During the school holidays, as a child, I remember waking up each day to warm sunny days, full of excitement as to what the day may hold. Today is one of those, but hotter!
Breakfast was not so busy, though we entered the dining room at the same time as yesterday. There were still excursions going out, mainly to the other islands or local beaches, but appears that most passengers have decided to lay in.
Disembarking, again there seemed an absence of fellow mariners, just the odd few that seemed more interested in the tourist stalls by the exit. The furnace began to stoke up as we set off down the road towards town. Today’s humidity was forecast to be 88%, and it felt it. I carry a small flannel with me that I purchased in Vietnam after I spotted a backpacker using one to mop the sweat off his brow. What a good idea I thought and have used it ever since. Yesterday, it was fairly damp by the time we had returned to the ship, today it was wringing wet before we had reached the end of the dock road.
Instead of turning right at the roundabout at the end of the road we went left towards the Botanical Gardens. Moving slowly in the shade and picking up the pace between sections of open ground (I see why fire-walkers don’t hang around), we made it to the ticket kiosk in the gardens after around 20 minutes. Our ticket came with a map, so finding some shade we took on water and then planned our route.
The gardens are on a steep slope so everything for the first half was inevitably going to be uphill and tough considering the heat and humidity. Luckily there are many benches thoughtfully located in shade and we used them. On one we admired the Coco de Mer palm (appropriately planted by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956) which produces the largest seed on the planet and is shaped like the female bum (and it does). On another we got out the binoculars and gazed at the many fruit bats hanging upside down, occasionally flapping their featherless wings to keep cool, high above us.
Reaching the highest point of the garden through the aptly named ‘Natural Forest’ we began our descent and found the giant tortoise enclosure. Here I bought some branches for $4 and was allowed into their pen to feed them. Before this, the creatures had all appeared to be fast asleep or dead. As soon as I entered their pen, they sprang into life and charged, or as close to charging as a tortoise can. There were around twenty of them and they made a beeline for my plants. Another tourist entered also having armed herself with cannon fodder and split their ranks making my job a little easier. At this point, Sue was on the edge of the enclosure having a discussion with the ‘keepers of the tortoises’ and taking photos of the slow-motion mayhem.
One of the blighters outflanked me and bit me on the side, presumably mistaking my green T-shirt for food. They have strong mouths and easily crunch their way through small tough branches. I count myself lucky he was a small one. With the food all gone I found that they loved to have their head and necks patted and rubbed and I was soon surrounded by extended necks eager to be caressed. Must be one of the weirdest things I have done and willing to own up to it. I will leave it to your imagination.
We were keen to visit the town cemetery that we could see sitting on the side of the mountainside from the ship, so leaving the gardens we asked for directions and set off. We were told it was only 10 minutes away, it took 30 and another 20 exhausting minutes to reach the top. The graves are all kept tidy and look very pretty as many are decorated with flowers. We read some of the epitaphs, most were French, though disappointingly none contained photos of the inhabitants which we find quite interesting.
On our descent, it began to rain. Quite cooling. Then it poured. Even more cooling. Then it lashed it down. We got soaked. It took us around half an hour or so to get back to the ship, I can’t be sure as it’s difficult to tell the time underwater, but on arriving at our destination the rain stopped and the sun came out. Typical.
Soaked, but feeling refreshed and cooled, entering the air-conditioned climate of the ship was like walking into a fridge. We couldn’t get back to the cabin and put on nice dry, warm clothes quickly enough.
Lunch with Sue followed later, then while she had a nap on the bed I visited the gym. She was still sleeping when I returned so I sat quietly and read my book until she woke. It was nearly time to leave Victoria so we made our way to the then top deck, found a spot on the railing and watched the proceedings. The night slowly crept upon us as the crew made their preparations and little lights began to appear in the smallest capital in the world. Set against the dark surroundings Sue remarked that it looked romantic. I took the hint and gave her a peck on the cheek.
Three huge blasts on the ship’s horn signalled we had cast off and were moving away from the dock, some 15 minutes later, we were heading out to sea, another three short blasts to signal that the pilot had left the ship. We picked up speed into the dark.
Returning to the cabin we dressed for dinner and opted to eat in the Botticelli. We were hoping to be seated with other passengers and were shown to a table for four but despite our protestations, the waiter took the other two place settings away. So we ate alone. One advantage of eating here is that someone else controls the portion size.
We watched a string quartet play a pleasant mixture of classical and contemporary tunes for our evening entertainment. We sat with Aylo and chatted before the concert started, though it is difficult to get a word in edgeways with him. Afterwards, he accompanied us on a walk around the deck. There was a huge storm off the port side, well into the distance and we watched the flashes silhouetting the clouds, quite spectacular. It seemed too far away to worry us, but I guess we will find out during the night.
We had a letter from the Captain earlier in the evening warning us that from the 10th to 18th of March we shall be passing through an area known for pirate attacks on shipping. The letter goes on to outline what we should do if an incident occurs. I thought all the Somalis lived in Leicester now?