Roger and Cheryl . Round the World on Black Watch travel blog

Fine ship.

3500 years and 55 years.

Saturday 25th March. Hot.

A normal sea day as we sail towards Sri Lanka. Cheryl is dealing with the ships movement very well .

Sunday 26th March . Very hot .

We arrive in Hambantota , Sri Lanka at about 0900 and disembark to start our tour which is called "In search of wildlife " , and involves an overnight hotel.

It is going to be a full on 2 days before we rejoin the ship in Colombo .

First stop is " the elephant transit home " . This place takes orphaned and injured elephants and tries to return them to the wild. The wild is a euphemism for a national park. There is no wild land in Sri Lanka. There are several national parks though , covering many thousands of acres and the elephants can have a reasonably normal life , even if it is fenced in. the transit home has a feeding station which can be viewed from a distance so as not to get the elephants too used to humans. It was a wonderful experience to see the babies being fed with giant baby bottles.

A very good lunch followed and then on to "Udawelawe" national park and a 4 by 4 drive to observe the animals. Elephants , water buffalo , deer , crocodiles , small reptiles and lots of different birds , most of which were brightly coloured and not seen before. It was an excellent tour and then we had a 3 hour drive to our hotel in Yala national park . This is another park in southern Sri Lanka .

Our hotel was a number of chalets spread over a large area around the main building.

Because it was dark and the hotel is in the national park with a possibility of animals wandering around , we had to be escorted to and from our chalet. Dinner was excellent and we were up at 0430 for an early drive through the Yala national park.

We saw many animals and birds but not many elephants . Because the park is so large and elephants are wanderers they can be anywhere. We saw some though in a dry river bed drinking through holes which they had made . As the water table is only just under the ground there is always a water supply if you know where to look , and the elephants do. The water buffalo were laying in in the muddy ponds and in just mud. In the larger lakes you can only see their horns and noses above the water.

Highlight of the drive was a sloth bear , The first bear we had seen in the wild , which is endangered . Because it is so hot they spend much of the time sleeping in the shade.

Back to the hotel for a quick breakfast and on the road for 1000. Shame because it was a lovely hotel with a beautiful swimming pool. A day there would have been nice.

Coach to Galle and a late lunch, which was sumptuous and far too much. But we tried our best. Then a tour round Galle and onwards to Colombo to rejoin the ship.

We climbed aboard at about 7 o'clock , very tired .

We decided to look at the shops on the quay next to the ship and both fell in love with a large wooden elephant. We have named him Colombo.

Too tired to dance tonight . A wonderful experience in Sri Lanka. We would like to return.

The ship sets sail for The Maldives at 2300.

Tuesday 28th March. Another hot day.

A sea day today . I try and stay inside the ship where it is a comfortable temperature.

Cheryl likes to go on deck to look for wildlife. The sea is very calm and lots of dolphins, turtles , a couple of whales and flying fish are on display .

Wednesday 29th March Hot.

We arrive in the Maldives during the night and anchor at about 0800 close to a small island called " Uligamu " with a population of 500 . The Maldives comprise of many islands of which only a few are populated . Tourism is a major source of income .

We go ashore at 0930 and walk about 1k to find a secluded beach. The rubbish along the foreshore is striking ,and it really lets the island down. It would be so easy to keep it clean . Thousands of plastic bottles - a dreadful example of indifference.

Anyway the water was fantastic , azure blue and 30 degrees. Our biggest problem was trying to find shade . There was nothing else on the island except a few dirt roads leading to the town which was very sparse and almost third world.

We spent about 4 hours snorkelling and swimming before returning to the ship , which was anchored about 1/4 mile off. We were uncomfortably hot and headed for a shower.

The ship weighs anchor at 1700 and sails 20 miles to another small island called Utheemu where we anchor again .

Tonight is magical as the ship is lit up and the sea around is filled with shoals of fish being chased by dolphins . It is quite a display as the dolphins catch their prey .There are also turtles in the water .

Thursday 30th March Very hot ..

We go ashore at about 0930 by tender and find a very small island 1k long by 1/2 k wide. We walk through the village to the other side of the island and find a much cleaner beach with little rubbish . Once again we spend our time swimming and playing in the surf . The beach is lovely but the sun is the enemy and we both get too much . There is a little cafe just off the beach which is best described as a large shed with open ends. We had a cup of tea which had to be sweetened to make it drinkable.

The floor comprised solely of crushed coral . As we left the cafe some locals were setting up 2 windsurfers . I went to look and was invited to have a sail. There was just enough wind to have a sail . I never expected that !! Wonderful , floating across a blue lagoon . We had to watch the sun again and spent as much time in the shade as we could. Children were selling souvenirs from bicycles and Cheryl bought a few things .

We reluctantly returned to the ship for an 1800 departure heading for the Middle East and pirate country...

Friday 31st march. Beautiful calm sea day.

We wake this morning to find that Cheryl's face has swelled up below her eyes. it must be too much sun ... It gradually improves during the day. As we are approaching troubled waters the ship is taking special precautions.

Razor wire is fixed along each side of the ship and water canon fitted. Special guards are positioned at the 4 quarters .

It is a normal sea day and I play bridge while Cheryl spends time on deck watching for dolphins . We dance in the afternoon and evening and we also practice at 7 in the mornings , when it is nice and peaceful on the dance floor. We are having great fun..

Saturday 01 April Another hot calm sea day on Black Watch.

The weather has been amazing and the sea sometimes looking like a sheet of glass .

We are lucky .. Today guests are invited to tour the ships dairy and see the cows being milked. yes , some turned up.. Everyone is talking about pirates and the chances of encountering them . Apparently cruise ships are not usually on their menu . They prefer cargo ships or small vessels . We will see.

Sunday 02 April hot and calm.

We are in the Arabian Sea approaching Oman . It will be our first visit to the Middle East and we are looking forward to it. A pretty normal sea day .

Monday 03rd April . Hot and calm.

We arrive in Salalah, The second largest city in Oman , at 0800. The port is 25 km from the town and it all looks quite new , with a large container terminal. Today we are going into the mountains by Land cruiser , in fact 29 of them . It has to be 4 by 4 vehicles to go off road and there are over 100 of us on the trip .

It felt like we were a NATO peacekeeping force in this Land Cruiser convoy as we drove through desert scrubland , with the beautiful Arabian Sea to our right and mountains to our left . We first went to view an archaeological site more than 2000 years old. It was above an old disused harbour where Frankincense was shipped around the known world. Oman grows the best frankincense in the world and it has always been in great demand.

We travelled on into the mountains passing hundreds of camels . They look wild but are all owned and return home each night to be fed. An amazing sight . Cheryl wants to bring one home. We have a wonderful day and finish up at a Wadi , which is a valley with water welling up from a spring . There are , again , many camels around the lake . It is very hot and we are served a meal under the trees looking at this beautiful place. When we drive out a short way we are back in desert land. There is a rainy season from 21 June to 21 September when the land turns green between the mountains and the sea. Most of the country is desert all the time.

Apparently 35 percent of vehicles are Land Cruisers . Reliable in rough terrain..

We return in our convoy to the ship in late afternoon and sail at 1800.

We both agree we would like to come back.

No income tax is paid here by the general population { about 4.5 million }. only business pays and petrol is about 20pence a litre.

Tuesday 4th April. Very hot..

We are now travelling through bandit country and the ship takes armed guards aboard .

We are going to pass many troubled countries and Somalia especially is a threat.

We transit the gulf of Aden , with Yemen on our right and Somalia on our left, then past Somalia , Eritrea , With Ethiopia just inland a bit , Sudan and the massive Saudi Arabia . We have to pass through a narrow straight called Bab Al Mandeb ., This is the most dangerous place and there are several warships on patrol .

It is a normal sea day for us , but for millions living in these places it must be hell.

Wednesday 5th April Very hot.

We are now getting closer to UK time , and by tomorrow will be only one hour in front of you.

We get some bad news today --we cannot stop in Sharm el Sheikh because of troubles in the region. Egypt is really suffering as its relies heavily on tourism .

Hotel occupancy in Sharm is , at the moment , only 7percent. And people are struggling to feed themselves and their animals. So sad.

We are now well into the Red Sea and the heavy security is no longer necessary.

Razor wire is removed and guards stood down.

Thursday 6th April. Very hot .

Another hot sea day. We have the usual routine, practice dance at 7 in the morning then breakfast outside on deck six , sublime. . Then bridge practice for me and on the deck for Cheryl. We usually run before lunch and dancing in the afternoon . There are talks and recitals to choose from and a show each evening with dancing slotted in .

I forgot to mention that on Monday 3rd we were invited to a special dinner which was amazing with our own waiters and food to match the occasion. Cheryl and I had sea food platter , which was excellent . The whole occasion put me in mind of a top London restaurant. It was a thank you from our dancing friends and a lovely experience.

Friday 7th April. Very hot .

Another sea day . They seem to go so quickly now and the weather has been very kind to us .

Saturday 8th April. Very hot.

We arrive in " Safaga " , Egypt , at 7 in the morning.

Our tour today is to " Luxor " .We travel by coach with an armed escort on board. He has a Kalashnikov under his jacket !! We also have police vehicles with us . The landscape for the first half of the 220 k journey is dessert and mountains, With road check points every few kilometres. The second half of the journey brings greenery as we come into the Nile basin . Egypt would be desolate without the River Nile . As we move away from the dessert we come int urban areas , which seem to spread out from the main road , and at nearly every junction armed men stand about looking menacing. They are dressed in normal Arab clothes , a bit like long dark dresses.

We are assured that they are police , but they don't look like police . It is a bit unnerving to see all the guns and checkpoints , But apparently Egypt is in turmoil .

We arrive at Karnak Temple , which dates from 3500 years ago and is a massive place of worship built by slaves for the Pharaohs over several millennia. It is difficult to imagine how it was done . Sandstone blocks weighing many tonnes carved into elaborate shapes and transported along the Nile to the Temples at Karnak and Luxor.

The Temple at Luxor is even more amazing with 23 metre long obelisks carves out of one piece of stone . These took many years to make and are 3500 years old . !!!

The one thing missing from Luxor is tourists. Apparently tourism is down by 90 percent and the people are really suffering .

We have a sumptuous lunch at a 5 star hotel on the Nile and I manage to dip my foot in the river. ...

It is a long day and we return to the ship at 2030., very tired after a fabulous experience. Our hearts go out to the people .

We stay in port overnight because our stop in Sharm el Sheikh is cancelled.

Sunday 9th April. Very hot.

We sail for Alexandria at 0900. We are headed through the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal .

It is a normal sea day except that today is a " build a boat ' competition and a friend ' Richard ' and myself decide to enter. The rules are simple . Use materials you can scavenge from any source on the ship to build a boat that must float in the swimming pool with a load of '10 cans of coke ' aboard.

We make ours with polystyrene, cardboard, and cling film. I enclose a picture .

We did not win but had great fun .

In the evening there was a 'who wants to be a millionaire ' show . Cheryl entered me and I was picked to be the contestant....

I am now a Fred Olson millionaire , with 15 prizes of Fred's knickknacks, and we had a great time. .

We get some bad news today... Because of events in Egypt , the stop in Alexandria is cancelled. So no visit to the pyramids. We are re routed to Crete and the port of Heraklion.

The journey through the Suez Canal is wonderful. It takes about 8 hours and we are in convoy with an Egyptian warship leading. All along the banks are armed sentries , and we see tanks and other weapons.

The canal itself is better than the Panama Canal for us and we spent hours watching the view unfold.

We determine to return to Egypt when we can.

Monday 10th April . Not so hot now , down to 23deg.

We danced at 7 and had breakfast outside. Everyone is discussing the problems in Egypt . We are looking forward to getting home now . We don't have much further to go.

Another pretty normal sea day . Strange to think we are now in the Mediterranean.

We are getting our dancing routines together as we have to put on a show next week.

In the evening we are invited to a friends cabin for a small party to celebrate our friendship. There were 8 of us and a good time was had by all . I think we are going to miss the friends we have made.

The entertainment this evening was a Pavarotti style singer who was excellent . I missed it as I went to bed . Cheryl really enjoyed herself.

Tuesday 11th April 22deg.

Breakfast outside . only a few of us and most had jumpers on .

We arrive in Heraklion at teatime and hopefully I will be able to post this.

Thinking of you all . Cheryl is really looking forward to seeing Nicol and Suzy

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