A Travellerspoint blog

The End

Homeward Bound

semi-overcast 12 °C
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9th May
The last day.
We have had three sea days since leaving Madeira. The days and evenings have been most enjoyable. I have done decoupatch for the first time, making a little trinket box and souvenirs of our holiday. We have won the ' Big Quiz', sixty questions covering topics from music,general knowledge,history to picture rounds. We have been quite successful at the quizzes with various teams during the quiz. We have made new friends and re-acquainted ourselves with old ones from the world cruise last year.
We have enjoyed ourselves visiting new places . Some of the highlights include the stops in Japan, the safari in South Africa and Singapore.
On a negative note if was upsetting to see how much rubbish, mainly plastic is in the sea, especially around China. Having watched dolphins, whales, seals, tuna cavorting in the sea below our balcony I hope that the world can do something to protect these creatures.
Tomorrow we return to home and we can't wait to see our families, friends and our dog. We have no plans to do another long cruise although escaping the winter is very tempting. Watch this space. Thank you for reading our blog.

Posted by BridgetandIan 15:43 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Madeira

Floral heaven

sunny 19 °C
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6th May
Today is the last port of the cruise. We are going to Madeira which is the largest of the Madeira archipelago. It is 600 miles southwest of Lisbon and along with Porto Santo are the only occupied of these Portuguese islands. Madeira is twice the size of the Isle of Wight with a population of 267,000. It is very mountainous. Funchal, the capital,has an imposing backdrop of imposing mountains and deep valleys.
We are going to go on the famous wicker basket toboggan. We take a taxi and decide to visit some of the other attractions . The taxi will take us around. We are driven up the hillside to an area with the toboggans. We take our places inside the toboggan, essentially a large wicker basket with a bench on it for two people to sit side by side. The route is 2km down extremely steep public roads with cars, junctions and very interesting deep water filled gutters alongside. Two men in their sixties run alongside, pushing and steering and using their rubber soles shoes as brakes. The skids of the toboggan are greased so everything moves a little faster. the The ride lasts about 10 minutes as we race down the hill along roads that are also used by cars!
After our white knuckle ride we are driven to a view point, Pico dos Barcelos, overlooking Funchal and our ship looks like a toy in the harbour. After this we travel on the new motorway (paid for by the EU, Madeira has received huge sums from Brussels and it shows) which takes us through tunnels and over very high bridges. Our driver tells us this has cut down travelling town considerably. He points our a football ground where Ronaldo started his career. I remark it must be difficult to find a spot for the pitch as it's so hilly. The driver agrees and says that in Madeira if you are not going up you must be going down! Our next stop is Cabo Girao, the second highest sea cliff in the world. We walk across a glass platform over 580 metres above the sea below. Bit scary I will admit! Chance for some good photo opportunities.
We proceed to Camaraderie de Lobos, a picturesque fishing village once painted by Winston Churchill who spent some time here. Along the way the hillsides are terraced and planted with thousands of banana trees. The other side of the valley grape vines are intensively planted along the terraces. We also spot beans, potatoes, strawberries and other crops growing in the fertile soil. The gardeners must be very fit looking at the slopes they have to climb.
Our driver drops us back to Funchal where we leisurely wander around some beautiful gardens. There is also a flower and wine festival going on in the town with beautiful floral displays. We stop for crepes and wine before returning to the ship.
We set sail that evening for our final destination and home.

Posted by BridgetandIan 00:13 Archived in Portugal Tagged madeira Comments (0)

Tenerife

The Canaries

sunny 20 °C
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27th April - 4th May
Eight sea days before we reach our next port. The guest speakers include John McCarthy who was kept hostage in Beirut for over five years. We saw him last year on our cruise so did not attend but he went down very well. Other speakers include an ex Concorde pilot, talking about the development of Concorde, the crash and subsequent withdrawal from service. Ian found this very interesting, especially details of the crash investigation which was highly flawed, ignoring faulty French maintenance, breach of numerous protocols and very significant pilot error and eventually was largely blamed on Continental Airlines. The UK accident investigators have still not signed it off the report as correct and now as Continental have been cleared by the French Courts so formally no one is responsible for anything, amazing!There was an ex Superintendent from the Met police force. He was in the Flying squad ( The Sweeney). He spoke with great humour about the Kray twins, the Brinks Mat robbery and other crimes he'd been involved in investigating.
The evening entertainment is just as good with magicians, instrumentalists and a singer from the West End show 'We Will Rock You'.
We need to reach land soon as there are rumours we are running out of fresh strawberries , we can't have that.
5th May
Finally we find land. We are visiting the largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife. It is the highest of the Islands with El Teide as its most dominant feature. (3,718 m above sea level). Tenerife is a popular tourist destination. We are berthing in Santa Cruz de Tenerife an important port and administration centre but not one of the main tourist resorts.
We have decided to visit the Palmetum, a Botanical garden which specialises in Palm trees. It has been built on a reclaimed rubbish tip. There are over 250 types of Palm here (who knew there were so many!). We spend a couple of hours walking around these relaxing gardens and walk slowly back towards the ship. We stop at the concert hall for a drink and snack. It has a slight resemblance to Sydney Opera House, with structures that look like sails.
As we walk through the main square we come across a demonstration. There are about 150-200 people carrying placards and chanting in Spanish. We think it was about pensions, not wanting cuts. Ian find some steps that go under the square. I sit in the sunshine while he goes underground looking at the 16th century fortifications and the cannon that is reputed to be the one that shot off Nelson's arm.
We return to the ship and that night while eating dinner we watch a pod of dolphins swimming,jumping through the water just below us. Fantastic entertainment. Next day Madeira.

Posted by BridgetandIan 01:17 Archived in Spain Tagged tenerife Comments (0)

Namibia

Walvis Bay

sunny 20 °C
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25th April
One sea day, taking it easy after a busy few days.
26th April
Today we are in Walvis Bay, Namibia. We have booked a tour. Namibia is one of the largest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and also one of the least populated. It lies on the south west coast of Africa and is four times the size of the UK. The population is 2.3 million. Much of Namibia is arid or semi arid and the Namib Desert along the coast is possibly the oldest desert in the world.
We travel by coach to Walvis Bay Lagoon. The lagoon is home to millions of flamingos. We stop there for the obligatory photos before travelling on to Dune 7. We travel along a sandy landscape with giant sand dunes. We are told it's called Dune 7 because it is 7 kilometres from Walvis Bay. We are given time for photos, some people are walking up the dunes but unfortunately we don't have time. ( or should that be luckily).
The coach takes us to Welwitschia Drive, gravel and hard pan with low lying plants. Our guide tells that it rained two weeks ago so the plants have greened up. We stop and are taken to see the extraordinary Welwitschia Mirablis plant. This plant is unique to Namibia. They are believed to have been around in the days of dinosaurs. They can live up to 1500 years and only produce two leaves. They had recently flowered and were getting ready to hibernate for the winter. The older ones are quite large about six-seven foot across. They are not the most attractive of plants but they can survive in very hostile conditions. We are also shown a dollar plant, a low growing plant with succulent leaves. The guide tells us if we were stranded in the desert we could get enough moisture out of the leaves to survive. She also points out some small burrows in the sand, home to scorpions.
We continue on into the "lunar landscape ", an vast area of eroded valleys. It looks very moon like.
We drive back to the ship along the coastal road. The sea with crashing waves is one side and huge rolling sand dunes the other.
On to Tenerife in eight days time.

Posted by BridgetandIan 08:38 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

Cape Town

15 °C
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23rd April
After Breakfast we leave Lalibela Game Reserve with some sorrow. It's been humbling to witness the greatness of nature. The countryside and the magnificent beasts residing there. We are driven to the airport and take a short internal flight to Cape Town.
Cape Town nestles at the foot of Table Mountain and has a population of 4 million. The 20th century has witnessed many turbulent times in Cape Town along with the rest of South Africa.
We arrive at a blustery wet airport. Visibility is poor so we are unable to see Table Mountain. We return to the ship and rest as we are going into the town for a meal tonight along with Maggie, Catherine and Nancy an American lady. We have been recommended a restaurant overlooking the sea. Unfortunately it is very wet and windy so we sit inside the restaurant. The food and the service make up for this. Delicious! We return to the ship and we all take part in the St. George's Day quiz. We get 19 out of 20 and win.
We are staying overnight in Cape Town so the following day we take a taxi to The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The day is drier but the mountains are still covered in cloud. We wander round the mall and the waterfront for a couple of hours and return to the ship.
The ship is leaving mid afternoon so decided to stay near. We were in Cape Town a few years ago and did the tourist things. Just before the ship departs the clouds burn off and we have the iconic view of Table Mountain. It's a shame we didn't have longer but farewell South Africa.

Posted by BridgetandIan 08:35 Archived in South Africa Tagged town cape Comments (0)

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