We had two sea days after leaving Madagascar before we arrived in Maputo, Mozambique on November 19. You may be wondering about the unusual title of this episode so this is what it means: The morning after we left Madagascar Mary tested positive for Covid and was quarantined in our room. On this trip a quarantine lasts for at least 5 days, starting on the day after you first test positive, so in reality about 6 days. If you test negative on the morning of the 6th day you are supposed to be sprung from your incarceration, but as you will see things don’t always go as anticipated.
Last Spring HAL ships were setting up separate corridors for quarantining covid patients that were off limits to other passengers and at least on some ships crew delivering food wore hazmat suits and left the food trays in the hall to be picked up by the occupants of the room after they left. Nothing so extreme on this cruise; Mary was quarantined in our regular room and we had a hard time convincing our normally attired room attendants not to bring the food inside as they normally do. And even though Rick was sharing a room with a quarantined person his movements about the ship were not restricted. We thought that was rather strange.
Rick was given a choice to remain with Mary or move to another room. He decided to stay but that was very short sighted and foolish. You can probably guess why, but more on that later.
Anyway, because of Mary’s quarantine neither of us left the ship in Maputo (although presumably they wouldn’t have objected if Rick had done so). Maputo is the capital and largest city in Mozambique, which was a Portuguese colony for many years. In fact, this city was originally called Lourenço Marques after a Portuguese ship captain who explored the area in 1544. They built a fort here in the late 18th century and the town grew around it. After a long revolutionary struggle the country achieved independence in 1975 and the next year the city’s name was changed to Maputo, possibly after a river in the area. After independence a destructive civil war raged into the 1990’s and they have been reconstructing ever since. Today it is a mix of newer high rise buildings and older buildings with more charm.
We had been to Maputo once before in 2018, but were only able to drive through the town on our way to Kruger National Park in South Africa. You can see that here:
While he stayed on the ship Rick went up to the top deck and took some photos. The ship was docked in Maputo’s large bay. To our left was the mile long bridge to the suburb of Katembe which formerly could be reached only by ferry. Opened for traffic in November, 2018 (about 10 months after our last visit here), this is the longest suspension bridge in Africa. It was built by the Chinese.
From the ship it was possible to see several of the local landmarks that we had planned to visit today, or at least portions of them. Probably the best known is the central railway station with its bronze dome and green and white paint. It opened in 1916 and was not, despite common belief, designed by Gustav Eiffel (although there is a house in this city that he did design). It is considered one of the dozen or so most beautiful train stations in the world. Standing in a traffic circle across Praça dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Square) from the front of the station is the Monument to the Great War, commemorating the soldiers who fell resisting the Germans during World War I. Since it was dedicated in 1935 while Mozambique was still a colony, it was most likely the Portuguese soldiers they had in mind rather than the Africans.
Independence Square is considered the center of Maputo, with the neo-classical City Hall located on its north edge. Built by the Portuguese and opened in 1947, it has been the seat of city government ever since. In a traffic circle in front of the building is a bronze statue of Samora Machel, Mozambique’s first president after independence. The statue is 30 ft tall and sits on a 9 foot high marble base. It was dedicated in 2011 on the 25th anniversary of Machel’s death in 1986 in an airplane crash. We understand it is somewhat controversial because some people think it doesn’t resemble Machel at all. Extending above the surrounding buildings to the east of the City Hall I could see the upper portion of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It opened in 1944 and is constructed of concrete.
Muslims make up about one fifth of the population of Mozambique. The tops of two mosques could be seen from the ship. Jumma Masjid Mosque was built around 1890 and is the oldest place of worship in the city. We don’t know the name of the mosque with the golden dome, possibly Masjid Takwa but more likely not. Still a pretty arresting sight.
The Maputo cruise port sits in the bay and is separate from the commercial port facilities. There is a small green painted gate into the port area. When we sailed away we passed the ferry terminal and dock, which had an interesting older building next to it that we couldn’t identify.
We sailed away back into the Indian Ocean. Although our itinerary took us south from here we had to sail a pretty long way to the northwest from the bay before the pilot left for his yellow boat to take him back to port. This course was marked by buoys so it must be mandatory, but we have no idea why this control extends so far from the port. It played out long enough, with no end in sight, that Rick finally went back down into the ship before the pilot left.
Durban, South Africa
The next morning, November 20, we were in Durban, South Africa. Of course we had canceled the excursion we had booked and stayed on the ship again. If I remember correctly, everyone had to leave the ship for a face to face passport check in the cruise terminal even if you were staying on the ship for the day. So Rick did that, but because of her quarantine the ship’s crew took care of checking in Mary’s passport.
On this day we also came to our senses and asked to have Rick moved to another room, which obviously would make it less likely that he would come down with Covid. They came and moved him to another window room, but one floor down where he had no view of the walking deck. This was not fun.
Rick went up to the top deck again to take pictures of what could be seen of Durban. Unlike in Maputo, however, he didn’t spot any particular sites of interest. So you will have to be satisfied with some panoramas of the city from the port.
Feeling completely well and with no restrictions on his movement about the ship, Rick decided to eat with our table mates in the main dining room for dinner. It was a good meal and everyone was glad to see him after several days in which he had eaten in his room out of caution. But later that night he began to feel ill and the next morning, you guessed it, he tested positive for Covid (while others at our table contracted Covid, we hope it wasn’t from us). So the medical staff decided to move him back into our regular room with Mary, who was still quarantined as well. Unfortunately, the medical staff failed to enter this move into their records properly so that the ship continued to think he was in the other room on the second deck for almost a week, until after his quarantine was over. A complication we sure didn’t need.
We left Durban for another two day sailing to Cape town.
Cape Town, South Africa
We arrived in Cape Town early on November 23. We had anticipated the two day stay in Cape Town to be a highlight of the voyage. It is a very interesting and beautiful place. We had tickets to see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, on the first day and had booked an excursion through the wine country on the second day. We had also planned for this to be our prime shopping port, as it was when we visited here during the 2018 world cruise on a double overnight stay after our safari in Kruger National Park. You can see that here:
We knew that Rick’s quarantine wouldn’t be over until after we left Cape Town but Mary was supposed to be tested early in the morning of November 23 and released if she tested negative. This meant that at least Mary would be able to enjoy all that we had planned. But when the time for her test arrived she received a phone call from the medical staff instead to inform her that the South African authorities had decreed that no Covid testing could be done while the ship was in their port. Sounds strange that they would care about administering a test on the ship rather than just about whether a person disembarked in their port. But the result was that both of us would continue to be quarantined in our cabin throughout the stay in Cape Town.
We were sorry to miss Maputo and Durban, but missing Cape Town was a serious disappointment to us. This lengthy quarantine in a small room with one window was the first time we had felt that lacking a veranda to enable us at least to step outside made a big difference in our experience on board. We have only one picture from Cape Town, a pathetic partial view of Table Mountain over a port building from our window.
So, as we finally sailed away from Cape Town toward our next stop in Namibia, the Covid quarantine continued. Stay tuned.