Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Year a New Country

For the last couple of months we have really been on the move. The boat is now in South Africa. No more Australia, no more Indonesia. Mark did a 4-5 day crossing from Bali to Christmas Island, 18 days to Reunion Island (exactly the same length as our Pacific crossing), and another 10-11 days to Richards Bay South Africa. In the meantime MM and I have enjoyed/cursed many planes, trains, and automobiles. We've been on the move almost daily and it gets a little tiring.

One thing that has definitely fallen to the wayside is the blog. I'm going to try and get myself back on track. Somedays I sit and think I love writing a blog and others I totally dread it. The truth is that Mark is the one who wants the blog. I could probably careless. But I'm the one entrusted to keep some sort of written record of our adventures. Tonight I lay in bed with a beautifully written blog post streaming through my head but then I sit down at the computer and it's hard to get anything actually down. I guess that is the challenge for any writer and why I feel the blog nag at me constantly.

So what have we seen/done lately. Well... When Mark left Bali, MM and I stayed a few extra days and then headed for Perth, Australia. Luckily this is the route we took because the watermaker went down on Mark's crossing and I needed to track down parts on the one day I had in Perth before heading out to meet up with Mark in Christmas Island. Mark arrived the night before we flew in which turned out perfect because there is little as far as accommodations and restaurants are concerned on the island. What once had a booming casino/travel industry has since been shut down and there is little left on the island except mining and a refuge processing center, and by center I mean serious compound. We did get to see a small glimpse of the place and talk to one of the men who runs it. Amazing how many people some in on these crappy little boats trying to get to Australia. Many are not actually refugees and when they find out they won't be sent to Australia (AU has some other places to send them) many want to go home and Australia pays for them to go back.

While there wasn't much to do we did get to see some of the coolest crabs you've ever seen (something Christmas is known for), the blow holes, and most importantly we "met" Ceol Mor. It took us a while to realize that we had met them once before. We actually spent Thanksgiving with them, and a whole lot of other cruisers, in Opua, NZ two years ago. The funny thing is I did crafts with their kids and we both have a picture of me with them. Anyhow, it's become a nice friendship and Mark was able to SSB with them on the big Indian Ocean Jump.

Being that there wasn't much to see on the island and Mark feeling the end of the crossing season looming we only stayed a few days and then sent Mark out on the long passage on his own. Possibly the hardest part of the crossing for Mark was that his computer went down the day he left Christmas Island which meant no sailmail and very little ability to program while out at sea. He was able to get our back up computer up and running enough to do a little work but I had to feed him weather reports via the inReach (thank god we got that thing - it has been awesome to have) and I don't think he was ever really able to watch movies - that is a long crossing for no movies.

In the meantime, MM and I returned to Perth, Australia where we spent about three weeks constantly on the move. Mark made me promise I wouldn't just sit around in a hotel and we did not. We spent a day or two in Perth. Then we headed down south to Margaret River and the lighthouse and caves in the area. On the way we stopped at this really long pier (1nm). On the end was an under water viewing station. Pretty cool to be that far out and under the water to see the sea life. I who area was beautiful and fun but once again I found myself in Australian wine country and unable to have any. We returned a little north of Perth and visited a friend I made at my quilting conference back in October. She took us to one of the National Parks to see Kangaroo and Koalas and her parents made us an excellent meal. After this we visited the Pinnacles up north. These were awesome. I thought we would probably see just a few rocks sticking up but there were tons (definitely something to see). After this we swung through Perth and hit the Aquarium on our way out to Wave Rock. A neat place with little to do but a really nice walk that I was happy I could take because it was completely accessible with the stroller and while isolated was close enough to the roads I could get to them if needed. There was another cave not far from Wave Rock I decided to visit but was a little creeped out by the place. It was apparently the "home" of an aboriginal who used to eat children. There was no one else there so I quickly took a few shots and then got us back to the hotel. We stopped in Freemantle on our way back to Perth where we visited the prison. I had no idea what we were going to encounter when we got there. I though it was going to be much like Alcatraz and was except that this prison has been open until sometime in the 90s and some of the people imprisoned there are still alive (some in other prisons). It was quite the site. We took two of the available tours and it was definitely worth spending over half the day doing. Back in Perth we attending the Christmas Tree Lighting and festivities which was more of a cluster f* than anything else. There was no schedule, everything was all over, and in the end we saw very little except people standing around waiting for something to happen. A few days of errands and then we were off again.

We got to Reunion Island about four days before Mark. I'm not going to say much about Reunion except it really is at the bottom of my list of places I'd tell people to visit. I spent the four days trying to rent a car and no one would give one to me without an international drivers license. We have never had this problem before. What was annoying is that both Budget and Avis(?) corporate policies say that I don't need one if my license is in English but the counter clerks wouldn't take it anyways even though they spoke English and could read/understand it. What was even more annoying was that they said they would accept any EU license (german - yep, hungarian - yep, italian - yep but not my Enlish American license). I spent a large sum to get MM and myself to the port in the morning before Mark arrived and luckily there was a French cruising boat who saw me, MM, and my ridiculous mass of luggage get out of the cab. He offered to help get Mark tied up and got all the customs/immigration stuff squared away for us so. It took the Port Captain calling a rental car company to finally get one and Reunion is an Island you need to have a car on. Overall, there wasn't much to see.

I think if we could have done some serious hiking we may have liked it more but that really isn't in the cards for us right now with MM and me being pregnant. The saving grace of Reunion was that it had great Paragliding for Mark (mostly what we did) and I got a new washing machine! Mark patched ours up in Australia to keep it going because we couldn't find one the correct size and Reunion had a big selection all a perfect fit. After waiting for two weeks for Marks computer repair Mark headed out for the last jump to South Africa (he would have liked to have left sooner). MM and I stayed a few more days and then headed to South Africa ourselves.

I watched the weather and Marks progress very closely as that leg is one of the hardest. MM and I were happy to get to Richards Bay (via one night in Johannesburg) and meet up with some friends. Chris on Mooneshine and Lee on Jargo were both here when we arrived. I picked the right hotel for sure. I can walk right out the back and to the dock. South Africa really has some safety issues so I am constantly on alert. It was nice to know I had people close by if I needed anything. It also meant that I wouldn't have to go the entire time Mark was sailing without some adult conversation and people to do stuff with. I was happy to give people a lift to the mall and run errands because it gave me someone to go with me to the mall and grocery store...

Lee had met some school teachers while he was in Reunion Island who came the day after I got here so two cars full of us drove up to the game park. It was a good time but we repeated it after Mark arrived and it was definitely better. The first time we went it was neat to sit and try to see a cougar buried deep in the brush but Mark and I enjoyed watching MM realize there was a 10ft high giraffe 15ft away and zebras walking around our car. We enjoyed seeing the big animals that we new MM could really see and we could see the excitement and questions on his face. The three of us took a last minute impromptu trip on Christmas day down to Cape Town. After having a great Christmas morning watching MM open presents for the first time we shut down the boat and headed out to see Mark's friend Hannas who is from SA and just happened to be in town. We spent two great days out in the wine country and driving down to Cape Point. After Hannas left we hit Table Mountain and then decided we should get back to the boat and get Mark moving. One week later (two days ago) Mark headed out hoping to get around the Cape but it looks like he'll only make Port Elizabeth in a few days and then have to wait it out again. Ceol Mor showed up here in Richards Bay so Heather, her two sons (Will and Cal), MM, and I went on a boat ride to see hippos today and on Tuesday MM and I will hit the air again. Most likely to Port Elizabeth to meet up with Mark until he can move again.

This trip has definitely been a challenge. Packing and unpacking every few days. In and out of hotels. Lots of last minute reservations. So why do it this way? Why haven't I just gone home already? The #1 reason is that I don't want Mark to go that long without seeing MM and vice versa. As it is when I go home at the end of January for my last trimester it will be 1-2 months before Mark can return and that is a long time in a child's life. I also know that this isn't the easiest thing for Mark to do and having us standing on the dock when he gets in makes a huge difference (not to mention have a slip ready to go, getting spare parts, knowing where to get propane...) MM's first birthday is in two weeks (my god that went fast) and I was determined from the beginning that Mark would not miss that. It is much to important. I truly believe birthdays should be a big deal and do my best to make them that way even at sea. So I will shlep all the bags full of diapers, formula, food, clothes and toys, the car seat, and stroller to the airport a few more times to make it happen. By the end of the month I will head back to the states at which time I will have plenty of time to relax and a grandmother happy to occupy my child. Mark will continue on to the Caribbean and then up to the US but don't fear our journey is not only. We will sail the East Coast for a bit again and then make the jump to the Med where we will have a whole bunch of new adventures.

I'd love to add a few shots to this post but it doesn't appear that the connection is good enough for that so the written will have to do for now and hopefully at our next location I can work on it. Thanks to all of you who continue to read our blog and support us in all me do.

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