Thursday, March 20, 2014

Report # 81 Victoria, Seychelles March 20, 2014 Thursday Day Two Chance of rain, 86 degrees

Finally docked on the port side

Amsterdam's gangway
Our window got washed, but needs paint
Now that is funny......that is the first time we happened to notice that rain was in the forecast for today. When we got up this morning, the skies were partly cloudy as the newsletter says every day. In fact, a breeze was blowing, and it looked like the sun was coming out, promising blue skies. 

Pilot boat not busy

Clouds are gone, and sun is coming out
Because of that, we never even considered taking the umbrellas with us. However, we do notice that the local ladies use an umbrella for shade, which is smart.

Souvenier stands
Mature coco de mer with byproducts
If we planned our day right, we could eat breakfast, then spend the rest of the day at the Botanical Gardens and exploring downtown. Oh yeah, and going out to lunch, of course. There was a shuttle running today, complimentary from the port authority, that took the guests to the center of town. Since we would be heading in the opposite direction, we walked to the gardens instead. First, we checked to see if more maps had been provided by the townsfolk, and indeed they were. Some travel agencies must have included brochures from their businesses also. They were all full of most useful information about the Seychelles.

One main roundabout
Here are some of the facts we learned. The Seychelles are comprised of 115 granite and coral islands .Some are sanctuaries for rarest species of flora and fauna found on earth. The most notorious of these rare plants is the coco de mer, the unique palm tree that has the largest set of coconuts that exist. 

Famous coco de mer palm tree with coconuts
The Latin name for this indigenous palm is Lodoicea maldivica, but it is the shape of the coconuts that have been equated with magical qualities as well as a humourous side for what they resemble. There is one specimen planted in the Botanical Gardens, planted by the Duke of Edinurgh when the park was created in the early 1900's. It has had as many as 70 nuts growing on it at one time. They are so large and heavy, it is not recommended to stand under those palm trees.

Story of the coco de mer
Extra large coconuts
A marker for a newly-planted coconut tree
Another tree planted in 1956
The islands were settled in the 18th century by the French. Eventually, the British took control, and held it until recently in 1976, when they gained their independence from England. One leftover symbol of British occupation is the silver clocktower in the center of town here in Victoria, on the island of Mahe. Named Little Ben, it was erected to celebrate the Seychelles as a British colony in 1903. 

Clocktower right outside the pizza stop
Little Ben
It is a replica of London's Vauxhall clock tower. One interesting fact about this city is that it is one of the tiniest capitals in the world.

The Seychelles are loaded with beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Other activities include hiking, golf, and fishing. What do they catch here? Try marlin, sailfish, green jobfish, and shipjack tuna to mention a few. Speaking of fish leads us to the cuisine offered here. It is Creole, due to the fact that the food is a combination of French, African, Chinese, and Indian. This island is a melting pot of these different cultures, because many of the labor force was brought here to man the very fertile plantations. Grown here even today are cotton, tea, sugar, vanilla, and spices. Back in the old days, the spices brought the biggest wealth to the islands, since there was a huge demand for them worldwide. Today, we are certain it is the 65 beaches on Mahe that bring the vacationeers to stay in the numerous hotels, resorts, and villas.The weather has got to be a factor, since it is always warm here. December through March happens to be the hot and humid time with windless days and temps in the high 90's. The rest of the year, it is cooler with temps in the high 70's. 

The sign outside the gardens
Back at the Botanical Gardens, we paid around $10 for the entrance fee per person. This garden takes you straight uphill, not an easy place to stroll. But better to do it at our own pace, instead of with a group, like we have done at least three times over the years. No, today we were going to take our sweet time exploring every corner of this special garden which was created back in 1901 There are six endemic palm trees, including the famous coco de mer. 

Do's and don't's
Go through the gate
Cost to go in:   100 rupees
Plants cut like the coco de mer
Park grounds
Plenty of benches

We never knew there were over 27 types of exotic palms in this area, but they are here to be seen. Ten trees are also endemic, but there are over 56 exotic trees planted in this garden park. Some of the unusual varieties included the ylang ylang, known for perfume use, kapok or cotton trees, and even durian, the stinky fruit tree.

There were fish in these ponds

Hills made of granite

More foliage

A bench in the forest

Could get lost

A monument in the gardens

Clever beds
It is the giant tortoises that draw many tourists to this venue. They are from the island Aldabra, the world's largest raised coral atoll. Housed in a pen of their own, about a dozen of them live here. 

Story of the tortoise

One big tortoise
Female tortoise
A funny thing happened when we entered the gates to the gardens. While studying the garden map, we kept hearing a peculiar noise, like a cow bellowing. But who would have cows in their yard? Following the noise, we discovered it was coming from the tortoise pit enclosure. And guess what they were doing? Yes, spring was in the air, and the males were "misbehaving" with the females. The bellowing was coming from the large male tortoises, not cows.

What's he doing?
These creatures weigh up to 300 kilograms, over 600 pounds. The term "misbehaving" came from the folks at the nearby Pentecostal Church, where they hear this behavior every year during their Sunday services. Bet that draws a chuckle from everyone. It sure did from us, and the other tourists here today. By 10am, the noise ceased, never to be heard again on this visit. We suspect that it got too hot for them, in more ways than one.

Manicured fields
Hibiscus grow like weeds
Short, tropical grass
A another type of ginger
Looks like a jungle
Pretty palms
Meandering creek
Exotic palms
Grown in ponds with water lilies
The perfect bloom
Pretty color
Deep blue flower
Tropical blooms
Higher in the forest
No one walks this part
Looking through a huge palm tree
Forest area
Dense growth
Where there is light, something will grow
One huge coco de mer palm
Prettiest bird
No bigger than a sparrow
Familiar flower
Buried in the forest
Tree bloom
White flowers
Tropical tree blooms
Many birds take shelter in this wooded park. Most of them were doves, pigeons, and a set of three geese. The geese were penned with a nice pond for their use. When one tourist fellow went too close to the fencing, one goose grabbed his shoe and honked loudly. We have raised geese like these, and found that this time of year, they can be most aggressive. You do not turn your back on them, because they'll grab anything they can and cause injury. 

Another creature that resides in this park are fruit bats. But instead of hanging upside down in the trees, they were actively eating fruit. 

A fruit bat hanging in the tree
Odd creatures
Bat flying
The paradise flycatcher and magpie robins are hidden in the trees to be heard, but not seen.

Local bird
It was well after noontime by the time we left the gardens. Since all aboard time was 4:30pm, we thought it best to go to lunch first, then tour the town.  

We went back to Le Rendez Vous, and sipped Eku beers, another local brew, and enjoyed a margherita pizza. The pizza was excellent with lots of melted cheese on top. Not quite as good as Sydney's, but a close second.

Good place for beer and pizza
Much nicer when you got inside
Balcony seating
Eku beer  -  made in the Seychelles
Margherita pizza with lots of melted cheese
Four beers and one pizza = $38.73  US
Then we were off to the Sir Selwyn Clarke Victoria Market, dating back to 1840. It is an open-air complex, not large by any means, but full of fishermen and farmers selling their catch, fruit, veggies, and spices. We found a bag of a dozen limes and were able to buy them for a mere $2. They give our sodas an extra zip, and the vitamin C can't hurt either. 

Where to go?
The old Veggie & Fish Market
Entrance to the market
A streetfull of stands
Fresh catch
All produce was wrapped
Fruit for sale
Fish on a table
He looks Jamaican
Papayas and bananas
Market visitor
Every design is different
Old clocktower
Selling the fruit
Many shops to explore

Along the way, we passed the Hindu Temple, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, all built in the 1800's.

Hindu Temple

Very intricate designs

Made from thousands of tiles

Tells a story
We figured that we could catch the shuttle back to the ship, but we could not remember exactly where they said the pickup point was. It was somewhere on Independence Street , but by the time we walked to the end of it, we noticed their stop was at the opposite end and across the street. 

Park art
Afternoon strollers
Little dove
Feeding the birds
Oh well, we were halfway back to the ship, so we just took our time walking. This time we followed the path the locals took yesterday.....along the harborfront and through the kiddie park. It was in the shade most of the way.
Old quarters
One of the main streets
Post office on the left
Hills above town
Granite cliffs
Still looking for a new Seychelles t-shirt, we sifted through the stands near the ship. All of the best sizes were gone, and so were the best designs and colors. Oh well, maybe next time. It was heavenly boarding the ship and getting that first blast of air-conditioning.

Amsterdam still docked
Looking for food
Neat colors
There's the bird
Inner harbor
Small boat harbor

Small boats

Taking the shortcut through the park

Nicer boats
Another complimentary wine, beer, and soda party was held in the Lido pool area during the sailaway party. Chef Daniel had prepared 6 different types of gourmet pizza, but all we could smell was fish. Whether or not fish was in or on the pizza, we did not stick around to find out. In our opinion, if you put everything including the kitchen sink on pizza, you ruin it. It sure brought back memories of when we were on a Maasdam trip years ago, and the pizza had salmon hidden under the cheese. No thanks. Since we had already eaten pizza for lunch, we grabbed a soda, and heading to the aft deck to watch the sailaway out of the harbor.

A better place for the complimentary wine and pizza party sailaway
It drew a large crowd
Many drinkers was still hot outside
Cokes were best
One of our friendly waiters
Lined up for pizza
Pizza....not sure of the toppings
Line for wine and beer
Watching the sailaway from the aft deck
Watching for sting rays
Shipyard sign for the Amsterdam
Leaving the pier 
Pool was empty
We were joined by tablemate Marianne, who had gotten back this morning from their overland to India. Unfortunately Bill was not feeling well, and was laying low for the afternoon. It was nice to hear all about their trip, which had gone well for the most part. In her description, some of the finer details, like seats on the plane, should have been better planned. 

Sailboats in the harbor
Home of a sheik we were told
Nice sailboat
Working fishing vessel
Wonder if there is a speed limit here?
New community
Pier building
Going fishing
Pilot boat following us
Clear, sunny afternoon
Back from crabbing
Crab trap
Nearby island
Generators were working today
Two generators

OK, three generators
Last of the sailboats

Cannot catch up to us
Nice way to go
Last island
At least it's green here
Huts on the island
They got the leftovers, even though HAL had plenty of time to book in advance. Not one of the couples had seats together.....they were spread out in middle seats instead. We talked until the sun was going down, comparing notes with her with the time we did the overland in 2007. Sounded like not much had changed since then. And as it turned out, neither Marianne or Bill made it to dinner. One of the downers of this particular overland, was that the night of day five had no hotel stay. They ended up flying all night, from New Delhi via Dubai to the Seychelles. Not the best way to end an epic journey.

Private beach
Could be St. Anne's resort

There is one person on the beach
Rocky beach
Pretty setting
Comparing notes with each other at dinner, some of us had stayed in town, and Barb had gone to a beach resort for the day. We all agreed that it was hot and oppressive....a nice place to visit for a day or two, but that's all. We have been asked if this is one of the most beautiful places on earth, as they advertise? Perhaps some of the remote islands could qualify, but not Victoria on the island of Mahe. Yes, there are resorts, but too many of them. In our humble opinion, if you want paradise, we still say go to French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Specifically Moorea and Bora Bora.

Followed by a fishing boat
The entertainer was a fellow by the name of Barry Hilton, a South African comedian. Only a few of our tablemates went, since we were all done for the night. We always tell Keith and Margaret to save seats for the three of us, knowing that it will never or seldom happen.

It caught us by surprise, but when we went for our evening walk outside, we found that it was raining. And it felt ever so good. Nice way to finish a day in the Southern Indian Ocean.

leaving the islands
Sun setting
Great sunset
Got hot
Going down 
Last rays of the sun
Hot skies
Gone for the day

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