A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

SINGAPORE – DAY 2

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Crystal Serenity begins the 4th segment of the World Cruise called “Temples and Safaris”. We said good-bye for now to some of our friends and hello to others who joined the ship today in Singapore.

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We are staying in Singapore for 3 full days, so there is time for more exploration. Could these birds be wondering where we are going?

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Once again, we were so impressed by an excellent transportation system that we took the subway/train for a long ride out to a place called Jurong where there is a Bird Park. We expected we might have gone into the “countryside”, but ended up in a big mall, passing miles and miles of high-rises!

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We didn’t stay long because we had an afternoon Escort commitment back at the ship. Crystal offers guests on each World Cruise segment an opportunity to volunteer in some public service way in different countries. This afternoon we were to be part of a literacy program for developmentally challenged children.

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Our small group traveled in a van to the school, of which we have no pictures! Taking pictures didn’t seem to be appropriate, and we were too busy to even think of it. Luckily, Ed thought to bring his guitar, which was a great help.

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So how about we show you some pictures of how to dry your laundry in Singapore?

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Posted by Swenigale 18:32 Archived in Singapore

SINGAPORE – DAY 3 (PART 1)

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In a rare occurrence, the two Crystal Cruise Line ships are scheduled to share a port today. We were up early to watch the Symphony arrive, execute her 180 degree turn, and slide back into her berth.

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We hadn’t seen the infinity pool and gardens at the top of the Sands hotel – so that was our first destination on this final day in amazing Singapore.

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Then we visited the nearby Gardens By The Bay.

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It is an amazing place, with peaceful gardens – a perfect spot for some wedding photos.

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There is an aerial walkway between the towering “trees”.

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Eventually, these structures will be totally covered with plants and orchids!

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There are also two amazing domes in The Gardens By The Bay – the more amazing one is the one that simulates a cloud forest.

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When you first enter there is this incredible indoor waterfall…

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…surrounded by all kinds or orchids.

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We wanted to capture every beautiful bloom!

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Now here’s a truly “green” car!

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You take an elevator all the way up and then walk your down among the clouds.

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This is not your usual gardening job!

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Cloud forests are disappearing around the world, but now you can visit one without going to Uganda!

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This doorway from China is made from a Lychee tree stump and root.

Posted by Swenigale 06:31 Archived in Singapore

SINGAPORE – DAY 3 (PART 2)

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Continuing with more pictures from The Gardens By The Bay – the 2nd of the two domes is the “Flower Dome”, which includes plants and trees from the world’s cool-dry Mediterranean and subtropical regions.

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Gorgeous flowers…

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And hopefully, an unnecessary admonition.

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An actual Chilean Wine Palm Tree

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Canary Island Dragon Tree – how they have gotten these enormous trees to take hold and thrive I have no idea!

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More of life’s little pleasures

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As we left The Gardens By The Bay – how about one more look at the Sands Hotel!

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Another highlight was when we visited the Crystal Symphony – we hoped to see some friends that were sailing on her, which luckily we did!

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That evening was the opening show for the 4th segment which included scenes from “The Grand Hotel”.

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Our two lead vocalists

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The following day there was an Equator Crossing Ceremony complete with pronouncements from our Captain and King Neptune and His Court

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And – a comical rendition of Disney’s ”Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid.

Posted by Swenigale 02:51 Archived in Singapore

JAKARTA, INDONESIA

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Greater Jakarta is among the world’s largest cities, with an estimated 28 million people. The area in and around Jakarta was part of a 4th century Sudanese kingdom, one of the oldest Hindu kingdoms in Indonesia. We had a colorful welcome.

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We both escorted “Full-Day Jakarta Discovery” tours today with the first stop at the Indonesian Miniature Park. We had three buses in caravan with a siren-wailing police escort to get us through the traffic-clogged roads.

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This 250 acre park was a wonderful way to get a glimpse of Indonesia’s many cultures. There are 27 Provinces, each with unique styles of houses, traditional costumes, etc.

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A curious but shy observer

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Our second stop, at the National Museum, was shorter than planned, due to a long traffic delay. Here there is a vast collection of cultural objects from around Indonesia.

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The museum has been preserving Indonesia’s heritage for two centuries.
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This is the National Monument. Its’ flame is decorated with more than 75 pounds of gold plate and it honors the country’s heroes who fought against colonialism.

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We’re back on the buses again – driving past billboards,

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Street artists -

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In traffic.

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We had an Indonesian buffet lunch in Café Batavia, in the heart of old Batavia, from the time of 18th century Dutch rule.

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Our final stop was just across the street from Café Batavia, the Wajang Puppet Museum. These are typical musical instruments used for the puppet shows.

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There is a range of puppets here. Some small -

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Some not so small -

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But, most unique – are the shadow puppets, dating back two centuries. They are manipulated by a lone puppeteer who also narrates the story while singing and chanting. The puppets are made from leather and water buffalo hide and mounted on bamboo sticks.
Whew! This was a full day, indeed!

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After leaving Jakarta, as we crossed over four time zones and 3,500+ miles (which means traveling for 6 days at sea in the Indian Ocean) we celebrated Purim with our Jewish friends one day and St. Patrick’s Day the next. We have our very own small, multicultural floating city. The days at sea with no additional pictures of ports were a chance to catch up with our blog. Tomorrow, we will have a full day adventure in beautiful Mauritius!

Posted by Swenigale 03:01 Archived in Indonesia

AT SEA

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The clouds and sunset on the last of the six days at sea on the Indian Ocean -Wow!

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Posted by Swenigale 04:11

PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS

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Arriving at an island destination after days of sailing across an empty sea is exciting. Sort of like being a pampered version of early seafarers!

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Mauritius lies 1200 miles off the East coast of Africa, East of Madagascar, formed of ocean lava. Scientists believe it was once part of the “super continent” called Rodinia.

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Driving through fields of sugar cane

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We both escorted day-long tours of the Southern part of the island. Here we are standing enjoying the view near the dormant volcanic crater of Trou aux Cerfs.

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A visit to Historic Marine to see the precise craft of model ship building

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Some of the ships take more than six months to complete.

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You’ve heard that the Dodo bird, once plentiful here, is extinct – extinct, but not forgotten!

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There is a large Indian population, as many Indians were originally brought here to work in the cane fields. We had a photo stop at this statue of the Hindu god Shiva….

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…which was upstaged by a dog and monkey show, so to speak.

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We visited Grand Bassin, a sacred lake where Hindus come to pray and worship.

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The next stop was Black River Gorge with its magnificent views.

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I’m holding a local fruit with some familiar friends.

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We had a superb lunch at a lovely restaurant that is also a rum distillery (from all the sugar cane, don’t cha know).

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In the town of Chamarel there are two natural wonders. This is Chamarel Falls – best seen by climbing a nearby hill. (We got plenty of walking – and bus riding – on this tour!)

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Appropriately named the Seven Colored Earths, these exposed hillsides were created by volcanic rocks that cooled at different temperatures.
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Four tortoises live at this park – fun to see….

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…and be seen!

Posted by Swenigale 05:01 Archived in Mauritius

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA

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Durban, with a population of 3 ½ million, is the third most populous city in South Africa and is the busiest port in Africa. It has become a major tourist destination because of the warm sub-tropical climate and beaches.

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We drove out of the city. 200 of the passengers left the ship today on overland safaris and most will rejoin the ship in Cape Town this weekend.

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We signed up for a visit to the SOS Children’s Village in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the KwaZulu-Natal Province in the historic center of the region.

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The number of orphaned or abandoned children is a major problem in Africa. This village is focused on providing a family-based care system. Here is a garden in the Family Strengthening Program, located next to the SOS Village. Here families develop projects and learn to support themselves.

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These bags of mushroom seedlings get planted each week and in one week they will be harvested and sold.

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This Children’s Village currently has 130 children – a caregiver lives in each house with up to ten children.

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Some of the children danced for us.

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This is the kitchen in a house we visited. We were pleased to present a monetary gift to the SOS Village from Crystal guests.

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Our drive back to Durban took about an hour.

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Durban is the major port for shipping cars made in South Africa. I think these are Toyotas.

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The car carrying ships leave a lot to be desired aesthetically but they get the job done.

Posted by Swenigale 09:16 Archived in South Africa

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA

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Our plans for a Day Safari from Port Elizabeth had been in place for a few months. We sailed into port under unexpectedly clear skies and cooler weather, and along with ten friends from the ship we met our private guide and drove to Addo National Elephant Park.

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This was our third time traveling with our friend Jeanette and her Imvelaphi Safari company and each trip has been a great success. We excitedly started spotting animals and stopping our van to stare and click! Here’s a Kudo.

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Here a Jackal – an unusual daytime sighting.

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Jeanette had supplied us with enough snacks that there was no need to stop for lunch.

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A Red Hartebeest

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We could fill the blog with these beautiful Zebra – each with its own distinctive pattern.

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We saw plenty of Warthogs.

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But, lucky us, not far into the morning we found some of the stars of the show.

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These moms and babies were adorable. The Addo elephants have a reddish color and are smaller than other species of African elephants.

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Moms keeping a watchful eye

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Herding the little ones safely away from our vehicle

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This little guy (for an elephant) is maybe just a few days old

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Moving along – the stately Blue Heron is right at home.

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Our guide and photographer

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The Pumba (warthogs) are funny and playful

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The unique Addo Flightless Dung Beatle – whose activities are an essential component for the health of the soil.

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The number of twists in the horns of the Kudo indicate its age.

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We watched this amazing confrontation between Red Hartebeests – they drop to their knees (knees?) when they charge and hook their horns. Again and again. When we left they were still going at it, with no clear winner! We, however, had had a winner of a day!

Posted by Swenigale 00:11 Archived in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - DAY 1

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Some of our South African crew members will be going home for vacation when we arrive in Cape Town and a few were in standing in the bow of the ship as we sailed toward beautiful Table Bay.

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We were coming in from the East, passing the mountain range called The Twelve Apostles.

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The classic view of Table Mountain (crystal clear, with no cloud tablecloth) with Cape Town at its feet

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This was Ed’s birthday – what a place to celebrate! We arrived at 6pm on Thursday and will not depart until 6pm on Saturday.

Posted by Swenigale 05:46 Archived in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – DAY 2

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Today is the first day of the 5th and final segment of the World Cruise. For the next 21 days we will be sailing North up the West coast of Africa and on to Southampton, England.

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For friends of ours this was to be the first day of their married lives together. Ed performed their marriage ceremony in the old South African town of Stellenbosch. Not here at the town church…

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But here, outdoors at the home of some of the couple’s friends who happen to own a vineyard!

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The ceremony and reception took place in the shade of a massive old Oak tree.

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Ed’s in tune – we sang John Denver’s “For Bobbi” during the service.
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A South African youth choir added to the ceremony. Here they are warming up.

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This was the first time these beautiful tables (made by the owner from a fallen oak tree) were used for al fresco dining – but, I’m thinking it won’t be the last. How perfect!

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Last minute preparations

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Not a dry eye in the place

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The weather was absolutely perfect

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What is it about little girls and horses?

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These horses love acorns

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The Rozendal Winery now makes and markets Balsamic Vinegar infused with South African herbs. However, for the reception they served some of their wonderful red wine from their days as a winery. This wine was bottled in 1994 in celebration of the ending of Apartheid.

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The lovely day, the beautiful people, and the perfect setting made for a fairy tale wedding. Right up our alley!

Posted by Swenigale 09:21 Archived in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – DAY 3

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We had read that Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is “one of the Top Ten Gardens in the World”, so we went to see for ourselves, even though most flowers are not blossoming here in the beginning of Fall. And what an amazing place it is!

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Pictures worth a thousand words-

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This is a partly manicured, partly “managed wilderness” landscape with Castle Rock and other craggy peaks of Table Mountain forming an amazing backdrop.

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The gardens are planted with indigenous species found only in the Western Cape.

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Stokoe’s Bush Iris

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Missed the name of these really tall trees

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Sugarbush Protea

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A Sugarbush-loving bird

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Golden Pagoda

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The weather continued mild and clear. (There had been days of rain before we arrived in Cape Town and when we left Sunday evening a storm was moving in!)

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The first Director, Henry Pearson, died in 1916 and is buried here, in the Park to which he devoted his life. The inscription reads, “If Ye seek his monument, look around.”

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King Protea

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Yellow flowers :)

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Tree Aloe

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The tangled roots of the Wild Almond

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Matthew’s Rockery

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On the way back to our ship we stopped at the monument to Cecil John Rhodes, who bought the Kirstenbosch Estate in 1895 and willed it to the people of South Africa.

Posted by Swenigale 08:31 Archived in South Africa

WALVIS BAY, NAMIBIA

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A solitary flamingo feeds in the shallow water near the port.

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He was not alone!

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We took off with our driver/guide from Kuiseb Delta Adventures to spend hours in the oldest desert on earth.

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Driving into the sand dunes (no roads) requires faith and a driver who knows what he is doing!

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We were in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The native people who live here are the Khoikhoi.

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In this area the sands lie above an aquifer – just dig down and presto, you have your well –just add a bath tub.

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The shifting sands and lack of rain (less than ten mm a year – although, unaccountably, it rained the whole day we were here in 2011).created hardened mud flats.

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Our guide led us to fossilized human and animal footprints that are two thousand years old. They had been preserved by the lack of rain and being covered by sand. Now, however, the dunes have shifted, exposing them, and they are being worn away by the sand and wind.

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The large circles are two thousand year old elephant tracks.

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Graves are also being uncovered by the shifting sands.

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We found many desert insects that have adapted to the harsh climate. We also caught sight of a few Springbok.

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Our guide showed us the pumpkin-like fruit that makes up more than 80 percent of the Khoikhoi peoples’ diet. It is rich in vitamins and protein and he said the people are quite healthy.

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More driving in the dunes – sand dunes can have no more than a 34 degree angle – sort of reassuring to know since our guide would crest a dune and literarily plunge straight down the other side!

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This sign seemed like a joke – until we looked over the edge of the cliff. This was a lookout point over Sandwich Harbor.

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Some of the sand is purple because it has many flecks of garnet in it.
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Lovely to look at

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Passing the salt pans and salt works on our way back to Walvis Bay

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One more look at the flamingos

Posted by Swenigale 13:36 Archived in Namibia

LUANDA, ANGOLA

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We spent much of our morning in Luanda on deck 13 watching military activity in the port. The port was closed for a few hours due to a visit by the President of Luanda. (Nothing to do with the maiden call of the Crystal Serenity to Luanda– but we didn’t know that.)

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Portuguese is the main language of Angola due to the years of colonial rule. Now, after 27 years of bloody civil war, Angola is the midst of aggressive rebuilding. This Iron Palace (rumored to have been designed Gustav Eiffel) is being restored.

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Angola’s current oil boom is funding restorations. This is the Cathedral of Dos Remedios.

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Our “Changing Face of Luanda” tour included a visit to the Angolan Museum of Anthropology with its collection of masks, art, weaponry, clothing and musical instruments.

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San Miguel Fort, built in 1576, has been beautifully restored and is now the Museum of the Armed Forces

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This cannon, appearing to be aimed at the slums, seems symbolic: the government is indeed demolishing wide swaths of slums, just not with cannons.

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A view from the fort of the Mausoleum and Memorial to Agostinho Neto, the first president of Angola

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Our caravan of mini-buses was led by police sirens and followed by an ambulance!

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No photos were permitted in the mausoleum, but these visiting school girls did want their pictures taken!

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Brand new construction is ongoing in the Cidade Alta, or uptown. This is the administrative hub of the country.

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Luanda is termed, “the World’s Most Expensive City”. Angola is a country rich in valuable natural resources like diamonds and oil and its rebuilding has just begun.

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Old ways exist alongside the new – can you imagine carrying dozens of eggs – on your head?!

Posted by Swenigale 08:06 Archived in Angola

BOM BOM ISLAND, SÃO TOMÉ/PRINCIPE

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There are two major islands, 87 miles apart, that make up this small country. (The 2nd smallest nation in Africa). We anchored off of little Bom Bom Island and were quickly greeted by guys in canoes.

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The purpose of our visit was to have a relaxing time on a beautiful, tropical island.

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The island is one degree forty-one minutes North latitude and seven degrees twenty four minutes East longitude, 80 miles off the coast of Gabon, Africa. It’s good to be back in the Northern hemisphere.

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Truly a day in paradise

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The crew and passengers all appreciated this fantasy island adventure!
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How many of you are fans of the TV series, “Bones”? One of the guest speakers on this segment is Kathy Reichs, author of the books and one of the producers of the series! (And a really nice person!)

Posted by Swenigale 13:36 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe

TAKORADI, GHANA

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Takoradi is the first deep-water port in Ghana and is the port of export for their natural resources. Few cruise ships call here – can you tell?
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The city is part of the former “Gold Coast” of Africa. Much of Africa’s slave trade occurred here. Today we negotiated with a taxi driver to take us on a tour of his city.

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Takoradi is part of the Twin Cities – the other city is Sekondi, and here is its symbol. In spite of the poor infrastructure and the poverty of its citizens, the 2007 discovery of huge oil reserves in the nearby waters will bring wealth to the country.

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Local streets

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Buildings from colonial times are mostly in a state of disrepair.

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The Sekondi Wesley Methodist Church, however, is proudly maintained.
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We had met the pastor when we visited in 2011 and we were glad to greet each other again.

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Thomas, our driver, gathered some school kids for pictures.

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Is she trying to lure the chicken in for supper?

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Ghana scenes along the way

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Babies are snugly wrapped on their mothers’ backs – happily, I think.

Posted by Swenigale 16:16 Archived in Ghana

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