Richard’s Bay, South Africa
When I left you, we were heading south towards this port on the Natal coast of South Africa. I had last been here on a bulk-carrier, loading 100,000 tonnes of coal for Europe, now I was appearing on a luxury cruise liner, how times change. The good news is that we found that current, once we hit it, we started flying along and were able to reduce the number of diesel generators we needed. That was the good news; the bad news was that the ‘south-wester’ I mentioned came up the coast like a bat out of hell and the early morning found us in 35 to 40 knot winds and driving rain showers; unfortunate, because the direction of channel leading into the harbour resulted in this wind being on the beam as we went in. Hmmmnnn…
There were 20 or so ships at anchor outside, all waiting for a ‘slot’ to berth, all riding awkwardly in the rough sea and wind. I hove-to off the port while we assessed the situation and also waited for the pilot. Distances inside the harbour were checked and re-checked again, speed going in was crucial, speed would offset some of the wind’s effect, but being able to stop, once in, had to be taken into account too.
The pilot boards by helicopter here and soon it appeared out of the rain, it circled once and then the pilot brought it in, hovering over the foredeck, winched the pilot down and was gone in a thrice; neat work in such conditions.
While we had been waiting for him, I had decided that we could make the entrance channel and still have enough distance to slow down before the berth; additionally, the land would provide some lee too and so, once the pilot was on the bridge, I quickly increased speed and we made for the entrance. The channel is 300 meters wide, this made it easier because with the wind’s effect we were ‘crabbing’ in, the width gave us plenty of room to make the allowance.
Sure enough, the land to our south gave us some shelter and the wind came down to around 25-30 knots, much more manageable, but not ideal. Two tugs were leaving their berth and coming out to meet us in the basin and we made them fast on the port side, now increasing my options should I need them. Past a bulk carrier and in towards the berth and, as expected, all I had to do was balance the Amsterdam, letting the wind push us on and me using power to ensure it was not too fast…….40 minutes after entering, all fast and time for a coffee…
We had, for several days, been anticipating with relish the opportunity to visit a Game reserve near St. Lucia to the north. Many guests were going, too, however there was a waiting list for the tour and thus I had booked privately. Four of us set off, driving rain and wind towards the Hluhluwe iMfolozii Park; established in 1895, it holds within its boundaries a plethora of animals that one can only dream of and, importantly, in their natural habitat, free to roam wherever and whenever they cared to.
An hour’s drive and we arrived, transferring to a 4-wheel drive, open top van; it’s still windy even here, however the rain is a drizzle and not the downpour of the coast; it is cold too, something I hadn’t counted on. Nothing can curb our enthusiasm or dampen our spirits and we set off in search of anything on 4 legs and in particular, the ‘big ones’: lion, elephant, rhino, leopard. I was armed with my 300mm telephoto lens (and wished for a 600), we were not disappointed, I could not believe the game we saw — lions, a pride of them, just crossing the road in front of us, and elephant, 2 in fact, one a beautiful bull on the other side of a river and another, smack bang in the middle of the road, ambling along without a care in the world, with a traffic jam behind him and cars frantically reversing as ‘he’ approached towards them. I was in awe of the game we saw: rhino, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, zebra, giraffe….the list goes on. I will leave you with the photos and I will leave with memories of one of the most wonderful days that one can imagine.