Thirty-six hours prior to landing in CapeTown saw us hit the roughest seas of the trip. The sick bags appeared on the hand rails again, and this time, both Don and I were feeling passing waves (excuse the pun) of seasickness. We visited the bridge to watch the huge swell and waves lash the ship, even up to the windows of deck 5, which, incidentally, was the deck we were staying on! Even this did not make me want to leave the ship for the next leg of our journey.
Our arrival into CapeTown was filled with mixed emotions…for me at least. If I’m honest, I have to say that I never had a desire to visit CapeTown, so for me we were leaving the best holiday we’d ever had, and if we were allowed to disembark, transitioning into a place I didn’t really want to be. Even Don, who had wanted to go there for years remarked how dry and brown Table Mountain looked. You seldom hear about it but South Africa’s rainfall levels have steadily decreased for decades. There had been a serious water shortage only the year before. Finally, they’d had enough rain to replenish some areas, but still nowhere near historic normal rainfall. We were glad we had made the decision to not stay the night in CapeTown, and especially glad since this is where coronavirus started in South Africa.
We knew that this part of the trip could be fraught with difficulty. Our travel agents had conferred on our part and decided we should stick with the bookings we had, and try to complete the last 6 days of our trip. We had been granted permission to dock the ship, but passengers would not be allowed to disembark until everyone’s temperature had been taken the evening of our arrival. This was more than had been allowed for a German ship that had arrived just days before us, at the same dock. The German ship had been flat out refused permission to allow passengers off, and further, had been told to go away! I had made friends with a German couple on our voyage and they later updated me with the fate of the German ship. It was eventually allowed to stay at the dock but the passengers were not allowed to leave until Germany sent charter flights to take the 2000 passengers home. It was a couple of weeks before that happened, apparently.
The next morning our health report was good. We had been confident it would be. We were just unsure if the authorities would see things the same way. Early that morning, we were allowed to leave Le Lyrial. As we departed we were handed a face mask, our names crossed off the passenger manifest, and the Captain…Our Captain, as always, was there to bid us bon voyage. We elbow bumped and I told him again how very much we had enjoyed the voyage. Even as I write this, there is a lump in my throat when I think of the sadness at leaving our safe bubble and the care of our dedicated Captain and crew. We walked down the ramp and onto the dock where dock workers in high vis vests and masks pointed us toward the immigration area. Already the world seemed impersonal and strange. Surprisingly, no one checked our immunisation documents, as we had been told they would. We were simply passed through to find our bags and exit outside to the transport area. It was all so ordinary and unceremonious, and scary.
After a short wait our transfer driver, Denzel, appeared with a very clean vehicle supplied with every kind of sanitiser known to humankind. We were soon to find out, sanitiser and soap was in plentiful supply in South Africa. Also plentiful were smiles and assistance. Once we had collected our rental car, we drove straight out of CapeTown to the town of Stellenbosch. It was only an hour’s drive and when we arrived at the B&B it wasn’t yet lunch time. Don was reeling from the effects of being at sea for most of the last three weeks, and by the next day I was feeling it too. We would suddenly be taken over by a woozy, disorienting feeling, as we tried to get our land legs back again.
Unsurprisingly, we were both exhausted. We spent the afternoon at the nearby botanic gardens, where we also had a very nice lunch. Later that afternoon we strolled through a very quiet Stellenbosch and learned the government had closed all the pubs and most wineries, and there was no sale of liquor allowed after 1pm…so if you wanted a Bloody Mary for breakfast you were fine, but something with dinner, not likely. The government had already begun its effort to discourage gatherings by limiting the sale of alcohol. There were a few exceptions, one of which we happened to find for dinner. It was a nervous time for everyone.
We had rented a small apartment in a Victorian era house that had been converted. It was so delightful and felt immediately like a safe place to be. We had a lovely little garden and a small kitchenette. However, there was little time to enjoy our oasis, we were already heading on to our next adventure the following day. And in our spare time we nervously watched the news headlines.