It all began over a year ago, when we were chatting about the cruising industry and my Uncle's Mother-in-law mentioned that it was something that she always wanted to do but that she never had the chance. Two months later she had a stroke and while recovering, I promised her that the minute she was well enough, we would book a place on one of MSC's ships.
But from there on, it snowballed. My siblings were a part of the package but the MIL insisted that she wanted Mother to tag along. And mother invited her sister who left her karaoke mic at home. And one of their mutual (and absolutely crazy) friends tagged along, as well as one of my cousins etc. etc. Before we knew it, we were reading about the catastrophe that was the Concordia, and receiving several reports of potential cyclones and gale force winds on the east coast of Africa.
And one would think that all the bad news would make us reconsider setting sail off Durban's coastline into the unknown. But no, because we're women living on the edge. And if the worst possible outcome was death then I was prepared to die a happy woman because there are only five things that I really really love in this world, the ocean and sailing being two of them. And I was really looking forward to seeing this:
This was my third cruise... having already been to Barra Lodge in Mozambique 5 years ago and then to the Portuguese & Inhaca Islands a couple of years later... I was looking forward to visiting both Bazaruto and Benguera Islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago just off the coast of Mozambique.
But this trip was to be unlike any other. What I expected from it was completely different from the actual outcome. For one, our previous trips had been all about dancing and partying and I expected much of the same on this one. But alas, as it turned out, most of it revolved around introspection, reflection and men (more on that later).
Secondly, I barely saw the MIL, mother, my aunt, their friend etc. except at dinner time. They were quite content without us and I felt slightly relieved at not having to be completely responsible for them. And so began an epic journey...
In many ways - without anticipating it at all - the trip has changed a large part of me forever. I can't explain it, and I have trouble pinning it down myself, but something has definitely altered because the person I was when I left and the person I am now is significantly different. I had many little apostrophes and epiphanies and generally learnt more about the world and myself along the way...
1. Seeing that the flight is only 55 minutes long, I realised that it takes longer to drive to the bloody airport and to wait for the flight then it takes to actually get to Durban:
2. I learnt that it doesn't help to be reminded of impending doom. SA's Beeld newspaper headlines "SA couple swim for their lives" with a huge photo of the Costa Concordia that ran aground is displayed at the terminal exit, before boarding the plane:
3. I learnt that a solid 80% of the most dangerous people in the world are probably hungry people. After what felt like forever standing in queues and waiting, we finally boarded the ship in time for lunch:
4. I realised that beauty exists where we least expect it. This time overlooking Durban from one of the decks of the ship:
5. I learnt that people's definition of partying differs from individual to individual, but that all definitions includes hordes of people. Whether you're the life of the party or a wall flower, the more the merrier:
6. I realised that humans can adapt to (and eventually enjoy) anything... even hot, unbearably humid tropical weather and the constant swaying from side to side on the ship:
7. I learnt that I become completely enthralled and exhilarated by the wind and I thrive in the eye of the storm, even when everyone else is bunkering down in their cabins, seasick, and puking their guts out:
8. I learnt that it is quite possible to fall asleep during a Burlesque show, despite how good you may think the dancers are:
9. I realised that I'm no longer 23 years old and that even though I love dancing, clubbing is no longer my scene and I'll most likely be found snoozing in the corner by 12am:
10. I learnt that substance trumps style but that it never hurts to look good:
11. I realised the importance of starting with the salad - which was absolutely delicious for some reason:
12. I learnt that if you say 'no' to dessert, you won't know what you're missing out on:
13. I learnt that it's worth sitting out on deck even on the (hot) rainy, miserable days:
14. I learnt that on a cruise ship, the party never really ends, it's just transferred:
And then we had a solid day of howling winds, rough seas and rain, but that didn't really put a damper on the festivities or our spirits. If anything, we continued as usual. But then the next day, even though the weather was back to normal we weren't allowed to disembark the ship to go to the islands due to the ongoing rough waters and an anticipated storm that was approaching. So I never got to see this:
Which left me very disappointed, especially since it was one of the main reasons for the voyage in the first place. The Captain cited passenger safety as their main priority, especially after the Concordia debacle and the global spotlight on safety in the cruising industry. I was like look, I'm willing to die, just take me to shore...
But this was the closest I got:
So damn close, yet so far. I seriously contemplated jumping into the ocean because I figured one of two things would happen:
a) I'd make it to shore and frolick on the beach to my heart's content while someone would be dispatched to come fetch me and haul my ass back to the ship or,
b) Beautiful Rodrigo would come and save me and the beach would disappear into a distant memory as I gazed into his eyes.
See, win-win situation. But alas, Mother was on board which meant that (being the ex-pro swimmer she is) she would have in all likelihood jumped in too trying to save me, and I couldn't risk having my Mother:
a) in danger (although I doubt it) or,
b) ruin it for me.
15. And that's when I realised that sometimes, there are things in life that we can't control and we just have to accept it for what it is. It's not like we can go and fight with God for giving us bad weather now can we... best to just sit back, relax and be thankful for safety and comfort:
Besides, most of the time there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and life, as well as the party, always goes on:
To be continued...