Mozambique! Madagascar! Tanzania! Kenya!
The names roll off your tongue and conger up images of romance and intrigue from old film and movies, of lemurs, and the Serengeti, the Masai and Mount Kilimanjaro.
On the other side of the world we hear most often about Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. But here in Africa it is the Portuguese whose influence can most often be seen and felt in many of the ports we have visited and Portuguese is spoken along with a blend of African and Indian in many of these cities.
Our next port was Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. They gained their independence from Portugal in 1975 and the official language here is Portuguese. There is free education up to grade 12 and they do learn English and French in school. This southeast African country is somewhat off most travellers’ maps, but it was interesting to see and I did a ship’s tour here. These tours tend to give you a glimpse into an area but not much more. As in many of our ports, there is a lot of poverty. There are always the open markets and the entrepreneurship you find with people selling all manner of goods on the side of the roads and streets. They hassle the tourists and sometimes it is hard to get away from the street sellers. They know the route of our tour bus and you find the same faces at the next stop and the next stop. It gets to be funny after awhile – like finding a familiar face, an old friend and we have a few laughs together, and all the while they are stilll hustling.
Of interest was their beautiful old train station built by French Architect Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, in 1910, and the French-Mozambican Cultural Centre also designed by Eiffel. It is a house made entirely out of iron, which you have to think it is quite impractical given the warm humid climate. But it seemed to be in good shape.
After two sea days our next stop was supposed to be Nosy Be, Madagascar. However, we got well behind our schedule after leaving Maputo because of strong currents and high winds creating heavy seas. We were rocking and rolling again. So Nosy Be was aborted, much to everyone’s dismay. We all wanted to see Lemurs, and the different flora and fauna – ylang-ylang, baobab trees, frangipani and of course vanilla. They produce most of the world’s supply of vanilla. Not to mention the areas of world-class diving, and snorkelling. It is also the fourth largest island in the world and had been isolated for about 88 million years, so many of its plants and animals are unique to the island. They say 5% of all known animal & plant life can be found here. So many people were questioning the captain’s decision, that the ship actually had a question and answer period with the captain and some of the officers to explain why we missed that port. Weather was the answer, but most of us still believe it was because of the Black Plague, but no one said that.
And so on to Tanzania.