New Kingston woman's round-the-world journey is 2/3 complete
Following are the latest writings from New Kingston resident Fran Faulkner chronicaling her 90-day journey around the world.
At this point we are two-thirds of the way through our voyage and sailing through the Malacca Strait, which divides Malaysia and Indonesia, toward Cochin, India. On deck, we enjoyed the mild air and relaxed on deck chairs. We had three days at sea to enjoy activities on ship, and we attended a series of lectures given by Dr. Denny Whitford from the University of Maryland. The first one was “Ocean Waves: From Cat’s Paw to Perfect Storm.” We learned how waves form, and how much the wind affects the water!
Later we were invited to join the headwaiter of our dining room on a tour of the ship’s galley. It was quite interesting to see the separate areas for cooking meat and vegetables, as well as the space for preparing desserts. We also met the chefs and other kitchen workers. That afternoon we visited the Canyon Ranch Salon to have our hair “cut and styled.” The next day we listened to another lecture by Dr. Whitford on “Tropical Cyclones and Monsoons,” which was also interesting, especially since we were sailing in tropical waters!
While at sea we also enjoyed some great stage shows – one in particular starred an excellent comedian, John Evans. A few days later, we laughed through a second performance by Mr. Evans. We docked at Cochin, India, on Wednesday, March 18 (ship’s time.) We had breakfast then readied ourselves for our “Backwater Cruise.” Out of respect for the country we were visiting, all passengers going ashore were asked to cover both shoulders and knees. The tour bus took us to the backwaters to board a small sight-seeing vessel. We proceeded to a community of houseboats lining both sides of the waterway. The owners live on them and/or rent them to vacationers. Our boat took us along the waterway past the houseboats where we had a view of workers harvesting rice in a rice paddy. The information from Sam, our Indian guide, made the tour most interesting!
When we docked at Dubai in the morning a few days later, we watched the welcoming group roll out two red carpets, one going to each gangway! Then musicians came to the dock to play drums and chant. We joined our shore excursion group at 8 a.m., and were taken by eight Toyota 4WD Land Cruisers toward the desert. We saw beautiful petunias lining the main highway! When our vehicles reached the dunes in the desert, the fun began! First, we stopped so the drivers could let some air out of the tires, then we drove into the desert sand and up on a high dune, then took a stomach-churning drop down, then across, then up again – what a ride! Later, we drove to a camel farm where we could photograph the animals and learn something about them. Then we drove to a complex where we could ride the camels, watch a belly dancer, smoke a water pipe, enjoy a barbecue luncheon, try sand boarding, or have a henna design painted on our hands or feet! Sandy decided to get the design painted on her hand. We didn’t ride on a camel because the sun was too hot. What a great day!
On returning to the ship and our cabin, we found a memo to all passengers regarding the fact that “we would soon be entering waters, largely reported by the media, where pirate attacks have occurred.” It continued to say that there was little or no danger because we have trained security staff aboard and we carry specialized deterrent equipment. It also mentioned that there was little or no chance that we would be attacked because of our large size and high speed.
After a day sailing the Arabian Sea, we docked at Salalah in Oman. It was a beautiful day for our shore excursion, and we left the dock in another Toyota four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser with our driver Amur. He told us that he already had two wives, but it was too expensive to take a third! Our first stop, after driving through the city of Salalah, was at the ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, which had been constructed of stone in the fourth century B.C. We enjoyed the beautiful view of the coastline from there, and we were very much impressed to see the remains of such an early structure! On the trip back to the ship, we drove through open country with a great view of the mountains, and we watched camels, goats, donkeys, and cattle grazing along the road.
We now have three days at sea before docking at Sukhna, Egypt, where we will take a shore excursion to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Then we will sail through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. The captain has just made an announcement that we are passing into the area of reported pirate attacks. He assured us that the QM2 will be closely monitored by naval ships in the area, the ship will be following a recommended safe corridor, there are trained security staff on board, and we carry specialized deterrent equipment. At noon we actually sighted the naval ship, which is escorting the QM2 through this area, and a helicopter was flying overhead.
Sandy and I have seen so many interesting places and learned a great deal on our various shore excursions. Viewing the Pyramids and the Sphinx was quite the experience – we have heard so much about them all our lives, but never believed that we would actually see them! We were taken to view a mastaba (funerary chamber), which was underground, and the walls were covered with figures and designs in relief. We were not able to take photos inside, so we purchased some postcards (of course, this is what they wanted us to do!) The first pyramid that we visited was the Step Pyramid at Saqqarah, built for King Zoser circa 3000 B.C. Then we drove to see the great Pyramids of Giza, which were built circa 2600 B.C. We made two or three stops there to take photos. They are truly impressive! We then went on to see the Sphinx, which was also a great sight. We were pleased to have good weather for taking pictures that day!
Sailing through the Suez Canal was also a great thrill. We saw several ships behind us and learned that it is necessary to travel through the canal in a convoy for safety. Between the ships and the desert scenery on each side, we had a great opportunity for photos. We stopped at a War Memorial to exchange pilots (each pilot can direct the ship’s course only halfway through the canal.)
Our next excursion began at Athens, Greece. Our bus took us through the city (we were amazed to see orange trees with fruit lining the city streets) and on to the Acropolis to view the Parthenon and other ancient structures. The Acropolis is high on a hill (we climbed 80 steps to reach it) and there have been several structures erected within its area. The Erectheion, which is much smaller than the Parthenon, dates back to the Bronze Age (it was completed in 395 B.C.) and has been restored to its original condition. The Parthenon, which is presently under restoration, was built circa 430 B.C. It celebrated Athena as a virgin goddess and the city’s protector. Athens’s statue (39 feet tall and constructed of ivory and gold plate) once occupied a place in the interior of the Parthenon. After enjoying the view and snapping several photos of the ancient structures, we descended the 80 steps and boarded our bus to return to the ship.