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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Most Extraordinary Place on Earth

The first full crew photo

Imagine a land where everyone drives a Ford Escourt… A land thousands of miles away from the real world… A land where alcohol is everywhere and food is scarce… A land where seat belts aren’t compulsory [because the roads are so windy you can never go faster than 20 anyway]… A land where everyone’s a Saint, and missing a few teeth – Imagine the most extraordinary place on earth…



…It exists…


…that’s right, Saint Helena – 1750 miles from South Africa; 1812 miles from Brazil; A million miles from reality… With a population of 3 donkey, 4 cats, 9 motorbikes, 4000 people, and 17 000 Ford Escourts.



Saint Helena has only ever had two celebrities – the infamous Napolean (who even in his death gave us a hard time by not letting us into his house) and Jonathan: The oldest living land animal (179 years). I’m proud to say I licked the latter (in only a semi illegal stint that was done just in front of the governors house…)




Saint Helena’s a lovely place where the volcanic terrain changes around every bend; but it’s not the sort of place you’d want to be stuck in for too long… don’t get me wrong, the locals are all lovely, the smiles are massive (even if you can’t understand a word of what anyone’s saying), but 122 square km only keeps you entertained for so long… The only way in and out of the island is on the monthly Royal Mail service ship – so definitely give it a visit; but make sure you don’t miss the boat!
Teddy, trying to keep up with the locals


The winding roads

Black volcanic beach (Sandy Bay)



 




On top of the 699 steps of Jacob's Ladder



Mr Ferry Man (He starts work at 3:30 am but won't pick you up before 9...)

The amazed faces of all who visit the most extraordinary place on earth (Especially when the Sharks win the Currie Cup)






Friday, October 25, 2013

The Other Side of the World

 “Wow, six months at sea; didn’t you get bored?” – A question I’m asked all too frequently… and every time I think about it carefully and say “Well, no.” And then they always ask “So what did you do in all that time?” and I genuinely don’t really have an answer. This time I’ve paid attention…

So, obviously one ocean crossing is not quite enough, and that’s why I opted to cross the Atlantic too. Sunshine, warm waters, stars, phosphorescence, and sunsets… I missed the simplicity that life on the Indian Ocean had held; but the Atlantic: Blymey it’s cold!!!!!!!!

Thinking back, I remember wearing a jersey no more than 4 or 5 times in 6 months… Since Cape Town I’ve had no less than three layers on my bottom half and six on the top, three on my head and constantly socks on my feet – I was even willing to compromise my standards and wear shoes, but I didn’t bring any…

Sunsets, sunrises, and the stars have been censored by rain clouds, and while the waters are a staggering 6 degrees warmer than they were in Cape Town, they’re still icy. And this is meant to be the tropics?? Needless to say we’ve consulted the chart plotter and our maps on several occasions, just to make sure we are in fact heading away from the Antarctic. We are.

It’s not all bad though – we’ve had a plethora of whales and dolphins and seals and coffee and good food (not all to eat) and that’s almost made up for the temperatures – but I really have had enough of the shivering already… In fact, being the optimist that I am, I assured the crew that good weather was only a day away. I have officially received another verbal warning (bringing the total to 9) after falsely getting the crew’s hopes up.



 




 
Anyway, back to the question; what do we do all day? It’s easy – between the morning and afternoon naps, morning and afternoon teas; breakfast, lunches and dinners, as well as the normal evening snooze, and our allocated watch times (which do get quite stressful at times, on Wednesday – for instance - we narrowly missed hitting a ship by 92.3 nautical miles – 170.775km) and adjusting the sails (every 3 or 4 days, if we have to)… there really isn’t nearly enough time for reading and writing and contemplating life and talking and well, how could we possibly get bored? Di spends some of her spare time being sea sick, Simon’s spent four days trying to catch a fish, and the captain spends his spare time working out how to legally bi-pas the now illegalness of keel-hauling. 

First Braai at sea
We crossed the Prime Meridian (Longitude 00’00.00) in the early hours of Tuesday morning and now officially find ourselves on the other side of the world (The Western Hemisphere). But none of us are particularly impressed quite yet – there seems to be an excessive amount of lurky gray sky and water and not a lot else. To quote the crew: “Next time you want to complain about Cape Town’s weather, jut think about the poor buggers in the tropics.”

The average day's layerings
 

After 230 hours and 47 minutes, 1750 miles at sea, we finally find ourselves back on solid ground in Saint Helena; a third(ish) of the way to the Carribean. I’m proud to announce there have still been no fatalities on board.

First swim (sort of doubling as the first shower) in the Arctic - flip it's cold!! 

First sighting of land in 10 days....
First view's of St Helena

PROOF: Saffas really are better than Aussies

And just like that, I was a gypsy again. Real life was over (it lasted nearly 7 months – and that’s a personal best!) and unemployment had finally struck.

I’d been eagerly anticipating this moment with all sorts of vague plans to cycle to October fest, or go climb Everest with my teddy or of taking my scooter for a really really long drive to Norway or swimming to Madagascar… But instead I found myself sitting on a bus to Port Elizabeth. 

The new plan was simple: I’d jump on a boat with a bunch of 60 something year old Australians I had never met, and sail to Spain: simple right?

As I arrived in the harbour, the last Aussie (apart from the captain) was busy exiting the boat. And instead of entering a floating land down under, I found there were two other Saffas on board making the ratio 3:1. That’s right, the captain had decided to rather take on us; that we were a better lot.

 

That said, I was still nervous to meet the crew – these would be the only people I’d see or speak to while at sea… however long that would be…weeks, months, years even (in the very very very very slight chance that something went very wrong and we lost all navigation equipment, or ended up in a life raft)

 
But with David (the captain) happily welcoming me (and the Teddy) on board, and readily savouring chilli coffee (if you haven’t tried it yet, you’re wasting your life), and even pole dancing at my farewell, I’d say Nereid’s (a 41.7 foot Beneteaux) in good hands.



And with Simon and Di being a flipping amazing couple – she cooks like you cannot believe, he models diamante glasses like you probably can believe. Both come standard with an awesome sense of humour and luster for adventure – I’m pretty sure I picked the right adventure.




The average age of the crew is significantly less than I was expecting (now standing at 47.5 yers) and I’m clearly the one on board to keep the rest in line (if I can keep up) and the new destination is now looking to be St Martins in the Caribbean instead of Spain – but man am I excited!

While we waited for a weather window to sail towards Cape Town, we found ourselves watching the Springboks take on the Wallabies and, once again, the South Africans won.

And with South Africa being so rich in natural resources like biltong and melktert and niknaks and black label and smiles and prettinesses and table mountain and some of the best friends in the world; there’s no question which country is better. It’s South Africa (hands down)



While I do exit South Africa with two verbal warnings (one for leaving my fan on, the other for forgetting to add sugar to the captain’s coffee), I’m pretty sure this is going to be an excellent trip. All we need now are good winds, calm seas, and to sit and relax and enjoy the deep abyss of blue.

Next stop St Helena, I think. See you in a couple of weeks.


(Please note that this was meant to be posted two weeks prior… but I may have accidentally left it later than the last minute and there really isn’t any internet reception in the sea…)




Te stow away pigeon tht joined us 500 miles away from ANY land