Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe

February 1, 2016

Today we anchored off the coast of Sao Tome, the capital city of Sao Tome and Principe.  Sao Tome, located right on the equator, was founded in 1493.  The Portuguese arrived in 1470, in search of land to grow sugar.  It is a very lush, mountainous country!

To maximize our time here, we chose a 7-hour tour, ‘East Coast to Sao Joao Plantation’.  Along the way, it was interesting to observe the housing and daily life of the local people.  Most houses are on stilts, as there’s very little level ground, and the rains are quite heavy at times.

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Many houses had ornate wood trim.

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Notice the huge roll of corrugated metal balanced on the head of the women wearing a red top and patterned skirt.

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Monday is wash day for clothes and kids here.  Many young children help with the work, and are given a bath.

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This blowhole was in a beautiful setting, but the tides didn’t allow for much of a show.

The tour included a visit to Roca Agua Ize Plantation.  Although the island no longer produces huge volumes of cocoa, the crop still dwarfs every other agricultural export, as seen at this plantation.  During our visit, no production was in process in the area where we were allowed to enter.  The people who worked and lived in the area were as curious about us as we were about them.

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Our visit to Sao Joao Plantation included a tour of some of the plants, a delicious multi-course Santomean lunch, and some music and drumming.  The purple flower (below) is a passion fruit blossom.

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The kitchen, where food for about 50 people is prepared, is very basic with wood-burning stoves.  After lunch, the chef fed the duck and enjoyed a brief stroll on the grounds.

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7 Waves beach has black sand.  Due to time constraints, we were not able to spend the planned time here.  I did get a sand sample to add to my ever-growing collection.

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It’s always interesting to watch the hard-working crew bring up the tenders at the end of the day when the ship anchors.

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Goodbye Sao Tome!

West Africa has been an amazing, eye-opening experience.  I look forward to the ports ahead!

Cotonou, Benin

January 30, 2016

Cotonou is the largest city and economic center of Benin.  The city is a major port, located on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoue and the Atlantic Ocean.  The name, “Cotonou” means “by the river of death” in the Fon language.

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Snap shot from the TV channel that show updated weather and maps throughout the cruise.

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Welcome to W. Africa

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A warm welcoming at the pier.

January 29, 2016

Lome, Togo

Lome is the capital and largest city of Togo, one of the smallest countries in Africa.  Togo is located on the Gulf of Guinea.

Our 4.5 hour ‘Traditional Togo’ tour started with a drive through Lome to the fetish market.  Here you can find local handicrafts plus a variety of skulls, porcupine skins and serpent heads.  Most of the market’s items are ingredients that traditional healers use for rituals or to make magic charms and potions, including herb-garnished animal parts.  Some people may find some of the items for sale to be shocking and, for animal lovers, offensive and disturbing.

 

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Locals, in their colorful clothing, at the fetish market.

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Fetish dolls

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Dried animals and animal parts.

Our visit to a Togolese village school was a highlight of the tour.

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The kids at the Togolese village school were excited to greet us.

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Anatomy lessons were drawn on the chalk board in this classroom.

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All of the kids sang songs for us.

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The kids followed us during our visit. Donation boxes were available for us to make donations of supplies and money.

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Scenes from the bus, on the way to another village:

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At the ceremonial grounds of a local village we were met by the royal court.  Some of their native ways of life and traditions were explained and a folk dance was performed to drumming music.

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Water was ceremonially poured on the ground when we arrived.

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A village home.

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A very long, wide beach lines the coastline.

After the tour, mom and I took the Oceania complimentary shuttle into town and explored the bustling streets.  Thankfully, a young lady escorted us around.  We both ended up buying a batik top, with the help of several guys who lead us from shop to shop until we both found what we wanted.  It turned out to be a very fun adventure!

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The downtown area was a jam-packed with people on foot, bikes, scooters, motorbikes and in cars.

The day proved to be very enlightening, stimulating, humbling and enjoyable.  I look forward to our visit to Benin, tomorrow.

Shipboard Life

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Captain Dimitrios Flokos hosts a cocktail celebration at the beginning of each cruise segment.

People often ask me what I like about days at sea, while cruising :  in one word, EVERYTHING!

In the case of this cruise, the 5 sea days to sail from Recife, Brazil, to Lome, Togo, were a welcomed break in a very full itinerary.

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Recife, Brazil

January 23, 2016

Named for the surrounding coastal recifes (reefs) offshore, Recife is perched on Brazil’s northeast coast. The busy seaport is known as the “Venice of Brazil”, thanks to its many waterways, bridges, and small islands. The city has an interesting mix of new high-rises and old colonial structures. One of the highlights is the charming town of nearby Olinda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in 1530 by the Portuguese.

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Natal, Brazil

Our time today in port was just over four hours, so we decided to take the complimentary shuttle to the Centro do Turismo (open daily, free entrance).  This former prison has been converted into a handicraft market, and the cells that once housed prisoners have been transformed into shop that display the best artisans’ workmanship.  Continue reading