Monday, February 17, 2014

The Crossing!!!

The beautiful view from the back deck, which I miss very much! It never got old :)
Well, we had talked about it since the day we committed to the voyage: the 12-day trek across the Atlantic Ocean. Many dreaded it, feared about their motion sickness prone to kick in, whatever, but I was kind of looking forward to it. You see, the voyage thus far had just been stop and go. Go to class for 3 or 4 days, then port 4 or 5 days....which was GREAT! But no routine whatsoever. And for someone who does not like routines, I think me saying I was longing for some sort of routine is a BIG deal!

Happy Halloween!
Someone said we could go 72 hours without seeing another vessel during the crossing. Wow, that was really wild! But true though, as we didn't see many ships during this time.

I think I mentioned our days at sea where known either as an A or B day. This was so that our course schedule could rotate back and forth. That being said, the days during the next almost two weeks (really don't remember how many days at sea) mainly felt like a blur and I literally had no idea of the day of the week or date.

The last day in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu came onboard to talk to our ship! That was so cool! Here is a quick clip of him talking briefly about the apartheid. I wish he could have stayed with us longer.

Now I don't quite remember what the purpose of this was, but we did have a scientist sail with us from South Africa to Argentina. This was because that route is not a very common one and this would give him the opportunity to do more research as we went across. Somehow, by throwing cardboard boxes off the aft of the ship, this would measure the depth of the sea as well as other statistics he was looking for. He did this every 70 minutes so would sleep for an hour and wake up in the middle of the night, throw the boxes and log his findings in his cabin. Needless to say, by the end of the two weeks, he was looking a bit exhausted!

Oh, this just in! I found this on the Semester at Sea website about our scientist guest, Greg Brusseau:
"Greg is currently a Research Scientist in the Argo Float Lab at the University of Washington’s School of Oceanography.  Argo Floats are profiling autonomous underwater drifters that can help measure global climate change along with many other ocean properties. The lab deploys approximately 125 of these instruments a year all over the globe.  Greg started his career as a technician on the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP) working on both the University of Washington’s research vessel Thomas G. Thompson and the United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy.  He also worked as a Research Scientist for the Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer (ORCA) buoy project which monitors water quality in Washington’s Puget Sound." Again, I don't understand but oh well. 

There goes one of the boxes! It is hard to see but they were actually about 6 feet long!
During this time, we also held the Sea Olympics, a tradition with Semester at Sea. All the decks are broken into seas and compete to who will be able to disembark the ship first once we get to Florida. I am not a fan of these pep rally, overly spirited days and some events were better than others. Having a day off of classes for our "field day at sea" was pretty nice though :)

I did call my sister from sea on her birthday! That was pretty cool.

There was also a crew talent show one night and another night, a talent show for the rest of the shipboard community. The crew talent show was AMAZING! They really were so talented and put on a great show. I wish they had performed for us weekly. My friend won front row seats for the show too and asked if I’d like to join her. That was great because people started lining up 2 hours or so before it started. Yikes!
Front row seats at the talent show!
Our awesome waiters who I miss very much!
Sorry to say I didn’t take many pictures this time around…..stay tuned for touching down in South America soon!

Peace, Erin J

Sunday, February 9, 2014

South Africa Safari!!!

So I realize it is February....and Semester at Sea has ended. However, I came across this entry from South Africa from the end of October. I am going to try my best to catch up and post a new entry ever SAS Sunday. Thanks for reading along!!

Hello all from the set of Lion King!

I guess I’ll just straight up say this is entry is from over a month ago at this point. Finding wifi and having my computer on me at the same time has been quite a struggle. So I will continue to tell about my adventures, just in not the most timely fashion.

South Africa was GREAT. I went on safari and had a wonderful time.

The first day in port, we explored the city of Cape Town. It was a modern city and by visiting here, we were given 3 views of the continent of Africa that were totally different from one another.

We headed up to Table Mountain the first day. We were told that it was too treacherous to climb up (rough terrain, thieves along the way) and the wind was too strong for the cable car to bring us up to the top. So, our taxi drive to the mid-point was all we got (but shhh it still looks pretty high up!). It was a great view and was definitely a high point of the city. Next we drifted from shop to market and moseyed along Long Street, the main street of the city. For lunch, we went to this famous burger joint and had the most wonderful meal. I had a roasted butternut, pumpkin, carrot and sunflower seed burger with fresh red onions and a side of guacamole among the many other sauces they placed on our table. Talk about a vegetarian’s dream! It was delish. J

The next morning, it was time to leave for the safari! Something funky happened with the iphone clocks during the course of the night and our phones fell forward an hour. That being said, myself and some of the other safari-goers almost missed our trip but very luckily, we made it.

I reluctantly signed up for a safari through one of Semester at Sea’s programs. The reason I am not always a fan of these programs is because I think they are overpriced for what you get and are too touristy. However, this trip regained my faith in the programs – it was spot on.

We headed out of the city to Garden Route Game Lodge. After a scenic drive, we arrived. Zebra and rhinos literally greeted us as we drove through the entrance. Incredible!  I pictured log cabins in the bush. However, we were greeted by the cutest little lodge on an amazing backdrop. Our rooms were (get this!!!) cabanas! The best way to describe them is if one thinks of a calendar and pictures Tahitian huts over crystal clear water. The only difference here was that we looked out to the grasslands and could sometimes see animals from our little chalet.

We had several game drives in an open-back car and saw tons of animals. I was pleasantly surprised how many we saw – lion, elephant, antelope, springbok, cheetah, ostrich, water buffalo, rhino, giraffe and zebra are the ones who come to mind. It was unreal to see these animals in the wild. I was so lucky to be able to go this trip and could not have been happier that I signed up just 72 hours beforehand.

The food was also wonderful at our lodge. After each drive, they gave us drinks to have fireside. After the sun went down, it got incredibly cold on the drives! We were provided with blankets with windbreaker material on the outside to wrap up in while on the trucks because that is how cold it got. I laughed the first time they put them in the car for us (because the sun was still out and we were sweltering) but soon after, I was very grateful! The hot chocolate they provided us with after each drive was the best I’ve ever had and a nice touch. For dinner, there were plenty of interesting options from the grill (springbok – those cute little deer-like animals we had seen earlier that day and ostrich) and vegetarian ones as well. I took advantage of trying all the new foods I could. I had one South African dessert in particular that was amazing. It was traditional Malva pudding and the best little cake I had had in a while. I also tried South African cream soda – it was GREEN which really toyed with my head!!!
The restaurant at the lodge

After a couple of great days at the lodge, our group was very sad to leave. It was just so nice to get away and relax for a little bit at this wonderful place. Reluctantly, we headed back to Cape Town and said goodbye to our animal friends. Words and pictures can’t do justice to the wonderful time spent there but it was truly amazing and I would return to the lodge in a heartbeat if I had the chance. I would love a family vacation there!!!

Heading off to the bush!!!

I may move here one day.....

The last day in Cape Town was met with cold weather and rain. Not knowing this, I wore a skirt and sandals to the botanical gardens thinking we’d have a nice day looking at the foliage. Wrong. Not only was I drenched and freezing (how could the weather be so different here from the safari?!) I didn’t realize how much walking and hilly terrain would be at the botanical gardens. Oh well. The beauty of the flowers couldn’t be taken away, even with all the rain. We had lunch at the African restaurant within the gardens and (continuing on my trend of trying new foods!) I had a traditional African (and meat-free) meal which was amazing. I just wish my stomach had been bigger to finish it all! I had pap and sheba (maize meal with a traditional tomato and onion gravy) and African spinach (braised with sweet potato and onions and spiced with cumin). There were blankets on all the chairs so this was definitely my kind of place! I wrapped myself up in that and asked if they could put the fireplace on. They said there was no wood, I told them I would happily fetch some, instead our waiter just sold us on some tea, which was fine because it ended up being delicious rooibos tea.

We didn’t have much time that day because Archbishop Desmond Tutu would be talking to us on the ship that day! So we may a stop at the mall around the corner of the ship to shop in the craft market that was located within the mall. I was able to get some wonderful things and can’t wait to show people. We rushed back to the ship to see a long line which took a bit longer than anticipated though we did get to see the last bit of the archbishop’s address. It was cool having someone who is so important in South Africa to come onboard and talk to us!
The wonderfully modern lodge!

View from our deck

Heating up after the drive - that hot chocolate WAS SO GOOD!

It is so beautiful in South Africa :)

We really were this close!!!

Flowers at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Typical me - can't decide which juice to drink. Not typical me with trying an omelet....and enjoying it!

Aww ostrich mom and babies!


Love this view. 

A spider nest!!!

I learned that South Africa has been taken off next fall’s voyage because of rising fuel costs and the expense it would be to sail there. That’s a real same because it was awesome and definitely one of my favorite ports hand down. Next up, 12 days at sea to reach South America. Wow, can you believe we’re already done with Africa? No worries though, I know I will be back to the continent soon J