Cruise Control We can’t get enough of cruising, and gone are the days when you flew to Asia, Europe or America to board a ship – they are coming thick and fast into Australia, and some making their homeports here. And the diversity on offer for novice sailors or cruising veterans is staggering. The wild coasts of Africa have opened up for discovery; the mighty golden temples of Myanmar can be seen from river boats; the last frontier – Antarctica is the pinnacle of destinations; the history of Europe unfolds along the river banks of historic rivers; the Pacific Ocean is as busy as a parking station accommodating all the ships that are sailing towards exotic islands and India and Russia are surprises in the cruise stakes – who would have ever thought we would make it to these amazing destinations. Read on and be inspired. Welcome onboard!
Cape Coast Castle and fishermen, Ghana. 50 Get Up & Go
With baby boomers scheduled to retire en masse within the next decade, institutions such as Social Security in the USA and the pension in Australia will be stretched to the breaking point. Those who might be required to move into assisted living facilities had better come to the table with deep pockets: such homes can cost well over $100,000 a year. Some elderly people have found an alternative â€” they become permanent or semi-permanent residents on cruise ships. The cost is comparable, but in many ways, the amenities superior. Linens are changed daily, food is sumptuous and plentiful, there is a host of activities, 24/7 medical care is readily available, and of course, there are constant visits to paradisiacal locations. There are drawbacks, such as a lack of permanent friendship and proximity to family, but those can be carefully weighed while enjoying a cocktail on deck. Get Up & Go 51
PHOTO: RODERICK EIME
DID YOU KNOW?
CRUISE CONTROL: AFRICA
Angola Witch Doctor.
Dancers, Lome, Togo
African Idol The once forbidden, mysterious lands of West Africa are slowly opening to adventurous travellers. Roderick Eime traces slaves, pirates and ghosts from Cape Town to Dakar.
avid skulks back aboard the coach, his wiry beard barely disguising the Cheshire-sized grin about to explode across his face. “What have you got there?” I ask, gesturing toward the tiny parcel cradled in his hands. David merely glances cheekily toward me and begins to gently unwrap his treasure. My new friend David is in real life Dr David C. Conrad, Emeritus Professor of History at State University of New York with a Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is travelling with us as a special guest all along the wild west coast of Africa and here, in the dusty craft market in Accra, he has struck pay dirt. As the last of the tattered swaddling is removed, we all gather to examine the mysterious idol. An exquisite, semi-erotic female form is revealed to the obvious delight of those assembled. “This is mami wata,” David whispers, his muffled voice almost 52 Get Up & Go
quivering, “she is the African water goddess and this example is particularly interesting because it’s bronze. “This makes her more than 100 years old as bronze casting stopped in West Africa at the end of the 19th century.” He jiggles the loaf-sized artefact carefully, demonstrating its mass. David and mami wata are well acquainted already as the transfixed scholar confesses he has a collection dedicated to this alluring deity. I’m tempted to ask him what he paid, but his barely disguised glee indicates a bargain. Shopping for African art is but one of the joys we share on this 27day, multinational escapade along the entire west coast of Africa. Leapfrogging along the Atlantic shoreline from Cape Town to Dakar, we’ve been treated to the crazy gyrations of witch doctors in Angola, knighted by the paramount chief in Togo, anointed
by the fetish master in Benin and, in between times, pondered the relative merits of South African shiraz and French Sauvignon Blanc. A heady cocktail indeed. The poignant reminders of the insidious slave trade that flourished the entire length of our route are manifested in the form of massive castles with horrifying holding cells like those on the so-called Slave Coast in present day Ghana. Now UNESCO World Heritage-listed, we tour these monstrous structures with barely a word uttered. In the pitch black subterranean dungeons our skin tingles with the knowledge that countless thousands of God-forsaken souls passed through here on tortuous journeys to the Americas and beyond. If I’ve ever been in the presence of ghosts, this was the moment. In recent years several of the major adventure cruise operators have been executing itineraries along this once forbidden coast. Previously unheard-of
Kolmanskop near Luderitz, Namibia.
ports and countries are now appearing on sailing schedules. Angola, Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal are just a few of these once strife-torn lands now welcoming visitors. Here aboard G Adventures’ sturdy, 140-passenger vessel, MS Expedition, the transit of these sometimes troubled waters is made easier by expert expedition staff and more enjoyable
PHOTOS: RODERICK EIME
thanks to guides, lecturers (like David Conrad) and interpreters who live and breathe this incomprehensible continent. While it may look easy from a passenger’s perspective, it is a tricky enterprise by both the cruise company and the ship’s staff who have to navigate the perplexing customs and immigration formalities of each port. We almost notch a perfect score, but are thwarted by Guinea-Bissau for reasons that remain unclear. No point fussing, that is the nature of cruising in unfamiliar waters. Yet it is not the vagaries of third world governments that present the only obstacle to any successful West Africa expedition, the spectre of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, offshore from Togo, Benin and Ghana, also creates some difficulties. Not so much that we are in imminent danger of attack, but maritime insurers require operators to carry security personnel and we are joined by three burly former Royal Marines. But, neither Blackbeard nor Captain Jack Sparrow is sighted. If the goal of expedition cruising is to seek out unusual and obscure destinations in our globalised world, then the West African itineraries offered by the boldest of these operators are a total success. As our coach crawls back to the wharf from the frenzied handicraft market in Accra, David is serene,
nursing his prize protectively. Mami wata too, her eyes in a state of blissful slumber seems perfectly at ease in her new surroundings. As our journey concludes, a new chapter begins for her in what is already a long, long story. •
FACT FILE r Getting there
Emirates and South African Airways have the most connections to Africa from Australia.
- Being there
West Africa adventure cruise itineraries typically begin in Cape Town in early April and conclude in either Dakar (Senegal) or Marrakech (Morocco). Some operators allow split itineraries in Accra (Ghana).
E Book with
At time of writing, this trip was being offered in 2015 by: G Adventures 32 days, Cape Town to Marrakech $16,999pp cruise-only [@] www.gadventures.com Lindblad Expeditions 20 days, The Gold Coast to Morocco from $19,150pp [@] www.expeditions.com
Experience Asia Your Way Vietnam to Cambodia Burma (Myanmar) 12 Days: Hanoi l Halong Highlights
Signature China with Yangtze Cruise
Bay l Hue l Hoi An l Ho Chi 10 Days: Yangon l Heho 12 Days: Hong Kong l Guilin Minh City l Mekong Delta l l Mandalay l Bagan l l Yangtze Cruise l Shanghai Siem Reap fr. $3180/p.p. Yangon fr. A$3280/p.p. fr.A$3166/p.p.
1300 760 208 for brochure or Tailor Made Tours
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clipping Get Up & Go Winter 2014