What an awesome 24 hours.
With apologies to my Dad who hates the word awesome, but in actual fact I find the incredible efficiency, energy and power of this place truly awe-inspiring. I warn you now, this post is filled with admiration for big heavy machinery, so if that’s not your thing, feel free to skip.
We chugged up the river Elbe in almost zero visibility – very thick fog, so that when we arrived it felt like we emerged straight out of the fog into the centre of the city.
Check out these videos of the arrival and docking, which was done efficiently with great precision as this enormous beast of a ship turned 360 degrees and then reverse parked neatly behind its Grimaldi sister, the Grande Nigeria.
I had to downgrade the video quality to be able to post it over a mobile network, but hopefully its watchable.
Arriving and Docking:
The Ramp coming down:
All night and this morning loading has been going on, containers being brought on the back of lorries and lifted straight up by enormous fixed cranes that are operated with extreme precision to stack the containers on the front of the ship as if they were lego. They load a container every couple of minutes.
While this is going on at the front, the ramp is down at the back and streams of brand new Audis, BMWs and other cars, covered in plastic, are being driven into the RORO part of the ship.
There is also quite a contingent of other vehicles, such as fire engines and construction vehicles. While they are going in, trucks are constantly back and forth unloading containers destined for Hamburg. It all works at very high speed, and being down in the lower decks with it all happening is actually quite scary.
We decided to venture out into Hamburg this morning – as much for the experience of finding out way through port as for anything we particularly needed. I figured of all the ports we will visit, you could count on Hamburg to be organized, efficient and safety conscious. This turned out to be true.
We made our way down to Deck 3, which is the deck level with the top of the main ramp, and found our friend Jake the safety officer (I think he is actually the 2nd mate, but we know him as the guy who terrified us with the safety briefing and one of the few crew we have had a prolonged conversation with). He told us how to get out, which involved risking life and limb on the ramp, crossing to a portacabin and pressing a red button which summoned a port shuttle. This turned up in a few minutes and took us to the gate at high speed. Everyone from truck drivers to brand-new-audi-drivers to the guys driving the loading machines move at top speed and its obvious why just wandering around port is forbidden.
The guy at the reception of the port called us a taxi and gave Lauren an apple, which she was polite enough to feign delight over and swiftly hide in her pocket. I made sure to get both the reception guy and the taxi driver to write down directions and address in German for our return – the ship will not wait if passengers are late.
Hamburg was just waking up at 9 and the shops weren’t yet open, so we were forced to take refuge from the cold in a coffee shop, where we pigged out on cake.
We then did some shopping – some chocolates for Christmas day for everyone, but also some ‘supplies’ such as Weetabix and ginger marmalade to make breakfast more interesting, some dried mango and some fresh veggies, and some tins of sweetcorn. We are both craving vegetables as they have not played a big part on the menu so far.
We also managed to get a compass for Lauren as this module she starts geometry, and some tracing paper for her art project this week, as well as a nice big mug for me as I am sick of drinking tea out of tiny cups. So all in all, a successful trip.
We wandered around the centre, including the very pleasant Christmas market which I had said I wasn’t bothered about visiting but which was actually lovely, with a much more relaxed vibe than Christmas shopping in the UK. Music playing, stalls selling food and crafts, kids hanging out and families doing bits of shopping, Christmas lights and decorations up. A nice taster of the city.
We soon had to make our way back as we had been told to be on board for 1pm. The taxi driver didn’t know exactly how to find it, but with the help of google maps and the bits of paper the previous taxi driver and reception had given us we had a relatively stress-free return journey, even having time for the Afghan driver to update us on how living in Germany is for Afghan refugees…. He couldn’t find the vehicle entrance so we ended up dodging under a barrier and walking through a massive truck park towards the gate.
We called the shuttle again and sped back to the GH, where I spent some time up on deck watching the loading and unloading. We should be off within the hour, and I want to get this posted, as its possibly our last good signal for a few days or weeks, depending on whether we catch one in Vigo.
This journey is absolutely awesome (sorry Dad!), and the GH already feels like coming home – going into the city was lovely but we were just as happy to get back here to our cabin and our lounge. It was expensive and a huge risk if it hadn’t worked out, but so far so good!!!
Oh, and someone had cleaned our room!!! Life is good.