Monday, 30 November 2009

The Voyage: Thursday November 26

We are in Gosier, Guadeloupe. We need to check out of the hotel at 11am, and go to the airport at 2pm. Our flight home is at 5pm.

It is still very hot and humid.
We pack, some people go for a final swim, and at 11am we sit down to finish off any leftovers.

We hand over our last letters to be posted from the Gosier post office, and discuss the difference between land and sea.

It's over.

We had a fantastic journey, and what you've been reading on the blog is definitely not all there is. We will all bore you to death with our stories, but I doubt any of them will really be able to explain to you how amazing it all was.
The eight of us have shared something no one can ever take away from us, and it is now up to us to turn it into a performance that will hopefully convey some of our experiences in a theatrical form of some sort.

The suitcase we will take into rehearsals contains:

24 stories from the sea
24 songs from the sea
8 disposable cameras with a variety of details from our journey
8 miniature performances related to the sea
40 letters (give our take) to people who stayed behind
thousands of photographs
hours of video footage

but most of all individual memories.

Each and every one of us has a collection of stories I didn't publish on this blog. Find whoever of us is nearest to you, buy them a beer (or a rum-based cocktail), and make them talk. It'll take a while before you get bored, and when you do, there are 7 others with different stories.

And if you have stories or songs from the sea, come and find us, we will buy you a beer or a rum-based cocktail and we will listen.

But don't worry, we won't linger and hold on to the past. There is no time for that.
At the moment the Song is on tour in Ostfold, and next week one part of NIE will play B61 in Stuttgart, while another part of NIE will start rehearsals for Around the World in 80 Days.

The Voyage: Wednesday November 25

Position: 16°13'46.26"N 61°32'37.15"W

4am. I wake up, Alex is already awake and walks into the cabin. 'Anything to see out there?' 'Oh yes'. I follow him outside and we see the lights of Guadeloupe in the distance.

It feels like an achievement, but it comes with a sense of sadness. We've reached out destination. And we'll have to get off this ship.
We stare into the distance for a while and go back to bed.

5.30am. We wake up to the feeling of the boat slowing to a halt. Pilot time. We climb up to the bridge deck and meet Kjell and Margit. The rest follow soon after.
We can smell land. The scent of Guadeloupe soil. There are bugs. I spot mosquitoes and red wasp-like bugs.

6.30am. We have docked at the port of Point-à-Pitre. The boat has stopped moving completely. The voyage is over. It's too early for breakfast so we make our own out of all the leftovers we have: Turkish coffee, biscuits and chocolate. We sit in the deckchairs and watch the bay. The sea. East. Where we came from. Doru walks past us and gestures us to follow him into the crane. But only two of us can come. Alex and Kjell follow him up.
Margit and I go up to the bridge deck to watch Alex move the crane. The crane needs to be lifted and swung out so they can get to the containers.

Let me go back two lines:


When they get back down we decide to go for breakfast early.

8am. We pack up the last bits and tidy up our rooms.

8.30am. We move our suitcases down to Deck A so Speedy and Mario can lower them to the quay.

8.45am. We walk down the steps and say our last goodbyes. It feels strange to know that the ship will continue its journey without us. First to Martinique, then back to Guadeloupe, and then across the Atlantic back to France. Marie-Louise will be there all the way. As will Yannick, Guilhem, Delphine, Virginie, François, Xavier, Adrian, Doru, Speedy, Mario and all our other new friends. But we won't. We'll be going home the fast way. The normal way. In a plane.

9am. Taxis take us out of the harbour, away from the Fort St. Louis. It is hot. It is humid. It is the Carribean.

9.30am. We get out of the taxis. I'm talking to the driver about our airport transfer tomorrow and suddenly get struck by the weirdest sensation: I'm on solid ground yet my body is swaying. But maybe it isn't. Maybe I just feel like it's swaying. The swaying stops as soon as I start walking into the hotel. We check in and get the things we need for a day on the island. Margit, Kjell, Alex and I rent a car together. As I sit down in the car rental office the swaying feeling comes back. The others feel it too. The rolling of the sea is still in our bodies.

10am. We have two rental cars and separate into two groups, each on our own path of discovery.

Margits space/time continuum is slightly different from everyone else's. Her colour coordination still functions, though.

Our car crosses Basse Terre and drops Alex of at the Jacques Cousteau diving site. The sand is black. Volcanic.

It is quite an experience to be so alert to every sound and smell. Birds, bugs, earth, rain, jungle.

Kjell, Margit and I leave Alex behind to go diving and we drive south. Along the way we find this cemetery.

We carry on to visit a coffee plantation in the middle of the jungle. The drive their is spectacular: a steep and winding road that feels like a rollercoaster.
It's still hot and humid. Very humid. The smallest effort makes us sweat.

Our entry ticket promises us a free juice, so we all go for the guava juice. It's fantastically fresh.

After having explored the plantation museum, we head into the jungle. Their is a tour group ahead of us, so we decide to take the path they don't take at the fork in the path.

Banana trees, tangerine trees, palm trees and coffee trees. We carry on deeper into the jungle. The path gets worse and worse. We are hoping to find the actual coffee plantation, which in our imagination is a field with just coffee.
After an hour or so we find a clearing with a shack in it. We pluck some tangerines straight off a tree and take a rest. No one knows we're here. There is no phone reception. In two hours it'll be too dark to see the path. Suddenly we hear something: it sounds like someone crying for help, but the sounds goes on for too long so we decide it must be an animal.
Two minutes later we hear a very loud grunting sound. There are a few seconds of fear, until we realise it's a donkey. But we can't see it because the jungle is too dense.

We retrace our steps and understand that we've been walking through the coffee plantation all along: the coffee trees are the thin trees that grow all around us in between the bigger palm trees and banana trees.

When we get back down we're starving and go in search for some food. But by this time it is 4pm and in Guadeloupe that means not the right time to eat.

So we drive back to the diving beach to pick up Alex and have some crêpes there.

Back at the hotel we meet the other guys and decide to join the troupes again for dinner.

We have an amazing dinner in downtown Gosier.
The walk there is even more amazing, but I'll leave that for when we meet and have a drink together. It involves clambering over a jetty with missing boards, falling over in a bush, edging along a cliff being blinded by a security light, smashing coconuts, being hopelessly stuck behind fences and locked gates, and climbing of the wall of an official looking building. We did this in two groups, independent of each other, and miraculously managed to climb over the same wall within 5 minutes of each other. It was supposed to be a shortcut. It wasn't.

The Voyage: Tuesday November 24

Position: 18°55'54.41"N 55°14'49.33"W

The clocks went back one last time and we are now on Guadeloupe time. GMT-4. I wake up at 7.30am and it is already very hot. Must be almost 30°.

There is swimming before and after breakfast, and some people worked on their last preparations for the final stories and replies to Sjón.
Margit started with her reply to her letter and special watch.
I have never worked with Margit before, and what I learnt from her during these two weeks is this: she has a special relationship with time. How Sjón could have known that is a mystery to me, but apparently he did. Whenever the clocks turned back an hour, Margit managed to wake up in the morning and look at the watch on her mobile phone to see 18.23. Or 21.06. She had no idea how that happened, and neither did we. Margit is her own time zone.

Anyway, we were all very curious how she would respond to the pocket watch full of loose cogs and handles.
As she started her mini performance, Mario walked in to collect our dirty cups and glasses. She invited him to stay and watch (in character). But Mario declined and walked off with the dirty dishes, only to come back 5 minutes later with Speedy. They both watched from the doorway and seemed to really enjoy it.

Margit's story inspired us to put a message into a balloon and let it go off the stern. It was great, until Doru came to warn us that they were working with liquid acid above our heads. So we left.

We discussed our plans for the 34 hours we'd spend in Guadeloupe. Tomorrow would be a day off, and on Wednesday we'd have a final meeting before flying home.

Staring out into the sea let us know we were getting closer to land. We spotted this sailboat (you'll have to click on the image to make it bigger, if not you won't see the sailboat).

We also saw this rainbow which seemed to come out of the bottom of the ship.

During lunch we were given back our passports, and the captain offered to organise taxi's for us.

After lunch Liz and Kjell showed us their Sjón mini-show, and at 4pm we went back to the bow to play music. The bow was a great discovery. It was the best place to see the sunset, and it was the quietest place on the ship.

Some of the crew came to find us to have a last chat with us. It was fantastic to see how they'd warmed to us. Xavier said he was very sad to see us leave. He also told us they would have a new passenger in Martinique, and she was bringing two horses and a pig. So Marie-Louise wouldn't be all alone on her way back over the Atlantic.

To our great amazement, the boat nearly stopped. We were early, so the captain had reduced the speed to 6 knots. He was using that time to teach some things to the cadets.
Kjell had disappeared from the bow because he had a sunstroke and couldn't be out in the sun for too long. An hour later the boat was brought back to full speed and Kjell came to join us as the sun was setting.

In case you'd missed that line:


Apparently the captain was on our floor looking for us, but could only find Kjell, so he took him up to the bridge, claiming he needed help. He gave Kjell the steering wheel (we were off autopilot), and gave him instructions to steer. He even took the camera and filmed Kjell sweating behind the wheel. Both the captain and Guilhem (second captain), were shouting instructions at Kjell, telling him where to look, mopping his brow, and generally taking the piss.

When we found out the whole thing had been filmed, we obviously wanted to see the evidence. We'd wait until after dinner, we had to pack our bags first. All of us looked at our winter gear with mixed feelings. We'd be needing that in a few days, and that seemed utterly surreal as we were sweating under the Carribean sun.

Over dinner the captain came to greet us and demanded to be invited to see the video of Kjell's steering work.
So at 8pm all the officers came in to laugh at Kjell. We all laughed along, but I for one was jealous I hadn't been there myself.

Marie-Louise joined us for the final stories - Tom, Kieran and Alex still owed us their last story.
Over the course of our passage we'd become friends with Marie-Louise. She proved to be an infinite source of knowledge, and she seemed happy to share it with us. One night she gave us a lecture on the origin of man. The map of the world in the living room had come in useful on many occasions.

By 10pm the work was done. We had a last drink and a last swim and went to bed early. We were meeting the pilot at 5.30am, and we all wanted to witness the sight of land.