A Travellerspoint blog

The Gambia and Cape Verde

Goodbye to Africa

sunny 74 °F
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From Gambia we sailed for two days up the coast of Africa to The Gambia, a small, narrow country surrounded by Senegal and named after The Gambia River which flows through its middle. We docked in the capital city of Banjul, a port near the place where The Gambia River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Many, many vendors came to the pier and spread out their wares on mats. The women were dressed in colorful dresses and headwraps. Bead necklaces, clothing, and carved wooden animals were among the items for sale. There was even a seven foot high statue of a Gambian woman holding a basket on her head. Bargaining, rather than paying a fixed price, is the rule here. This custom plus the vigorous efforts of the vendors to attract attention to their wares made for a very lively atmosphere.

We also took the shuttle bus into town and visited the market where Gambians go to shop. There there were people selling fish, vegetables, and fruit, others making clothes on sewing machines and still other upholstering furniture.

We were impressed by the energy and friendliness of the Gambians we encountered. Everyone seemed to be living up to the country’s reputation as The Smiling Coast.

After a further two days at sea we arrived at Mindelo, São Vincente in Cape Verde, a country made up of small islands off the westernmost coast of Africa. These islands were created eons ago by volcanoes that erupted from the ocean floor. Portuguese settlers came here in the 5th century. For many years the islands were a vital part of the slave trade between Africa and the Americas.

The day of our visit being Sunday, the streets of Mindelo were almost deserted. We walked around admiring the old pastel-colored colonial buildings of the town and then returned to the ship.

From here we sail westward for four days across the Atlantic to Barbados. We are looking forward to these lazy days at sea.Gambian women and gourds

Gambian women and gourds

My friend fatima on the pier

My friend fatima on the pier

Onion sellers

Onion sellers

Fish market

Fish market

Tailor shop

Tailor shop

Upholstery shop

Upholstery shop

Presidential residence

Presidential residence

The market from our window

The market from our window

-Mindelo harbor

-Mindelo harbor

-former governor's house

-former governor's house

-Farewell to Africa

-Farewell to Africa

Posted by HopeEakins 22.04.2013 03:22 Archived in Cape Verde Comments (0)

Ghana

Slave coast castles

sunny 91 °F
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On our day in Ghana, we went on a tour of two former “slave castles.” Cape Coast Castle and Elmina. These were both major centers of the slave trade that flourished in this part of Africa from the 16th through the 19th century. Thousands of enslaved Africans were brought in chains to these fortresses, stored in dungeons, and then packed into ships that took them to a life of hard labor in the New World. These slave castles are places that have seen terrible brutality and enormous suffering.

At Cape Coast Castle, it was very moving to see a plaque commemorating the 2009 visit of Michelle Obama. Mr. Obama came here to visit her roots her ancestors had passed through the castle’s infamous Door of No Return as slaves headed for the American south. Some 200 years later the descendant of those slaves DID return. She returned as First Lady of the United States.

The majority of the people of Ghana today live in great poverty. You can see this in our photographs. It is striking, however, to see how cheerful the people are and how hopeful. Signs of their strong faith and their trust in God are everywhere.Cape Coast Castle

Cape Coast Castle

Cape Coast castle dungeon

Cape Coast castle dungeon

Door of no return

Door of no return

Elmina slave castle

Elmina slave castle

Ghanian woman and child

Ghanian woman and child

Thank you Jesus Fashion center

Thank you Jesus Fashion center

Be humble to God barber

Be humble to God barber

Posted by HopeEakins 18.04.2013 02:17 Archived in Ghana Comments (0)

Limbé, Cameroon

A place of painful history and yet with hope

sunny 103 °F
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Limbé, Cameroon was just as hot as São Tomé on the day we visited. Our stay here included a long trek to see the former slave port of Bimbia, one of a 500 mile long string of slave fortresses that once stretched from Cameroon westward along the African coast to Ghana. We rode for several miles in 4x4 vehicles in deeply rutted dirt roads and then hiked for another mile or so down to the sea. There in the jungle along the coast we came to the stone ruins of what was once a place where captive people were brought from inland areas, sold into slavery, held in dungeons, and then loaded into ships to be sent across the Atlantic to work on plantations in Brazil, the Caribbean, and America. The memory of so much suffering hangs heavy in the air at Bimbia. We were very sad as we trudged back through the steaming jungle.

During a picnic lunch in the botanical garden, men women and children entertained us with energetic traditional dances. That they could dance in such heat was amazing.

We also had a chance to visit a banana plantation and a wildlife center where gorillas and other endangered primates are protected.

Baby bananas

Baby bananas

Banana flower with hand

Banana flower with hand

Banana flower

Banana flower

Bananas on their way to the plant

Bananas on their way to the plant

Bimbia slave quarters

Bimbia slave quarters

Buea old town

Buea old town

Buea residence

Buea residence

Buea signs

Buea signs

Cameroon dancers

Cameroon dancers

On the way to Bimbia slave port

On the way to Bimbia slave port

Port of no return

Port of no return

Rescued gorilla

Rescued gorilla

Posted by HopeEakins 18.04.2013 02:13 Archived in Cameroon Comments (0)

São Tomé and Príncipe

A sad place

sunny 101 °F

São Tomé the capital city of the small island country of São Tomé and Príncipe is a sad place. The roads, sidewalks, and buildings are broken; people are in your face asking for money and looking very unfriendly. The market is dirtier and smellier than any we had previously visited. The literacy rate is 66%, and they had a long civil war following independence from Portugal. No wonder there is no singing and dancing here - at least as far as we could see. or maybe it’s because it’s so hot. São Tomé is right on the equator; the temperature was over 100 degrees and the humidity 85% Whew!

The capital city

The capital city

Rotting boat in harbor

Rotting boat in harbor

Chickens for sale

Chickens for sale

Posted by HopeEakins 02:09 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Comments (0)

Namibia

A desert odyssey

sunny 80 °F
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Along the Atlantic Coast of Namibia enormous sand dunes stretch for hundreds of miles inland. Mining of coal and other minerals provides a measure of prosperity, but almost half the population is still below the poverty level. We took a wonderful trip to the desert and had dinner there on the dunes. The next day we went on a small boat and saw many seals and pelicans. One of the seals jumped on board with us!

Namibia -climbing dunes

Namibia -climbing dunes

Namibia_with_luminaria.jpgNamibia - Junior on board for breakfast

Namibia - Junior on board for breakfast

Posted by HopeEakins 18.04.2013 02:05 Archived in Namibia Comments (0)

South Africa

Durban, East London and Cape Town

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Then off to Durban where we went to see a Zulu village that interprets the traditions of the Zulus, one of the largest tribes of South Africa. Folks in native dress demonstrated food preparation, beer making (dreadful stuff we swigged from a bowl we passed around) and courtship dances. We also saw many crocodiles at their feeding time.

Our day in Durban also gave us our first taste of the great concern for security that is a sad feature of South African life. Upon arrival, we were given a brochure by the local Tourist Board entitled “Welcome to Durban: the Warmest Place to Be.” A whole page in the brochure was devoted to “Safety Tips” including the following:
Avoid wearing jewelry, watches, or designer shades.
Be careful at ATMs.
Grasp handbags firmly under your arms.
Don’t let strangers get too close to you.
Don’t carry a camera openly in the city.
Also we couldn’t help but notice that many houses were surrounded by walls topped with broken glass or razor wire.

At our next port, East London, we went off to visit a village of another one of South Africa’s tribes, the Xhosas. The Xhosa language features clicking sounds, for instance the X in Xhosa is pronounced by clicking the tongue against the roof of the mouth. Children and young people in the village gave us a long presentation of much enthusiastic singing and dancing. We’ll show you a short video of this when we get back to Hartford.

The net morning we arose early to be on deck for our arrival in Cape Town, a beautiful city at the southern tip of Africa where the waters of the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. Above the city rises the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain.

Cape Town is a place of great contrast where 20 years after the end of apartheid (the former policy of racial separation), the disparity between black and white South Africans is still huge. We went on an overnight trip to the winelands of Stellenbosch where we stayed in a beautiful hotel and a dinner in the vineyards. But on the way back to the ship we drove for miles next to shanty settlements where poor blacks live in abject poverty. the South African government is working hard to provide such basics as employment, education, and housing with plumbing and electricity, but the needs are so great that many people still lack these necessities.

Durban Zulu market

Durban Zulu market

Zulu kitchen

Zulu kitchen

Zulu warrior

Zulu warrior

Xhosa meeting house

Xhosa meeting house

Xhosa boy dancer

Xhosa boy dancer

Approaching Cape Town and Table Mountain

Approaching Cape Town and Table Mountain

From the Table Mountain cable car

From the Table Mountain cable car

An informal settlement in Cape Town

An informal settlement in Cape Town

Posted by HopeEakins 17.04.2013 08:35 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Richards Bay, South Africa

What an Easter!

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Easter Day began with a sunrise service on the deck as we sailed into Richards Bay, South Africa. We will never forget singing Jesus Christ is Risen Today as the sun rose over the Indian Ocean. When we returned to our cabin after the service, we were delighted to find an Easter basket left by the ship with chocolate eggs and a bunny. After breakfast, we set off on a day long safari to a wildlife preserve in nearby KwaZulu-Natal, a gamekeeper in a range rover drove us through the bush to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, rhinos, wildebeests, and many other animals in their natural habitat. It was an incredible experience. All in all, this was one of the best Easters ever!

Posted by HopeEakins 17.04.2013 08:24 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Mozambique

First steps in East Africa

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Our first port on the mainland of Africa was Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique. As in Madagascar, the people here are very very poor. Crumbling buildings and sidewalks, litter everywhere are evidence of the ineffectual leadership and the corruption that have plagued this country for many years. A highlight of our tour of Maputo was the Central Market where we bought cashews (a Mozambique specialty) which were absolutely delicious - the best we have ever tasted.

Easter Day began with a sunrise service on the deck as we sailed into Richards Bay, South Africa. We will never forget singing Jesus Christ is Risen Today as the sun rose over the Indian Ocean. When we returned to our cabin after the service, we were delighted to find an Easter basket left by the ship with chocolate eggs and a bunny. After breakfast, we set off on a day long safari to a wildlife preserve in nearby KwaZulu-Natal, a gamekeeper in a range rover drove us through the bush to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, rhinos, wildebeests, and may other animals in their natural habitat. It was an incredible experience. All in all, this was one of the best Easters ever!

Mercado Central, Maputo, Mozambique

Mercado Central, Maputo, Mozambique

Street Merchant, Maputo,Mozambique

Street Merchant, Maputo,Mozambique

Posted by HopeEakins 17.04.2013 08:18 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Indian Ocean Islands

sunny 87 °F
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You’ll be glad to know that we made it safely through the pirate zone. We are now in the southern Indian Ocean en route to Madagascar, having spent the last few days visiting the islands of Mauritius and Réunion. Mauritius used to be the home of the dodo bird, a very large bird that lost the ability to fly because it did not have any predators. So when human beings came to Mauritius in the 17th century, dodos were an easy prey and a favorite source of food. So many of the birds were killed that the dodos became extinct within 200 years. Their loss is a sad reminder of the irreparable harm that human beings can do to the earth's environment.

Réunion used to be a French colony but since 1947 has been an overseas “department” of France. It is odd to hear the people of Réunion speak of France as the “mainland,” since France is many thousands of miles away. However, that is probably no different than Hawaii being a part of the United States even though it is out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

An interesting fact about our next destination, Madagascar, is that this large island off the coast of Africa is the only place on earth where lemurs, a species of monkey with big eyes and ringed tails, are to be found. I hope that we human beings do a better job preserving these delightful animals than we did with dodos.

We didn’t have enough time to see the lemurs on Madagascar, but we did visit the port town of Port Dauphin. The people of Madagascar are very poor; the average yearly income is $1400. When we were waiting to board the van to take us into town, returning passengers warned us not to get off once we arrived. “People surround you trying to get you to buy souvenirs and give them money,” they said.

In the town, we did get crowded by eager vendors, mostly little children offering bead necklaces. There were also many taxi drivers wanting to show us the sights. However, all we had to do was say, “No, thank you” and keep on walking. We were soon left alone except for one small boy who continued to follow us until we bought one of his necklaces.
Mauritius beach

Mauritius beach

Ft. Dauphin clothing store

Ft. Dauphin clothing store

Grace and balance in Madagascar

Grace and balance in Madagascar

Jeweler of Madagascar

Jeweler of Madagascar

H&B in Reunion

H&B in Reunion

Posted by HopeEakins 15.04.2013 00:29 Archived in Madagascar Comments (1)

Sri Lanka and India

and pirates in the water

sunny 100 °F
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We have spent the last few days visiting Colombo on the island country of Sri Lanka and then Cochin on the southeast corner of India. Both places have a lot in common: dense population, ethnic and religious diversity, and a bustling upbeat spirit of enterprise in spite of widespread poverty. Yes, there are beggars on the streets but there are also busy market vendors and small roadside businesses. Perhaps the most hopeful sign of all is the children dressed proudly in their school uniforms walking along the streets with bright smiling faces, wanting to practice their English. It is the children who are the real wealth of Sri Lanka and India - and of our own country as well - and it is the children who are the future.

One of the experiences we enjoyed in Cochin was Ketakali theater. All the parts are taken by men and their costumes are elaborate - as is their makeup. The drama tells mythic stories of good versus evil, and the music is loud and fast and scary.

Now we are on our way across the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and then to Africa. The ship’s captain has announced that for the next week we will be traveling through an area where there is a high risk of encountering Somali pirates. For some years these outlaws have been capturing ships in the Indian Ocean. The pirates attack in small fast boats and use ladders to climb up the sides of the ship they have targeted. Once aboard, the armed pirates take command of the vessel and demand huge ransoms from the ship’s owners.

The captain explained that while the Silver Whisper is in the high risk area, special precautions will be taken. At night we will be sailing with a minimum of shipboard lights to make the ship as invisible as possible. Passengers need to close the curtains in their cabins and the outside lights are turned off. Fire hoses and spotlights and noise machines have been placed on the decks, and the lower open decks are closed to provide greater security. In the event of a pirate attack, there will be five short blasts on the ship’s whistle and an announcement of “Stand by! Stand by! Stand by!” Passengers are then to retreat to the ship’s inner corridors for safety and to sit on the floor because our ship will increase speed and take a zigzag course to make waves that will make it difficult for pirates to come alongside. The captain emphasized that although precautions ned to be taken, a pirate attack is unlikely. We hope he is right!

School girls in Colombo

School girls in Colombo

Schoolboys with popsicles

Schoolboys with popsicles

Girl with umbrella at Colombo Museum

Girl with umbrella at Colombo Museum

School outing at a Sri Lankan temple

School outing at a Sri Lankan temple

Ketakali theater

Ketakali theater

Taped door

Taped door

Closed cabin curtains

Closed cabin curtains

Posted by HopeEakins 18.03.2013 21:49 Archived in India Comments (1)

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