A Travellerspoint blog

Subplots and continuation

For those of you interested, 2 days on a train via Mirando de Ebro, Hendaye and Paris followed, but I reached London pretty much without further incident, and rapidly re-enrolled into everything that that entailed.

For those of you who know, you will realise there is an slightly odd subplot to this tale.

For that all happened 6months ago, and for anybody reading this today, publishing day, may know - or be vaguely amused to know - that in about 4hours time, I am due to get off a ship. In Cape Town.

The interveening 6 months have been busy, hard work, and mostly at least vaguely interesting. But not one to be told here. For now, It's football time. That's another story. But hopefully one to be told a little bit more punctualy than this one, where the entries have remained on my laptop for 6months without actually being uploaded. As excuses go, it's not a good one, but (baring Sam), you are now all on the other side of the planet so can't hurt me. Or something like that.

Posted by Gelli 08:04 Comments (0)

WooHoo. After the hard bit, NOW i get stuck. Typical

And with that, I was in Spain, on dry (well, dry-ish) land, and sadly needing to leave fairly quickly.

But it was not that easy.

Spain, I rapidly discovered, was shut. Apparently both the previous day and next day were holidays in Spain, and with yesterday being a Sunday, today had been turned into one as well. And Spain was essentially a ghost country. Walking along the main street of Vigo at 11.30am, I saw one vehicle and one other pedestrian. Nothing was open, not even McDonalds, which did not bode well as I had no food or supplies. I was in a bit of a pickle.

I had gone to the railway station, planning to catch the 13.33, only to be rapidly laughed down. Attempts for 2 later trains also failed. Apparently, there was no space on any eastbound train today, full stop. Hmmmm. Buses, I thought? Erm. No. No space. Well, I thought, it might be more expensive but surely i can hire a car and drive to the border. Nope: none of the 3 rental offices were open either. Feck.

Eventually, I managed to get a ticket – the sole remaining ticket – Eastbound for the following day. It will be a long day of many changes and will delay me a while, but i have no choice. So i paid up, took the ticket and then went to find somewhere to stay. It was empty outside, overcast and gloomy, if not that cold. The one hotel whose name i had noted down weeks ago in case i did need to stay turned out to be full, so i started looking at random. The next two were also full. I decided there and then to double my budget and take the first bed I could find at 50euro or less. The next place offered me a holiday special price which turned out to be 198euro. Erm. Thanks but no thanks. At least for now. The next one was 20euros, and i accepted without even bothering to look at the room.

And with a ticket out and somewhere to stay, there was nothing for it except to explore the ghost town of Vigo. I went around the harbour and watched some of the unloading of the Green Cape from a distance, strolled around the Marina and wandered around the old town. Though much of the city is not desperately exciting, the old town at least still retains hints of its old seafaring past: Jules Verne had once visited, and Vigo is even mentioned in a couple of his books. The old parts are quite nice indeed, and even the main street is not too bad. I decided fairly early on that I would like to see the city again (a) on a nice sunny day and (b) open.

But I had also forgotten that this was Spain, and they do things different on holiday: by midday, cafes and restaurants started to open. Pockets of groups of tourists could be found around the old town and harbour. By 7pm, the town was full of wandering locals out taking a stroll, and every restaurant and cafe was packed. Now, i wouldn't starve through lack of open establishments: Just a lack of a reservation.

Yup, Welcome back to Europe.

Posted by Gelli 05:02 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

After all that, it's Vigo time

Finally, at 10am on the morning of my 18th day aboard, we were moored in the port at Vigo (yes, Vigo: 3 changes of port after and we eventually ended up right where we were scheduled in the first place) and I disembarked from the mv Green Cape. During my time aboard, I had never once felt bored – indeed, I could easily have used another 3 or 4 days to finish all the things I still wanted/needed to do - and I left with half a dozen books and plenty of films/tv shows that I had taken with me, still unread/unwatched.

I took my leave of the Captain and his crew, slightly unsteadily took a walk down the gangway and on to dry land for the first time in over two weeks. It has been the longest continuous period at sea in my life, though it hasn't really been all that long. Taking one last look back at the ship, I then disappeared through the harbour and out into the town with the aim of finding an unlikely railway station or a bus to either Pontevedra or Vigo.

In general terms, i disembark fit, refreshed and ready for London life and weather (yuk) again, though it is not all roses. Traveling with so many Poles had led to inevitable consequences, and I am pretty much now a raving alcoholic: On at least 3 occasions I woke up the day-after still horribly drunk. Also, my dodgy knees have really started to object a bit to the stairs: It is 9 flights to go down to the mess, and 6 to go to 'A' deck and hence outside. At an absolute minimum I have traversed 80 flights of stairs a day, and on some days at least double that. And in the last 2days, my jaw has really started to ache in what i suspect is probably my first problem/pain with wisdom teeth, and could cause me pain &/or bankruptcy in the next few weeks.

I am, however, looking forward to not eating potatoes for a few days: I have had potatoes in one form or another at least twice a day since I boarded, and have probably eaten more boiled potatoes on this voyage that in the preceding 5years combined. Apart from that, the vegetables that have appeared most often (excluding salad) are onions and sprouts.

The crew have been brilliant throughout, and as well as making sure we didn't sink/drown, have completely repainted much of the ship and overhauled pretty much everything that they could: wiring, ropes, floors and much else. For them, the journey continues as normal for another few days through the increasingly brutal looking Bay of Biscay (complete with major weather warnings) around to Hamburg and Rotterdam. There, several of the crew disembark on leave for a while. For the remainder, it is on to Antwerpen and then back down to warmer seas, climes and South Africa – several of those are already looking forward with great anticipation to the next passengers, embarking in Antwerpen: Two young English girls, and with at least one officers wife also joining for a voyage, the journey will doubtless be very different to my one.

Posted by Gelli 14:58 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Merin? Where the heck is Merin?!

After the constant supply of good news the previous evening, something had to give. I knew it, and the world knows it. And inevitably, it did. Around 1.30am Saturday morning, by now well out of range of the Canary Islands, news came through on the Sat-Com that we would be unable to call at Vigo.

This i discovered from the Captain over breakfast the following morning, and though disappointing it didn't really surprise me: Things had been going just a bit too smoothly. Something simply had to go wrong and I was well due for it. Apparently, from Monday, Vigo is on strike: whether it be the pilots, port authorities, dockers or somebody else was – and is - irrelevant to me, although I am praying that whoever it is do not extend their strike to other ports. Instead, he said, we would be calling at a port called Merin.

I've never heard of it.

Though I haven't spent much time in North West Spain – something i really want to rectify soon, as what I have seen is beautiful, unspoilt and friendly – my knowledge of the area is reasonable enough that I am at least aware of the major towns and ports, and not having any idea about Merin worried me for a bit. Whilst it didn't really matter from one sense – I would get off where the ship docked, regardless of name of the port – that corner of Spain is quite mountainous and public transport fairly sparse: I didn't want to end up in a tiny fishing port somewhere which would take me ages to get out of due to a lack of buses etc. Arriving in the wrong place at the wrong time would be easy for me to loose a day or two, just trying to get somewhere relevant. Though not excessive by any means, and still less than the average backpacker, I also have more stuff – and weight – than normal, as i have a pile of gifts, Christmas presents etc as well as my normal kit, and no inflatable animals to assist with any hitchhiking attempts.

Up on the bridge, i looked at the Finistere charts to discover that it wasn't necessarily all that bad. Merin is only a couple of minutes latitude further North than Vigo, and is close to somewhere that I do know, Pontevedra. This will change my plans and route slightly – I will probably have to get a bus to Pontevedra, followed by a train to either Vigo, or possibly Ourense, before i get onto my main route - which will delay me a few hours, but shouldn't be *that* bad and with admittedly a decent slice of luck, won't even affect the day of my arrival into London.

But that is still a long way off, and there is plenty of time and chance for things to change yet again.

Posted by Gelli 05:56 Archived in Spain Tagged boating Comments (0)

Hello land.

Eventually, inevitably, it slowly loomed out of the ocean. 'It' was Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Isles, and the first land I had seen in 10days. My cabin is on the wrong side, and the currents had been better than expected for a few hours, meaning my calculations were a bit off: I had noticed a blip of mobile phone signal, and thus gone outside on the other side of the ship to have a look expecting to see, maybe, a dot of land in the distance. Instead, I was slightly surprised to discover a very obvious land mass with mountains barely 20km or so away and also full mobile phone signal.

It was very strange.

Land is something I had just got used to not being there, and even though we were not stopping, here, suddenly, it was. For a couple of hours, it was great: a diversion from the monotony of sea, tempered with the sad knowledge that it was soon all at an end. I sent a few messages to let family and colleagues know that i was still alive and on course, and had a couple of happy phone calls.

I received SMS with wave after wave of good news: Everybody was OK; Maaret sounded really happy, had some very promising looking interviews for jobs and was also not sleeping on the streets as she had feared. News also came through that I have somewhere to live in London, which sounds really good and is in a pretty much ideal location, which also stops me living on streets or having to commute from – and live with – my parents. My work contract is still there and there is no problem with my delayed start (excepting i'll have to work hard and long to catch up missing weeks) as I had feared. And the World Cup draw had been made: Full details I don't know, though I heard enough to know that England scored a ridiculously easy looking group. More importantly, we didn't get them and our random tickets have scored some really tasty looking games – Portugal v Brazil being the stand out, but also with tickets to see Argentina and a couple of Dutch games. If all goes to plan/seeding, we'll get Argentina-Germany in the QF.

From what I had heard in those short few hours, I couldn't be happier. I watched Fuerteventura, and then, in the darkness, the lights of Lanzarote pass by: It felt slightly strange – it was Friday night in Lanzarote, a big tourist destination, and doubtless in the many lights we could see, thousands of locals and tourists would be out eating dinner and enjoying some drinks, entirely oblivious to us passing by, noted at most as a few lights in the distance of a passing cargo ship, of no interest to anybody. To us, the first land and contact with the outside world we had had for 10days, the contact was a bit more special.

Weather reports for the rest of our journey are grim, especially around Finistere, whilst in Northern Europe the winter seems to be in full flow and though I have no choice, not something I have a vast desire to hurry back to.

PC040428.jpg
It is a really bad photo, I know (most of mine are, as i'm sure you know by now) but these are the lights of Lanzarote, passed in the evening, and my first sight of land in 10 days

Posted by Gelli 19:54 Archived in Spain Tagged boating Comments (0)

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