Our port of call yesterday was Salalah, Oman. We did a half day tour and were pretty underwhelmed. The port is in a commercial area so if it’s containers you want to see, this is the place. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and tried to do his best to make Salalah interesting – not an easy talk.
The best part of the tour was visiting Samharam, the remains of a fortified port which had been very central to the frankincense trade. It was built/active from the 3rd century BC to the 5th AD.
The other interesting bit was seeing camels wondering hither and yon. We did see what looked like a keeper/shepherd? following a group of camels. What we saw in general was very bland and seemed characterless. A surprising fact is that his part of Oman does get rain, it had rained the day before we got there. It’s still quite arid but not a desert.
Jan 26 – We’re now heading for the narrow straight between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The winds over the deck are 60knots, we’re going around 19 knots. The winds pick up here as the Red Sea narrows into the straight. It’s sunny and warm, 25C at 7:30am. This a pirate so the ship, crew, and passengers have all been briefed and prepared.
Jan 27 – We are about to leave the UN Maritime Security Corridor which is the way they protect shipping from pirates. We did have a small navy ship off our port quarter mid afternoon. Plus our lookouts remain on deck and we will have ship blackout for the last night tonight.
We were up at 5am for breakfast before lining up for the buses to take us to Luxor (temples at Karnak) and the Valley of the Kings. There were 800+ persons from QM2 doing the excursion. Our local tour guide was terrific, always helps. It was a 3.5 hour drive to Luxor and the time went by surprisingly quickly. The terrain for the first hour and a bit was desert & sand stone mountains, very bleak. Once we reached the Nile River valley there were several irrigation canals with lush vegetation and farming. Our guide told us they grow a lot of vegetables, and bananas. It is SO different from what we’re mostly used to in North America and Europe. Houses mostly are not finished, as in painted/decorated, as that is expensive, people spend their money on making the inside nice. There is a lot of poverty; schooling is not compulsory and class sizes are 60+ students.
Our first stop was the temples at Karnak near Luxor. It was amazing to see. Tarja (who studied archeology at uni) had thought she might be disappointed but the opposite was the case. This was built up over 100s of years as each king/queen added to it and it eventually covered 200 acres and was a place of worship for 2,000 years.
The Ancient Egyptians worshiped the Sun. They saw the sunrise and the east with the green of the lands around the Nile as life’s beginning while the sunset, the west, and the bleakness of the desert represented death. It is why they chose the desert of the Valley of the Kings in which to be buried as a start to their journey in the afterlife.
The Valley of the Kings was awesome in the true sense. We visited three tombs: Ramses I, III, and IV. Ramses II, the most famous, due to damage from flooding because of its poor location, is sealed. King Tut’s, with his body still there, is an extra charge and our guide did not recommend it due to its small size. This leaves us a mere 63 tombs to go!
We’re in the Suez Canal, second ship in a convoy heading south. We anchored at Port Said last night and weighed anchor at 3:30am to start the trip. The ship immediately behind us is one of the largest container ships in the world. It’s 400 meters long and carrying 19,200 twenty foot containers – wowza! Conditions are very calm at the moment but I can imagine transiting in the narrow canal would be very challenging in high winds.
We’ve seen many different kinds of security towers, at least we think they are security towers and many military facilities. There was also a memorial to Egyptian soldiers who died in the 7 day war with Israel – it is huge AK47! We evenhad fog for about 30 minutes.
We’ve had several different pilots on board and up to 3 tug boats following our ship most of the time. It was interesting to watch the switching of pilots, the small pilot boat would come to the side of the ship and crew would climb a rope ladder up or down. Meanwhile both QM2 and the pilot boat would be moving, although I’m pretty sure we slowed down a bit from our 8 knots.
We arrived in Crete this morning after a few windy days on the Med – nothing that bothered the QM2. We did have following seas for maybe 36/48 hours after we left Lisbon and then it switched to abeam.
Unfortunately Bob managed to pick up a flu-ey thing – no not Covid – so he’s been under the weather and did not come on the Arkadi Monastery tour this morning. And worse, although he’s feeling a bit better, he is going to skip dinner in the dining room for the third night in a row. I’m having a tough time keeping up his share of wine embibing.
We had a lovely sunny day today with great views driving up to the monastery, Crete is very mountanous, and yes, that is snow in one the pictures. We leave today around 6pm, our next stop is Luxor on Monday.
Spent most of the day in Lisbon, our first port of call. We did a hop on hop off bus that was not great route wise. Our walk around the old part of town was much more interesting. Here are three pictures of laundry Lisbon style.
Lisbon was more than laundry. We had a unique walk (thanks to google) through some very interesting streets. The first picture shows the 1st of two escalators to get up this one hill! Like Rome, Lisbon is built on a series of hills. Our goal after lunch (other than ending up back at the ship) was to visit the National Pantheon.
Jan 9-10 The grand adventure has begun. We’re bouncing around on the VIA train that left Kingston (on time !) about an hour ago. Heading to Pearson airport, overnight flight to London. We board the Queen Mary 2 on Wednesday afternoon for our trip to Sydney, scheduled to arrive there on March 11, with lots of interesting stops along the way.
Travelling equals patience. Car, taxi, train, train, plane, bus, taxi … door-to-door all in 25 1/2 hours. Our plane was late departing by 2 hrs (incoming flight had a medical emergency) & our bus from Heathrow to Southampton was 45 mins late due to construction & other issues. Luckily the older we get the more patiently sanguine we get about it all. But just to try our patience, our hotel listed me and “Mrs Tarjay Story” OMG that’s zero for three :-/
Jan 11-12 We arrived at the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) at the appointed time. It was then a 2-hour snaking queue. Luckily, we were just in front of an English couple from Windemere who are sailors so our conversations helped pass the hours. This is the 100th anniversary of the first world cruise done by Cunard. Queen Victoria was also docked at Southampton, about to embark on a world cruise. There were fireworks in the harbour, in celebration. QM2 left at around 8pm heading to the English Channel. We left the English Channel late this morning Force 9 – Severe Gale with 60 kts of wind over the deck. The decks are closed, and we are happily staying inside!
Thursday was the first Gala Night; the theme was Black & White. Bob wore his tuxedo and I wore my one and only LBD with a white lacy scarfy thing. We chose to do the 6pm dinner slot and asked for a table of six. We got the same setup as on the transatlantic crossing last fall. Three tables of two in a row, the tables very close to each other. Myra and Norman are from the Isle of Bute in Scotland and Caroline and Keith are from the Isle of Wight. More on them as the days go by.
We went to see that evening’s show, a pair of Scottish brothers, one playing fiddle, the other one guitar and accordion. It was a good show. As we left the show and were walking back towards our state room, we heard the distinctive sound of our captain’s (Aseem Hashmi) voice talking behind us so of course I turned around and asked if he’d do a photo with us. He has a great sense of humour, I’m sure he is in hundreds and hundreds of pictures. He got staff member to take the picture and told us we’d be getting his bill the next day. According to a staff member Tarja overheard telling another passenger, “He is the best captain”.
Jan 13 – The winds and waves stayed high until mid afternoon so we both spent our time lower in the ship, Tarja hung out in the Grand Lobby reading her book, reading newspapers online etc. We went – to our favourite bar the Chart Room for a pre- dinner drink and could feel the waves had reduced in size and we could even see a bit of blue sky. We are still walking like we’re a bit drunk. It’s fun walking behind someone as they weave along.
We had two full days to “kill” in Oswego so we did laundry, ‘staged’ the inside of the boat to take pictures for the broker and even managed a couple of nice dinners out.
Mast Going Up
Bob Checks the Mast Wires
New Home at POH
Voyaging Ending Toasts
Peter arrived at 7:30am on Tuesday. He did have time for a coffee before the mast stepping started. It went well, and after a pump out and refuelling, Bob and Peter started across the lake at 10:30am and Tarja drove the car back home. Finnish Line arrived back in Kingston at 6:30pm, after eight hours of motor sailing, completing a trip of 2,480 nautical miles.