Another day, another South Atlantic island; South Helena provided a restless crew with four hours of freedom before we began our voyage back home to England. One of my favourite things to ask my shipmates is what they are MOST looking forward to doing when they get off the ship. I ask this partly because I am curious but mostly because I think now is an acceptable time to start discussing ‘home’ and the real world again now that it’s not such a painful topic, given that we are only two weeks away from freedom. I am always surprised to hear that most people don’t really have an answer to my question, just bits and bobs here and there, tinkering around the house etc. I on the other hand have booked three holidays abroad, a UK camping trip and numerous days of fun and activities for me and my pals… what’s the point in working and earning if you can’t have a blow out when you’re off hey?
Making plans and having things to look forward to is an essential survival technique when the mundane strains of everyday life start wearing you down. Don’t get me wrong, life on the ship has been a pleasure compared to some of the nasty sea jobs I’ve endured before: BBQ’s on deck, sunbathing and swimming in our make-shift outdoor pool, poker and games nights, quizzes, ceremonies… hell we have even set up the projector outside with popcorn for alfresco cinema nights under the stars! But of course I am yearning for the things that are missing from my life; nature and greenery, hugs and kisses, hiking and of course hummus. But just as it was all getting a bit much what with the scientists and crew leaving, we had a little break from our claustrophobic surroundings and were granted four hours leave on St Helena.
A volcanic, tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean 4,000km from Rio De Janerio and 1,950km west of the Cunene River which marks the border between Namibia and Angola in Southern West Africa. St H. is part of the British Overseas Territory along with Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha (see previous posts about my trip to TDC!) and has a population of around 4,534. In 1815, the British government selected Saint Helena as the place of detention for Napoleon Bonaparte. He was taken to the island in October 1815. Napoleon stayed at the Briars pavilion on the grounds of the Balcombe family’s home until his permanent residence at Longwood House was completed in December 1815. Napoleon died there on 5 May 1821.
The island has a lot of history, and of course I was interested to learn about all that from the guide books we were given by the locals on our arrival; however I had more pressing matters to attend to, like finding a decent ice cream. WHICH you think would be easy on a tropical island, until you remember that fresh milk is a myth on islands such as this and that everything is made with condensed milk. However I was not to be deterred and after climbing the horrendously strenuous Jacob’s Ladder, which has a whopping 699 steps at a 41 degree angle, in the pouring rain, I began my search for something sweet. I most certainly found it, not an ice cream unfortunately but a pretty much 100% condensed milk ‘frappe’ which was absolutely disgusting but may just be one of the best things I’ve ever had, plus I figured I deserved it after an hour of stair-scaling. After a quick tour around the island, stopping outside the tourist attractions just for a quick peak (ignorantly none of us were too interested on paying to go in) I left the others to their mini bar crawl and went off for a little stroll around some tiny gardens and to pick up a few postcards.
We are currently somewhere in the middle of the ocean and Amanda and I (engineer on-board) have finally become ‘real’ sailors after our very messy crossing the line ceremony, keep an eye as my next post will feature some brilliantly grotesque pics of me not looking so hot covered in slops!