Being on a journey like this, feels like you are handed a gift every single morning, knowing that the day holds the possibility for greatness, with constantly finding ourselves in new locations with so much to see and explore. Today feels like a gift with a very odd shape, one of those gifts, which you almost feel too scared to get too excited about, just because it looks so much different to all the other square, perfectly shaped gifts. We are almost too scared to get our expectations up too high, seeing that we would have loved going to Petra with majority of the other ship guests today (as mentioned in our previous post http://www.yepaworld.com/2016/06/29/goodbye-dubai-hello-cruise-ship-abu-dhabi-muscat-oman/), but we are still looking forward though, to just finding a quite spot on a beach somewhere to spend our day.
Due to so many guests leaving the ship early for the outing to Petra, we can enjoy our breakfast in a much quieter environment than usual. At times it can get hectically busy on the breakfast deck, taking up to 15 minutes at times, finding all the delicacies you would like on your plate and working your way through the scurrying shipmates. This morning feels like pure bliss and we all agree… a perfect beginning to our day.
Once the day bag was packed and we had our beach gear ready, we head out to land, excited to find out what this day in Jordan has in store for us. Our first impression was good, as we got dropped off by the MSC shuttle, just outside the harbour at a tourist information centre.
Here we could see exactly where to find what and before long, found a Taxi to take us to a suitable beach about 15 minutes away. We were quite hesitant about how we would be welcomed by the locals and were utterly surprised by our taxi driver who was kind enough to let us borrow his mobile Wi-Fi modem for the day. We were extremely thankful for this, seeing that we were very eager to make contact with our family back home.
Before we knew it, we arrived at the Japanese Garden Beach, which in our Taxi driver’s opinion was the perfect spot to spend the day in the way we had planned.
Little did we know what awaited us? He introduced us to a friend of his, Belal, who is the owner of the shop on Japanese Garden Beach, where you can also hire snorkelling equipment from, and once being settled and comfortable, we arranged a suitable time to be fetched again later on.
We felt a little unsure as to what to expect when Belal showed us to the snorkelling equipment, as if we came to him especially to snorkel, when in actual fact we were not really planning to snorkel at all! Of course our boys where immediately super excited about the idea of snorkelling. I am sure that Belal must have sensed our uncertainty and offered to give us a short complimentary snorkelling tour to all the main snorkelling sites, after which we could decide whether we would like to do it for longer. A sure lesson we have learned on this tour so far, is that YOU HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE!! “Plans” constantly change and you can either adapt with a smile or make yourself and everyone else in the family miserable…we prefer the first mentioned. So it suddenly appeared as if snorkelling will be on the cards for the day.
Paul and Ernest geared up and “took the plunge” with Belal. Ernest is such an adventurous boy and he took to the snorkelling like a fish to water. Anric and I were waiting on the shore, while we skyped the family and showed them the beautiful surroundings (the wonder of technology).
Meanwhile, the snorkelling was going much better than anticipated and the “short” tour turned out to take over an hour until Paul and Ernest returned, with huge smiles covering their faces. I still remember my first time snorkelling in Mozambique 11 years ago so vividly and I was holding thumbs for my boy’s experience to be just as memorable for them and that there would not be any incidents to spoil their experience that would make them scared of snorkelling again. I was very pleased to see Ernest so ecstatic upon return and couldn’t wait to hear about his experience and he could not speak fast enough to tell us how awesome his experience was.
Paul seemed very impressed himself and I could see that he felt comfortable enough with the situation to let the family carry on snorkelling.
Belal was amazing and was kind enough to even take the camera, offering to take the photos, in order for Paul and Ernest to just enjoy the experience without having to concentrate on taking photos. We absolutely loved Belal’s passion for his job and we enjoy being in such positive, passionate company.
Now it was my and Anric’s turn and with Anric feeling extremely excited, he jumped into his gear like a pro, ready for action!
By this time Kelab, Belal’s uncle has joined us and Kelab was very eager to show me and Anric the area. Both of these gents have full time occupations as Chefs for a Big Hotel group and the other a Long-haul Driver, we only discovered later on. Both are however Diving Instructors and very accomplished divers, doing free dives of 15 and 25 meters respectively. Our snorkelling experience with Kelab was just as enjoyable and Kelab was extremely concerned with Anric’s wellbeing, which helped me tremendously in having a stress free time underwater. Kelab held Anric in his one arm the entire time, ensuring to not let him swallow water or get in contact with the dangers in these waters, like the many Lion Fish and poisonous corals, amongst others.
We had an amazing time and the splendour of the underwater world in Aqaba, is hard to define in words.
Upon our return, we thought of exploring the rest of Jordan a bit more, but Ernest played quick and before we knew it, he was snorkelling away with Belal. Without Paul by his side this time, he went to explore the waters in more detail. He had such incredible fun with Belal, even swimming underneath a passing Glass Bottom boat, waving at the guests on the boat, from underneath the water. He says he was smiling underwater, saying “all I could see was 1000 camera flashes of everyone on the boat taking photos of us”. Ernest was in his element and they stayed away for more than an hour. Being so close to the Dead Sea, it is almost effortless to float on these waters and he soon discovered you don’t really need to paddle, an idea he taught us later on. Which came in very handy when Kelab asked a short time later if Paul and Ernest would like to see something even better, we eagerly agreed and made peace with the fact that the rest of Jordan will always be there, but the time we are spending with our new friends was worth more than anything else we could see on that day.
We alerted our taxi driver to pick us up to take us back to the port around 4:45PM to just make it back on time and spend every second we still could, with these wonderful people.
We made it back to the ship with seconds to spare, and did not want it any other way! Listening to everyone on the ship talking about their day spent in Petra, we just smiled. Knowing that what we found was a gem! These people would remain in our thoughts as long as we live and we can’t wait to return to our friends in future to teach us how to dive and hopefully even take us to Petra. Bless these beautiful people. There was a silence amongst us for the rest of the day. We were exhausted, but more than that, we felt unbelievably blessed and at peace. Gosh…it’s moments like these, which make everything worthwhile!
Recalling some facts from school, we enter the Suez knowing that much of the Suez Canal journey would be at night much to our disappointment. We wake up early with the hope we could still catch some glimpses of the Suez. The water is a beautiful colour and we see much interesting sights on our travels thru it, knowing that any minute now, we would exit it and it would just be a distant memory.
Something must have not gone according to plan or our understanding of it was incorrect, but we spend most of the day on the deck catching up on Yepacation (Our word for home/road/hotel/boat/aeroplane etc. schooling) but mostly savouring the sights of this historical canal. Around 5pm we only exit the Suez and enter the Mediterranean Ocean. The water being calm and after a mellow day or two at sea, our moods upbeat as we await to see what will unfold next.
5PM, we arrive at Heraklion Crete Island Greece. It has long been a dream for Paul and me to be on a Greek Island, CHECK!!! The boys again chose the Kiddies Club over the outing to land, which we were happy to do. We were overly excited, as we were going on a date…alone…to a Greek Island….whoohoo!! This trip however was not just about fun, there were some contact to be made back home, a trip to the Pharmacy needed as the ship did not have what we needed to nurse the cold I had developed. We needed some stationary for the children’s work and some other supplies which were too pricey on-board. In the port we hopped onto a Café Wi-Fi and enjoyed a foamy Cappuccino as we caught up with family. As there was much to do and a serious walk ahead, we jumped right in as soon as we could. As the sun started to set and most of our list completed, we enjoyed the moment as we gazed upon the splendour of this beautiful Island and busy street markets.
Some Statue hopping was also in order,
but the most amazing experience for that day was watching some guys doing break dance and what seemed to be Hip Hop dancers perform on a porch. We stood there as if we had seen Noah climbing off the Ark in amazement. It was in a strange way sensational, but at the same time very peculiar to say the least…
Happy with our progress, we rushed back to the ship to fetch our boys from the kids club, job done!
The following day we arrived in Olympia, the site of the very first Olympic Games and home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World the Statue of Zeus.
The highlight for us was the bus ride as we were royally entertained by a charming Greek man, whom started playing Zorba the Greek as we started the 30 min bus ride to Olympia from the port. This was greeted by much enthusiasm by all on the bus and in no time it felt we were at Olympia.
We had a quick stroll around some of the gardens leading up to the site of Olympia, the boys begged us to rather skip the Monuments and Olympia as they wished to rather skip stones in a small river we had crossed to get to Olympia. Guess who won, AGAIN!!!
Soon we were collecting “gems” and skipping pebbles as we always did back home when the opportunity presented itself. What bliss for us all, Paul and the boys having fun with the stones and me happily catching the moment through the camera lens.
After building a few stick rafts, we moved up to a café overlooking Olympia, where they had Wi-Fi and cheap drinks for a change.
We spent about an hour chatting to everyone back home and we returned happily to the bus after a fun outing. Not what we came for, but nonetheless an enjoyable day out on land.
It is our second last full day on the ship and there is again a lot of washing to do. We were not prepared to pay to ship’s prices for our washing as it was astronomical to put it politely. We again took to the shower and the bathroom laundrette was open for business…again! Paul’s role in the whole affair is the “wringing” department. As we needed to pack the suitcases the following day as we arrive in Venice the day after, he had to do a proper job at squeezing every last drop of water from the freshly washed clothing. A job in which he did extremely well, so well indeed that he had won himself two proper blisters, one on each thumb for his efforts.
The children were also part of the fun as they lay on their beds laughing at Mom and Dad cracking jokes, as Mom thought we should turn the Giant Aircon Vent into a Tumble Dryer, which we promptly did. For those of you whom know of Suzelle, she would have been very proud of us at the moment. Paul grabbed the video camera and we did an impromptu shoot Suzelle Style as per Ernest’s request, which added the necessary “fun factor” to a less “fun” activity. The cousins especially liked the “gift video” from Ernest & Anric, seeing that they were the ones who introduced the boys to Suzelle in the first place.
Our final day was spent with a marathon like monster packing event. The children spent every moment they could saying their goodbyes to their friends they made at the Kiddies Club and we packed up a storm, trying to improve on the first attempt. We did this with some success, but also realised that we need to lighten our load of 10 bags (4 suitcases, 4 back packs, a medicine bag and a vanity case) weighing approximately 150kgs. For now there was nothing to do other than make it fit with some extras the children won in games including a giant teddy bear amongst others. After our final dinner and saying Ciao to new friends made on the ship, we were greeted by a letter on our door.
The letter stated we need to go to deck 6 at 7:45Am the next morning for a face to face interview regarding our Schengen Visa….. You can imagine what was going thru our minds. Paul went to see staff regarding the letter, who could not give him any straight answers. Not much sleep happened that night, as we were wondering what the problem was and why everything was so official that they deemed it fit to send us this letter on a letterhead. But more about what happened the next morning, in our next post…