Day 146, Wed, Sept 27, 2000 – We had booked a
flight with Air Mauritius, but found on check-in that it was really a British
Airways flight. On board we had to
bid farewell to lilting Swahili and exotic African English accents and
reacquaint ourselves with the queen’s English (we hadn’t heard “cheerio”
in ages). The flight was 3
and a half hours, edging over Madagascar
(which we almost booked but couldn’t fit into the budget) and into Mauritius.
When we landed the environmental change was about as dramatic as it could
possibly be. The airport was new,
clean and orderly; the porters took “no thanks” for an answer; there were
three sparkling ATMs to choose from; the taxis were new; the road out of the
airport was the best we had seen since leaving Europe; and the scenery was a
brilliant tropical green. We
started to feel like we could really kick it here and get caught up on reading,
writing, and relaxation (for a change). We
drove from the Southeast corner of the island all the way to the Northwest, past
the capital and pulled into Le Grand Bleu Hotel in Trou aux Biches just as the
sun set orange and pink over the yellow palms and multi-colored bougainvillea.
We had the best hot bath in weeks and crashed in blissful silence.
Day 147, Thur, Sept 28, 2000 – After the hotel’s
breakfast, we wrote and watched Olympics. The
US is still ahead in medals, although the home team, Australia, is far better
per capita than any other nation. Unfortunately,
the US basketball “Dream Team” continues to show why everyone hates them
with their arrogant strutting, chest-thumping and yelling at opponents and
crowds. Fortunately, for every
Vince Carter, there is a Michael Johnson demonstrating the “class” element
of “world class” athlete.
We boarded a bus into the nearest town, Grand Baie. The town is very quaint and clean – almost new. It reminded us of parts of Mexican resorts like Cancun and Acapulco. We saw all types of people of the various cultures and backgrounds that have mixed in the Creole ménage of the country. Mauritius has one of the more colorful histories of colonial times, having changed hands four times before independence in 1968. Arab traders knew of the island in the 10th century, but did not settle there. Portugal’s Vasco Da Gama stopped by after his famous journey around Africa’s southern Cape in 1498, but the Portuguese did not settle until 1511, although half-heartedly. The Dutch arrived in 1598 and named it after a Dutch prince. They used it as a supply stop on the way to their “East Indies” colonies like Java. The colony never took off, so they abandoned the island in 1710, leaving behind a legacy of Java deer, wild boar, tobacco, and most importantly sugar cane – which continues to be Mauritius’ cash crop to this day. Unfortunately, they also eliminated the famous dodo bird and introduced slavery. The French then arrived from their nearby colony at Reunion Island and started settling in 1721, building the port facilities, clearing roads, and developing the sugar fields. By the turn of the century, it was a thriving colony, Port Louis was a free port and the island was the base for numerous pirates and mercenaries. Then the Napoleonic War in Europe was brought to the Indian Ocean and Britain won “Ile de France” and changed the name back to Mauritius. The British allowed the islanders to keep their French language, institutions and laws. Slaves were freed in 1835, being replaced by indentured servants from India and China to work the lucrative sugar cane fields. The colony thrived and Indians gained in numbers and political power once democratic ideas took hold after independence in 1968. Mauritius was declared a republic in 1982 and it now has a coalition government. It has been relatively stable since then, except for the international scandal that followed the arrest of three members of parliament caught smuggling heroin through Amsterdam in 1986. This varied history has created a rich cultural stew of Indians, Chinese, African, Creole, and a few rich Franco-Mauritian sugar barons. The mix brought incredible food, clothing and music including the famous infectious, rhythmic hip-swaying Sega dance originated by slaves. Language is also a ménage: French and English are official languages and it is said that local meetings are carried out in Creole, minutes are taken in English and discussions with the government are in French. The country prides itself on its history of tolerance and acceptance as these groups have lived and worked side-by-side for centuries with little violence. Hinduism dominates due to the majority of Indian-heritage residents, but in some areas a Catholic church will be a stone’s throw from a Hindu temple, Buddhist shrine, or Muslim Mosque. On the downside, the country's 1.1 million people results in one of the highest population densities in the world and it is still a relatively poor country, relying on the world sugar market, tourism, and export industries like textiles and footwear developed in the 1970’s.
In Grand Baie we went to a huge market called SuperU and
got groceries for a few days of self-catering.
We had lunch back at the hotel and I continued to write to try to catch
up except for taking a break to visit the beach at sunset.
We had homemade dinner of ham and cheese sandwiches, chips and beans and
watched the Olympics. It’s nice to act like we would if we were back home for a
change. After a long hot bath I
went out on the balcony for some air to cool off.
I came back in a few minutes later and the rest of the night went
something like this:
Naomi: what is it?
I opened the balcony doors wide and noticed lights coming
on and all the neighborhood dogs
barking like crazy. I used my hat to scare it out from behind the TV.
A little 2-inch green lizard scooted up the wall.
It fell when I waved at it and ran like crazy out the door and off the
balcony. The phone rang – it was
the security guard calling to see if everything is OK.
I can’t imagine what our neighbors are thinking. One hour later:
Naomi: I can’t sleep.
Day 148, Fri, Sept 29, 2000 – After such
excitement last night, we had to take a day to recover by relaxing at the pool
and beach. At breakfast Naomi claimed she
noticed the hotel staff whispering and pointing at us to gossip about last
night, but I maintained she was just being paranoid. Notwithstanding her
recent peaks in blood pressure and heart rate, the journey is starting to feel
like and old-fashioned low-stress vacation, which is great since that’s why we
scheduled this between the relative madness of Africa and India.
It is wonderful being in the tropics, with the sand, sun, laid-back culture,
even if the tropics also means some curious creatures.
It is wonderful being in the tropics, with the sand, sun, laid-back culture, even if the tropics also means some curious creatures.
We took advantage of the satellite TV and got caught up on
news via BBC. The good news:
Milosevic lost the election in Serbia. The
bad news: He will probably never
admit it to anyone, especially not the citizens of Serbia. The good news: no war in Israel today. The bad news: this is no thanks to Israeli Right-wing leader
Ariel Sharon, who went into the Temple Mount (where Jews are not allowed to
pray) to demonstrate Israeli control of the area. Of course his contingent of thousands of police would also
provoke an angry response from Palestinians.
More bad news: they did respond - with rocks, etc. and the Israeli police
countered with (thankfully) rubber bullets. Maybe this won’t be so relaxing after all.
Day 149, Sat, Sept 30, 2000 – More bad news: Four
Palestinians were killed by Israeli police
breaking up rock-throwing from temple mount at western wall prayers.
This was exactly the kind of escalation we feared after seeing Sharon’s
provocation. There is no telling
where this will lead. It seems
completely incongruous to be relaxing on a tropical island just weeks after
leaving the scene of these killings. Having been there, we hope for the best but
fear the worst – a never-ending cycle of retaliation.
Day 150, Sun, Oct. 1, 2000 – First there was the lizard incident, now we have the cockroach incident. I was just waking up from an incredibly vivid Larium-assisted dream state when I was startled by a blood-curdling scream from the bathroom. Naomi came bolting out dripping wet and not too happy. You can't even imaging the look on her face. We collided in the hallway and I went in with a rolled magazine at the ready. It was not needed. The offending creature was lying motionless in the bottom of the tub, a victim of either a reactionary swipe or death-by-decibel-level. It was quite a creature – about two inches long and a half inch wide. We had seen plenty of roaches in our time but of course they were not crawling up Naomi’s thigh.
flushing the critter, we went to breakfast to watch the Olympic finale.
It was a riot of silly tongue-in-cheek Australian celebrity icons like
Greg Norman, Elle McPherson, Paul Hogan, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The
music was great with Midnight Oil, INXS, Jimmy Barnes, and Men at Work, but
unfortunately ended with Kylie Minogue doing Dancing Queen from ABBA.
We went for a long walk north after sunset along the beach toward Grand Baie, crashing a couple of resorts to play pool and ping pong, and enjoying the famous Creole cooking and music for dinner. Afterward we packed for moving across the island tomorrow.
Day 151, Mon, Oct. 2, 2000 – We wanted to stay in a variety of places on the island to get to know it better. We first took the taxi to a Sony distribution center outside Port Louis, having been told on the phone that they could repair our video camera. Ha, ha. After waiting an hour, they said they don’t have the lens part. Continuing to Flic en Flac, a small beach community on the West coast, we checked into a hotel and went for lunch. By the time we got back, the room had been infiltrated by an army of ants. They had no other rooms, so we had to move to another hotel. We found a great room on the top floor of an apartment building two blocks from the beach for $15. We arranged a scuba dive for tomorrow and walked at sunset again. The beaches in Mauritius are beautiful, but curiously devoid of palm trees. Most are lined with the skinny casurina pine.
Bad news in some of our upcoming destinations: Thailand,
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam areas suffering through the worst flooding in over 30
years. We have even heard that
Angkor Wat was damaged. India not
only got some of the floods, but also encountered increased hostilities with
Pakistan this week when a Hindu terrorist bomb killed 16 people in Islamabad.
The violence in Israel is also continuing.
Day 152, Tues, Oct, 3, 2000 – Had a pretty good
scuba dive at “The Cannon” dive site. We
went about 16 meters along old coral, some dead from the warm “El Nino”
currents over the past few years. The
landscape was not as impressive as the animal life – in addition to standard
parrot, butterfly, sweetlips, oscars, etc. we saw
two huge green moray eels, a
snake, two lion fish, and a granddaddy lobster.
The site was named for a huge 16th century galleon cannon now
encrusted in corals. On the way back, I
admired the great variety of colorful wild flowers and picked a few to show to
Naomi. There was a light rain, so we stayed in, read, wrote, and
Day 153, Wed, Oct 4, 2000 – From Flic en’ Flac we caught a tour of the green and hilly South side of the island past extinct volcanoes and miles of sugar cane fields. We stopped at Trou Cerfs crater, Tamarind Falls, the Grand Basin Hindu pilgrimage site, and the beautiful Black River Gorge, which looked more like the Sierra Nevadas in California than a tropical island.
We headed to Chamarel Falls, the highest on the island at over 100 meters, with a very dramatic drop from a cliff. Near the falls is an incredible spot where volcanic activity has uncovered 7 colors of earth.
The tour concluded with a long drive along the coast and through 10-foot high cane fields. We had to ask harvesters the way, but Rochester Falls was worth the hassle as we watched local divers jump the cliffs for tips. It reminded us of my wilder and younger (and stupider) days cliff-diving in Hawaii.
After the tour we sat on the beach back home looking for shells at sunset. There is something innately gratifying about sitting in 6 inches of gentle tropical waves searching for shells, as if it satisfies some ancient hunter/gatherer urge - even if you don’t find anything. It has a calming effect like meditation. Maybe I should invite Arafat and Barak next time. We went for great Chinese dinner again and afterward hung out on the roof of our hotel with this great Swedish couple, Anders and Emma. They had a stash of cheap wine and we had some local rum, so we had our first mini-fiesta in a long time – it was great revisiting Bob Dylan, U2, Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, and The Allman Brothers again, even if it was on our weak little alarm clock speakers. Anders invited the crew of the boat he hired for fishing – one of the guys was named Jamie and it was his birthday today! To mark the occasion (and the wonderful coincidence), I gave him one of our most cherished CD’s – Bob Marley’s “Legend”. We couldn’t resist because he was a huge fan and said there are no Marley CDs available in Mauritius. You should have seen his face when we gave it to him. It was a great day all around.
Jamie: "You should enjoy life, act like brothers, and cause no harm"
Day 154, Thur, Oct. 5, 2000 – Slept in after last
night’s antics and had the last of our provisions (tuna sandwiches) since we
were moving to Port Louis today. We
had a last walk around town, said goodbye to Jamie and Stephan and shopped for
gifts. After a fairly green one-hour ride to Port Louis, we waited at the post
office to be picked up by our Servas host, Mincswar. We were going to stay with him for two days, but the airline
moved up our flight one day (good thing we called to confirm or they probably
wouldn’t have told us). We were a
little early, so Na stayed with our bags and I looked for an internet café
since we had to write a few people – especially Chad, who has been a lifesaver
for us watching the home front and telling us about irate bill-collectors.
On the way back, I went through the city markets, listening to the
various languages and music in the shops watching every color of
person imaginable. I also skirted the city park with huge, sprawling, sinewy banyan trees.
skipped lunch, so I stopped at good old Kentucky Fried Chicken for strips and
fries. We were a little embarrassed
when we had not yet finished our snack when Mincswar arrived.
He took us to his house, where we met his wife, Rambah, and his three
kids. He has been a very active
Servas member, having hosted dozens of travelers and attended the global
conferences. We talked about
politics (he is a teacher and municipal counselor), the economy, the Olympics
and the mandatory universal education system in Mauritius (with parents getting
punished for truancy!). After a
great vegetarian dinner, Rambah invited us to join her at their local Hindu
temple for a special ceremony marking the 8th day of the 9 day fast
in honor of Shiva’s wife, Parvati. It
was a real treat for us, since we are not Hindu, but are very curious.
The had chanting, music, prayers and offerings of food and flowers
representing the nine virtues Parvati extols.
Naomi got to wear an Indian dress borrowed from Rambah and we each
received the red “tikka “ dot
on our foreheads representing the enlightened third eye. As the ceremony wound
down, they handed out curd, sweet tea, and sweets to everyone.
It was a great time, especially the demonstration of community
Our three and a half hour flight on Air Seychelles was
uneventful, until the murmurs and movement from the Western crowd when we broke
through the clouds on descent and the dark blue ocean gave way to turquoise over
shallow reefs leading to green islands. We
make out the famous granite formations ringing the white beaches. Supposedly, no
other islands in the world are made of the stuff of continents.
Seychelles are therefore the oldest islands in the world. We have wanted
to visit them for years, ever since we first saw pictures of the beaches and read
the ravings of travel magazines. According
to the German travel magazine “Reise
and Priese”, six of the top twelve beaches in the world are in the country,
and no other country had more than one. Condé
Nast Traveler also ranked Seychelles as number one. Commercials and feature films have also been made here such as
“Castaway” with Oliver Reed, Roman Polanski’s “Pirates”, and the
somewhat more risqué “Emmanuelle in Paradise”.
Our decision was cemented when our good friends Tony and Marina
honeymooned here and gave a personal, first-hand recommendation.
We landed at the international airport on the Island of Mahé,
the largest of 115 islands and home of the capital city, Victoria and almost
half of the country’s population of 80,000. We took a bus into Victoria, then had a short hike to Sunrise
Guesthouse to plan the rest of our 10 days.
We walked into town, past the tiny clock tower (“Baby Ben”), through
the market area and looked for the boat jetty to Praslin Island tomorrow.
The town is very subdued – we saw much of the famed cultural and racial
mix on the streets, including children’s graffiti promoting unity near the
secondary school. Like Mauritius,
there is a Creole mixture of African, European, Indian, Chinese and Arab groups
generating nearly every shade, but compared to Mauritius the population is
relatively small and has not created a strain on resources.
The islands were initially settled by the French by way of Mauritius,
then changed hands many times during the Napoleonic wars as the governor, Queau
“Great Capitulator” de Quinssy, just raised the flag of the latest attackers
rather than risk a fight. The Brits
finally won out, increased the slave population and created a paradise 5-star
prison island for wayward rebels of the empire.
The crown colony was administered until independence in 1976, when the
real excitement started – the “tropical paradise” just four degrees South
of the equator
became the setting for sometimes sinister, sometimes comical cold war plots.
Political parties and loyalties were split between a “flamboyant
capitalist” (i.e. rightist), James Mancham, and a “champion of the people”
(i.e. leftist), Albert Rene. While President Mancham was in London, Rene gained control
via a bloodless coup. Mancham said
“it was no heroic deed – 25 people with sticks could seize control”.
Rene didn’t take any chances and employed brothers-in-arms from
Tanzania and North Korea to retain the power he seized.
Throughout the 80’s, several coups were attempted by exiled opponents
and supporters, including one plot foiled at the airport for which the South
African government agreed to pay Seychelles compensation.
Rene has been in power ever since, with Mancham serving as well. Politics nowadays consists of how to keep prices high enough
to keep out the riff-raff (i.e. the backpacking crowd) without pissing off other
tourists. This accounts for over
half of the country’s Gross National Product.
We look forward to adding a few dollars of our own over the next ten
days. After a walk around town, our
plans for the boat tomorrow were set and we went to bed with paradise dreams of
this unique place.
Day 156, Sat, Oct 7, 2000 – In the morning we had
our usual disappointing adventure with camera repair, then took a rambling bus
ride to the other side of the island just in time for one of those horrendous
tropical downpours that come up in just five minutes, last an hour and dump as
much water as a day-long thunderstorm in the States. We were trapped at a hotel for lunch, but we saw CNN to get
the highs (Milosevic resigns) and the lows (anything on the Middle East).
Apparently, Israelis abandoned a temple in Nablus as a test of Arafat’s
ability to protect it as promised. Of
course he couldn’t and it was destroyed by an angry mob.
The cycle continues.
To make our boat, we had to take a riotous bus in the rain
back to Victoria. By the time we boarded
the “Cat Coco” catamaran for Praslin, it was bright sunshine all the way.
From the boat, we could see the success of the country’s policy that no
building may be constructed taller than the surrounding palms.
At the pier, we took a bus with 40 other people – unfortunately there
were only 20 seats. Praslin is much
smaller and more laid-back than Mahé; and in keeping with the easy-going
Seychelloise temperament, everyone enjoyed the ride nonetheless.
We hiked a little from the bus stop with our backpacks past some
incredible (but supposedly harmless) spiders stringing webs over the road to
Villas de Mer, a tiny guesthouse with 6 cabanas.
Each one has a veranda (which I loved) and a family of lizards (which
Naomi didn’t). We shopped for
groceries and read by candlelight when the electricity went out as scheduled.
Day 157, Sun, Oct 8, 2000 – Explored the Valle de Mai, the one-and-only home of the giant “Coco de Mer” palm tree. These giants are the largest palms in the world, growing up to 100 feet in 400 years or so. After about 25 years, the female plant can grow nuts up to 60 pounds and the male’s catkin can reach three feet. The sheer size of the nuts generated the name, as islanders who found them washed up on their shores thought they could only come from trees growing from the bottom of the ocean. All of this was enough by itself to get the area declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s the shape of the nuts and catkins that really inflame the imagination. The nuts bear an uncanny resemblance to a woman’s pelvic region and the catkins look like giant… well, let’s just say you can quite easily tell the male palm from the female. The nut was said to be such an aphrodisiac that the Sultan of Maldives forbid anyone to have one besides him (on pain of death!). The locals got into the legend business too, saying that on full moon nights the male palms stalk through the jungle searching for available females. There is one legend that is apparently confirmed by fact – the nuts only fall to the ground at night. Good thing since they would do some serious damage to any trekkers unlucky to be on the bottom end of a falling 60-pound nut. We took a three-hour hike through the Valle that was like a walk through time. We could easily see how early settlers claimed it was the Garden of Eden itself. We were snapped out of our spell only by the sound of tourists laughing and pointing at the Coco De Mer catkins.
OK, guess which one of these parts is from the female plant and which is from the male plant?
Some fruit bats were gnawing away in the higher branches as we waited for the bus to Kerlan Beach for sunset. After dinner and a swim, something dawned on me. After weeks of comforting Naomi bolting hysterically whenever she saw a lizard, I’ve finally figured out what her issue is. It’s not so much what they look like (as she grudgingly admits that when they are standing still they are kinda cute) – but it’s their blazing fast speed. If lizards lumbered around as if were stoned like a giant land tortoise, she’d be fine, but what really freaks her out is the knowledge that a cute little green gecko could cover the 10 feet from the wall to her face before she could blink. I have to admit, I jump back a few feet myself when they make an unexpected sprint toward my feet. The latest episode resulted in a little missed sleep for both of us, although I am becoming an expert at chasing lizards out of the room with a hat and magazine. Hell, this is nothing after camping out in the African bush.
Day 158, Mon, Oct. 9, 2000 – This morning we moved
into the much cheaper and somewhat nicer guesthouse next door, Bon Accueil.
We have a sitting room, large hard bed, hot shower, full kitchen and even
a TV (although 5 channels show the same program and the English news lasts five
minutes each day). After trying in
vain again to find a bus running on schedule, we finally made it to the beach.
We spent the afternoon at what many travel writers and magazines “the
best beach in the world”. We have
been to many beaches, but the combination of sand, water, rocks and greenery at
Anse Lazio is perfect. The pure
white sand is powdery
and flour-soft, cushioning your feet like feathers as you walk into the water,
which is a crystal clear with a light turquoise tint.
The color looked fake like those hotel pools painted blue on the bottom
and it was so clean and clear you can see tide patterns in the sandy bottom and
fish swimming all around us. The
corners of the beach are littered with piles of huge weather-smoothed granite
boulders, strewn about as if some ancient giant had been playing with them.
A half-crescent of lush green casurina, banana-leaf, bamboo and palms
surround the sand – some of the palms leaning horizontally towards the sea as
if trying to get a better view of it all. We
lounged around, swam from end to end and climbed amongst the boulders for hours
trying to see all the amazing angles ourselves. Adding to Anse Lazio’s
mystique is its seclusion – it is on the sparsely populated far North of the
island, requiring a hike of one hour through an overgrown rocky path from where
the bus route ends on the West side. It takes you high in the mountains with views of the sea and
beaches. The route to Lazio also
includes many other smaller beaches and oases, depending on the tide.
We found our own private sanctuary amongst the rocks, but were soon
interrupted by a couple of German nudists, unabashedly taking photos of
to say, we decided to move on. We
met an octopus hunter with today’s catch – three huge specimens – each
about 4 feet long. He said life was
good in Seychelles, but not nearly as good as when he was young (sounds
familiar). A few hours, scraped
ankles and insect bites later, we had to head out.
We stayed so long, it was too late to hike back to the West side so we
had to take the bus back all the way around the island.
At the bus stop, a woman was knocking mangos from a tree with a long
stick and one of them rolled to our feet. We
tried to give it to her, but she insisted we have it.
We used or handy Swiss army knife and had a delicious snack with some
teenagers in Metallica and Snoop Doggy Dog T-shirts. The bus schedule is very
laid-back and waiting is standard and casual (“it is coming, mon – no
problem”), but when the bus arrives it runs like a bat out of hell.
The ride was incredible – a twisting, climbing, rolling ride on a
single-lane road with no guardrail bordering the sea.
Some hills were steeper than any other bus would ever attempt – the
sign said 20-degree grade, but we suspect they were a little off.
We can’t even describe the down side of the hill because we couldn’t
bear to watch. To paraphrase
“Risky Business”, sometimes you just have to close your eyes and say “what
the _ _ _ _”. The driver seemed
to be enjoying every minute; he only stopped laughing to himself long enough to
take a couple calls on his cell phone, which rang to the tune of the “William
Tell Overture”. He was a real
life advertisement for job satisfaction. He
did get serious a couple of times when he had to slam on the brakes and back up
to allow another bus to slip by the one lane width of the road.
We finally made it back 50 minutes later and showered off the day’s
accumulated sweat, salt, and sand. What
an amazing day.
Day 159, Tues, Oct. 10, 2000 – Had an incredible
scuba dive at white cap rock with our Italian dive master, Mossimmo.
We were down 45 minutes at 15 meters in some of the most amazing scenery
I’ve ever dived. The granite
boulders barely visible at the surface show their true size and shape
underwater, providing an eerie landscape of twists, turns and hiding places.
We swam through huge crevices and overhangs - quite different than
cruising over coral beds where most things are visible straight away. We were
surprised at every turn by huge schools of fish, including yellowtail, oscar,
wrasse, angels, and amazing schools of rays gliding gracefully around us. It was
a near-perfect example of why I love diving – not only the slow motion and
utter peace and quiet with just the sounds of breathing and air bubbles gliding
to the surface, but the immersion in a completely foreign and mysterious
environment where you never know what you will see from moment to moment. The
experience underwater, breathing and briefly living with the sea is really
difficult to describe to non-divers. One
diving friend said it was like trying to describe sex to a monk.
I’ve never tried the latter, but I know the difficulty of trying to
find the right words for the former. Sometimes
I think I was a fish in a previous life.
After the dive and ride back to the beach, we all had the
usual post-dive highs: flowers, animals, scenery, people (and even spiders) were
more beautiful than before. Like
Mauritius, we noticed the great variety of colorful blooms everywhere:
frangipani, orchids, hibiscus, gardenia and bougainvillea. After a great tuna
lunch, we took a bus to Mt. Plasir and walked through security at the enormous
new 5-star Lemuria Resort, past 18 holes of golf course and acres of manicured
grounds. The resort caused a lot of
controversy as many trees were cut down and beaches “confiscated” for the
project. It is in keeping with the
“higher end” tourist policy of the country and has created hundreds of jobs,
but it also upset many conservationists and local beachgoers. Of course we had no compunction about sneaking in and had a
blast climbing the rocks at Anse Kerlan and Petite Anse Kerlan, two more
that we had pretty much all to ourselves like a corny TV commercial.
On the resort side, a dozen waiters and attendants catered to a handful
of guests in cushy chairs. We faked
it long enough, I suppose, by staying in the crystal-clear water when they were
trying to figure out where we came from. Some
small stingrays were swimming around our ankles looking for food and one of the
pool boys speared one. A German
tourist jumped up from his chair to complain and we had to agree – especially
after swimming with their cousins this afternoon.
took the cue and left to hike for an hour to the isolated Anse Georgette, which
may be the most romantic beach of all, particularly at sunset.
By the time we got out of the Lemuria grounds, the buses had stopped
running so we had to take a taxi from the nearby Islander’s Hotel.
We talked to the owner for a while, a very nice woman of mixed descent
who had some choice words for the Lemuria crowd.
Words cannot adequately describe the sound heard throughout our neighborhood when Naomi saw this little creature on the door jamb above her head. Of course, the maid chuckled a little and said it was harmless. I believed her, but it was hours before Naomi could step outside again.
Day 160, Wed, Oct. 11, 2000 – We took a boat ride to Cousin Island, one of Seychelles’ many nature reserves. The specialty is endangered birds, land tortoises and hawksbill turtles. Being a bird sanctuary, the ground, trees and rocks were covered in guano. Our sandals and hats came in very handy, especially when Naomi took a direct hit on the head from a nesting tern. We had an amazing stroke of luck when we passed a beach just as an endangered hawksbill turtle was coming ashore to lay her eggs. She struggled to reach the safety of the bushes for 15 minutes – this was the only time she will spend on land in her life, besides her own birth. After the sunny boat ride back and lunch back home, we took bus to Anse Volbert, where the granite has a pink tint due to the high feldspar content. The bus ride home past Anse Consolation was much smoother than yesterday - maybe it was the driver. The sun was going down as we drove the west coast. It was Pacific Coast Highway in California except shorter, cleaner, with more palm trees and closer to the water. OK, maybe it’s nothing like PCH – it’s more beautiful. Took a sunset swim as the sun set hot and red in the west and the full moon rose cool white in the east. We watched the clouds gradually change colors – white, yellow, pink, orange, red, pink, gray, dark blue, and finally black – leaving the sky to the moon for another 12 hours. We had dinner out for a change at a Creole barbeque – mostly fish with spicy red sauce, shark chutney, and various incredible salads of papaya, coconut, breadfruit, and eggplant. By the time we walked back home along the beach, the moon had taken over - bathing the white sand in light. The contrast of our shadows in the sand was the same as in daylight. It reminds us of the moon’s power as a unifying symbol of our shared experience – who has not gazed upon it and thought wondrous things? Just as the sun touched everyone who was outside today (except Londoners, of course), everyone in the world who looks up tonight will see the same thing. That’s more exposure than The Backstreet Boys, Madonna, and Britney Spears combined. We just wonder how many people who share the view of the moon also share some of the same thoughts as well.
Day 161, Thur, Oct. 12, 2000 – Took another
incredible scuba dive with Rolf and Mossimmo near Cousin Island.
We spent about 45 minutes at 16 meters with more incredible scenery –
animal and mineral. Back at our
guesthouse we had a sandwich lunch and talked to the owner, a long-time
Seychelloise who has seen the incredible history of the past few decades.
hadn’t been able to get any news, but he told us that Barak gave Arafat an
ultimatum of war today. That’s
hard to believe, but we’re hoping it hasn’t come to that.
We got a ride to the boat
jetty in a pickup truck and took the 30 minute boat to La Digue, the third most
popular island in the country. If
Praslin is laid back, then La Digue is comatose.
There are just a handful of vehicles on the island and the primary means
of public transport is by ox cart. The
entire island travels by foot or bicycle. We
walked from the pier to a little
family-run guesthouse – no paperwork, no worries.
The family’s house was one of the prettiest on the island, on monsoon
stilts with the standard multiple doors and verandahs.
The standard relaxing
sunset beer preceded our dinner and writing.
Day 162, Fri, Oct. 13, 2000 – Walked to the dive
center at the ridiculously-priced Island Lodge. When we were on the boat, the dive master reminded us that it
was Friday the thirteenth so anything was possible – even shark attacks.
Great. The dive was at South
Mariana Island, 6-18 meters of granite towers, crevices, and overhangs teeming
with fish. As in Praslin, there
were the largest specimens of tropical fish I’d ever seen, but this dive added
a huge school of spotted eagle rays swimming all around us, and nine white-tip
sharks patrolling our group for food – it was really an incredible sight –
like the Ngorongoro of the undersea world.
What really made the difference is the granite, like nowhere else in the
world – especially when you are used to coral dives.
We never knew what was going to be behind the next boulder or in the next
fissure in the rocks. We do miss
the coral colors, though, which are way down since the entire world has suffered
the effects of the “El Nino” currents disrupting the normal temperatures of
vast areas of the ocean. In spite
of their hard exterior skeletons, corals are very delicate creatures inside and
cannot tolerate even slight temperature changes.
It will take years for the dead corals of the Indian Ocean and elsewhere
Afterwards we met an American couple again (Bill and
Leslie) staying at our hotel for lunch at Tarosa, a great little café near the
pier where you can watch the lazy life of the island go by.
rented bikes and went for a few hours around the north and east of the island,
stopping for photos and short hikes on the rocks.
We continued to the old L’Union copra factory and vanilla plantation,
complete with colonial cemetery and other ruins.
Naomi stopped at an internet café (the only on the island –
thankfully) while I continued to the nearby Anse Source Argent.
The tide was in, so I couldn’t walk very far, but the sunset was
Day 163, Sat, Oct. 14, 2000 -
Spent the morning playing with the family dogs, Royd and Tozo, before
meeting our Rastafarian boatman, Franky, for a snorkel trip to Coco Island.
Like other places, the coral was all dead, but the fish life was
incredible. It was odd seeing the
beautiful life of color amongst the sad gray coral graveyard.
We took crackers in a plastic bag, which made us quite popular with the
little sneaks – some of them followed us the whole two hours although the food
ran out in 15 minutes. After Coco,
Franky took the group to Felicite, where there were meant to be turtles amongst
the granite boulders. We swam 50
meters from the boat with everyone else, but after a while we noticed we were
the only ones out there. Apparently,
that was because everyone else was smarter than us – we were stuck in a rip
tide pulling us around the point of the island.
We struggled for a while before making it to the rocks. We tried to flag the boat, but they did not see us so we
hiked back to a reasonable distance from the boat and got back in the water.
Only when got back in the boat did we realize that what we heard as
“you should swim past the point of the Island” was really “you should NOT
swim past the point of the island”. We
think it’s funny now, but it was pretty scary when it happened.
We had to relax at Tarosa for lunch (which is becoming our regular hangout)
before biking to Grand Anse where a group of old Italian guys frolicked in the
rough surf like little kids while their wives begged them to come in and some
Rasta surfers rode as well as any Californian.
We continued to Petite Anse and Anse Coco, looking to find shells
(successful) and avoid snakes (not entirely successful).
Biking through the back roads was beautiful, amongst the stilted houses,
palm groves, and ox carts. Back at
home, we greeted the family (who always seem to be in the same spot on the back
porch) and had a relaxing sunset swim with Fantas in hand. For dinner we had an
incredible red snapper buffet at Chez Marzden.
The owner himself served us and a handful of others in bare feet as he
has been doing for decades. It was
the best meal we’d had in the country.
Day 164, Sun, Oct 15, 2000 – We picked up our bikes again (where they don’t even ask our name anymore) and hiked toward Anse Jacques, stopping at the fabulous Anse Source Argent. This may be our favorite beach merely due to the fun we have in pronouncing it. In my best French, which is, of course, the most tortured French imaginable, it comes out Ahnzz Soorzzz aazzhwaaa. In English it’s the Source of Silver, but no one knows how it got that name. It has other charms, as well, like the crystal water, white sand, the opportunity to walk out a hundred meters at low tide for a boats-eye view, and the largest repository yet of granite boulders. Incredible formations of granite naturally sculpted by thousands of years of wind, rain, and waves into fantastic curved, sensual shapes that Henry Moore could never imagine. A particularly friendly dog followed us from town the whole way, even on the bike. At the beach, we keep seeing the same German and French couples. It was overcast, which is a good thing because we were already disappointed that our still cameras were out of commission and we had to rely on the scratched lens of the video camera. We would love to be able to capture this beauty on film. After lunch at Tarosa (of course), we swam in the ocean with rain pelting the glassy surface with thousands of little splashes. The storm increased, loudly smacking the tin roofs of the houses. It was very peaceful sitting on our porch, reminding me of sitting in our garage watching rainstorms with my Dad when I was a kid. It was a pretty easy decision to return to Chez Marzden for dinner.
Like most other people we talked to in Seychelles, Jean
Day 165, Mon, Oct 16, 2000 – Woke to watch the ocean from our verandah. Cocks were crowing, dogs barking and the boats were getting ready for the day: fishermen loading tackle and bait and excursion boats loading snorkel gear and sodas. Couldn’t resist another dive, this time at South Maron Rocks. It was great fish once again, but the scenery was not nearly as spectacular as Mariana. We did, however, see a 6-foot bull shark – the first I had ever seen. We stopped by the beautiful Barbara Jenson Studio to see some of her paintings, but we did not want to spend the cash on one just now. By now, the folks at Tarosa know our favorite dishes, which is quite nice. Afterward we said sad goodbyes to the family at the hotel as well as Royd and Tozo. We’ve grown quite attached to Royd. It could be the way he follows us around like he’s known us all his life, or it could be because we’ve been leading a dog’s life for three days – just eating, sleeping, running around the island, making friends and poking in the sand to see what we can find (we did however refrain from marking our territory and sniffing other dogs). Before boarding the ferry for Praslin, we bought some souvenirs and wrote some post cards. There was a delay out of La Digue, so by the time we got to Praslin, we barely caught the Cat Coco to Mahé. It was great standing on the bow with the wind in our hair as we pulled in at sunset.
Day 166, Tues, Oct. 17, 2000 – We only stayed in Mahé one night to catch our plane to Mauritius (which we are really only returning to for our flight to Delhi). By the time we arrived in Mauritius, our holiday in paradise was over physically and shattered mentally when we saw the news out of Jerusalem for the first time in 5 days. Of course, it was horrible. We picked up Time, Newsweek and International Herald Tribune at the airport. The Time cover was particularly horrendous with a Palestinian holding up his bloodied hands to the cheers of the crowd. It was only a matter of time before an image was generated to match the televised killing of the 12-year old Palestinian boy. I stayed up all night writing the following to Time magazine. Naomi edited in the morning.
Dear Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Time’s cover photo provided the most horrific image in a
generation. However, the real
horror is that this was not an isolated incident that happened to be caught on
film. This most degrading form of
human tragedy occurs all over the world every day.
Time has reported extreme hatred and violence based on race, ethnicity,
nationality or religion in Jerusalem, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Indonesia, Fiji,
Sri Lanka, Congo, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Spain,
Chechnya, Kashmir, Germany, USA, and the former Yugoslavia in recent months.
Of course, many of these conflicts are very complicated, going back
generations, but they all share an underlying basis of fear and hatred.
As Charles Krauthammer hints at in his essay, hatred and intolerance are
learned concepts. What he failed to
mention is that virtually identical lessons are taught on both sides of most
conflicts, and the lessons are particularly well received (and dangerous) when
they are taught or supported by the clergy and other religious fanatics (for
example, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Shiek Hassan Yussef).
We are all born a blank slate. The Palestinian on your cover was not born lusting for
Israeli blood on his hands, just as the Israeli soldier was not born wanting to
kill a 12 year old Palestinian boy. The
lessons we’ve taught and the world we’ve laid at our children’s feet have
created an endless cycle of destruction that keeps politicians, diplomats, and
journalists in lucrative careers and the defense industry humming along
devouring our resources while children starve, people suffer and the planet
slowly dies. This cycle is made
painfully obvious in every news program and newsmagazine.
The question is, will your cover shock people into attacking the root
cause or will it just perpetuate further hatred? We are all responsible for the
state of the world, but who has the political and moral courage (and strength)
to break the cycle of hatred? There
are now over 6 billion of us - how many are “naïve” enough to believe that
humans are here for a higher purpose (or at the very least, have better things
to do with their time and energy)?
Some have hinted at better lessons to teach our children:
“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end
to mankind” – J.F. Kennedy
“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish
together as fools” – M.L. King, Jr.
“Some see things that are and ask why. I dream of
things that never were and ask why not” – R.F. Kennedy
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world
blind” – M.K. Gandhi
“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this
small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future.
And we are all mortal.” - J.F.
We traveled to Jerusalem in August and saw two small rays
of hope, both in the August 5th issue
of the Jerusalem Post. The first: a
24 year old Palestinian man who could not swim jumped into Lake Kinnert to save
a drowning Jewish boy. The boy survived, but the man did not.
The second: The Middle East
Children’s Association, which promotes cross-cultural education programs to
foster understanding is run by an Israeli whose own son was kidnapped and killed
by terrorists – he was quoted: “haven’t we all suffered enough?
Haven’t enough people died on both sides?
Will blaming each other for the past make a better future?”
Jamie Immel, DirectorOneWorldFound.org
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