East London, South Africa Thursday, Apr 18 2019 

Nelson Mandela Estate

Nelson Mandela Estate

We arrived in the port of East London, located at the mouth of the Buffalo River, later than anticipated on Monday, day 102. This late arrival impacted our 144-mile, 8.5-hour tour titled “The Life of Nelson Mandela.” The three-hour bus tour allowed us to see the countryside, the larger city of Butterworth, the villages of Dutywa and Mthatha. The Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, designated a national heritage institution, uses pictures on each wall with text in multiple rooms to document the life of Nelson Mandela. He was born to one of his father’s four wives and was a member of the Xhosa tribe. He went to high school at Hearldtown, an elite Methodist mission school. He attended the University of Hare and later the University of Witswatersrand. He joined the African National Conference in 1943 and co-founded its Youth League in 1944. He was committed to overthrowing the Nationalist Party’s apartheid policies. In 1962, after years of protest, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for trying to overthrow the government. Although he served 27 years in prison, he was not a bitter man when he was released. He and F. W. de Clerk received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts to end apartheid. In 1994, he was elected president where he emphasized reconciliation. After our altogether too brief visit of the museum, on our return trip we stopped to take pictures of the Nelson Mandela estate and his burial site. When we stopped for lunch near where he grew up, our bus got stuck in the soft earth. Fortunately, a tractor was able to assist the extraction process and we proceeded back to the ship awaiting to depart East London. For good reason Nelson Mandela is revered in South Africa.

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Durban, South Africa Tuesday, Apr 16 2019 

Orchids

Orchids

Durban represented the end of the cruise for some passengers, while new passengers joined our world cruise for its fifth segment. On Palm Sunday, day 101, we took the “Scenes of Durban” bus tour that first stopped at the Currie Road viewpoint for a panoramic look at Durban. We then spent more than an hour at the Durban Botanic Gardens, the oldest surviving botanical garden on the African continent which was originally erected in 1885. We were impressed with the orchid house and were awed by the distinctive trees on the grounds. The colorful Egyptian geese added to the experience. Our final stop featured a stroll along the Golden Mile beachfront. This is another city that merits a return visit, and next time we’ll try a bunny chow.

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

We attended he port talk for East London in anticipation of our upcoming visit. A new lecturer, George Sranko, spoke about the “Southern Coast of Africa – Where the Sea Saved Humanity.” Another new lecturer, R. Hunt Davis, entitled his lecture “Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela & the Eastern Cape.”  He warned us that it was not going to be a biographical portrait of Mandela, and he kept his word. It was mainly about the Eastern Cape geographical region.

Kruger National Park Monday, Apr 15 2019 

We arrived in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, on Thursday, day 98. We docked near the Maputo-Katembe Bridge. At 2,281 feet it is the longest suspension bridge in Africa. The Chinese covered 95 percent of its 785.8 million U. S. dollar cost. What we saw in Mozambique was limited to what one can see from a tour bus. The suspension bridge, however, stood in stark contrast to the poverty in dwellings and the street markets that we saw as we drove through Maputo’s streets and into the countryside. We were required to leave the tour bus at the border to pass through Mozambique security and to enter South Africa. As we entered South Africa, we saw fields of sugar cane and citrus fruit trees and it was evident that this country was more prosperous.

Elephants

Elephants

We arrived for a buffet lunch at the Pestana Kruger Lodge after our four-hour bus trip. The lodge features a large overlook of the Crocodile River and Kruger National Park. We watched elephants cross the river and feed beneath us. Hippos, submerged in the river, could regularly be seen arising for a breath. Monkeys also showed up when lunch is served. We freshened up in our bungalow before our first safari. Although we were disappointed that the rooms didn’t have potable water and brown water came out of the faucets, the location, however, was ideal. Kruger National Park, founded in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the southern African lowveld, covers more than 7,700 square miles. We entered the Malelane Gate which is only a short distance from the lodge. Each safari vehicle held nine guests plus the guide/driver. We saw the following animals on our first outing: elephants, giraffes, impala, kudu, white rhinoceros, and zebras.

Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros

The next morning, Friday, day 99, we arose early in order to be at the gate when it opened at 6 a.m. We saw more animals: cape buffalo, leopard, lions, rhinoceros, terrapins, wart hogs, and wildebeest. Our third adventure into the park was at night in a larger vehicle driven by a park ranger. The vehicle had handheld spot lights which we operated from the back of the vehicle. It was interesting to experience the park at night. We saw cape buffalo, chameleon, crocodile, elephants, giraffes, hippos, impalas, kudus, rabbit, rhinos, vulture, wart hogs, and zebras.

Lion

Lion

On our final morning, Saturday, day 100, we saw the following animals: elephants, giraffes, hyena, impalas, leopard, lion, kudu, zebra. We traveled to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport where we boarded a Viking charted airplane for a flight to Durban and the Viking Sun. I was dismayed that one of my fellow travelers was sitting in my assigned seat and unwilling to move. Others sitting in the area told me they were seated where they wanted to be. Consequently, I took someone else’s seat. I still don’t feel good about it. We made the one-hour flight to Durban without further incident.

Fort Dauphin, Madagascar Wednesday, Apr 10 2019 

Fort Dauphin Coast

Fort Dauphin Coast

A beautiful, sunny day greeted us on Monday, day 95, when we arrived on Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world. In 1643, Fort Dauphin was the first European settlement in Madagascar. The settlement, named in honor of the Dauphin, the Crown Prince of France and future King Louis XIV, is known by locals as Tolanaro. Madagascar gained its independence in 1960.Our Fort Dauphin Highlights tour drove through the city’s bustling market. We stopped at the square near City Hall where we admired the view of the bay and harbor situated below Saint-Louis Peak. Hawkers selling carved wooden items, necklaces, and shells were active. We observed the entrance to Fort Flacourt from a respectable distance. Another stop allowed us to see the rugged coast and pleasant beaches. We passed a mining company complex of homes. The company with partial government ownership is extracting ilmenite and zircon from heavy mineral sands. This is the only local industry. Tourism is also helpful, but only eight cruise ships visited this port in the past year.

Sifaka Lemur

Sifaka Lemur

In afternoon we visited the Nahampoana Reserve, located only about 4.5 miles from town, but with only half of the road paved. Once our school bus was on the bumpy, dirt road, we encountered the small, mainly thatch roofed houses these bush people live in. Extreme poverty. The Reserve itself is about 125 acres originally a botanical garden known as the Garden of Acclimatisation. We were successful in seeing three varieties of Madagascar’s endemic lemurs: sifaka, ring-tailed, and brown. It was fun watching their leaping antics. Their large eyes are captivating. In a fenced area, we saw the head of a crocodile protruding out of a pond. A guide moved a radial turtle so some guests could more easily see it. When the turtle set back on the ground, it scrambled back to familiar territory. One young man (seeking payment) hoisted his baby hedgehog for photos. Others offered chameleons for pictures. Later, two different costumed dance groups performed for us. We learned that locals buy a cow instead of saving money in a bank. Also, it is customary for a young man to offer a cow when requesting the hand of a potential bride. If a young person becomes a herder, his pay might be one cow for a year’s work. It was sad to be shadowed by children begging.

Magician Philip Hitchcock absolutely mystified us with his illusions during the evening entertainment. He tore up a newspaper, for example, and appeared to crush the shredded pieces in his hands only to unfold the original newspaper. He had a drawing appear to change its message to include an image of the card a passenger had selected. Another passenger seemed to control a crumpled wad of paper in the air with nothing attached to it. In his last final trick, he blew up a large balloon and found a way to enter fully, hop about, then have his head emerge before popping it. Great show!

Eight chess players met in the Explorers’ Lounge (deck 8) for games and instruction on Tuesday morning, day 96. We attended Geoff Peters last lecture on this trip, his 19th presentation, “Circumnavigation.” He recalled the men and women who made history with their journeys around the world. Our trivia team was held to 10 points, while three teams tied for first with 13. We attended the port talk for our next stop, Maputo, Mozambique. Vocalist Sally Jones returned for this evening’s entertainment with the Viking Band backing her up. Her comedy was more evident tonight when she humorously changed the words on several well-known tunes.

Nine chess players met to play chess or receive instruction on Wednesday, day 97. We attended Lou Thieblemont’s “Tales from the Cockpit” presentation. Our trivia team was in a four-way tie for first today with 12 points and we won the tie break. We enjoyed another fantastic brunch. Don Walsh shared his interesting “Going to the Real North Pole – An Adventure Under Ice” in 2007. Robin Petch provided “Wildlife Highlights – Sydney to Durban (almost).” It is amazing how much he sees. Unfortunately, he is leaving the ship in Durban. David Burgess gave an informative lecture on “Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) – Writer, President, Activist.” This was helpful background for our time in South Africa. We experienced new tastes in the Chef’s Table, including reindeer. We leave tomorrow for a three-day excursion. Until we return…

Port Louis, Mauritius Sunday, Apr 7 2019 

Seven chess players showed up on Tuesday morning, day 89 for play and instruction and three players met again in the afternoon. Our trivia team was held to only 9 points, while three teams tied for first with 10. Sharene, from Malaysia, entertained us with her harmonica. At the age of 25, she may be the world’s best female harmonica player.

Nine chess players participated in the Explorers’ Lounge gathering on Wednesday morning, day 90, and three played in the afternoon. We attended a David Burgess lecture where we learned that “Mozambique Was a Portuguese Colony Until Its Independence in 1975.” Our trivia team was humbled with 7 points today while the winning team had 11. We usually have breakfast in the World Café, our ship’s buffet. For lunch we usually eat in the Restaurant where we select from at least four or five appetizers, main courses, and desserts. In addition to the Restaurant, we sometimes choose to eat in Manfredi’s (Italian) or the Chef’s Table for dinner. The menu changes every three days at the Chef’s Table. Tonight, we enjoyed a five-course menu called “La Route Des Indes” which featured a variety of spices. Four of the courses were paired with premium wines. Here are the names of each of tonight’s courses: carrot & cardamom cream, spicy tuna tataki, ginger & tarragon, beef tenderloin with four warm spices, and apple delice facon tarte tatin. We’re enjoying different menu choices every time we eat. The evening entertainment was the return of vocalist Will Martin for another short, but distinctive program featuring requests.

Seven chess players showed up on Thursday morning, day 91, for some serious chess and instruction, and three played more games in the afternoon. Don Walsh spoke about “Disappearing Nations – The Effects of Rising Sea Levels” while trying to avoid debate about what is causing climate change. Our trivia team scored 10 points, just shy of the three teams who finished with 11. We attended a port talk on Port Louis, our next destination after eight days at sea. By the way, at noon we had traveled 24,920 nautical miles from Miami! Louis Shelton again wowed us with his performance. He started with another medley of songs that he has performed and then demonstrated the famous licks of other well-known guitarists. Great performance!

Eight chess players met on Friday morning, day 92, for games and instruction, and two resumed play in the afternoon. David Burgess gave the first of three lectures on South Africa. Today’s outlined the history of colonial “South Africa – A Country Where Local and Human History Blend.” Our trivia team got back on track with clear second at 13 points, while one team had 14. We gained some notoriety as the loudest of the twenty-five teams. Geoff Peters documented the history of the greatest ships that never completed their “Maiden Voyages.” The evening entertainment featured comic Darren Sanders and harmonica player Sharene. Well done.

Lotus

Lotus

A rainbow greeted us as we arrived in Port Louis, Mauritius on Saturday, day 93, after crossing the Indian Ocean. This auspicious start was especially symbolic as the island celebrated Ugadi, New Year’s Day for some Hindu sects. Port Louis is the island’s capital and the country’s largest city. Our morning tour included a stop at the market where we encountered fruit and vegetable stalls for locals as well as trinkets for tourists. Next, we visited the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden. It is named after the country’s first prime minister who is considered the “Father of the nation.” 300 years ago it was a private garden for the island’s French governor. It is home to more than 650 varieties of plants, including 85 varieties of palm trees. We especially enjoyed the giant water lilies and the white lotus pond. We were delighted to see aldabra giant tortoises.

Blue Safari Subscooters

Blue Safari Subscooters

In the afternoon we visited Blue Safari Submarine with seven other Viking Sun travelers to ride a subscooter. After our safety instruction on a staging area on the water some distance from their Trou aux Biches land headquarters, we mounted our steed. Once the seats were adjusted and the head cover in place, the platform holding five subscooters was lowered into the water to a depth of about 12 feet. Four scuba divers, including one who took pictures, guided our underwater journey. The subscooter could travel at a speed of about 3 kilometers per mile. It was a great adventure to see fish among the coral bottom. As we approached the end of our thirty-minute underwater sojourn, I was breathing heavily with some anxiety because I had no control in mounting the platform for our return to the surface. I should not have worried. The divers took good care of us. We all made it safely back on the staging area which had separate showers and lockers on the lower level. On our return drive to the ship, we stopped for photographs at the Maheswarnath Institute located in Triolet. This Hindu temple, founded in 1888, is the biggest on the island. One of our subscooter compatriots hosted his birthday dinner for a dozen guests in the private dining room at Manfredi’s, the ship’s specialty Italian restaurant. A great way to finish another great day!

Sunday, day 94, was a sea day that brought six chess players out for morning play. Our trivia finished with 10 points while two teams found 13 correct answers. Six women and I discussed the only novel about Madagascar translated into English, Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo. This depressing story gave us insight into the terrors during Queen Ranavalona I’s reign. Our final book on this cruise is Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. We attended the port talk on Port d’Ehola, our stop tomorrow in Madagascar. David Burgess lectured on “The Background of Apartheid in South Africa” especially the developments in 1948 by the National Party. The evening entertainment featured Sally Jones with a tribute to Anthony Lloyd Webber.

Fremantle & Perth, Australia Monday, Apr 1 2019 

Eight chess players fought each other Wednesday morning and five played in the afternoon, day 83. Our trivia collected 11 points and won the tiebreaker against five other teams. We arrived in Fremantle, Australia in the late afternoon. We departed the ship at 5 p.m. and explored this interesting city for an hour and a quarter. The Round House Gaol, built in 1831, was the first public building of the colony. We walked around Bathers Beach and on the boardwalk of Fishing Boat Harbour before catching the shuttle bus back to the ship from Esplanade Reserve. Our evening entertainment was a destination performance by the “Wadumbah Aboriginal Dance Group” performed several dances including the Spirt Dance, the Emu Dance, and the Fishing Dance. We especially enjoyed the varied sounds of the didgeridoo.

Boab Tree

Boab Tree

On Thursday, day 84, we took the “Snapshots of Perth & Fremantle” bus tour. We passed the Freemantle Prison and stopped on Monument Hill, an 11-acre public reserve, to see the Fremantle War Memorial. Now considered a suburb, Fremantle is only about 13 miles from Perth. On our way to Perth, the capital of Western Australia, we stopped at Cottesloe Beach where some people swim every morning. Our main stop in Perth was the Kings Park and Botanic Garden, one of the world’s largest inner-city parks with 100 acres of both cultivated gardens and untamed bushland. We sought out the 750-year-old boab tree that was transplanted from Telegraph Creek. Our tour traveled to the east side of Perth for a view of the city.

Swan Bell Tower

Swan Bell Tower

We exited the tour at the Swan Bell Tower in Elizabeth Quay. This 271-foot-high copper and glass campanile contains a sixteen-bell peal with two extra chromatic notes, the second largest set of change ringing bells in the world. From there we walked the pedestrian malls on Hay Street and Murray Street with a lunch stop at the German restaurant, Brotzeit. There is an interesting mix of historical buildings amidst skyscrapers. St. Mary’s Cathedral exterior was quite impressive. There were some interesting art installations. We returned to Fremantle on a 75-minute Captain Cook Cruise on the Swan River passing a dozen yacht clubs and homes with breathtaking river views. Perth is another very livable Australian city.

Five chess players met on Friday morning and four in the afternoon, day 85. Another interesting lecture from Don Walsh, “Going the Last Seven Miles – A Personal Odyssey,” detailing his experience aboard the U. S. Navy’s bathyscaphe Trieste. Our trivia team scored 9 points, but four teams had 10.

Six chess players met on Saturday morning and six in the afternoon, day 86. David Burgess lectured on “Mauritius’s Known History Began with Its Discovery by the Arabs.” He traced the history of this now independent country once ruled by the Dutch, French, and British. We’re looking forward to our upcoming visit. Our trivia was humbled with only 8 answers today while the winning team scored 12. Lou Thieblemont awed us with his examples of “How Big Is Space?” Geoff Peters shared some personal examples with pirates as well as sharing some of his favorite “Privateers.” Will Martin, our youngest performer to date, entertained us this evening with his voice and piano performance. He is a classical vocalist with an interest in both Billy Joel and Elton John. He played a Bach piano piece using only two fingers. Although Will looks young and played on this with the audience, we later learned that he’s 35!

Seven chess players competed on Sunday morning, day 87, and two played in the afternoon. Our trivia team scored 10 points while the winning team had 12. Lou Thieblemont, a guest on this world cruise, shared the story of “The Hubble Space Telescope.” It was enlightening to learn about some of the women who did some great scientific work. There is a reason that Cruise Critic has the Viking Sun number 1 in entertainment. Louie Shelton, tonight’s performer, has been inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. His name might be unfamiliar, but you’ve heard music he played starting 50 years ago. He’s incredible!

We are in the Indian Ocean enjoying calmer, deep blue seas, and warmer temperatures. Seven chess players met on Monday morning, day 88, for a daily regimen of chess. David Burgess lectured on “Madagascar, the World’s 47th-Largest Country & 4th-Largest Island.” He gave a good overview of the history and culture, but we were especially impressed with his pictures of fauna. Our trivia team scored 11 points while the winning team had 13. We attended a Kruger Park overland tour briefing in preparation for our upcoming three-day excursion. Don Walsh entertained us with his informative presentation on “The Indian Ocean – Where East Meets West.” Geoff Peters detailed Portugal’s naval explorations with a focus on “Vasco de Gama.” The evening entertainment was stand-up comedian Darren Sanders.

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