This is part of the twelfth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Senegal
24/9/06 The airport at Praia is a local airport. All other international flights arrive at the island of Sal. Efficient immigration and customs officers were there to welcome our 5.30am, local time, arrival. Not expecting to be able to check into a hotel on a Sunday morning at that time we stretched out on an airport bench and caught up on some sleep. The ex-Portuguese city centre was the first European city in the tropics. Situated on a plateau, The Plato, and overlooking the harbour and surrounding urban areas it's cobble stoned streets and Mediterranean houses around the large square gives a very European feel. We settled into a hotel mid morning and rested and wandered the quiet streets getting the feeling we had left Africa but were somehow still there.
25/9/06 Cape Verde has not had an easy time since man first landed here in the mid 15th century. It was originally tropically green but within three hundred years the first drought killed 40% of the population, a situation that was to be repeated twice more, with similar fatalities, within the following century. Droughts continue to plague the islands with the need to import 80% of food for its 400,000 population. Aid and repatriated money from Cape Verdians living overseas make up a substantial part of the economy. We wandered down to the port and checked the customs procedures for the landing of the motorcycle. A modern container port with two ships currently being unloaded, but there seemed to be little chance of an early boat back to Dakar. Police and customs gave us permission to ride the motorcycle for the day, tomorrow, as the MV "Smaragd" is now scheduled to be here a day early. We have not heard if permission for our joining the vessel to the Canary Islands has been approved but decided anyway to accept the captain's offer to take the motorcycle there, even if it is necessary for us to fly back to Dakar and then onto Las Palmas as there might be few other, as generous, offers for the motorcycle to leave Cape Verde.
26/9/06 Late last night, after I had written yesterday's diary, we checked our emails to learn that special approval had been given by Mr Matthias Dabelstein , the vessel's owner, to take Kay and I, with the motorcycle, as non paying passengers to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. We were quite excited as we have not travelled before on a container vessel. The vessel was not in sight when we went to breakfast but it arrived soon after. We were not optimistic for success with the proposed day's schedule. The only two wharfs were already occupied and another vessel was waiting to dock. There was however possibility for room at the end of one wharf, not ideal as the ocean swell rounds the short breakwater and continually rolls in against the wharf. MV "Smaragd" tied up in this position and cleared port formalities by midday when the motorcycle was unloaded. The 100 metre vessel has it's own, two, forty ton cranes, to load or unload the over 400, six metre, containers it can carry, many contained inside the hold. At this "sloppy" berth containers could only be unloaded, not loaded, as the ship's movement prevented positioning them within the hold. The aft 40 ton crane was used to unload the motorcycle, but with it's height accentuating the ship's movement, the crane hook was swinging quite violently. At a brief lull the motorcycle was rapidly lifted from it's position between two containers and in another lull positioned carefully on the wharf. It was quite a feat, reflecting the crews ability, to get the motorcycle both off and later in the day, back on the vessel, with no damage. The ship itself was not so lucky. The local stevedores, whilst unloading an 12 metre container, allowed it to swing into the vessel's side and crash into a stanchion ripping away a section of guard rail. The lack of adequate buffering by the port also damaged the vessels hull, puncturing a hole. With just five hours allowed between unloading and reloading the motorcycle Kay and I left the port for the interior of the island. Santiago only gets rain for two months of the year, if at all, and it had rained heavily recently making the mountain scenery quite beautiful and spectacular. Extensive programs to green the island have been undertaken with contouring of hillsides and tree planting. Crops also terraced the fertile volcanic slopes. At 3pm it was a change of passenger and Captain Felix enjoyed the back seat for a return to the cool mountain scenery. By sunset we only waited for final vessel clearance and the pilot to allow departure and slept comfortably in the owner's cabin.
27/9/06 The ship is like many modern container vessels. A towering administration and accommodation block at the rear and a flat container pad in front. This one has seven stories of occupation above the waterline and engines, towering 40 metres to the navigation equipment. We are on the sixth deck, just under the bridge, and four flights above the officer's mess, where we get plenty of exercise carrying our recently eaten meals back up to our cabin. Just eight years old and built in China it's features are modern with electronics covering the bridge deck and our ensuite cabin having one bunk, a couch, table and bar fridge, better than almost any hotel rooms we have been in. The vessel is heading for annual dry-dock maintenance in Las Palmas, travelling at economical cruising speed we won't reach there for three days. The only cargo is two Australian passengers and one Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It feels a bit like we are filthy rich and have chartered this cargo ship to take us to an exotic destination like The Canary Islands just to see what it would be like. The seas were a little unkind to us at the top of our accommodation block as it swayed above it's watery foundation but we managed to have three meals and kept them inside.
28/9/06 Empty of cargo and only carrying sea water ballast the vessel is less stable than if fully loaded. The sea swell increased overnight with a forecast of worse weather ahead. By mid morning we were not feeling too energetic, both resting, lying flat the best position to fight off sea sickness. On the captain's advice we consumed a bottle of red wine over lunch as medication for the sea sickness and by mid afternoon we were feeling better and managed a tour of the engine room. The nine cylinder heavy oil ship's engine will burn twice as much oil on this short trip to the Canary Islands than we have burnt in the motorcycle the last ten years. Set at a steady 600 rpm and with a swing pitch prop to vary the speed and even reverse direction it eliminates the need for a gearbox. Most engine functions can be managed from the adjacent control room where air-conditioning and soundproofing make being an engineer a little less tedious than in the past.
29/9/06 The sea conditions calmed considerably overnight
and the captain reduced speed to avoid arriving in the middle of the night
tonight. We have slipped into shipboard routine, enjoying three varied and
wholesome meals a day. The Filipino cook has to cater for the variety of
nationalities aboard. We have had such varied dishes as sauerkraut, Polish
Chinese pork and smoked fish. With the lack of exercise, good food and
occasional wine we can feel our waistlines growing daily. The captain has
a split shift, four hours in the morning and four in the evening, when we
have been joining him on the bridge for good conversation and music.
Move with us to the Canary Islands
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