PREQUEL – A SLOW BOAT TO CAPE TOWN
We departed Cleveland for Lisbon on election day, uncertain what sort of America to expect on our return next May. Fortunately, America seems to have voted for “normal.” The ‘Humpty Trumpty right wing MAGA Republicans’ lost in every battleground state. The left wing ‘woke progressives’ likewise lost many of their seats, accounting for the Republican takeover of the House. Hope both sides have taken note and learned lessons. But I am not optimistic.
After the recent troubled years, ugly politics, and covid, a slow 24-day cruise to Cape Town down the West coast of Africa seemed what the doctor ordered to recharge our batteries. This Prequel to my Letters from Cape Town, illustrating just some of the interesting places we visited and a few highlights, is offered to precede our new season’s adventures in South Africa.
Our cruise started in Lisbon, a lovely city especially beautiful from the ship.
First stop was PORTIMÃO on the southwest tip of PORTUGAL, clearly still reeling from the Covid epidemic and economic slowdown.
After a day at sea, we arrived in the CANARY ISLANDS, first stop SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA. What a treat and what a feast for the eyes. The island is spectacularly beautiful, the main town picturesque and spotless. We immediately WhatsApped the family telling them we were looking for homes for all of us!
Our next island in the Canaries was TENERIFE, grown since our last visit in 2016, and now quite crowded, with traffic problems.
A nerve-wracking serpentine road into the volcanic mountains brought us into the World Heritage Site Biosphere. Flora changes dramatically as the elevation rises.
There are coves and quaint villages, but I could not imagine commuting from the main town on these serpentine and narrow roads with steep drop-offs and no protective rails, never mind at night.
We had a special Shabbat Service at sea on Friday November 18 with over 30 attendees from 4 continents all recognizing and singing the same melodies. Remarkable. Even more remarkable is that the service was led by an Israeli tenor, one of this week’s key entertainers, Shimi Goodman, with a voice matching some of the best Cantors we have heard. I asked him why he chose the commercial track, and he told me he was not religious, although a proud Israeli and Jew. I told him to watch the movie The Jazz Singer with the story of Al Jolson.
PORTO GRANDE (MINDELO BAY) in the CAPE VERDES has one striking feature, a slight resemblance to Cape Town. Look at the next photo – what do you think?
PRAIA, the largest city of CAPE VERDE, on the southern coast of Santiago Island, is largely poor and dry. There is a wealthier section, with fancy homes and apartments, but little landscaping and rather unattractive. Like so many of our previous stops the Chinese are here. They built a large University which in less than a year has 6000 students, and the first medical school. As with everything Chinese, it comes with strings attached, this time giving China fishing rights in the Cape Verdes. So it is likely that the source of 80% of the island’s economy, fishing, will soon face waters depleted of fish.
We had an excellent Thanksgiving Dinner on board, turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie, and the ship was appropriately decorated.
Shabbat service Friday 25th November was even better than the previous week. Not only had the word got out that Shimi would be conducting the service and so the crowd was larger, but we were treated to a wonderful rendering of My Yiddishe Mama as an after-service treat. Truly spoiled!
Even luckier for us, sitting alone the following day at sea, next to the piano in the Observation Lounge catching up with emails, Shimi and Chris Hamilton, the other key entertainer for the past week, a pianist in the Victor Borge style more classically based, suddenly arrived. “We are here to practice for tonight’s concert.” Together they are called TIANO and have performed worldwide. For the next hour Moira and I enjoyed a personal concert with them interacting with us between numbers, explaining the choice of music or asking for feedback. I told them I was on the Board of Cleveland Piano and would like to get them in concert for one of our Cleveland Piano events in 2024. They were thrilled. So were we.
Next stop was TAKORADI, GHANA. The best part was the smiling and friendly people in the huge marketplace.
We arrived in LOMÉ, TOGO, to temperatures close to 90 and humidity close to 100. Hot!
SAO TOME, an independent Portuguese speaking island on the Equator about 150 miles off the coast of Gabon, is the second smallest and second-least populous African sovereign state after Seychelles. Verdant, friendly, hot, and humid, clean, with happy looking people. We cancelled our cruise organized tour, found an English-speaking local taxi driver with a clean small SUV, and had a wonderful tour of a large part of the island. While not an island we would choose to live on like, for example, La Palma, it certainly warrants a visit.
I cannot leave the island of Sao Tome without documenting its history, about which I did not know. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, thousands fled to Portugal, legally or illegally. Families that could not afford the transborder poll tax, $20,000 in current money, had their children confiscated at the border, baptized, and turned into slaves. Of these, sometime between 1493 and 1496, 2000 aged 4 to 12 were placed on ships and sent to the uninhabited island of Sao Tome, one of Portugal’s newest colonies which they wanted to develop. It is reported that only 600 of the children survived the trip, and these were abandoned on the beach. Some were eaten by indigenous large lizards. Some children tried to retain a semblance of their Jewish heritage, but by the 18th century most of the Jewish presence had perished. Many had cohabited with African slaves, and most of these lighter skinned survivors had fled the island to Brazil. Currently there are apparently no practicing Jews on the island, but many of the fair-skinned citizens can have their Jewish ancestry traced back to those 600 Jewish children.
Our penultimate port was WALVIS BAY in NAMIBIA, and what a delight. Walvis Bay is a large port serving not only Namibia, but South Africa, Angola, and landlocked countries like Botswana. Everywhere is spotless, lovely homes, excellent roads, and we saw no slums or poverty like many of the previous ports visited. A 30-minute drive past giant sand dunes into the Namib desert took us to an area they call moonscape, and indeed the topography does resemble the moon or shots I have seen of the surface of Mars. From there we went to a welwitschia reserve, the only place in the world where these fossil trees survive in the wild. With roots and trunks underground to seek water, the leaves and flowers are all that appear on the surface.
Swakopmund, about 30 minutes’ drive from Walvis Bay is largely a vacation town, but wonderful late 19th early 20th century architecture, and also immaculate. There are miles of beach on the one side and large sand dunes on the other side of the road between the 2 towns and some wonderful beach home developments. All in all, with a low crime rate, wonderful climate, quick access to South Africa, we felt we could add Namibia as a good place to live in this crazy world. On the dark side, Namibia is the second largest uranium exporter, and the mines are owned by the Chinese. While the West was sleeping. China recolonized.
25 Days after leaving Lisbon we sailed into Table Bay and Cape Town appeared in all it’s glory. An American woman standing next to me on the upper deck watching our approach exclaimed “Wow, this looks like a real place!” That it is indeed, and more. Next month I will be back to reporting on the real Cape Town.
Lisbon, West Africa and Cape Town, November-December 2022
Wow Wulf quite the trip. You both look great in all your pandemic splendor. And I’m so glad that you are out and about enjoying the world. Also this photos are excellent!
Wulf and Moira open our eyes to the world in a manner that no one else can emulate.
They teach us history (Jewish experience) , geography, and how to enjoy meeting new people.
And we live through them.
We are blessed to have you in our lives.
We wan to wish you a HAPPY and HEALTHY NEW YEAR!!!
Love Jan and Isaac
What an amazing 24 days! Thank you for sharing such beautiful photos and the stories behind them. You both look wonderful and I’m sure are excited to be with your family again.
Wonderful trip for the both of you . Happy Holidays .
This letter is most eye pleasurable and informative! I am going to take the liberty of sharing it with our children(you know Brad and Heather from Break Fasts). Wishing both of you a Healthy Happy winter and year!
Gail and Elliott
What a magnificent letter, Wulf. We look and learn so much from you. Thank you for sharing with us. It’s a joy to see your photos, read your commentary and visualize you and Moira at sea, on your slow route back to your SA home.
Love, Jan and Bob
As always, your photos are outstanding and your description of each one is amazing and so informative. So happy that you both enjoyed yourselves, no doubt the best medicine for you guys.
Happy holidays, love from all of us.
Outstanding photos accompanied by short, precise traveler comments. We don’t know anyone who has taken a cruise like you and Moira just completed but we almost feel like we were sharing parts of it with you. Thank you – we look forward to your newsletters from Capetown and wherever else your day trips may take you and Moira.
Thanks Dr. Utian! Fantastic trip and I am sure you two enjoyed it.
Happy Holidays to you and Moira, please give her my regards!
Looking forward to your next newsletter!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel vicariously through your photos and descriptions .
Very well done
wonderful trip and your generosity of taking the time to write these detailed summaries. Much appreciate.
Best wishes for a healthy and delightful holiday session and New Year. ARNIE
Thank you for this extraordinary travel tale with such beautiful photos! The Canary Islands now have joined my already quite long travel “wish list”.
May 2023 be filled with health, joy, and more adventures!
Wuif and Moira what a fabulous trip. Thanks for sharing your photos thoughts and adventures. Felt like I was with you all the eayy. My passion is sailing and traveling and I managed both via your wonderful letter.
Well speak before 2023
Lots of love to you both sure the family happy to have you both back
Loved reading, in my pj’s and without leaving home, your splendid descriptions of traveling to SA.
Learned about so many new places. Thank you for taking us all along with you and Moi.
Have a wonderful winter!
We look forward to more newsletters…
Trudy (and Steven)
I am so very happy that you are adding chapters to your adventure book. Seems like slow was the perfect pace for this one. We are thinking of the two of you and happy you are safe and sound back in Capetown!
Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful photos and commentary. Always a treat. Wonderful trip for you and Moira.
Sending best wishes for a happy and healthy 2023.
Lots of love,
We are living vicariously through your travels. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos and documentation of your trip. We look forward to your next adventure. Happy holidays!
Thank you for sharing these exquisite pictures and notes about your journey!!
Many thanks and all the best wishes for a healthy and happy 2023 to you, Moira and your family.
What a joyful way to get home! Your pictures of places few have gone to are wonderful.
Enjoy the winter in health and peace.
Steven (and Trudy)
It is always such a pleasure reading about your travels, and seeing the beautiful photos. Look forward to reading about your Cape Town visit. You both look wonderful. Thanks for sharing. Barbara
Your writing and superb photos let us share your adventure so well.
Thank you for taking Phyllis and me along with you and Moira
Amazing trip. A pleasure to read and follow.
Incredible trip and absolutely magnificent pics say it all. You are indeed a wonderful story teller and photographer. We travelled all the way with you and so enjoyed your most interesting and detailed descriptions.
You both look great and we can just imagine how excited your family must have been, upon your arrival.
Cape Town of course looks as beautiful as ever. Enjoy, enjoy!
Much love to you and Moira,
Lucille & Philip
Thank you Wulf and Moira for the incredible tour! The original route of the Europeans, I believe indeed starting with the Hapsburg royalty of Portugal from the Atlantic Coast of Iberia to the Cape! What great experiences, incredible photos, thank you for sharing these.
And yes, democracy was literally defended in the US at this same time. Never a settled win, but one win of what we hope will be many.
Safe travels, and good health to all with a Happy New Year ahead!
Thanks very much, Wulf and Moira. Great photos of what looks like a wonderful trip.
Look forward to seeing you soon in Cape Town.
Arnie and Joceline
Wonderful and informative as always. You do not disappoint. Thanks so much for taking the time to share.
Sending love E and B