I have heard of tales of distant lands. Of course, I believe you would have too, especially if you grew up in post-independence Nigeria, the era when the various Nigerians that had sojourned abroad returned back home. You will remember we had a name for them – Tokunbo!
The return leg of a trip that I took to the San Joaquin valley in 2005 brought me to San Fransisco. It was here that I had my first encounter with the waters of the Pacific. Then, in my trip logbook, I had noted my gratitude to God stating that despite having been raised in the back waters of the Atlantic, I had become one of the very few on this planet of ours to see the Pacific.
Fastrack to 2014. The time came for me to leave “home” for a season. I headed westward, back to my roots, across the Indian Ocean and to the Gulf of Guinea where the city of Lagos lies. That was not a most pleasant journey but a few months after, with a lot of enthusiasm I boarded the first of a couple of flights that will end up taking me to reconnect with family and friends.There was a lot of excitement in the air. It started with my daughter constantly counting down and reminding me of how many days we had to be aboard the Carnival Legend. As expected, the anticipated date arrived and we took an early morning flight across the continent to the East Coast to join the cruise. A short commute to the Overseas Passenger Terminal in a taxi landed us right next to the Legend, a ship of the Carnival Fleet. It was massive and at the same time awesome. Located between the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera house, it presented an opportunity to capture the amazing sites of the Sydney Harbor in pictures.
Having gone through Immigrations and Customs and was through with all the needed registration requirements, we were soon on the Tenth deck of this monster of a ship with its swimming pools and water slides. It was then it dawned on us, and probably more on me, that this was going to be an amazing holiday, second to none other that we’ve had as a family. The ship’s advertised departure time was 5pm on 6th December 2014. Given that we got into town early, we were able to settle into our rooms and explored the interior of the ship. I wandered from the Follies Lounge which provided a great settings for many of the live entertainment that we would be enjoying. From there I visited the Comedy Lounge on the first floor and then to the Casinos as well as the Truffles restaurant on the third floor. The ambience of these spots portrays that the owners of the ship have put a lot of thought and experience to designing this amazing vacation and they have left nothing out. It was an opportunity to spoil ourselves and indulge in this self gratification to say we survived!
I was soon lost in the belly of the ship and did not realize when the ship pulled out of the Sydney Harbor. By the time I made it to my state room on the fourth floor, I could only catch glimpses of the harbor. I felt cheated though more annoyed with myself for allowing such a wonderful opportunity to be missed. I consoled myself with the idea that I would do all I needed to do to remain awake and capture the ship’s arrival at the same harbor in 10 days time.
I was on the open deck on the 10th floor taking on the view of the rock formations that created the unique Sydney harbor and before I knew it, we were out in the open seas. Of course, this was the Pacific. Yea, the same Pacific waters that I had gotten introduced to its western shores in California in 2005. I am now at its Eastern shores and embarking on a voyage to discover the Pacific Islands. A trip akin to the one by Mungo Park through which he discovered River Niger. I beamed a smile and said to myself I would be re-writing history. The History of how Bimbo discovered the Pacific Islands. The history, unlike that of Mungo Park, will be replete with pictures and modern words such as “selfies”, a word that never existed in the English Dictionary at the time of his journey.
If the Ships Director of Entertainment, Eli, were to be believed, we were going to have so much fun. As per plan, we will be spending two full days at sea after which we will drop anchor at the Isle of Pines. The next day we would visit Noumea, the capital city of the French Overseas Territory of New Caledonia. Our next port of call would be Mare and then we would set sail for Port Villa, the Capital City of Vanuatu. Once we leave Vanuatu, we will sail on the open waters of the South Pacific for another three days before docking in Sidney. I looked forward to this journey as it would unfold itself.
I had my fears. It was not of Sea Pirates. Of course these are not the waters of the Caribbean Seas in the 18th century. Neither are these the waters of the Gulf of Guinea or the Arabian Sea in this 20th Century. It was not about if the ship will capsized. This ship wasn’t named the Titanic and neither had anyone lifted his heart against God that this ship is unsinkable. My fears were more about what Eli had said – on the average it was expected that a member of the cruise party put on 5 kilos within 10 days. I won’t be able to manage that given that my “Little Red Pumpkin” had started giving me names because of my developing pot belly. I was also afraid that I would get Sea Sick. Despite having been around the Atlantic Waters all my life, I have never been drawn close to it. I can count the number of times that I had been on a boat or small vessels on water.
As we make our ways North Eastwards, I looked around me and all I could see was water. Lots and lots of it. It was then that the full meaning of the Christian song “When all that surrounds me become like shadows in the light of you” dawned on me. I realized that all that surrounds me was water and the magnificent Carnival Legend had become infinitesimally inconsequential as far as the waters of the South Pacific were concerned. I also remembered the lost Malaysian Flight MH370. I now fully realized how daunting the challenge of finding the wreck of that plane is. Looking for a needle in an haystack will be an understatement of what is required to find this. When you are at sea, everything and everywhere look the same. There are no landmarks to serve as reference points. It doesn’t matter where you face – east looks much the same as any of North, South or West. All you see is water and per adventure if you are lucky enough, you may see in the distant horizon a container vessel or an oil tanker. Such sights create unnecessary excitements that reassure that you are not alone.
And the winds, I never considered them as a problem. I was to later realise that if you ignore them, you do so at your peril. A look at the ocean waves with its swellings caused by the violence of the winds will leave you in no doubts as to how powerful the winds are. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, the ship becomes unstable and you have to suddenly start mastering the act of self balancing your steps as you move around the ship. The instability of the ship being a direct cause of the force of the winds on the waters and the ship structure itself. These are apart from the needed adjustments that the Captain and his crew need to make to the ship’s course to assure we arrive at our destination and not become lost at sea.
Aboard the ship were different characters and I took the liberty to give them names from characters in my life experiences. There was the Undertaker and I am sure many watchers of Wrestling will remember this person. Our man, the Undertaker, on the cruise was a young teenager that goes around the ship without wearing shoes and is always dressed in black with a long tail coat. He had the appearance of the Devil himself though my kids tell me he was nice. We also had the Lilliputian family members. In this case, a man with his midget wife, midget mother in-law and midget three children. The wife is talkative and carries herself with gait in a way that suggests her saying that I know I am a midget and there ain’t anything you can do about it, Like me or fuck off, you can’t miss not noticing this family.
And Oh, my Macho Man. Captain Legend! A well built muscular six footer of a man fond of wearing muscle shirt and walking around in a manner that loudly says “Don’t mess with me and not with my adorable wife as well”. We also had the Psycho, a middle aged man that runs at anything and everything. There was Mama Mia, a fat teenager lady with a big weird tattoo on her right back which she liked showing to the whole world by keeping her top half back uncovered. Oh Yes, I can’t forget.
We were on International waters and as I would learn later, the cruise was also international. The Captain was Italian and we had onboard Ukrainian, Indians, Russians. Peruvians, Thais, Malaysians, Filipinos and then Indians again. It seems there were more Indians than any other nationality amongst the ship’s crew. There was also a Zimbabwean, the only African that was part of the cruise.
To be continued……