Our side of the cabin
So the ship is a cool place to live (when it’s not sailing). I only get to live on here a few weeks but I’m enjoying it. It really is like a big dorm. Our cabin is 4 people, but each side has a curtain for 2 bunks, so I’m only in really, really close quarters with one other person. I got lucky with my room assignment. All 3 roommates are people who did training with me over the summer. We are literally the only room that has more than 2 of us in it. Most people went into a room with people they don’t know, which is fine, but I just really like all my roommates. It’s a fun room. I’m sad I have to move out.
Let’s see. There are 8 decks, the top 2 you can go outside. There’s lots of public space, couches and tables, for reading, gamings, getting coffee with a friend, etc. The dining room seems fairly large now when there’s only like 150 people living and eating on the ship, but it seems small when you think there will be over 400 people living on the ship, plus like 200 local people working with us daily. It’s really cool that during our 2 month training and volunteer project we all got so close because now there’s 25 people I could feel comfortable going to sit with in the dining room. Also there’s a lot of people who like to play games on the ship. We played every night before we started sailing. There’s a fairly decent sized library with books ranging from all different types of nonfiction to fiction and you can check out movies, but since June started I’ve barely made time for reading.
Ok so the ship was in shipyard in Durban for 2 months for repairs and stuff. After every 10 month field service they go to somewhere for shipyard for a couple months with a much smaller crew, so that’s a good time for most crew to visit home or leave. We got on a few days before leaving Durban and most of us didn’t have much work or meetings until we sailed. I’m one of the only ones who didn’t get reassigned to like housekeeping or something during the sail since my job doesn’t actually start til Benin. I might be on housekeeping on the 10 day sail though. So we got to have some fun in Durban for 2 days after doing all our orientation type stuff. I organized a group to go eat at the beach and walk around and there ended up being like 16 of us. It was fun but just a short day. The food is fairly cheap in South Africa but you can get a glass of wine for $2, and it’s usually larger than an American glass of wine. The next day a few of us went to the aquarium/Sea World which is supposed to be the largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere. It was okay. I started feeling really sick midday so didn’t really enjoy it. I laid in bed sick all night just to get sick the next day on the sail.
So when we left port we all went out on deck 8 and watched, and it was crazy when we really started moving because you had to hold on so tight not to go flying. We all thought it was really fun …. But then after an hour or so we went inside. I started feeling sick very quickly even with sea sickness medication. I honestly didn’t think I would get seasick. I’ve been on plenty of boats and even one cruise and never had a problem. But this was so different. We would keep our level app open and saw the ship was turning up to 15 degrees, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is. It looks and feels like the ship is gonna tip over. For perspective on the cruise ship I went on I feel like at the very roughest points it may have been 1 degree. Most people felt sick at some point in the first day but we’re fine the second day because it was so “smooth”. Or that’s what the alumni said. They said that was about as smooth as it ever gets, but I still clocked up to 8 degrees several times.
We were warned on Day 2 that we were going into a storm and we were gonna go from “gently rolling to pitching” on Day 3, not only because of the storm but because the Cape is known to be one of the roughest places in the world because it’s where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It was insane! We had 18 degree rolls. Everything was flying everywhere even more so than before. When we went out on deck 8 and looked out at the waves they were like 8 feet tall. It’s like you could surf in the middle of the ocean. I was starting to get my sea legs or so I thought and wasn’t feeling that bad early in the day. So we tried to play a game by using sticky tack to keep the pieces on the board. But our chairs and the table and the game all repeatedly almost tipped, rolled, wiped us out. And focusing my eyes on something made me feel really sick again so I spent the rest of the day in bed.
The worst part was that when you are sea sick you need a little something on your stomach to make you feel better, like crackers, but you had to go to the dining room to get the crackers. And they didn’t have packaged crackers so I couldn’t really take a big stash back to my room because they weren’t wrapped and would prolly go flying wherever I put them. Well the dining room for some reason seems to be the absolute worst place on the ship for sea sickness. I don’t know why. Maybe its location or something. I always felt really bad every time I went in there, and then without my telling anyone that people kept telling me to get my food and go eat it somewhere else, so I know there’s something to that. So for this next 10 day sail I bought some crackers for myself here in Cape Town.
On our way to Benin the ship stopped in Cape Town for a few reasons. 1. Gas and a part way point for a long sail. 2. Mercy Ships recently opened a South Africa office here and the woman running it really wanted us to stop so they could do tours with important people here. Global offices basically raise donations and find volunteers for the ship and since there will soon be 2 ships it’s really important to help get this new office off the ground. 3. They wanted to spoil the crew for a weekend because Cape Town is this amazing place with a million fun things to do, and we are about to be spending 10 months volunteering in a place where there really isn’t anything fun for us to do.
I am so happy they let us stop here. This city is soooo amazing! It’s definitely the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to with the most variety of stuff to do. I don’t know if I can call it my favorite city since New York has my heart but it’s very, very close, and it’s a place that everyone would love. Seriously! Visit here if you can. It has everything, nature-wise, activity-wise, amenities, shopping, etc.
The Little Thieves
Friday a group of like 7 of us went on a bus tour around all of Cape Town which was really cool, just to see everything and hear some history. We also did a 2 hour walking tour downtown, part of which was called District 6, where there is just open space in the middle of the city sorta in remembrance of all the awful things during Apartheid. Basically back in the day in this neighborhood it was one of the only places where racism didn’t exist and an interracial family could freely live and black people could just live and exist without white people messing with them. Then in the 60s during Apartheid a law was passed that basically said no black or mixed race people could live in the cities and they could only live in black slums outside the city. So all these people were forced out of their homes. And it was really sad. Apartheid didn’t end til the 90s so they have basically only been free from the awful racist laws and such for like 20 years, so racism here is still way more evident than in the US. Then, we also went to this place with lots of monkeys. I saw several kinds I had never seen before which was really cool. Also they had this little area where they had tons of little monkeys and you could go in there and you weren’t supposed to touch the monkeys but you could let them climb on you. Before we walked in an employee said not to have anything in our bags that they could get to because they like to steal. And sure enough they tried to take the headphones out of a friend’s purse, and another girl had a purse that was basically empty but with pockets, and a monkey felt around in the pockets. It was awesome. I was sad I didn’t have something for them to steal so they would climb on me more.
Saturday 8 of us had to wake up at 4am to go Great White Shark cage diving. This was pretty expensive but I know I probably won’t do much else expensive over the next 10 months and this is like a once in a lifetime experience, and it seems terrifying so that’s way more reason to go! So we go out on this boat, and I yet again don’t think I will get sea sick because I’ve been on lots of boats that size and snorkeling excursions and stuff, but when you take a boat like that into the ocean and turn off the engine in a place where the waves are like 10 feet or larger (the Cape Town area has the biggest waves I’ve ever seen) it’s gonna be bumpy. So several people were throwing up off the side of the boat the whole 2 hours. I did not throw up, but felt miserable. And we didn’t even see sharks. We weren’t guaranteed to see them. They had a 98% success rating and had seen sharks every day since February. When we got back they gave us vouchers for a return trip which we will probably never get to take, but there was one seat on their next boat going out, so one of our group went, and that boat saw 6 sharks and all got to go in the water with them.
These birds flew super fast right along our boat to get fed
We were all very disappointed but we got back to Cape Town by like 2 with nothing to do, so 4 of us got an Uber to Boulders Beach over an hour away to see the penguin colony that somehow ended up in South Africa. It was the most gorgeous drive. Then since we got there at like 4 and the place closed at 5 the Uber driver offered to wait for us, which was awesome because the train station was a couple miles away. Well 5:00 came around and the Uber driver was not there. Luckily there were some Mercy Ships people there, but they had a full van and couldn’t take us home. They were nice enough to take us to the train station though, but for some reason the train wasn’t going to that stop, but a bus was there. So we waited to take the bus to another train stop. We got there and the ticket office was closed, but they were nice and let us get on. Then we had to take the train to the last stop, which was downtown Cape Town and we would get there after 7pm when it was dark. Apparently this area is a little dangerous so we were told not to go there after 5pm. So we were a little worried what we would do when we got there. If there weren’t taxis would we have to walk a few miles to the ship from there? Honestly though we weren’t really worried. We were 4 chicks with brains, no working cell phone, and only a few hundred rand left to pay all our costs. We lucked out. There was one taxi there as we walked out. We had to pay him but didn’t have to pay for the bus or train. So a trip that cost 500 rand to get there by Uber cost us 50 rand on the way back.
Sunday we got to sleep in. Then 4 of us went to Lions Head Mountain to hike up it, which was exactly what I needed. A lot of people hiked Table Mountain in one of the previous 2 days, but that’s a very intense and long hike, which normally I would be all over, but I tend to get bad headaches sometimes when I hike, especially long all day hikes, and the last time I did like a 6 hour hike I had a week long “feel like dying” type headache, and I was really scared to get that when I’m about to start a 10 day sail where I’m already expecting to not feel so good. But when so many people around me are going hiking and I’m not when that’s like one of my favorite things, I was feeling like I lost a piece of my identity. So Lions Head changed that. It’s fairly short but a lot of elevation gain, and the last third of it is this really intense bouldering/scrambling/hands and feet type hiking which is my favorite. There were places you went straight up and had to hold on to chains or handles on the side of the rocks. It was definitely the best quality hike I’ve ever been on. Like if I could only hike a 3 mile section of trail ever in my life I would want it to be that. It was absolutely incredible. I probably told my friends 8 billion times how amazing it was or how happy I was. It was a little scary in spots but I’ve done way way scarier. It was the most crowded trail I’ve ever done. There were lots of areas where only one person could go at a time so you would have to wait. And a lot of times those people were freaking out and terrified (and I have been that person on some hikes) so we tried to be encouraging.
So that’s Cape Town. Perfect except for not seeing sharks, but on the bright side no sharks ate me. Now onto a 10 day sail that I am praying will not be miserable.