Sunday, 6 January 2013

Cruise Part II

First glimpse of Madagascar  
It promised to be a sweltering hot day on the morning of the 31st when we cruised into the harbour of Madagascar’s Fort Dauphine (named after the 6 year old French prince who would later become Louis XIV, the Sun King of France).

View of Sinfonia - lens misted up due to high humidity
New harbour built by Rio Tinto

 I do not think I would have been able to get Hennie on deck that early if it was not that the competition of the company he works for had a big ilmenite mine there and was actually responsible for building the port where we would dock.  In the past passengers were ferried by means of dinghies to the shore, but thanks to Rio Tinto we could now disembark with dry feet on the newly built ore export port.

Bay of Galleons

Market in Fort Dauphin

Baguettes - previously a french colony

 Madagascar, though rich in biodiversity, is quite a poor country with approximately 90% of its 22 million inhabitants living on less than 2 dollars a day.  The arrival of the cruise boats is thus a big event and you could see the cars streaming to the port to do business as we were still trying to manoeuver into the single berth.  Lots of people became impromptu guides for the day. 

T-bone for anyone?

We did a quick tour of the city.  It was quite dilapidated with pot-holed streets and shacks abound.  We drove through a typical African market and it was amazing to see all the different types of grains and rice on offer.   

Village life

Mr Crocodile

King Julien - ring tail lemur


Afterwards we paid a visit to a botanical garden - a virtual Garden of Eden.  Beautiful!  The variety of fauna and flora was spectacular and also saw some of the flesh-eating plants that are endemic to the area.  We were lucky to see two different types of lemurs, out of the more than 100 different species, including King Julien XIII of the Madagascar Movie fame (ring tail lemur).  The beaches of southern Madagascar are not called the Cote d’Azur of the south for nothing.  The finest sand draws you to the clear blue warm water of the Indian Ocean at the Bay of the Galleons.  After a quick stop to buy vanilla pods we were on our way back to the boat for an afternoon nap and necessary "charging of the batteries" for the New Year's party(ies).

Get the party going

Bread sculptures

Food, glorious food

No, he has not yet drank anything!

Count-down to NY!
The New Year’s Eve party was a blast.  We sipped on our bottle of Pongraz, which by the way probable cost close to what you would be paying for a bottle of Dom or Veuve in France.  Since Madagascar is 1 hour ahead of South Africa, we celebrated Madagascar New Year at 24h00, then South African New Year at 01h00, but I am sad to report by the time they celebrated New Year in Italy (02h00) Hennie and I were safely tucked up in bed.

24h00 - 2013 in Madagascar
01h00 - 2013 in South Africa
Going back the ship was going much slower, and it was either that or some kind of tropical storm around Mauritius that caused the swells to grow bigger and everyone, sober or not, developing a silly little side-step.  Sleeping felt like being in a rocking chair.  Obviously the movement of the boat instantly turned the pool into a Lost City Wave pool to the utmost delight of the kids.  I think you would have been able to surf in the pool.  As the cruise director said, “we must be getting closer to South Africa, thus the increase in the number of potholes we are striking”.

Disembarkation was a picture of efficiency, and because we have booked a shuttle to the airport, we were issued light blue labels for our luggage, thus allowing us to be some of the first people off the ship.  By 08h00 the morning we were already at the airport, and met sis and family for brunch before catching the flight home!  It was fun, but “been there, done that!”.


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