechargable flashlight to use for the evening. That, along with lanterns and candles, helped us see for the rest of the evening. Not having had the time to look for plugs to charge our camera batteries, other guests told us there were indeed some plugs near the freestanding closet. Luckily, we had brought the correct adapter to do this. Surely, if we had not, the staff would provide them, or charge our batteries in their office.

Our room was located close to the dining hall and leisure area of the lodge. We found a long expanse of dining table set for 20 people. Once everyone gathered and were served drinks of our choice, we accounted for two families, one with three kids ranging from 7 to perhaps 13, and another young family with 2 kids near the same age. The rest were couples of various ages. We were the only ones from America, two from Canada, a couple from Germany, the families from Ireland and France, and two British couples. Since most folks booked a three night, four day stay, some were already on their way home the following day. Everyone comes and goes constantly. Anyway, we were the new kids on the block, and slowly got to know the folks we were to be on safari with. One couple from England, about our age, were the best companions. They had been here last year, and enjoyed it so much, they had come back. And they were camera buffs as well, so we had lots in common, with good tips to share.

Now for the good part.................the food. Dinner was a combination of served and buffet. One of the staff girls got our attention with a wooden frog that she activated with a wooden stick. She then announced the menu items, and we all took a seat at the very roomy table. Actually, they were small square tables joined as one. Set with a leopard-print tablecloth, each place setting was complete with a placemat, silverware, napkins, two wine glasses, and water glass. Lanterns and candles gave just enough light to see what we were eating and where we had to go.

The first course was a served salad of assorted lettuce and fresh veggies, sprinkled with cubed cheese. Our choice of wine was poured, and not being sure about drinking the pitcher of iced water, we opted for the white wine, unusual for us, but good in a pinch. Then we proceeded to the buffet table, where we filled the heated plates with even more salads, steamed assorted vegetables, corn, squash, roasted potatoes, and slices of lamb and beef roasts. Fresh bread completed our full plates. Dessert was a large glass of strawberry mousse, and if that wasn't enough, the owner, David, who had joined us for dinner, poured us a glass of sweet amarula, a liqueur made from the fruit of the native marula tree. We would liken it to Bailey's Irish Creme. This would be the routine for the days to follow, although the serving area would change once.

Thoroughly filled, we found our way to our cabin, took a quick shower in the candlelight, and collapsed into the comfortable bed. What a way to end a very long, but satisfying day. We did not even notice the lack of TV or radio or even lights at this point. We slept like babies, which was a good thing, because getting ready for the morning game drive, meant getting up at 4:30am.

To be continued..................

Bill & Mary Ann

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