Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them

Live your dream and share your passion

When you eat, appreciate every last bite

Some opportunities only come only once-seize them

Laugh everyday

Believe in magic

Love with all your heart

Be true to who you are

Smile often and be grateful

…and finally make every moment count

Sunday, January 20, 2013

MY WORLD ODYSSEY FINALLY CLOSES-FOR GOOD



I know I have said this before and you have heard it all before. 
But this time it is the very last day of Bernie’s World Odyssey. 
This is it.

I have had an amazing journey that has seen me travel to all 7 continents, visited over 65 countries, thousands of kilometres travelled by air, sea and land.  I have seen things that I will never forget, I have met amazing people who became friends for life and I have experienced a life that not many people get the privilege to live.

I am thankful-to the core. 
Thankful to my mum.
Thankful to the people who support me, no matter what craziness I get myself into.
Thankful to a world that has looked after me during my travels.
And thankful to each and every new day that dawns and I get to experience.

Travelling is not all rainbows and sunshine but I wouldn’t replace it for anything else in this world. 

Even though it is time to close this book, there are so many chapters that have made this book my finest to date.  I now embark on a new journey and I have a new book for the occasion.  Please come and visit me at www.berniesafricanodyssey.blogspot.com where I will continue to write about my journey, discoveries and life as I head into unknown territory.  Everything I have done, seen and met has bought me to this moment in time.  All of it, the good the bad and the ugly of it all.  It has shaped me, I feel like I am a better person for the experience and I hope to continue to be so as my life moves forward.

A new culture, a new country and a new continent.
And I am scared. 
But as they say “Fortune Favours the Brave”.  So I have my AUSTRALIAN passport, I have my head held high, my 60kg packed and a friend to meet me when I arrive into Nairobi. 
What else could a girl need? 

I would like to thank all my readers.  As of this morning I have had 45,665 people click on my blog.  To the repeat readers and the support that has been shown to me over my 22 months away-thank you.  I would like to share a post that I got yesterday and I think it sums up my feelings exactly.  Thanks to Claire for the kind words, they really had an impact on me:

 "You are driving to the mountain, there is lots of fog and you are thinking of turning around and driving back, there is even more fog and you think that's it's I am definitely turning around and driving back. Don't turn back keep driving the fog will clear and the view of the mountain is amazing and you will be so glad you never turned back"   

So it is farewell from Bernie’s World Odyssey.  I am sure in the future the site will be added to again.  A long way down the road.  But for now, it is time to plant these feet for a while and if the truth be told I am looking forward to it.

Thank you, to you all. 
Love and friendship always
Bernie xxxxx

“Always believe in yourself to fly to your dreams”

BARCELONA BLUES



So my last 3 days have been soul searching to say the least.  It has taken me a few days to get out of the dark place I have been and it was an effort.  I do get like this at times and I even felt a little sick yesterday, where I think I have just worried myself that much about my arrival into Kenya that I literally worried myself sick.  I have received a lot of supportive messages over the past few days and it strengthened my resolve and it is those messages that helped me climb my way back.  There was a point when I seriously thought about coming home-just for a micro second-well maybe a little longer as I also checked the cost of flights, but it was a few minutes of madness.  I always know that I can come home if things don’t work.  A few people are worried that I won’t just to save face of some sort if Africa doesn’t work but I know it will work, it may just not be straight away, I may have to move a few times, it may take months for me to settle in, but I have come this far and I intend to go and try my damndest to make this work as I know deep down it is what I want to do.  As a few people mentioned it is the unknown.  It is FREAKING me out, it is something I have no control over where I am used to having things planned and I always knew where and what I would be doing in 3 months time, 2 weeks time and I don’t have that power and that feeling is new and foreign to me.  I don’t like it, but it takes me out of my comfort zone and THAT is what I am going to have to get used to as I enter a new country and a new culture.  All my talk for the last 12 months has finally come.  It is now time to turn those words into actions and I think that is what has finally hit.  I chose this path and I am determined to see where it will take me.

I am also missing home and my God-daughters like crazy.  Part of that could be to do with not having much conversation time during my cruise.  I don’t want to use the word lonely but you do miss talking to people when you are on your own and this is why I would never be a back packer in the true sense and just bum my around the world.  I enjoy tours, the people you have to meet and mix with, the good and the bad.  I am certainly not an independent traveller in the true sense of the word and I have always known that.  The other downer is my Ethiopian disarster keeps cropping its head.  I haven’t heard from Zeme, but the thought of how it all finished just frustrates me at times and as Dave said I need to let it go or it will eat me up and he is right.  I can’t change what has happened and I do need to let it go.  I was unspeakably hurt, my generosity was abused, I trusted someone basically to my core and to know I made a bad judgement call has rocked me.  But I can’t let that one bad egg define the future people I meet, black or white.  I just need to use my head and do what I think is right, it is all I have at the end of the day and one bad judgement can happen to anyone.  Right?      

So I got proactive yesterday and sent out 3 emails to people that had been referred to me over the last 3 weeks.  One email went to Uganda, one went to Tanzania and one went to a contact that used to live in Ethiopia but I now believe lives in Senegal.  My Senegal lady came back pretty much straight away and explained that any contacts she had in Ethiopia have long left.  I was told that volunteering or working in Ethiopia is not straight forward. It requires a lot of effort. But it is doable. NGOs have restrictions on the number of expats they can have on their books as authorities fear that they will take the jobs of locals.  I was told to be prepared to be very proactive and also prepare myself for lots of false starts. And she didn’t want to sound negative but in the four years she was there she saw a lot of people who wanted to do good only to be met by the same frustrations.  It’s good to know and I am sure that a lot of African countries will be similar but I have the time, the patience may require a bit more work, but I am lucky I don’t have to start work straight away and I just know that something will fall into place.  I also used this opportunity to send an email to the Australian Consulate in Kenya.  I asked if there were agencies that helped foreigners look for work and also if they knew of companies that helped in looking for places to live.  I know it is not the job of a consulate/high commission to have this information but as I see it I have nothing to lose by sending them an email.    

I have also decided to not get my stuff sent to me until I have the right visa I need to have.  I am going to be entering Kenya on a 3 month tourist visa which is fine for now.  I will be making a trip to Addis Ababa to collect some personal items from Zeme and then coming back, which will I am assuming it will give me another 3 months, this I need to check and then I have that London trip in May.  I am thinking I may get flagged in the system that I am coming back and forth on a tourist visa and they may start to ask questions on what I am actually doing.  Of course if I get work, that is a different story and I would hope who ever I get a job with helps me sort that out, but if I am just back and forth with no job I am sure I just cant keep entering on a tourist visa and renting a place in their country.  What I don’t want to happen is I do get caught up in the system and I am not allowed into the country until I have all the correct papers and I have all my stuff in a place somewhere unable to get to it because I’m not allowed back in.  That would just be terrible.  So until I know where I am going to call home, make sure I have the right papers, THEN I will get my things sent.  So with all that said, I am glad I bought all the extra clothes as it could be a few months before I may have all that in order.  I wonder if you can get a non-tourist visa if you don’t have a job?  Hmmmmm.  I can look into that when I get there. 

I don’t have much option of TV viewing.  Firstly the remote doesn’t work and I can’t find the buttons on the TV to change the channels, only for the volume, so I am stuck on a Spanish movie channel which I have turned down and I am relying on my computer and IPad for entertainment.  What I have seen the last few days on Facebook is people commenting on the Lance Armstrong interview with Oprah.  I really wanted to see this, so I searched for it in Youtube and I was able to watch the full 51 minute part one interview.  I don’t think I have ever used Youtube to its full capabilities and I think I will certainly be using it a lot more when I am in Africa.  But back to Lance Armstrong.  Everyone has an opinion but you know I have to say he handled himself well in the interview, he seems sorry, yes he did some bad things and I’m not just talking about the illegal substances, a lot of sports and careers do it-we shouldn’t seem so shocked that a big named athelete has done it.  He isn’t the first and he isn’t the last.  I can totally see where he is coming from when he said the momentum just took him and before he knew he was caught up in it and he was unstoppable.  I felt sorry for him actually and I think it will be one of those topics that will be discussef till the end of time and no-one will ever agree.  I watched the second part today and I think it is a bit poor that he wants to come back to a competitive level at some point if US-ADA lessen his lifelong ban.  I think that is poor form-but that is all he has ever known, how to compete.  All these people that have come forward telling people he owes the apologies, and I am sure he does-but these are people that also made money from all of this, they aren’t innocent either.  Not all of this was done just for Lance.  Its very hypocritical if you ask me.  They are happy to ride the coat tails and reap all the rewards and when things go south they speak out.  Shame on you.  It is hard to believe a pathological liar-but he deserves a second chance, maybe not at competitive sport as there will alsways be a cloud, but at life, raising his 5 children to be better people and to live a life that was nearly lost with his fight with cancer.  I wish you the best of luck lance Armstrong. 

The other news I have been following is the heatwave in Australia, the bush fires and then on the flip side the snow fall in London.  Sydney had its hottest day  on record at 45.7C.  man that is a scortcher.  I remember about 6 years ago, it was Christmas Day and the temperature that day was 41C and I thought that was hot.  I wonder how hot it was in the ‘hottest place in Australia’ was?  .  I saw a headline saying that Australia has lost more lives in the heat than what the current road death toll is As serious as human life is, so are our 4 legged friends and I had a friends remind her fellow Facebookers to remember you pets when you head to work in the morning and make sure they have enough water to last them during the day.  Very wise words and I wish all my Aussie friends a cool day and hope that you are all copping okay.  A heatwave in Australia.  That I am glad I am missing.       

So I have picked myself up, I have dusted myself off again and I am now ready to depart for Africa tomorrow.  TOMORROW.  I better get packing-for the last time. 

So I just want to thank everyone for all your thoughts... They mean more to me than I can ever express in words. I chose this road and I guess it is the unknown that scares me and I just have to travel it and see where it takes me and know that you are all with me on this journey. The life of a traveller is not all rainbows and sunshine but I can see the clouds clearing... THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart xx


WELCOME BACK TO BARCELONA


We’re back.  We arrived back into port sometime around 5 am-not that I noticed.  I checked to make sure that the monster had been taken, which it had, and I worked my morning around a 9am departure.  As I was heading to breakfast groups of colours were already being called at 7am, but they were people with flights to catch and I was glad I had a few days in town before I had to head off.  Firstly I was able to store bags-I couldn’t imagine having all my gear in the cabin that I had-Linda wouldn’t have seen a mess if I had of done that and I didn’t have the stress of getting to an airport and I just hoped that there were taxis!!!

I had a book to swap at the ‘book swap’ section of The Library on deck 12.  I had left a book during the week, swapped it-read it and returned it this morning with another book that I had finished and wanted to swap.  You always feel like such a thief when you put a book in and take one out.  I feel like I want/need to show someone that I have put one in to take one out.  Ridiculous I know as people probably don’t really care.  There were more foreign language books in the swap library than English ones, but as long as they had one, I would take it.  I am still reading hard copy books while I can.  I much prefer that than the Kindle.  I wonder if books are expensive to get a hold of in Kenya like it was in Ethiopia.  Like Ethiopia, my only things I need on my wish list are internet and a bathroom.  I don’t think that is too hard to ask.  I am assuming that the cost of living will be more expensive in Kenya than Ethiopia and I have no idea on what the cost of a place to rent is-all this I guess I will find out when I arrive. 

Breakfast was a quick one this morning as it was SO cold outside this morning.  I had my delightful pancakes and fresh cream one last time and I was kind of happy that I didn’t see Sahul, the waiter from the other morning-talk about awkward.  I had nearly 1.5 hours till I was to leave the ship.  So I headed back to The Library and read my book in the warmth and comfort of a big cushy arm chair.  There was no-one else in there, I had the whole place to myself and it was a nice way to spend my last hour on the ship.  I headed back to my cabin at 8.30am as this was the time we were supposed to have vacated them by.  I was hoping I could hole up in there for an extra 30 minutes trying to maximise my time and delay my arrival to the hotel as late as I could get.  I got a knock from Linda not long after I got back, but she said to take my time, she had other cabins to do and she could come back to mine.  My stewardess Linda was a breath of fresh air during the week with her smile and saying good morning every day and I would see her on my way out each evening as I headed to the theatre.  She had one more cruise to do and then she was heading home to the Philippines for 7 weeks for a break before coming back.  I decided to leave her a small note on the dresser to say thank you for her smile every day and I also attached a kangaroo hat pin for her to remember me by.  Hopefully that made her smile.  Gee I hope she gets it!!!!  So at 8.50am I decided I better get my butt off the ship and let Linda have my cabin-she was just across the hall so with a hug and a quick chat I said my goodbyes and it was time to leave my home for the last 9 nights.

Deck 7 was the gangway and there was a line-up of staff, the cruise director and the second captain there all to say goodbye as we swiped our ship cards for the last time.  Welcome back to Barcelona and it was a chilly one at that.  The Barcelona port also looks quite new and well laid out.  After walking the access bridges and down the escalators we arrived at the baggage collection point and it was just like an airport, with bag carousels and each one was numbered with the coloured tag that you had on your bag.  It was a great system and the monster arrived only a few minutes of me getting to my belt.  I was able to use the edge of a counter to get the backpack on my back and then I was following people out to the taxi rank.  There was a small queue but it was moving and there was a port policeman moving the taxis into bays and another guy directing people to cabs as they pulled in and not even 10 minutes of waiting I was in a cab whisked away to the city.  There was a weird moment when I had a look behind me and I saw the English couple, Lee and Adele were standing behind me and didn’t say a single word to me.  So I thought ‘flip you’ and didn’t say anything to them.  I think what may have happened was I had a great report with Lee and I reckon Adele said something to him and they kept their distance.  I only saw them one other time in the buffet on like day 4 and they were very off Standish then.  I’m not sure what went down, but we never did catch up for that drink we spoke about on the first day of the cruise which is a shame as they seemed quite cool and we had a few things in common.  Oh well it was their loss.  That reminded me that I didn’t get to say goodbye to my Danish couple.  That makes me sad as they were lovely.  At least I do have their email address so I will be sure to send them an email in the next few days.       

As I sat in the taxi as it drew away, I couldn’t see a meter.  I thought how much could he rip me off.  I knew I paid 11EUR for the trip down so I had that price in mind for the return journey.  I am glad I had my vouchers as it makes it so much easier to communicate with the drivers when they know where they are going without my pathetic attempts at Spanish-but in saying that I am staying on the Ramblas and you can’t go too wrong saying that word.  As I found out when I arrived and had to walk the sucker, The Ramblas is a long tree lined street/pedestrian mall that stretches for 1.2 kilometres and with this in mind my taxi driver popped out right near my hotel-great work buddy.  So you can imagine my surprise when he told me the fare was 20EUR.  Actually it was 20.15EUR but he was happy to call it 20EUR.  Well how swell of you.  I really didn’t have a leg to stand on as I couldn’t see a meter anywhere so I just paid the 20EUR reluctantly and exited the cab.  I made him help me with the monster to get it on my back-he was going to work for that 20EUR.  I just don’t understand how an 11EUR cab ride down was a 20EUR cab ride back.  We were travelling at similar times-there was no traffic to speak of and we didn’t travel the whole length of the Ramblas.  Any way I wasn’t going to argue and I walked into the hotel to be greeted by the same guy that popped my bags into storage for free when I was last here.  He was also cute and my rip off taxi was immediately forgotten!  I asked if my room happened to be ready and he did look to which it was no.  He told me the room wouldn’t be ready till 1.30pm, maybe earlier which I did expect.  But he said he would check if there was another room that I could have.  He took about 10 minutes checking the computer and the log to no avail telling me that there were no other single rooms free.  I asked then how much extra would it cost to pay for a double room and at that moment another staff member appeared (also easy on the eye) and after a few words he said I could have room 207.  AWESOME!!!  I was SO thankful as I know they don’t have to do it, or they could and ask for money for an early check-in, but they didn’t and it really made my morning.  The first good looking chap remembered I had bags stored without me even mentioning it and I said I would take what I had up and be back for the other 2.  Once I got to my room I could see why he didn’t look at this room as it was a disabled room-which I didn’t mind.  It had a single bed and the bathroom was as big as the actual room itself but there was lots of room for my bags and would give me extra space for my final pack in a few days’ time.  I was happy. 

I retrieved my other 2 bags and then I pretty much locked myself away in my room for the rest of the day.  I had some blogs to finish, I had A LOT of support messages replying back to my down status I had put up on Facebook yesterday and all the messages just made me cry all over again, so I wanted to read them all and hopefully reply back and my BIGGEST job was to finally load all my photos from the last 9 days.  I had done all the hard work of editing them while I was on the ship, so I literally only had to load them.  It was nice to look over them again and it made me think that I should take the time to look over a lot more of my pictures that I have taken in the last 2 years, but it is just a time thing.  Well I will be a bit of a bum in Kenya for a little while so maybe I will have some ‘down’ time to just soak in everything I have accomplished over my time away and re read some blogs.  It would be interesting to ready a blog from the start of the Odyssey and compare it to how I am writing now.  I wonder if there is a difference at all.  I also have a few more things I need to do while I have a good internet connection from internet banking, updating my antivirus software, sending a few emails and of course the never ending blogging.  Yes I had the perfect day ‘at home’ with no constraints at all.  I did go out at 3pm to get some lunch and I just had to have some paella.  Paella is a Valencian cooking metal casing, and a rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.  There are three widely known types of paella: Valencian paella, seafood paella and mixed paella but there are many others as well. All contain white rice, green vegetables and meat depending on the option you choose.  I was feeling a little adventurous and ordered the seafood paella and lemonade and after the drink arrived I kicked myself as I should have ordered a glass of sangria.  Never mind.  So I settled on with my book in the warmth of the restaurant until my meal arrived and it looked delicious and I wasn’t disappointed, it tasted as good as it looked. 

As I had eaten such a late lunch I knew that I wouldn’t be too hungry for dinner but I would probably need something to get me through till breakfast in the morning.  So I found a supermarket and bought some Doritos, some crackers, and some ham and when I looked in the cheese section I was hoping to see Brie or Camembert but to avail BUT guess what was there?  Cow Cheese!!!  You know the cream cheese that come in 8 segments in a round cardboard case?  In my books that was just as good as the Brie/Camembert and with that in my basket, a can of coke and 2 passionfruit poppers I think I was set for a bit of a snack later on tonight if I needed.  Perfect. 

So it was a productive day for me.  Maybe not in the sense of being a tourist but I need to have ‘office’ days and I think after next week I am not sure when I will have internet again-so I need to make the most of it while I have it.  In my defence I have been to Barcelona twice before and I have done a lot of the ‘touristy’ things.  The only thing I haven’t really done here is the museums and I am not really a museum go-er so I don’t feel guilty that I am not getting around the city. 

Tick, tick tick-Africa in 4 days…….

FINAL DAY AT SEA AND OF THE CRUISE


I am still sleeping weirdly and with the dresser lights on.  I was lucky last night, one of the bulbs blew, so it dimmed the room considerably and I did get a better sleep.  I haven’t slept in a room with a window for the last 11 nights, so it's a little strange to not see what time of day it is and have no idea on what the weather is doing outside.  I had a windowless room in London, a windowless room in Barcelona and then the last 8 nights of the cruise-it is very disorientating to say the least. 

I’m glad that our last day is a sea day and not a port day.  It just lets you unwind that last minute without the pressures and constraints of time.  There seems to be a lot of new faces on the ship that we picked up in Malaga.  It would be interesting to know just how many people disembarked and how many boarded.  You spot the ‘newbies’ a mile off as they have the deck plan in their hands and they have a look of ‘where the hell are we’ on their faces.  I have a kind of smug feeling knowing where everything is and knowing my way around the ship and how it all works.  Pffftttt, newbies!!!  In saying that though, during the week there were people still getting lost that had boarded in Barcelona-after 5 days……  I must say there were a few places on the ship that I didn’t go into, most of the eating venues, but I did know where they all were. 

I had breakfast at 9am and this morning and it was a very smart move as there was an influx of people at 10am on my way out, so I was lucky today I missed the car wreck of breakfast with all the ‘newbies’ learning how to use the drink and coffee machines.  And to answer your question, they had cream and it was fluffy pancakes again for breakfast.  I know that I have probably put on some weight on the cruise, but I have tried to choose my food smartly but at the end of the day I should just make the most of what is in front of me as there will be nothing like that in Kenya.  Sure I am sure I could go to a 5 star hotel for a breakfast, but firstly it won’t be the same thing and it will cost me an arm and a leg.  I may do that as a treat to myself if I totally feel down, but there won’t be this where I am heading.  It is funny I have used that attitude since going home in August, so I have just eaten like a maniac the last 5 months-but in my defence I was heading to Africa in September and that fell through.  So I know I have definitely wacked on some weight since August, but hopefully once I get into a routine, cooking healthy food and maybe even throw in some exercise I will be able to shift some of that when I settle.  Just think I have basically been ‘eating out’ for the last 22 months, so really it is kudos to me for not being bigger than what I am right?  I mean that is a lot of takeaway meals-based on 3 meals a day-that’s 1848 meals.  I feel bad, I don’t feel healthy, but again I hope to rectify that in the coming months. 

As routine predicts I was in Galaxy of the Stars after breakfast to blog and watch the 10am salsa class.  It is SO cold in there I have my scarf up around my head and my cardie on, my jacket on my knees and socks on my feet.  I wonder why they keep it so cold in here-it’s been like this all week.  Maybe it’s for the exercisers?  I don’t know but flip its cold.  It was busier up here than usual with all the newcomers and I am now thinking that the ship mustn’t have been full when we did our first 8 days, as it certainly seems a lot busier today than any other day so far.  The average age hasn’t changed and we are still in that 60+ age group.  I don’t think I even thought about the age demographic when I booked the cruise.  Not that it would have mattered as I still would have booked on this cruise anyway.  A lot of the passengers are Europeans getting away from their prospective winters.  I guess the coldness of the lounge for them is nice and cosy when the temperatures in Germany or Denmark are 0 degrees.  Maybe I am just a hot blooded person from the southern part of the world? 

So today is the last day of the cruise.  I got a picture email from Shelly today of Zoe doing her seal experience that she got for her birthday from Aunty Sandy and it just bought a tear to my eye.  Gosh I miss those guys so much it actually makes my heart hurt a little.  With Africa looming it really makes me think now what I am actually giving up and what a big step I am undertaking.  I have been so good for the last 8 days being in my own company, in my own head, but today something has just flipped and I am tearing up at the drop of a hat.  I really don’t know what is wrong with me.  I am missing home but I guess it is a lot of things, some of them I can’t change and things that I just can’t foresee for my arrival into Kenya, the unknown.  I find myself under a really dark cloud and I hope that I will be able to move it in the coming days.  Am I feeling sorry for myself?  I don’t think so-there are a lot of people that would die to be in my shoes, I know that.  I am lucky-but it doesn’t mean that I am not fighting my own demons that surface every now and then.  After all I am only human I suppose.  I updated my Facebook status:
“No one said it was going to be easy-that just promised it would be worth it. I am finding that a little hard to grasp the last few days. I am so down and crying at the drop of a hat-what is wrong with me? 5 days till Africa-let’s hope my mood improves .......” and it is exactly how I felt.     

I used the afternoon to have a good cry and then I had to pack.  I really did have stuff from one end of the cabin to the other.  Linda must think I was a total pig not even having unpacked properly, literally-I didn’t even store my ‘monster’ backpack away, it just sat at the base of my bed the whole week.  Oh well it was an organised chaos, I knew where everything was, well most of the time.  The main thing I seemed to keep misplacing was the damn TV remote.  I got 90% of my stuff packed I will try and zip the monster after the show tonight so I can out the clothes I am wearing in the bag before I have to out it outside my cabin before midnight tonight for it to be collected.  You did have the option of taking it off the ship yourself at any time, but I would be crazy to do that with the monster.  I had the lime sticker on my bag, which was the last possible departure you can have off the ship of 8.45am.  I need to try and keep my departure as late as I can as I am pretty sure my hotel room won’t be ready at 9.30am-but I will still try and ask.  I did keep the airlines ‘HEAVY’ tag on my bag, so hopefully some porter guy won’t pull out his back moving that thing later tonight.  This is the second last time will have to pack.  That is one thing I WILL NOT MISS and that is all the packing, especially this section as I have all the extra clothes and bags with me.  It really has been a nightmare and cost me some money, but not knowing when I will get my belongings sent over, I needed to make sure I had enough stuff with me to keep me going for a while. 

The final show in the theatre the cruise was a guy named Andy Buenger.  He is a musician but not just any old musician he can play over 15 instruments!  He played 7 for us in the show including the marimba (like a xylophone), vibraphone, the panpipes, the steel guitar, drums, saxophone and trumpet.  He played well known tunes with all the instruments and he was backed with the amazing Norwegian Spirit 6 piece band and it was a great show.  I think the 2 highlights for me was the marimba.  He can play that thing like no tomorrow and he said the song that he just played had 1250 stokes in the 2 minute song.  He told us that he looked for a song that had more strokes than that and he couldn’t find one-BUT he did find a song that had 1200 strokes in ONE minute and he played that with illuminated sticks and with the theatre lights dimmed we could see just how fast he was moving those sticks.  It was incredible and to show my state of mind, it bought tears to my eyes.  Now why would that make you cry?  The second was Andy played a ‘drum off’ with the drummer from the band and it was so cool as they played together in time, then they played separate and then joined up again, t was well choreographed.  You could see the band drummer was tickled pink with his 5 minutes of fame and also looked like he enjoyed the opportunity.  Andy was a very clever man and you need to add in the 4 languages he knew and spoke in during the show.  It was a SENSATIONAL way to finish the cruise  The last show of the 9 nights on board and out of those 9 nights I think there were only 2 ‘ordinary shows’ the rest were incredible.  Well done on act selection NCL.  Well done.   

On my way back to my cabin I stopped at the reception desk for the first time as I wanted to check about the gratuities.  In Australia when you book they add the gratuities to the cost of your cruise fare.  I think Australian may have a bad reputation as bad tippers as we don’t have to do it in our country, so I can see why they do do it that way and I don’t mind.  I am a tipper and the staff certainly deserve the money.  They work like dogs and long hours and time away from their families.  Some of the staff have small children that are being cared for my grandparents or the other spouse.  It is a tough life.  So no I don’t mind paying the tips.  NCL have a policy that will automatically add 15USD per day to your account and I wanted to check that I wasn’t going to be paying the tip twice.  As it worked out, it wasn’t on their and my total bill came to 426USD.  It seems quite high for someone that didn’t buy a single drink the whole time, except for my soda package on day one of the cruise of 65USD, but 155USD was internet usage and I know it seems a lot, but that was my ‘thing’.  People drank, people played the pokies, people paid the fancy restaurants, I paid for internet.  I mainly did it to keep my blog updated, as I was able to catch up on my blogs and I wanted to load them as they were completed and of course some Facebooking to keep me in the land of the living.  And the last of the bill was the 3 shore excursions.  If my bill was 426USD with no drinks, what did peoples account look like that did drink?  That people is where the cruise companies make their money.  I can guarantee that people will be shocked to see their bill and when it is double checked that it is actually all correct.  I did a cruise with a buddy back in April 2011 of the Mediterranean on a MSC cruise and we had a drinking week on board the ship and my bill after 7 days was 1200AUD!!!  Now that was a MASSIVE bill and I knew it would be big, but that was 2 months into my Odyssey and I my budget was getting hammered in the first 8 weeks!!!!  Let’s just say a lot of alcohol was consumed on that cruise. 

I have to say I have enjoyed the cruise, but I am looking forward to getting back to Barcelona in the morning.  I have 3 days there to repack and prepare myself mentally for my last leg.  I have been so down the last few days and I really don’t know what is wrong.  I think I am ready to plant these travelling feet for a while and starting my new chapter.  5 days till I leave and I am nervous as hell.

So it’s good night one last time from the Norwegian Spirit and I’ll see you in Barcelona in the morning. 


THE WHITE WASHED VILLAGE OF MIJAS



So today is the last port of call and the second last day of the cruise.  We have a day at sea tomorrow and then we are back into Barcelona port first thing on Thursday morning.  Where has the time gone?  My tour today was a half day tour to Mijas.  The other tours that were on offer and more popular was a transfer to the Rock of Gibraltar and the other one was to Granada and the Alhambra which I had doe both when I was on my Contiki Spanish Spree in May 2011-gee was it really that long ago?  I was in my 3rd month of travelling my World Odyssey and I made lifelong friendships off that tour…. You know who you are!  Anyway, so I didn’t have to do those tours; that were also full days, so I chose a more leisurely ½ day tour and thought I’d get out of the city and see one of the small villages. 

Based on that, there was no hurry for breakfast as my tour didn’t leave till 12.50pm from the terminal so I had decided to relax on the ship.  I could have caught the bus into Malaga and seen some of the city, but when I stepped out for breakfast, it was cold-no it was FREEZING, so I decided to stay on board and just do the tour.  This morning they had CREAM, so I was able to have my pancakes with fresh blueberries and cream and the last few days I have just been having 2 small ham and cheese rolls, I’ve stayed away from the fully cooked breakfasts and feeling better for it-I am sure that fresh cream makes up for anything I am missing out of the hot food-but DANG it is so good.  As usual the dining room was chockers, which surprised me as I though most people would have been out on tours at 9am.  I decided to brave the cold and eat outside, which once I had wolfed down my food I had to go back inside, it really was cold.  .  I guess we are well and truly back to a European winter and out of the Atlantic Ocean and its warmer weather.  I was talking to one of the waiters and he was from Indonesia, so I told him the few words I have learnt at school in Indonesian and we talked about food and he told me he had something (memory fails me) in his cabin if I was interested in having some that he bought from home.  Ummmmmm my question was it spicy, to which he relied yes, so there was my ‘out’ and I told him I don’t like super spicy food.  This was after he asked me if I was cruising on my own.  Had I just been picked up?  Oh Sahul-so sweet, but no thanks. 

So after spending the morning in galaxy of the Stars on deck 12 reading my book with a beautiful view of the Malaga skyline I headed out at 12.30pm to make my way to the terminal and our waiting coach.  The port of Malaga looks new and the facilities are all spotless and new.  They had some duty free shops (not for us) but we could pick up some shopping on our way back if we wanted to.  As we were in Spain a duty of 21% would be added to the prices on things.  I didn’t need anything but good to note.  I got to the coach with 5 minutes to spare and thankfully I wasn’t the last, there were 3 more people to come.  It was busier than I thought it would be with 85% of the coach full. At 12.50pm we were on our way.  Málaga is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of AndalusiaSpain.  It is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in Spain. The southernmost large city in Europe, it lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean, about 100 km east of the Strait of Gibraltar and about 130 km north of Africa.  Málaga's history spans about 2,800 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It was founded by the Phoenicians as Malaka about 770 BC, and from the 6th century BC was under the hegemony of Ancient Carthage. Then from 218 BC it was ruled by the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire as Malaca (Latin). After the fall of the empire it was under Islamic domination as Mālaqah for 800 years, but in 1487 it came again under Christians rule in the Reconquista. The archaeological remains and monuments from the Phoenician, Roman, Arabic and Christian eras make the historic centre of the city an "open museum", displaying its rich history of more than 3,000 years.  The internationally acclaimed painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso and actor Antonio Banderas were born in Málaga.

The city is an important tourist destination, known as "the capital of the Costa del Sol". Tourists usually visit the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and the Museo Picasso Málaga, the Carmen Thyssen Museum, the old town or the beaches. The Málaga harbour is also the second busiest cruise port of the Iberian Peninsula.  The Port of Málaga is the city's seaport, operating continuously at least since 600 BC. The port is one of the busiest ports on the Mediterranean Sea, with a trade volume of over 428,623 TEU's and 642,529 passengers in 2008.

The tour was called Charming Mijas and Countryside and we were admiring the countryside as we made our way via small back roads through the agriculture area of Malaga.  We were at sea level when we started; surround by the Sierra Nevada mountains which span the Andalusia region including the provinces of Granada and Almería.  It contains the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén at 3,478 metres above sea level and its spectacular from where we were sitting.  Agriculture of the area included bitter oranges, also known as the Seville orange, refers to a citrus tree and its fruit. It is hybrid between Citrus maxima and Citrus reticulata.  Many varieties of bitter orange are used for their essential oil, which is used in perfume, as a flavouring and as a solvent. The Seville orange variety is used in the production of marmalade.  We also saw flowering almond trees.  The almond is native to the Mediterranean climate region.  It was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe and more recently transported to other parts of the world.  I’ve never seen a flowering almond tree before and it reminded me of a cherry blossom tree.  There were thousands of banana plantations and lastly the other MASSIVE export for the region-Olive trees.  Olive tree cultivation originated in the Middle East more than 5,000 years ago and spread to the West throughout the Mediterranean area. From the wild olive trees that grew spontaneously, the first cultivators of the Iberian Peninsula began to choose those that had the best characteristics depending on the areas, productivity, adaptation to the soils, yield, etc... The olive trees in the Iberian Peninsula are now, therefore, hardy trees that can withstand diverse climate.  In Spain alone there are 260 olive tree cultivars and around 300 million trees just in Andalusia making the area the number one producer of olive oil in the world.  A shame I don’t eat olives. 

After an hour and 15 minutes winding our way over the mountains we arrived at the small town of Mijas.  Mijas is a town and municipality in the province of Málaga.  It is a typically Andalusia white-washed village located at a mountain side about 450 m above mean sea level, in the heart of the Costa del Sol region. There are some local history museums and many souvenir shops; Mijas also has seven golf courses (four more are under construction) including La Cala Resort, the biggest golf resort in Spain.  Economy is mostly based on tourism. Agricultural producers include potatoes, cereals and avocado.  Founded in prehistoric times by the Tertessians, it was known as Tamisa by the Romans; later the name changed to Mixa and finally to the current Mijas. The Romans were replaced by the Visigoths, and then, after 714, by the Moors.  At the time of emirate of Córdoba, it was conquered by Umar ibn Hafsun, remaining under the rule of Bobastro until the latter was defeated by Abd al-Rahman III.  In 1487 Mijas resisted to the attacks of the Catholic Monarchs during the siege of Málaga; later the inhabitants surrendered and most were sold as slaves. During the Revolt of the Comuneros it remained loyal to the Spanish crown, which granted Mijas the title of 'Muy Leal ("Very Loyal").  In the 19th century, Mija’s livelihood, were mainly agriculture and fishing, plus some farming and mineral extraction. And vines were the main wealth of Mijas until the Philloxera plague destroyed all the plantations. Also important was the paper production’s. It was found some mills located in the area of “Osunillas” 1744. At the half of the century, was the most productive time in the industry, thanks to the arrival of Valencia’s papermakers.  In 1873 they opened the road between Mijas and Fuengirola. Fuengirola was segregated from Mijas in 1841. However, the village remained isolated until the second republic, when the first newspaper arrived. There was no phone until 1953 and as descriptions of the time; the town consisted mostly of shacks. The population was scattered across the countryside.  At the post war period there was much hunger and lack of work.  In the 50’s an asbestos factory came to alleviate unemployment and began building small hotel because the fame that Costa del Sol was getting.  The Climate of Mijas, due to the proximity of the sea, conditions mild temperatures, with an average of 18 °C without heat in summer and little frost in winter. The rainfall is below 600ml per year. They occur mainly between November and January. The town boasts some 2920 hours of sunshine a year. 

Once we arrived we were given 10 minutes for the ‘older’ generation to go to the bathroom and then as a group we made our way from the main village square uphill for a small orientation tour of the town with a rest at the ‘Wine Museum’ and rewarded for our 10 minute walk with a glass of crisp white dessert wine and then taken further through the small cobbled streets surrounded by the stark white walls of the buildings to another small square and then given 1.5 hours to spend to our own devices and to meet back at the main square at 4.15pm.  We were pointed in the direction of up one more hill to get views over the valley and also over the white washed homes that hugged the mountains and we weren’t disappointed when we got to the top.  There was a small reserve/gardens called La Muralla, where there is a pathway around the mountain that you could follow and just appreciate the view and at the same time get some great snaps.  The Municipal Auditorium was also located up here.  It was windy and a little brisk, but the sun was out to help counter act the howl of the wind and I spent a good 30 minutes walking around the path.  It truly was stunning here.

On my way back down to start making my way back to the coach, like most towns in Andalusia, Mijas has its own bullring, the Plaza de Toros. Situated in the earlier mentioned La Muralla area, the bullring stands on a small square, within easy walking distance of the gardens, the Municipal Auditorium and the centre of the town. Built in 1900, the Plaza de Toros is one of the most interesting sights in Mijas.  It was a cute little bullring, only the second one that I have ever seen after the one we saw in Seville in my Spanish Spree tour, but here we were allowed to walk into the actual ring.  It was 3EUR to get in and I think it was worth every penny.  I was the only one in the whole establishment, so I knocked myself out taking a bunch of photos.  This outstanding bullring, built in 1900, stands in the higher part of town on a rock next to the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción.  Its most remarkable feature is its oval shape (one of a few in Spain).  The first bullfighting event in Mijas took place on 8 September 1900. Since then, there have been hundreds of young bull running events. These have their origin in how young bulls were brought from the meadows in the past. Instead of using boxes, they were driven along roads and tracks to a rest place where now the Mijas Hotel is located.  After the break, the young bulls where driven across a deserted town centre to the bullring. In those days, just like they do now, the assistants must have felt tempted to run ahead of the bulls, with their legs and maybe a timely window as protection.  There are no running events now. The bullring was closed for rehabilitation from 1968 to 1977.

I found my way back uneventfully to the main square.  All the little alleyways look the same, so you have to pay attention to the stores and signs which are in Spanish and also English as it could be quite easy to get lost in this small village when all the buildings look the same.  But never fear, I made it back with time to have a look at the shops that faced the main square-all selling the same stuff and then the coach arrived right on time, we all got on, everyone was accounted for and we made our way back to the ship via the main highway getting us back in 45 minutes at 5pm.  It was a great little tour and I am glad that I did it to get off the ship and see some of the Spanish countryside.  Thanks to Miguel or driver and to Jose our guide for a delightful afternoon.

The buffet dinner was closing at 8pm tonight as they were having the chocolate buffet starting at 9pm which actually worked out okay for me as I didn’t have any lunch so after dropping off my bag to my cabin I headed to dinner early and figured I could always get something latter on should I get hungry after the show.   It was also a double bonus as I was on deck for the sunset at 6.20pm and to also see the Holland America ship “Rotterdam’ leave.  I still marvel at how those little tug boats work.  There was just the one tugboat and it basically turned the 62,000 tonne ship 180 degrees for the ship to then chug its way out of port.  Really it is amazing.  There were hundreds of seagulls all swooping as the ship left port.  I guess the ship was churning up a lot of the sea floor and they were hoping to scavenge some food.  Literally there were hundreds of them and it made for some good photos-if they come out.  I think flying birds are one of the hardest pictures to take.  It was a shame that I only had my point and shoot on me.  There seems to be something wrong with my little friend.  I have some black lines appearing on the screen and they seem to get worse when the weather is cold and it currently won’t let me delete any pictures anymore.  I do get my monies worth out of my camera’s as they certainly work hard in the hands of myself, so I can’t really complain-but I did only buy this camera in July.  It wasn’t super expensive; I think I may have paid 110AUD, so I just may have to keep my eyes peeled duty free for a new one when I leave Barcelona.  I mustn’t forget to mention that beautiful sunset over the Sierra Nevada’s with the shipping container cranes silhouetted.   It was an incredible view.  As soon as the sun set, there was a distinct chill in the air and the wind was still blowing a gale force, so it was time to head back to the cabin to freshen up and get to the Stardust Theatre for the evenings show.     

I feel so ridiculous now as I wait for the theatres doors to open each night.  I am getting that pedantic that I want the same seat each night that I am now getting there early, before the doors even open; to make sure I am one of the first in.  The first 4 days there were hardly anyone waiting, me and this old couple and an older dude travelling his own, to the last few nights around 20 of us all standing waiting and I am embarrassed to say I am the only one under the age of 50 out of that 20, not including the wheel chair lass, as they need the extra time to settle in.  When the doors open I feel like I need to pop out my elbows and like a comedy skit push over all the old people to make sure none of them get my seat.  Funny and sad all at the same time.  I am lucky I am the 6th row up and a lot of the first comers are after the first row anyway.  Lucky for them.  The show was SENSATIONAL tonight.  It was a combination of Cripton the Magician and his wife Renata, the duo of Dou Amore-the acrobatic/dancers and the Norwegian Dancers and the show was called Elements.  Everyone was incorporated and the show ran through earth, fire, rain, sunshine and finishing with snow.  The costumes were magnificent, there were rope climbers, the whole theatre was used for the show, including up the aisles and it was a new looking set from what we had seen all week.  It really had it all.  The magician was great, but he had two tricks that really didn’t work and I feel embarrassed for him.  The first one was he had to blow a bubble for his next trick to progress to the next part of the show and he took 3 attempts to get a damn bubble and only just caught one to give you the idea of what he was doing.  And the second act was the ‘magic’ lifting of Renata in the air using the water tray he had her lying in which did look impressive and he did the hoop over the body thing to show you there was nothing holding her up but as she came down you could see she was sitting on a small seat of some kind and see a bar going up her back, but still seeing that, I don’t know how he gets the hoop around her.  The grand finale had all of the dancers, singers, and acts on stage in their snow outfits and small pieces of paper getting blown around on stage making it look like it was snowing and then they called up all the stewards and stewardesses, the drinks guys, the bar staff, the wait staff in the restaurants, the head chef and his guys and then the senior officers and finally the captain.  It gave me goose bumps as all these people are required to make your holiday a special one and the catch tag that NCL had was we are now their ambassadors.  What a great end to a show and they all got a standing ovation.  The last people to come out were the hand washers.  They have these guys at the entrances of all the restaurants and the catch cry for these guys is “washy washy” and my Indonesian guy was up there with his towel mate Roger.  It is strange to have the finale on our 2nd last night.  I wonder why they didn’t do the show tomorrow night for the Barcelona passengers?  What a great show to start the Malaga people on though!  Beats our comedian guy who I didn’t even see, but apparently he wasn’t that great. 

As it worked out I wasn’t that hungry and after the show made my way back to my cabin.  I will have to pack all my crap tomorrow that I have strewn all over the place.  I never did end up unpacking properly.  I could have left ½ the clothes I bought in Barcelona but not knowing what the weather was going to be like I was better to be safe than sorry.

That completes our last port of call.  A day at sea tomorrow and then back into Barcelona.  I have had a great time on the ship but with only 22 minutes left of internet time and the buffet dinner getting a little tiring I think I am looking forward to getting back to land and then preparing for my last flights into Africa.  Crap-Africa in 5 days.  FIVE DAYS.  Still hasn’t hit me yet!

Friday, January 18, 2013

GETTING MY SEA LEGS-JUST IN TIME FOR END OF THE CRUISE


We moved our clocks forward an hour last night which works in my favour I believe when I wore at 7am it was really 6am, but 7am looks better right?  I got caught watching a clip in E Entertainment on TV and didn’t leave my cabin till 9am.  Not sure why this feels so weird to me, but I am normally just finishing breakfast now and heading up to Galaxy of the Stars on deck 12.  But what am I in a rush for?  My daily routine had changed and it felt strange!  After only mentioning last night about not seeing my Danish couple I saw then this morning at breakfast and have now got their names and details.  Frits and Elisabeth-they are so sweet and after they had finished their breakfast Elisabeth came over and we chatted for about 40 minutes while Frits went for a walk.  It was nice to have a conversation again with someone and when I think the last time that was it was probably day 2 of my cruise with Lee and Adele.  I speak to my room attendant each day-but that is generalities-a good ol conversation has been a long time overdue.  Elisabeth asked for a card with my details and I think about the business cards I got made before I left in August with all my Ethiopia details and a picture of Zeme and I on them.  I told her no-I didn’t have cards and I gave her my email and blog address on a piece of paper.  I must say I did throw all those cards out when I got back to Australia along with any photos I had printed of Zeme and l, along with all my IPod photos deleted of the two of us.  It was like a big cleanse for me-but what a waste.  I just LOVE the saying ‘remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck’ and I know that.  There are bigger and better things waiting for me out there.

It was a lot cool this morning and not many people at breakfast at 9am.  I wonder if they were all still on yesterday’s time as when I left at 10.30am there was a hell of a lot more people around.  Looking at the ocean the waves don’t look that big, but the ship is really rolling today and I feel sorry for the old people trying to navigate their way around the ship.  I’m just at the ready to catch any of them that are walking in front of me in case they fall.  It really is disconcerting walking around on a ship that has a roll to it, and that’s with my ‘young’ legs.  Sitting in Galaxy of the Stars you get a 180 degree view of where we are and there is nothing as far as the eye can see, not in front, port or starboard-just the horizon and a lot of water.  I didn’t even see another ship-not one.  Galaxy was just wrapping up a question and answer time with the Captain and his senior officers.  I caught the last 2 questions and one was with the cancellation of the port call yesterday why we didn’t high tail it to Malaga to give us some extra time there instead.  The Captain answered that question and said that the ports are booked 1-2 years in advance, it is quite hard to get a berth at short notice and by the time the request went to Miami to Malaga and back to the ship the Captain saw no positive in getting us into Malaga at midnight-there was nothing to be gained in doing that.  Good question and good response.  The other question was when we had our mandatory lifeboat drills on the first day we weren’t required to have our life jackets with us-each cruise line is different and NCL had changed their policy that you no longer needed to bring your life jackets with you as they were cumbersome to passengers and to NCL the most important thing is knowing where your evacuation station was rather then getting you there with the lifejackets on.  Interesting to know. 

As the morning wore on I was in the lunge to see the towel folding demonstration.  For those of you who may have not had the good fortune to cruise before each night your steward comes into your cabin for a turn down service and they leave these cute and crazy towel animals, made out of..well towels.  So they had a demonstration of the top 10 animals they make.  They had housekeeping taking this talk and it gave one of the head guys a chance at his 45 minutes of fame and he was actually quite good with his explanations and jokes.  My stewardess Linda was up there with 2 others and I have to say she was the best roller and animal maker out of them all!!!!  All the bodies of all the animals seem to be a standard roll and then it is the hand towels and face washers that create and complete the masterpieces.  I have to say my favourite one out of them all was the mouse, which was left last night on my bed and I hope to keep till the end of the cruise.  He is a cutie.  They don’t keep the animals each day, I guess there would be a shortage of towels if they let everyone keep the animals ‘alive’ for the duration of the cruise-which is a shame as it would have been a great photo to get the whole zoo in on the last night. 

I was also still in the lounge for the next activity which was ‘Name that 80’s Tune’.  I did turn my IPod off for this one and thought I would just play on my own to see how I fared.  There were 20 songs that the staff played and when it came time to mark I got 13 out of 20.  There were a group of 4 that got 20 out of 20-which is pretty impressive.  I can’t believe that I didn’t even get the name of Boy George’s song Karma Chameleon… but Shelly would be proud that I got Maneater right, which was a song that was played at my wedding.  Was that PC back then now that I think about it?

I was also still in the lounge for the next activity which was ‘Country Line Dancing’.  I tell you they get the numbers on the dance floor.  There would have been 25 people out there and to start off with it looks like a train wreck as they are getting taught the steps but I looked back up after a while and they actually all looked quite good and all in time with each other.  It was funny to watch at times when the ship got a roll the 2 steps would become 3 or 4 as they tried to then compose themselves back to the steps, but they were all in time with the sway as well.  Good on them for giving it a go is all I have to say.  Half way through the dancing my computer was about flat and it was 2.30pm and lunch time for me.  So I packed up all my gear and as I was already on deck 12, so I headed to buffet and then into my cabin for a few hours till it was time to get ready for the show.  I didn’t want to be late for this one as my fav band of the cruise FourEver were back again and they were just as good as the first time.  The poor buggers were supposed to get off yesterday in Lanzarote but as we didn’t stop they will disembark tomorrow in Malaga.  I wonder how they get paid and if it is worth it?  I guess it must if the acts come onto the ships.

So that sums up what was another day at sea.  We have a port of call tomorrow in Malaga, one more ship day and then back onto land and into Barcelona and even though I have had a nice time on the ship, it is time for me to get moving onto my next chapter, getting to Kenya and seeing if I can make a life there.  I am still a little precious, emotionally, but I think I am holding up okay all things considered and remembering that I really haven’t had a lot of conversations with people the whole trip, I thought I may have gone batty after a week-but again I am doing okay. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

LANZAROTE CANCELLED AS STORM FRONT MOVES IN


Another busy day with a full day tour booked including a buffet lunch.  Well so we thought.  This morning was the first morning that my alarm woke me up, and yes I am still sleeping with a light on, so I must admit my sleeps aren’t quite fitful-but I did have that slight heart attack when I was in London in a windowless room (they are cheaper) and I woke at 10 thinking it was am but it was pm.  It is an awful feeling-being disorientated and you would think after all this travel I would be used to it.  I guess not. 

I was looking forward to my pancakes and cream this morning and of course I still wanted my eggs and sausage as well.  It is hard when you are eating on your own in the buffet restaurant because if you need to leave the table to go and get another drink or more food, the waiters swoop in on your table to clear it and if it’s busy people will take your table thinking that you have finished.  I don’t have anyone to stay put while I go and get things.  It can be hard at times but maybe it has helped me not getting a second helping of something, but not this morning.  I had all my stuff with me that I needed for the day tour, including a jacket, so I was able to leave the jacket and my first course on the table and then head in to get my pancakes and cream.  When I came back and finally sat down it dawned on me that we didn’t seem to be anywhere near port and it was 7.30am.  We could see land, but it was a long way off, hmmmmm I wonder what was happening to be late again!!!  Well we didn’t have to wait long.  An announcement came at 8am from the Captain, which at first I couldn’t quite hear and didn’t understand much of what was said except at the end he said enjoy your day on Norwegian Spirit….. Something in that statement didn’t sound right…..  And then the announcement was repeated by the cruise director which I could understand better.  Basically our port of call to Lanzarote had been cancelled due to high winds in the port and the possibility of a storm front this afternoon of winds up to 35-40 knots which I would assume would make us getting out of the port a nil impossibility.  We were also going to cruise at 20mph as to try and miss the storm front we were heading into and were told it may get rough this afternoon and to be extra cautious walking around the ship.  It sounded ominous but as I made my way back from breakfast there were spew bags already adorning tables and banisters throughout the ship.  It must be serious.

It was a bummer that we weren’t stopping at Lanzarote as it was one of the places I was looking forward to.  My silver lining was it was the most expensive shore excursion so it will be refunded to my account and there are people worse off than I.  Think of the domino effect of a ship not coming into port.  The staff on the ship don’t get any time off-I bet they must look forward to it no matter how long or short.  My steward, Linda, got off the ship for only 1.5 hours yesterday but she said it was great and she went and had McDonalds.  There are the tour operators that aren’t getting the clients which in turn no work for the locals and tips.  What do they do about the supply of food?  They hadn’t counted on having 2000 people on board at sea-do they have extra provisions for something like this or do they dip into food that was for Barcelona and then pick up extra food in Malaga?  What about the food suppliers in Lanzarote?  I am sure that the ship must be stocked with supplies from there-whether it be food, alcohol, supplies or the dumping of waste or rubbish.  Maybe there is a ship stuck there and can’t get out till the winds die down?  Where is our Costa ship?  So looking at all of the above-it seems like a logistical nightmare to cancel a port, so I am sure it is a difficult decision to make.  Not to mention some unhappy clients on the ship.  I haven’t seen any, but I am sure there must be some whingers out there that have said their piece.  I don’t understand people like that.  The decision has been made to keep us safe and the ship in one piece (especially after the track record of this particular ship) and it is the same when flights are delayed due to weather or mechanical faults-it is for their own safety and I just cannot believe that people don’t look at the bigger picture when these things crop up and unfortunately that is the beast of travelling.  Not everything is going to go to plan-things go wrong, planes are delayed, storms come and go, taxis have strikes in the city where you actually need one and a multitude of other things that are out of your control.  Touchwood I have been EXTREMELY lucky on my whole Odyssey that I had no major setbacks.  A few things here and there like the date change of my Galapagos cruise, missing a flight in Cairo heading to Nairobi, the cancellation of one of my internal flights in South America but in the scheme of how much I travelled, again touchwood, I have been lucky.  The last thing is the new activities on the ship now that we had a day at sea.  They must have contingency plans like this, I am sure it is not the first time that a port has been cancelled and I must admit, again they work fast and a new schedule was up within the hour.     

So another day at sea.  What was I going to do today?  I’ll get cracking on my Madeira blog-it’s a biggie-so I may as well tackle that while I can.  So with my computer in my bag I made my way up Galaxy of the Stars lounge and ‘my’ spot was already taken, but I think that worked out okay as I feel there is a lot of pressure sitting there as you are up on a small stage and people look at you every time they walk into that part of the lounge.  Too much pressure, so I found a nook at the back of the lounge that had a table and if I needed a power point to boot and more room to spread my crap.  I had also bought up my dairy as I needed to also update that and that would happen once my battery went flat on the computer.  I knew my Madeira blog was a biggie but man it took me 2.5 hours to pump that puppy out but there is a relief and a feeling of accomplishment every time I finish an entry and this one was no different.  I used my satellite account to upload and realised I was getting low on minutes.  I will have to purchase some more credit and I was in a quandary on which package to buy.  Another 100USD got me 250 minutes or 55USD for 100 minutes.  I try and limit my access to 30 minutes a day, based on 4 more days at sea; I went with the 55USD package and hope that it will see me through to the end of the cruise.  It will be funny to see my account at the end of the cruise.  I don’t have a single alcoholic drink on my account.  I have 3 shore excursions, a soft drink package I purchased on day one of the cruise and the internet credits.  I wonder if I am the lowest account they have EVER had for a 9 night cruise?  The only way someone can beat me is to have done no shore excursions, which is possible with the oldies and to have not used the internet, which is probably a pretty good bet that they certainly would be doing 100USD worth.  So I guess it is possible for someone to beat me.  But it would be close, I’m willing to wage.       
 
It is a week today till I start my last journey to Africa next week.  It is a yahoo and an ahhhh moment all at the same time.  I am now getting butterflies when I think about it.  I hadn’t really hit me yet as I was doing so much before I got to Kenya.  The good news is I have a friend picking me up when I arrive, so that has settled my nerves a little bit and it will be nice to see a friendly face as soon as I arrive.  It feels like I left Australia months ago and not just 19 days ago.  That really is insane, but I guess I have done so much in those 19 days that it seems longer to me.  I have all these stats in my diary and it was good to read over them.  Today is my 574th day of actually travelling.  It’s not counting the 2 trips I have had home, if I count them that makes it a total of 658 days.  I left Australia on the 29th March 2011.  To think that I am coming up to a 2 year anniversary of travelling on my Odyssey is surreal to me as the trip only originally started out as a 12 month gig, which extended to 14 months and then  added on the USA and ended up being 19 months.  I was always planning on coming home, I never in my wildest dreams expected that my life would change that much and that I would be moving to Africa.  The thought never crossed my mind.  After talking to my BF Shelly, she said she knew deep down that I wouldn’t be back to live, that I would find something or someone, and that I wasn’t going to be moving back.  She said that is why she was so sad the first time that I left.  It is funny what people see that you just quite have the picture yourself, just yet. 

Lunch was busy today-like grannies and poppies everywhere and it was difficult to get a seat inside or outside.  The sun was out but there was still a small nip in the air.  The sea was rough but so far not too bad-certainly nothing to warrant any sea sickness bags at least.  I think all the British passengers were thankful for the day at sea as they all seemed to be crammed around all the available TV’s to watch a football match.  I was just reading my book at the table after lunch when some old folk asked if they could join me as I was smack bang in front of a large TV.  I told them I was done anyway and let them have the table.  I went to the library to see if there were any books available at the book swap shelves.  On the first day there were a bevy of books and I took one (whoops I didn’t swap) but today there was not much left and what was there was in Dutch.  There was one book in English and can you believe that I had read before.  What are the odds of all the books in the world, the only one left was one that I had read.  Priceless.  Then I remembered I had my Kindle so I will just use that.  I was back to the cabin at 2pm and chillaxed and watched the Bourne Identity on TV.  I really have a craving for nachos and can you believe out of all the places to eat on the ship they don’t have nachos on the menu.  There are pay restaurants that you can eat at like the Sushi Bar which is a-la-carte, La Trattoria 15USD-Italian, Shogun 15USD Asian fusion, Le Bistro 20USD French, Cagney’s 25USD Steakhouse and Teppanyaki 25USD Japanese.  No Mexican.  Bugger.

7pm came and it was time to head to the show.  Duo Amore was the act tonight and they were a French act from Paris.  They were, I guess you would call acrobats/dancers.  There was just the 2 of them, a male and a female, and their opening act started on the ribbon cloths suspended from the ceiling. And he was wrapped in one.  She was definitely a dancer, classical trained as she went right up onto her toes and the first time I saw it I ooooooo’d out loud.  To see some-one actually do that pose is an incredible sight.  She was SO flexible and she also did a solo routine on a hoop suspended from the roof and it was just awe inspiring.  Also taking into account the roll of the ship, as it was rough outside, they were true professionals.  There was one move they all did that made the whole audience gasp and that was when he had her over his head and she was in a ball position, with her hands grabbing her feet and then he let her go and she dropped over his head and he stopped her hitting the ground with his thighs and feet.  WHAT A MOVE.  They also threw in some Dancing with the Stars routines and the Dirty Dancing lift.  His upper body strength was remarkable as he had a few routines on his own with the ribbons and busted a few great moves himself.  They truly were INCREDIBLE.  They then continued to WOW the audience for 40 minutes to an amazing end to them both on the ribbon swinging around in stage all dressed in white.  She looked amazing as she had a twig figure and he was very deliciously built and shirtless wearing those ballet tights that just magnify the crotch area.  What a GREAT show! 

At the end of the performance the cruise director mentioned that FourEver were going to be performing tomorrow night which surprised me and then I remembered that they were supposed to get off at Lanzarote today, the poor buggers.  So I guess why not do another show if they are on board.  That’s a win for us as they were also amazing.  Hands down I would have said they were the best act of the week so far…until tonight-now I’m not sure who I would pick.  Well done NCL for getting some quality up on stage. 

For dinner I just couldn’t stomach another buffet, so I decided to head to the Blue Lagoon Café.  This serves what they call snack food (included in your cruise price) till 4am in the morning.  You still get a choice of starter, main and dessert if you wish and it just felt like I was having a normal meal.  I am finding the buffet is serving the same food every day in regards to the main staples of the pasta, salads and the ‘American’ section and I have not really liked the looks of the other hot food they have been serving.  They do have the carvery that has a new meat every lunch and dinner, so I have pretty much been sticking to that and salads-but I just needed a change.  So with a won ton soup for a starter and English fish and chips for main I felt half human again and made my way back to my cabin.  We had to wind our watches forward an hour before we went to bed tonight so now it was 10pm already-just like that.

I was feeling a little blue tonight.  Don’t get me wrong I am still enjoying my cruise.  I haven’t seen the English couple or my Danish couple since day 2 but I’m okay with that, that’s not the issue.  But I think the reality of what I am about to embark on is starting to kick in and then I miss everyone back home and I was thinking about my mum and I gave Zeme a minute of my time as well and it just made me a little blue and a little reflective.  I think we all need that sometimes and it makes me more determined to appreciate each day I have and to know that tomorrow is a new day and life keeps on rolling along, literally at the moment as the ship is in some pretty rough waters.  With those thoughts in my head I went to sleep with the image of pancakes and cream in the morning.  See I’m feeling better already.