|01/02/2013||Accra, Ghana||6 hour direct Monarch flight|
|02/02/2013||Tema, Ghana||Healing Herbs on the Hill||Picnic in the Botanic Gardens|
|03/02/2013||Lomé, Togo||Introduction to Lomé||Only capital city in two countries!|
|04/02/2013||Cotonou, Benin||Porto Novo||King Toffa's palace|
|06/02/2013||São Tomé||City tour||Pretty colonial town|
|09/02/2013||Luanda, Angola||Changing face of Luanda||On the up!|
|12/02/2013||Walvis Bay, Namibia||Swakopmund||Posh seaside resort|
|13/02/2013||Luderitz, Namibia||Town on foot||German town|
|15/02/2013||Cape Town, South Africa||Glorious day!|
I left home in the morning and drove up to the Ibis hotel at Gatwick to drop off my bags. I then drove on to Mark's place in Dulwich to park my car. I took the train from Forest Hill back to Gatwick and then the local service bus to my hotel.
I got up at 6am the next morning and caught the shuttle bus to the south terminal. I tried to get a complimentary upgrade from Monarch but only managed to bag a seat in the exit row of the main cabin. This did mean I had plenty of legroom! The six hour flight passed peacefully with two meals and the film "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" with Dames Judi & Maggie.
The traffic and its resulting pollution in Accra, Ghana were horrendous but a police motorcycle eased the way for our convoy of five coaches. We had to contend with Saharan dust clouding the atmosphere for the next few days. I had only encountered this dust just once before for one day when I was on holiday on Gran Canaria. There they say that the Arabs are beating their carpets! At the ship, Cassie the Tours Manager had already pencilled me for the next day's alliterative tour: "Healing Herbs on the Hill" The first evening was, as usual, very quiet which set the tone for the whole cruise dance wise.
In the port of Tema in Ghana the next morning we headed back into Accra on the motorway before heading north to the 1500 foot hills. The Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine was a bit of a disappointment, but the Botanical Gardens made up for it. The picnic on blankets on the lawn was certainly different. Thankfully the return journey was not as congested as the previous evening had been, since it was now a Saturday. Ghana is certainly a vibrant, dynamic country and a contrast to the under-developed countries (Togo and Benin) we were heading for. I hosted a table in the main dining room for the first time that evening.
In Lomé, Togo we were greeted on arrival by a local group drumming and dancing. There were impressive stilt walkers and gaily-clad witch doctors! Togo was a German colony partioned after the first war into a western British slice and a larger eastern French one. At independence British Togoland opted to join the Gold Coast to become Ghana. French Togoland then became plain Togo. Thus Lomé is the only capital city split between two countries! I escorted the "Introduction to Lomé" tour which began at the National Museum and included Independence Square, beach fishermen and three markets. These being the artisans, fetish and fish markets respectively. The middle of these was given over to voodoo type items like animal skulls and skins, rather gruesome! In the afternoon I led my first line dance class and in the evening I dined with Robert, a retired american university professor of linguistics, in the informal Verandah restaurant.
In Cotonou in Benin (formerly Dahomey) I escorted the Porto Novo tour to the administrative capital. We visited the Ethnographic Museum and the Palace of the Kings of Dahomey. The former was of limited interest but the latter was fascinating. The museum had no Benin bronzes since the best specimens are already in the Britsh Museum and they had come from the Nigerian province of Benin some distance from the country of that name. The palace consisted of a series of courtyards with the tombs of the kings in various rooms including King Toffa who signed a treaty with the French colonisers. The coach driver took a short-cut behind the market and we got embroiled in power and telephone lines. We had to back out but only after severing some cables. The guide assured me that he had compensated the locals for the destruction we had wrought. The last item on the tour was a folklore presentation of drummers and dancers. In the evening I dined with regular cruisers and northerners Mary & Vera together with three other single ladies. The night finished with a deck party of mainly disco music but featuring the inevitable YMCA and the Electric Slide to Achy Breaky Heart! I also bagged a jive with Kirsten the Maître d'Hotel.
On the first sea day crossing the Gulf of Guinea I led my second line dance class. In the evening we had the Captain's welcome cocktail party.
In São Tomé I escorted the city tour which included the National Museum in Saint Sebastian's Fort. We also visited the cathedral and the market. The tendering out was uneventful if a little delayed, but the return to the ship was impossible until the ship manoeuvered into the wind and waves. The island was quite the nicest place so far on this interesting cruise! In the evening I dined with Diane from Oregon, Lois from Maine, Di from Perth, Graham from Basildon and Richard from Worcestershire.
On the next sea day we had the crossing of the equator ceremony. In the afternoon I gave my first well-received lecture entitled "Rhodes across Africa: Cecil's Story". In the evening I dined with Mary from Yorkshire, Helen from Scotland, Mignon from Clapham, Ray from Australia and Jonathan the BBC Radio 4 correspondent from Mile End.
The next day was also at sea and so I led my third line dance class. In the evening I was on duty in the Britannia / Free-Spirited Clubs cocktail party.
I was pleasantly surprised by Luanda in Angola on the Changing Faces tour. We visited Gustav Eiffel's Iron Palace, the National Anthropological Musuem, St. Michael's Fort and the Agostinho Neto Mausoleum. We think that we were the very first tourists to have been shown the inside of the latter, built by the USSR at great expense! Since it was a Saturday the streets were relatively uncrowded but I did notice many Chinese men about, a sign of the times. I dined with Mary, Helen and Jonathan again that night.
On the next sea day I led a ballroom waltz class, whilst on the following day I ran my fourth line dance class. In the afternoon I gave my second well-received lecture entitled "Shackleton: the importance of being Sir Ernest". I dined with Diane, Lois and Anne again. In the evening we had our second deck party. I also bagged a jive with one of the professional dancers. She was part of a production company that had come on in Lomé, for the first time on either the Spirit of Adventure or Quest for Adventure.
In Walvis Bay in Namibia I escorted the tour to the German seaside resort of Swakopmund. The Serbian shop assistant Pedraeg wasn't allowed off the ship by the Namibian immigration officials, so I had to look after two full coach loads! The former German seaside resort was quite, quite charming and not at all African! Namibia's national language has changed over the years from German through Afrikaanse to English now.
In Luderitz, Namibia I escorted the town walk. The Lutheran church was sparse except for the vivid stained glass windows, but the Jugenstihl (Art Nouveau) Haus Goerke was charming. The town museum was also quite quaint.
On the sea day between Namibia and South Africa I led my fifth line dance class. On a glorious turnaround day in Cape Town I went into the city in the morning and around the V&A docks in the afternoon taking nearly 300 photographs!
This cruise was frequently troubled by WAWA (West Africa Wins Again!) as the ship battled corruption and officialdom. The cruise director, Neil Horrocks, wrote "Martin's lectures are well researched and expertly delivered. A welcome addition on any cruise" One lady later wrote "Martin you were the best dancing teacher!"
8 New ports visited 7 Tours escorted 6 New countries visited 5 Line Dance classes led 4 Ballroom Dance classes taught 3 Hundred photos taken in Cape Town 2 Lectures given (Cecil Rhodes & Ernest Shackleton) 1.61 Lecturer score (1.0 is perfect 4.0 is worst)