Friday, April 1, 2011

Seychelles – 7 degrees South - hot, hot, hot

We last visited the Seychelles in 1972 or 1973 and the islands are just as beautiful as we remember them. As we sailed in this morning the sun was rising and we passed a number of small islands fringed with green vegetation and looking absolutely pristine. Two tugs kept us company as we sailed in but didn’t seem to be doing anything very active.

The Seychelles are an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. They are far from any major continent (1000 miles from Mombasa); closest to Madagascar (600 miles away). Mahe is the largest island and is the one we visited – then and now – and Victoria is its capital, where we docked.

No indigenous people are known of although there is much talk of the use of the islands as a pirate base over centuries. In 1742 the French were the first to show an interest in occupying the area sending a group to check it out and then settlers followed in 1770. It was named after Louis XV s finance minister. The French kept up the tradition of piracy out of the Seychelles to harass British shipping during the Napoleonic wars. Mauritius and the Seychelles were ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Paris in 1814 after which Seychelles was a British colony that achieved independence in 1976. Politics here are a bit unstable and a group of mercenaries (southern African and British) tried at one point to stage a coup entering the country pretending to be a rugby team – they bumbled the whole thing and were all arrested best I can recall – was it Mad Mike Hoare et al?

Things have advanced substantially since I was last here – beautiful houses dot the mountains and there is a lovely looking (from a distance) hotel (?) at the very top of one of the major peaks. Mahe is a granite island – as you can see in the pics but others are coral and the beaches are pristine white soft sand with great snorkeling and scuba diving.

We were only here for the day – got off the ship at about 8am and it was already brutally hot. I was absolutely dripping with sweat (which is very unusual for me) all day. Since we had visited the beaches and the Botanical Gardens before we decided this time to go walkabout and strolled the 1 or so miles into Victoria from the port.

As we arrived at the center of town – identified by the Clock Tower – we bumped into a tour from the ship who were going to the marketplace, so we tagged along. They had the requisite 15 minutes to see the market but we were able to stay and explore a bit. The market is the center of shopping activity at the time of the day we were there. It is a covered building – very relaxed and friendly – with people selling their wares. Much is devoted to fruits and vegetables of all sorts but there are also long tables of freshly caught fish; also colorful clothes and souvenirs. 

Among the items on sale were some we could not identify (and probably didn’t want to know). It was very low key – you bought the fish, someone cleaned the fish and the birds ate what was discarded – all in proximity. Very democratic.

Wandered back into town from the market – noted as we did 39 years ago the diversity of the place – Indian stores next to Chinese. 

A statue to Queen Victoria that was here when we were has been replaced by an exact replica. 

Old Corrugated iron buildings next to the new. A Mosque (if you look carefully) next to Cof E and Catholic churches. People talk Creole with French and English as official languages.

Took pictures of some of the locals – selling stuff, school kids on a trip, a one-armed lady cleaning the sidewalk. Also some tourists – looking cool though hot and supporting the vegetation.

‘Money stretcher’ is needed after all this time at sea I think. It’s a good name for the place you do exchange.

Bought two bottles of SA plonk at the supermarket (KWV Roodeberg) and Biltong at another – so set for snackies for a while.

Across the way from the independence statue was the Seychelles Yacht Club with a beautiful catamaran from Gibraltar fitted with all mod cons including solar panels for power. You can see our ship in the background.

We walked back to it slowly – enjoyed the place (again) and the experience but not the heat perhaps. Aaah well, on we go. Maputo next