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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2002
The Cape Town Line Part 1
We arrived at 0750. It was a beautiful day and the forecast was sunny. We had a quick breakfast in the Lido then got off on the Shuttle Bus at 0930. The bus dropped us in the centre and we headed for the Market.
It was just an exploration with a camera because it was far too early to buy anything and carry it around. We walked through the fish market to see the hunks of Tuna and the black scabbard fish.
Next stop wasthe new Cable Car. The views back over Funchal from the top of the cable car are good. There isn't very much to see at Monte. The Church is special; it has the tomb of the last Austrian king. At the bottom of the church steps is the start of the famous sled run. When we arrived it seemed to be mid-morning coffee break time. Shortly afterwards dozens of sleds were unloaded from a lorry, and business resumed.
We decided to go around the nearby Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, which is an enormous park in the grounds of an old hotel. The grounds were criss-crossed with paths and so it did not seem crowded. The Japanese gardens were pretty and included Koi fish ponds. And there were lots of large old ceramic tiled pictures, mostly dating from the 1840s.
After lunch we planned to walk along one of the levadas. These are concrete irrigation channels, with narrow footpaths. Having struggled uphill from the Port and past the Hotel Quinto de Sol it was only 5 more minutes to the Levada dos Piornais. The route towards Camera de Lobos passed by banana plantations. The levada is fairly easy to walk, being almost flat, although there were missing or loose paving slabs to beware of.
Our final stop in Funchal was to visit Blandy's Wine Lodge and to taste the four different styles of Madeiran wines. We bought Sercial, Bual and Malmsey.
We struggled back to the shuttle bus, exhausted. It was still an hour to dinner. We wanted to get back in time because we had been promised the scabbard fish on the menu.
Being in port until 2300 meant that a local Folklore Group of Ponte da Sol came to give the show in the Grand Lounge. They were said to have travelled 60 kilometres, which would mean they came from the next island ! We could only just keep awake but it was worth the effort. There were 10 dancers, and a band of the same size. They only just fitted on the stage.
We were up by 0630 and headed out on deck hoping for a sight of land. It was still dark, so we had an early breakfast in the Lido while the ship continued onwards. We were secure on our moorings just before 0800.
Our morning tour to Goree Island was due to depart at 0930. There were lots of local handicraft stalls along the quayside to tempt people, and soon swarms of people were busy bargaining. We had been told that prices were better here than at Cape Town. Looking down there were handbags, jewellery, and lots of wooden artefacts. We like the design of the chairs, but they are not very practical to take back home, even though they did fold flat.
It was going to be a busy day. We had booked two tours - the morning tour to the island of Goree followed by the afternoon bus tour to Discover Dakar.
The first tour involved a short coach trip to the Ferry Building nearby for the 1000 Public Ferry. We found we had 20 minutes to stand in a small waiting room with a souvenir shop and lots of chatting locals. There were 3 busloads - so about 150 Cunarders. Ferry tickets for foreigners are different, and more expensive. The ferry boat was only 3 years old, with inside and outside seating. The journey was 20 minutes, and we were committed to coming back on the 1200 ferry. So that meant just 1.5 hours on the island. We therefore only saw part of the island.
From the beach and landing stage we walked directly to the Slave House. Here was the accommodation for slaves waiting to be purchased. When chosen, they would pass through the Door without Return. The curator spoke to us in French, which is the language taught in the schools. It was translated into English by our guides. The text was exactly the same as that in the guide book.
From the House of Slaves we went to admire the special Baobab tree, and looked at the fruit and the bark which is used to make rope. Then we continued to the cathedral, climbing up the circular metal staircase to the gallery. Little birds were nesting in the eaves outside, above the entrance.
Walking back to the central square allowed us to pass by the school. The children, all dressed neatly in blue uniforms, came to the window spaces to stare at us. We were later told that locals call us "Prisoners of Luxe" meaning that we are trapped in our luxury ship and the coaches.
In the central square, locals came out to sell handicrafts, mainly flimsy pareos and heavy wooden carvings. Prices halve quickly - two carvings started at $20, reduced to $10, and could certainly be purchased for less.
Our final stop was for cold drinks and local Flag beer while watching a local group perform traditional West African dances. This included a limbo dancer and witchdoctor. It reminded us of our holidays in the Caribbean. We were herded back towards the 1200 ferry. It was over all too soon.
Our route back to the ship included a view of the Railway Station, then around the Place de l'Independence, along Ave Albert Sarraut, past the Novotel and then one of many spectacular African Bank buildings. The architect is Goudiaby. Traffic was heavy in the centre and we took almost half an hour for a journey that could be done quicker directly along the waterfront on foot. QE2 was only moored in the next bay to the ferry. But it was nice to see a little of the centre of Dakar.
The afternoon coach tour also got stuck in the traffic around the Place de l'Independence. 11 November 1902 was the date when a famous church leader returned after 7 years exile. So there was a centenary celebration and something of a local holiday.
Our first proper stop was outside the Presidential Palace. This area was very clean, sparkling, new and affluent. So much in contrast with the wood and corrugated iron huts on Goree. The two flags were flying, indicating that the President was at home. The two golden lions at the foot of the steps are the symbol of Senegal.
We continued through narrow roads and around blind bends to arrive at a large Baobab tree, also called an upside-down tree. Someone had painted the lion symbol on it. Next to it was a local cottage, with goats and chickens, and a lady dozing in a hammock while traffic rushed between her and the tree.
We turned north, towards the Assemblee Nationale. As the name suggests, the system of government here is derived from that in France and includes Departments, arrondisements and prefets. We stopped to visit the Cathedral, but it was shut until 1600. The guide said that he was a Muslim and didn't know it would be closed. We continued up the Avenue du President Lamine Gueye, to Sandaga Market. We could not stop; the road was so narrow we were almost touching the stalls on both sides. This was clearly the local shopping area with clothes, material, jewellery, electrical stuff.
The next stop was outside the Grande Mosque. Again we could not visit it - just limited to 2 minutes to get out and take a photo. We continued north past a new wedge-shaped building - another bank. The road was now a wide avenue, leading to the obelisk built in 1960 (= MCMLX) to commemorate the year of independence. The annual parade on 4 April starts from here.
We were now well into the northern suburbs of Grande Dakar. A short stop was made in a rough area to visit a bazaar making and selling sand pictures. Many people refused to get off the bus. The area was certainly not one to move in unescorted.
We continued to the tip of the Cape Verde peninsula, to the westernmost point on the Continent - the Maumelle's Lighthouse. Then we headed back along the west coast road, past a beautiful mosque and fishing village, with uninhabited White Island just visible in the distance.
We did a quick circuit of the University campus, seeing the S&T Faculty, the Main Library, and the Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences. Our guide was a student at the latter. Nearby was the Casino-Restaurant complex of Le Terrou-bi where we stopped for a cold drink. Sitting outside on the terrace we could imagine being in any of a number of similar fancy waterfront hotels. Reality hit literally when a freak wave splashed over the wall.
Continuing our journey south we passed the house of a famous architect before reaching the west coast again and the Soumbedouine Market - again full of local people. We parked the bus for 20 minutes shopping in the handicraft village. A small group of five of us walked back to the fishing boats and the informal fish market. The boats were long fine and elegant. The fish and seafood were all laid out. The smell was very fishy. We saw no nets but were told that they were used. Certainly many of the fish would be caught on a line.
Just after 1700 we re-boarded and continued down the coast, trying to avoid the central traffic jams en route to the port. We passed the Millenium Monument, designed by the famous architect whose house we had admired earlier. There was a new mosque being built opposite, showing a clear move from French Christian to Muslim traditions. We continued along the coast road, past displays of new furniture - beds, wardrobes, 3 piece suites, chairs and tables. Everything was new, and made with good quality wood. This would be a good souvenir, but there was no time to stop. We were expected to buy "proper" African souvenirs.
We moored early in Cape Town. The weather was clear, with an excellent view of Table Mountain. Our tour left at 0830 so we were off the ship at 0810 heading for our tour bus. We were going to Cape Point.
The route was out to Green Point, Sea Point with Pohutakawa trees just in flower. The sea in this area is very rough. We passed Clifton. Then stopped for a photo of the 12 Apostles. We could just see the back of Table Mountain and the cable car. We looked down on a nice sandy beach at Camps Bay. We continued along the coast road to Llandudno and Hout Bay. Here we stopped at the waterfront for postcards and handicrafts. It is an active fishing and ferry harbour, catching lobsters. It was all enough to make us homesick for NZ, except for the security and fences.
The normal route to Cape Point is via Chapman's Peak Road, but it was closed due to a bad rockfall. So we detoured via Constantia, and Oukaapeweg.
At Cape Point there were long queues for the funicular- a little train up to the lighthouse. We chose to walk up because it was quicker. We continued to the lighthouse and then headed back to the funicular. There were queues again so we walked / jogged back down. We got back to our coach for the 1215 deadline to find that the rest had only just gone up the funicular. We eventually all departed at 1300. We discussed whether to go up again, but decided to browse around the souvenir shops.
We saw some wildlife en route to lunch - buntebok and ostriches. Lunch was at Bertha's on the waterfront at SimonsTown. We began with lots of green salad, followed by local white fish and rice, then milk tart. The Fairview Sauvignon Blanc wine was a good introduction to SA wine.
Then we had a few minutes to look at handicraft stalls before it was time to get back on the coach, and drive along the coast. Our road was along the railway until FishHoek, then we turned inland through Clovelly and Boyes Drive to Westlake and the winery of Groot Constantia.
We began our visit by going directly to the Old Manor House, then we had afternoon tea at the Tavern restaurant. On our way out we stopped briefly at the WineSales outlet and bought two bottles of Groot Constantia 100% Chardonnay Cap Classsique. 55 rand. We tasted the pinotage, and a bought a bottle, as well as a bottle of Shiraz. Each 60 rand.
Back on board, there was a local band Ntsholo in the Grand Lounge. Whenever QE2 is in port in the evening there is always local entertainment. The band was an interesting mixture - four white brass players and four black drum and percussion players. Their music was classical jazz. Not at all what we expected from a local band, but delightful. We bought their CD.