What a marvellous way to move across the world, by crossing oceans in grand style aboard Queen Mary 2.
As she entered Fremantle harbour it finally hit me, YES, I am boarding, too exciting. My first cruise vacation!
First port of call was Mauritius, the green hills a welcome sight after 5 days on the Indian Ocean. A day to explore Port Louis with my sister Roz. We walked all over town enjoying the fruit and vegetable market, the trinket and clothing market, the street hawkers and the hustle and bustle. Found a fabulous restaurant and enjoyed a silver service lunch at La Bonne Marmite! Interestingly the menu boasted Australian Lamb and Beef, but we indulged in local curries and fruit dishes.
Next port – Durban. We sailed within 12mile of Madagascar, so tantalisingly close but not for us. In Durban Cunard supplied a shuttle bus to the Ushaka Marine World only, deeming the city centre too dangerous, so off to Ushaka I went. Enjoyed the free wifi at a great cafe then chatted to a local family who very kindly ran me to a store to replenish our stateroom supply of champagne, and in return I flashed my ship card so they could drive right up alongside QM2 for a good look. I did manage to ‘go on safari’, courtesy of some great bead artists on the street.
Leaving Durban that evening we were farewelled by a flotilla of small craft and hundreds of well wishers on the breakwater. Thank you Durbanites. Next stop was Port Elizabeth, and I went on a 4WD tour of Addo Elephant Park, it was fabulous. We got up close and personal with elephants, birchall’s zebras, red hartebeest, kudu, tortoise, dung beetle, ostrich, wart hog, eland; and to make it even better it was baby season, the most adorable baby zebra and elephant.
Next port, Capetown. Wow, I couldn’t believe the change in the city, having been there in the 1980’s. It was vibrant, busy, the waterfront was exciting and clean and full of things to eat, see and do. I jumped on the ‘red bus’ and enjoyed a great sightseeing tour of the city, up to the cable station on Table Mountain, over to Camp Bay, it was a great tour on a fabulous sunny day. And the shopping – wonderful, especially with our Aussie dollar being about 10 Rand!!!! I found a wonderful hand spin and knit shop and enjoyed an hour chatting about yarn! A tailor altered the clothes I purchased in an hour, and I topped up the champagne supplies, again.
Roz and I spent some time on deck as we left Capetown with the lights twinkling away in the background. The church in the picture is the one Desmond Tutu kept open for people of ALL colours and races during the apartheid years.
Next port was Walvis Bay in Namibia, and how I want to go back and explore that country. I toured up to Swakopmund and immersed myself in the Karakulia Weaving and Spinning centre. The sheep, Karakula, were imported many years ago direct from Pakistan. They are dreadlocky with coarse fibre, altho very occasionally they are shorn at 6 weeks for very fine fibre. But their main purpose is carpet fibre, and the carpets were FABULOUS. We saw Jackals along the way, as well as Dune 7, which I didn’t climb.
Next port was 7 days away, Gran Canaria, and we docked in Las Palmas. Roz and I dined on the beach of Las Playas del Canteras and when she returned to work I enjoyed paddling thru kms of waters edge, indulging in pappas arrugatas and fresh tomato salads, and watching the rich and famous strut their stuff on the beach.
The next day we docked at Madeira and were thoroughly spoilt by Pedro and Carla as they picked us up and spent the day with us. Fantastic local lunch at St Vincent, then down to the natural rock swimming pools at Porto Moniz, and a scenic drive across island and up to a fabulous lookout. What an island, terraced agriculture, bananas ++++, waterfalls everywhere, and so GREEN; muy fantastico.
The next port was Vigo in Spain. I didn’t see much there because I immediately bussed to Santiago de Compostela – wondrous. The third holy city after the Vatican and Jerusalem, the cathedral was built in 800AD, and added to in subsequent centuries. It is a marvel. To this day folk still make pilgrim, and we saw quite a few, each carrying a scallop shell to offer to St James.
From there it was onwards to my journey’s end in Southampton. Luckily Roz and I could have a final lunch together before I jumped on a train to Ninfield in East Sussex. I had the most marvellous voyage on QM2, there was so much to do each day, so many people to chat with, my sister to be with and my brother and sister in-law to meet at journey’s end. I will cruise again.