On the way home
Apr 21, 2017
|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 coun
Wednesday 12 April. 22deg.
We spend the day walking round Heraklion , which is the capital of Crete , and a very beautiful old city. The architecture is mainly Venetian , with huge city walls surrounding a hotchpotch of streets and alleyways. The day soon went and we were on our way to Malta.
Friday 14th April . 21deg.
We have a day in Malta and decide to walk ashore with another couple. Cheryl has been before and remembers it well. It is bank holiday and a lot of shops are closed.
We have a nice lunch sitting in the sun and a bottle of wine is enjoyed [ not by me ]
The day soon goes and we finish up with our feet dipped in Valletta harbour.
The ship sails at 1730 for Malaga in Spain.
We are now only one hour behind UK time and the end is very close.
Monday 17th April 20deg.
We arrive in Malaga at 0800 and have a free day. We wander up to a castle at the highest point in the city and find wonderful views. Cheryl looks round the shops and I go for a swim in the sea. It is quite nippy!! It is a beautiful sunny day and a nice place to spend our last shore day.
The ship sails for Southampton at 1900. In the evening we put on a dance display to a full house and have a wonderful time. So many dances learnt and all so enjoyable .
On Tuesday we hear that a gale is forecast for tomorrow,so events are shuffled around a bit.
The weather hits us on Wednesday morning , and it is ferocious...
Cheryl has breakfast and retires to bed for the duration. As we cross the Bay of Biscay the wind picks up to gale force 10 and several windows are broken as the sea crashes into the ship. The outside was closed of and everything lashed down as the weather put on a show. The highest point inside the ship for passengers is on deck 9 and the sea was crashing into the windows . The bad weather continued into the night and I brought food to Cheryl in the cabin. She ate everything I brought her, but had a very unhappy day.
By Thursday morning the wind had dropped and Cheryl was much better.
Packing has to be done today and suitcases placed outside our cabins tonight.
As the day goes on we are well on top of things . We arrive in Southampton at 0600 tomorrow and have to be off the ship by 8 o'clock.
It's all over and we hope you have enjoyed our voyage. We have , immensely..
We have made some lovely friends and been to some wonderful places.
My favourite place was Singapore and Cheryl's was Bora Bora , where we snorkelled.
She also liked very much , Australia where we saw the koalas and Singapore. The thing about Singapore that struck us was the cleanliness of the place .