A Life on the Ocean Wave
Trip Start Jul 29, 2013
13Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
After four and a half weeks at sea we finally landed in Montevideo yesterday morning. We kicked our heels for a couple of hours waiting for the officials to process paperwork and then we were free to go. Having sweltered at 30 degrees in Buenos Aires last Tuesday we came down to earth with a bit of a bump as the wind has changed and cold air from the south has brought low temperatures and rain.
Together with Gerhard and Karin from Germany, with whom we had travelled from Hamburg, we made our way east along the Uruguayan coast, in search of a campsite. Having tried several we had to accept that, as it is still only very early Spring at this latitude, the campsites are not yet open and so we checked into a small hotel for the night. We were the only guests and it was very clear that the rooms had not been aired since the end of the previous season, but we were glad to have a bed for the night and a hot shower in the morning
A life on the ocean wave
Our floating hotel, for the past month, was the Grande Senegal, a 300 meter cargo ship of the Grimaldi line. There were 27 crew, one third of whom were Italian and the rest Filipino, and 10 passengers, of whom 4 were German, 3 French, 1 Dutch and ourselves. We had the best of fun with the Germans, meeting them after dinner each evening for Casino Time, when we variously played Whist or Rummy. The crew could not do enough for us and we only had to make a request and it was attended to immediately. We had not expected this level of attention, given that the vessel was carrying cargo worth around 60 million Euros. We had thought that the passengers would come quite low in the order of priorities, but it certainly did not feel like that. We were told to make ourselves at home and we had guided tours of all the different parts of the ships with explanations of the whole enterprise.
We were always made welcome on the bridge where the Captain and crew were generous with their time and made a point of sharing information with us and explaining some of the technicalities of navigation and the intricacies of merchant shipping. We became used to checking the speed, wind direction and strength; watching the radar for other activity in the area; looking at our position on both screens and charts; and listening in when contact was made with ports and pilots
Accommodation and Entertainment
Our cabin was quite comfortable and adequate and it quickly felt like home. The steward cleaned it daily and made the beds and he also waited on us at meals. There were laundry facilities for passengers and we had the use of a table tennis table and exercise bike. When in port we watched cargo being loaded and unloaded. We both read several books and we watched a couple of TV series. As we passed close to the Canary Islands we were delighted to hear by email of the safe arrival of Liam's twin grandchildren, Adam and Luisa. Our German friends joined us in the evening to wet the babies' heads.
We made it a priority to learn a bit of Spanish almost every day. We had two sets of tutorial CD's. From the Paul Noble set we learned to say 'donde esta el camping' (where is the campsite?) and from Michel Thomas we learned to say 'tiene un opinion de la situation politico y economico en Argentina' (what is your opinion of the political and economic situation in Argentina?) While the second method left us in a great position to start a conversation, it has not yet really equipped us to understand any answers we might get!!
The ship made very good time until we reached the mouth of the River Plate (between Uruguay and Argentina.) Then the Captain received a message saying that there would not be a berth for us in Zarate for a further 7 days! So the anchor went down and there we sat for a week. If this had happened earlier in the voyage we might have been very disappointed, but as it was, we had established a good routine and it was not difficult to maintain the momentum, surrounded as we were were by blue skies and rocking gently on a calm sea. The Captain told us it costs the company 20,000 Euros per day to keep the ship at anchor and we saw dozens of ships at anchor at each of the ports we visited. One of the engineers told us he had been on a ship that was anchored off Singapore last year for two months. The mind boggles when we try to compute how much money is literally floating about on the oceans!
Our experience of the voyage has been very good. It was so relaxing and great to have that time to feel our way into the next stage of this adventure. We are now in Fray Bentos, the site of the oldest of Uruguay's meat processing factories. We are staying in a beautiful posada. In our next post we will write about our day in Buenos Aires.
Thank you to everyone who has kept in touch by text or email or by commenting on the blog. Your support and encouragement mean a great deal to us and we love to have news from you.
Liam and Naomi