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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2002
The Cape Town Line Part 3
We set an alarm for 0645 but were up at 0630 anyway. Breakfast in the Lido at 0730 was followed by 0830 down the gangplank. Our trip "Oysters and Flamingos" was scheduled to leave at 0845. We were directed towards a line of neat 8-seater vans - very reminiscent of our NZ campervans, but VW and wider. We were only 5 per vehicle, plus driver, so everyone had a window seat and lots of space. Walvis Bay used to be part of South Africa until recently when it became part of Namibia. In purely practical terms it is a long way from South Africa, and is surrounded by Namibia. The houses all looked very neat, well painted, and similar to those in Cape Town. The Walvis Bay lagoon was close to the town, but progress was slow due to frequent stops for photos. We saw two pelicans and a few flamingoes on the Esplanade. Then no more pelicans but lots and lots of flamingoes.
We stopped to admire a white salt mountain, then continued to the oyster farm and a welcome glass of fizzy to do with the oysters. There were nice beef/game sausages, dried like salami. The queue for the single WC was long, and water for the cistern was carried by bucket straight out of the lagoon. The blue longdrop nearby was an alternative for the brave. Everywhere we passed flamingoes, mostly paddling in the water, but some groups were flying.
We drove directly back to the ship with a short halt at the local craft market at the dock gates. We only bought postcards. Others had "bargains" - an 8 foot giraffe for $20 and a heavy round rhino for $10.
Our cabin is aft, and we could feel that we QE2 had slowed, approaching St Helena. It was 0530. We rushed out on deck to take photos as the sun rose. We didn't drop anchor until just before 0700, then it was to the Lido for a quick breakfast and then to the Queens Room for tender tickets. We got Tender Tickets 4. We knew that there might be problems with the swell and waves at the steps on the quay, although tenders had been launched and left the ship safely. So it was no real surprise when Captain Warwick cancelled the tender operation. Apparently no-one got ashore last November either.
The local boats were more accustomed to the conditions, and were able to bring the Post Office and souvenir shop on board. For an hour it was a mad scramble while people bought anything and everything. The queue for stamps never reduced. The island is famous for its stamps and many passengers wanted to collect them, as well as send postcards home.
All the people on board from St Helena were sent back home, the anchor was weighed at noon and we turned starboard to circumnavigate the island anticlockwise. We saw dolphins, and others saw whales. And lots of pretty white terns, red-billed Tropic birds with a very long white tail - the bird being white and black.
We arrived at Santa Cruz de Tenerife at lunchtime so there was just time to get something to eat before going off on tour to Puerto de la Cruz. We used to have holidays there, so were interested in how the old town and the hotels had changed. After an hour we had left the disastrous road works and reconstruction around Santa Cruz, passed the old airport, and were looking down on Puerto. We stopped at the Mirador de Hidalgo viewpoint and then headed down to sea level. The houses are now all neat bright and painted. It is no longer allowed to build your own breezeblock place, and there are no tax advantages in living in an unfinished building. EEC money is being spent everywhere and the island looks much more prosperous.
Descending to the parking outside MacDonalds and the Hotel las Vegas, it all looked so familiar. We arrived at 1450 and were free until 1600. So our first target was the Hotel Tenerife Playa. Our favourite Cafe Columbus opposite had disappeared. The Hotel Tenerife Playa had been repainted and the internal gardens looked in good condition. The restaurant was not very interesting with very limited choice to eat compared with QE2.
Then we headed along the promenade to the Hotels Monopol and Marquesa. We continued beyond them almost to the main square, then turned right towards the fishing harbour, past a nice church. We took more photos then headed back to the Hotel las Vegas.
Next stop was to visit the Orchid Garden. It is just above the Hotel El Tope, but nowhere near the Botanical Gardens although our route through the one-way system did pass them. After a couple of glasses of wine, and admiring dozens of orchids we were set for the drive back to the ship.
Strikes in Portugal today meant that we couldn't go to Lisbon as originally planned, so we steamed on to Vigo in Spain. This is good news for us because we have been to Lisbon several times, but never to Vigo. We chose a tour to Santiago de Compostella. It is famous as the end of the pilgrimage trail which also passes through St Jean Pied de Port. The remains of the apostle St James are said to be buried in the cathedral.
In Santiago de Compostella we saw the main square with the 5* Hotel los Reyes Catolica, but we spent most of our time in the cathedral. Then we had just an hour for shopping in the rain. The town is pedestrian with narrow cobbled streets. It is very pretty. And all lit up with Christmas lights. Pauline disappeared into an art shop to buy more watercolour paper.
Everywhere was offering samples of the local Christmas cake and biscuits. It was nice but looked too fragile to take home.
We were moored in Vigo until 2330 so again enjoyed the local entretainment. This time it was Flamenco music and dance with the folklore group, Casa de Andalucia.