Gqeberha: Harder for Me to Pronounce Than Port Elizabeth

Day 68, Grand World Voyage

Sunday, March 12, 2023; Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha, South Africa.

By the time I checked the Holland America excursions in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), South Africa, both non-safari day trips were sold out. For those who haven’t chosen to take overnight safaris, there are several day-trip safari options, including some from Port Elizabeth. We hear that some fellow cruisers who went to the Addo Elephant National Park saw lots of wildlife, but no elephants. You just never know. Other multi-day safari tours left from here, to rejoin us in Cape Town.

I was wait-listed for a penguin-viewing cruise, but no spots opened up. So, my sisters and I opted to take the free shuttle to a shopping mall. It is in a nicer area of town, across a major road from a strip of popular beaches.

We ran into many fellow passengers and crew members in the mall, along with lots of locals shopping on a Sunday afternoon. We spent most of our time in a grocery store, exploring the local brands and noticing the signs in Afrikaans.

My only purchase was some chocolates with Amarula fudge. Amarula is a South African cream liquor made from the fruit of the marula tree, which we saw everywhere on our safari. The liquor tastes a little like Bailey’s Irish Cream without the chocolate.

Our complementary shuttle bus made a second stop near the central business district, where there are a few museums, statues and other local landmarks. Like much of South Africa (and most other places), the difference in the “haves” and the “have nots” was evident – by the quality of construction, the many empty storefronts and the amount of trash in the streets. Elaine jumped off to look around, while Eloise and I returned to the ship. I needed more time to sort through the hundreds and hundreds of photos I took on the recent safari.

Port Elizabeth, or Gqeberh as it recently was renamed, is the largest city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. We had no idea how to pronounce the new name, which is derived “from the Xhosa and Southern Khoe name for the Baakens River that flows through the city,” according to Wikipedia. It’s one of those words here that incorporates a “click” into the pronunciation. Here is a YouTube pronunciation guide if you want to give it a try.

Typical Commercial Port

Yesterday’s weather seemed pleasant, but apparently it was just a bit too windy for us to enter the East London, South Africa, harbor. As it turns out, a ship as big as the Zuiderdam has never docked there, so I guess the weather has to be just about perfect to even try. It does make me wonder why Holland America would put the port on our itinerary. I guess it’s nice to have some new ports, especially for those who have sailed these waters before. I never mind another sea day.

Our current guest speaker on board is one of the best of the cruise so far. Daniel Silke is a political analyst specializing in South African and International Politics. He has shared a wealth of information about South Africa’s history and politics, educating us without getting too political. During my college years and the following decade, I was aware of the anti-apartheid protests and calls for South African divestment. But to be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the movement.

Of course, we all remember when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment and then elected president in South Africa’s first multiracial election in 1994. Silke has helped us dig deeper into the history, the reality of apartheid and the challenges the country faces still today.

I hate to admit it, but until I started cruising farther from home several years ago, I hadn’t given much thought to the impact of colonialism on the world. The more I travel, the more I realize there aren’t simple solutions to the issues that face us. But I am a lucky girl to be able to experience so much of the world – good and not so good.