Reflections on the World, Round Two
reflection of Sydney
sheep farm in the Falklands
JUNE 5, 2019, West Newbury, Massachusetts, U.S.A. —
First, THANK YOU to all my fellow voyagers who kept me company for 128 days around the world! Passengers who weren’t solos would ask me what it was like to travel alone. I told them, ‘I’m not alone! There are over 200 people waiting for me back in my cabin!’ Every day, I looked forward to your comments, and I was so happy to have you along for the ride!
As our Norwegian captain would say, we traveled about 41,000 ‘statue’ miles on sea, then I added land and air miles to get to Miami and home from London, so I covered 45,774 miles. About 1,000 more than last year, which was a 2-week-longer trip. On land and sea I walked (though not on water) about the same distance as last year, 300+/- miles. Nothing to write home about.
Unlike last year, I didn’t work out in the gym or walk the deck (though I did walk the plank at least 88 times, disembarking and embarking at each of 44 ports). I didn’t go in the sauna once — and certainly not the snow grotto! I was in a pool once, for a water aerobics class, but I nearly drowned because my feet couldn’t reach the bottom in the deep end, as all the short people were hogging the shallow end.
Friends from the last trip and other readers have asked how this second circumnavigation differed from the first. I had signed up for this second cruise only two months into the first one because I was intrigued to go to South America and southern Africa, where I’d never been.
One major difference is the no legs vs. legs aspect of the two cruises. Last year, there was one short leg — 3 weeks from Miami, through the Panama Canal, to LA — and the other leg that lasted for 17 weeks from LA to Greenwich. While I made friends on the short leg (whom I visited in Miami before I embarked) I made more friends on the long leg of that trip. This time, the trip was broken into and sold in FIVE legs: Miami to Buenos Aires; Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, Chile; Valparaiso to Sydney; Sydney to Durban; and Durban to Greenwich. It is harder to make friends when people come and go so often.
Last year, the two successive chefs were French, so there was never a shortage of seared fois gras — even at lunch! This trip’s executive chef was German, so we frequently had ‘shitzel’ — yes, it was spelled that way on the buffet counter card. Food was just as good and the answer to your unasked question is: +9 pounds!
We were so fortunate to have the same General Manager and Cruise Director on both trips: GM Sujith Mohan is in charge of everything that has to do with the care and feeding of the passengers, and he takes excellent care of everyone. (Case in point: I passed him one day and said that, although it is very small, my nose is very high maintenance: why had all the Kleenex® disappeared from the public restrooms? He pulled out his phone. The next morning, all the WCs were fully stocked again.) Heather Clancy is the Cruise Director extraordinaire, who is also a wonderful soprano who regaled us with numerous concerts over the months. Other familiar faces included Marco and (below) Restaurant Manager Gami, here with one of the Brazilian ladies in Salvador de Bahia...
Instead of Matt and Gary, last year’s Dance Instructor and Piano Man, we once again had a singing Assistant Cruise Director PLUS four Viking Vocalists, who entertained us onstage several times on each ‘leg’ and kept us company most evenings as the Solos met for cocktails. We became good friends with all of them.
But, besides people, it’s the itinerary that makes the trip. Take a look at this globe:
I cribbed that photo before the first cruise, but didn’t use it. It’s appropriate now because it shows the part of the globe that, so far, has most intrigued me: Southeast Asia. I spent 5 weeks in and around those countries and China on last year’s trip. Then steamed off to India. And Oman. And Jordan. And Egypt.
Like last time, we had expert lecturers for each country or region, and this time I learned a lot — since I knew so little — about the cultures and tortured histories of South America and sub-Saharan colonial Africa. As a kid I had heard TV news about United Fruit and banana republics... and the Zulu uprising and apartheid. But they were just words.
[I just looked up Mauritius on Wiki and was taken instead to Mauritania. Where I read this, from The Guardian: ‘In 1981, Mauritania made slavery illegal, the last country in the world to do so.’ And this from CNN: ‘The vast Saharan nation didn’t make slavery a crime until 2007. Only one slave owner has been successfully prosecuted.’]
I spent 6 weeks in or around South America, and 24 days in or around Africa. There were striking sights, like this prison ruin on Devil’s Island in French Guiana, our third port of call. If it weren’t for Steve ‘Papillon’ McQueen, I don’t think we would have stopped there. But it was fun to shoot.
Since I was mostly in cities, Brazil and Argentina were more European than I expected, so more familiar to countries I’ve visited before. Though the only other cemetery I’ve ever seen like this one is in New Orleans.
La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires
Argentina did offer us gauchos, who performed for us on horseback before lunch then danced for us after we had eaten the most gargantuan, meat-intensive meal I have ever consumed. Argentina has a lot of beef.
Uruguay was a surprise since six months ago I couldn’t have found it on a map. This miracle country has overcome its coup d’etat and military dictatorship (1973-1985) and now has the second highest per capita income in South America (after Chile). A country with only 3.5 million people, it is very attractive to ex-pats from around the globe. Here’s a local color shot from the first European settlement, Colonia del Sacramento, founded by the Portuguese in 1680. It’s about an hour from Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.
I had had no idea that Norway isn’t the only country with fjords, or fiords to Chileans. They were spectacular. So is Chile: Its per capita income is the highest in South America. If you’re interested, read Isabel Allende — both her fiction and her non-fiction. (Try My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey through Chile.)
Great photo ops, this one in Sydney, which desperately needed the rain. Sometimes, tho’ not often, being on the bus actually helps the photo. This was taken after our early morning backstage tour at the Sydney Opera House, where I sang on both the concert and the opera stage. Well, the guide did ask for volunteers...how could I refuse?
I didn’t get any really interesting shots in Tasmania, but take it from me, it’s worth a visit! After assorted stops along Australia’s southern coast, we took 8 days to cross the Indian Ocean to another world...
Africa, the dark continent. We landed first in Mauritius, then crossed to Madagascar. Both are third world and desperately in need of help — and if it’s tourism that brings them that help, then that is what they need. I was in several countries this trip where tourism is the No. 1 industry.
beautiful Malagasy woman with sprig
This photo has a story — a lesson learned: I love this picture, but it very nearly didn’t happen. Well, it happened... but I nearly missed it. I was in the bus, riding along through an impoverished, third-world settlement in Madagascar. Dirt road. Twig-and-thatch huts. I shot one of the huts. When I loaded the photo onto the computer, I enlarged it — only then did I see this beautiful woman in a dark corner at the bottom of the photo, holding a sprig of some unknown (to me) plant. This is photographic serendipity. If I had a ‘real’ camera instead of my iPhone8Plus, she might have been in perfect focus. I like her this way.
Sailing on to cyclone-ravaged Mozambique, next we boarded a bus and rode 2 hours to Kruger Park in South Africa — where the animals are. All Dumbo needs is his feather...
Honestly, the short safari I had booked was the anticipated highlight of my whole world trip. And it was wonderful. I had booked a short trip, figuring I would come back again someday and do a longer safari. I have seen The Big Five, and several of The Ugly Five and, to be totally honest, I don’t think I’ll do another safari. We flew to meet up with the ship in Durban.
Zulu village in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa
Xhosa Village, East London, South Africa
Another photo lesson learned: When photographing black people, be sure to find a light source. This one isn’t as serendipitous as the Malagasy lady.
This would have been a totally different photo if the sun had been out. Overcast days are best for photography — and visiting gardens.
Mondesa township, Namibia
Last stop in Africa was Senegal, where we watched the ‘false lion’ ceremony (the lion, below) in a desert village an hour outside Dakar. Someone told me that 40 years ago, Dakar was a nice city. Today, it is crowded, gridlocked, dirty... and very poor. The village we visited has had a dug well for only 14 years, and electricity for only one. This is Africa...
The trip ended with charming Santa Cruz, in Spain’s Canary Islands... Vigo and lovely Bayona, Spain... and Portsmouth then Greenwich, England.
Around the world in 128 days.
Having now seen around 100 ports on 5 continents, I need to spend more time on land and inland. So this was probably my final circumnavigation.
Am I glad to be home? Well, I’m glad to see my friends, and will see more of them as I traipse around New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maine this summer. And I’ll be glad to sing again this fall with Cantemus (check out www.cantemus.org), whose director has allowed me two spring sabbaticals in a row.
But... where will I go this winter? I’m not used to snow, except what I saw on distant mountain tops in Patagonia and Chile. I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to it now.
But... before I worry about winter, I have to endure a three-week concert tour of Greece, singing with a different chorus, of which I’m an adjunct member — a ringer singer. Well, somebody has to do it!
And, yes, I will blog about it — and I’ll let you know when I have blog lift-off!
Thanks again for joining me this time — and please stay aboard for whatever comes next!