In China, the celebration varies but many pour out money for presents, clothing, decorations and food. It is also tradition that every family sweeps away any ill fortune in the house in the hope they will receive good fortune. Windows and doors are decorated with red papers and couplets with popular themes of wealth, happiness and longevity.
Supper on the eve is a feast. The family ends the night with firecrackers. The next morning, the children greet their parents a happy and healthy new year and receive money in red envelopes. It is a great way to reconcile forgetting grudges and wishing everyone peace and happiness, whereupon QM2 wished us all a very happy Chinese New Year.
Dinner was fine but didn’t go to the show and went dancing instead. The line dancers did well at the talent show. We wore pirate hats and red scarf around our neck. It was fun and our encore was the Gay Gordon March, NOT! Boy, that Gun ever worked us so hard, but we liked it.
Sometime around February 3 was Harold King’s last day so someone dubbed him King Harold and we all sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”. We wrote a letter to the Activities Director to bring him back on board before the end of our World Voyage, and surprise! They did. We must remember not to request for anything more and add burden to the work they already do.
By February 4, we were told to expect Welkom in Kaapstad, that would greet us in Cape Town, second most densely populated and largest in land area in South Africa. This legislative capital has many government offices including the National Parliament. Looking around, we understood why it’s famous for its harbour and the natural setting with the Table Mountain and Cape Point.
Before the development of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand, it was the largest city in South Africa. It is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with estimated population of 3.5 million. It is home to many anti-apartheid movement leaders where they were imprisoned in Robben Island.
One of the most famous moments that mark apartheid’s end was the first public speech of Nelson Mandela on February 11, 1990 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after he was released from prison. It was the start of a new era in the country and four years later the first democratic election was held on April 27, 1994.
Our arrival was kind of chaotic for the immigration checked all our passports. The South African Authorities inspected all the guests regardless of nationalities or whether one is going ashore. We had to show them our ship’s ID card, passport and the completed DHA-55 form.
After we were cleared, we were given an immigration control card and a customs declaration which we had to present to the Customs Officials in the tent on the pier. It was crazy with long line-ups but we did not really mind for we were able to have lunch before going ashore. We were handed flowers before taking the shuttle bus for a mall.
After cruising more of the South Atlantic Ocean from January 29 to February 3, we arrived in Capetown which did not disappoint us on February 4 and 5 for we found the mountains magnificent. In our tour, we could see the magnificent mountains like the table mountain that fascinated us. It was like seeing an oil painting come alive. Picturesque indeed is what the mountains are and what a delight it was just to look around.
Founded in 1652, Capetown is one of the most picturesque in the world. It was founded by the Dutch East India Company. There are so many things to do in this city that despite the two days we stayed there, we regret not to have visited the recently restored Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Time was going too fast for us for it’s already 6 pm here in Capetown and still in the morning at 11 am at home in Toronto. That is seven hours ahead and counting. Amazingly enough, our body systems seemed to adjust very quickly to the time change.
We had an early breakfast because of the tour after which we met at the Royal Court Theatre. We had a good tour guide by the name of Lyan and the bus driver is Faried. She started with a poem that ended with “I can handle my psychosis but I do miss my mind“.
The location is like that of Santa Barbara to the North. The climate is Mediterranean but it was 28 degrees C (82.4 F). The first stop is the Company’s Garden which has amazing plants but on the way there she mentioned that all lands at the port are reclaimed lands.
The Table Mountain up above has granite on the side and sandstone on top. In 1200 and 1300 Marco Polo came and in 1400 it was Portugal time that planned the alternate route and sent the first explorer Bartholomew Diaz in 1481. He came back in 1488 to Cape of Good Hope but met with bad weather with his boat sinking along with him.
We passed by Grand Westin where the convention center is. Then we came to a freeway that after 40 years has not been finished yet. The traffic lights are called robots by the Cape Towners. We crossed Strand Street, behind which is all reclaimed land.
We saw Woolworth which is not like the one in the US but more like Mark and Spenser. We saw some men just taking down the Christmas decors and Lyan said it’s because they go by South African time. In 1652 the Dutch first came and tried to build the port. Then in 1666 to 1764, they built the Castle of Good Hope where we saw a lot of antiques.
The old city hall is 100 years old. I think it was the new one that Queen Elizabeth opened when she was 21 and on February 11, 1990 Nelson Mandela appeared. The Big Square was built primarily as a drill ground for the soldiers. It must be remembered that Cape Town was never a colony of Holland but they made sure there’s water, planted fruits and vegetables, had a hospital and battled the indigenous, not the South Africans.
South Africa, the tour guide said, has three capital cities: Kaapstad is the second most populous and has the largest area. It is also the legislative capital while Cape Town is the cultural capital. Then there’s Johannesburg. We could be wrong but from our readings we gathered that Capetown is the legislative capital and the largest, Pretoria is the administrative capital and the judicial capital is Bloemfontein. But she did say the IRS is the ugliest building in town.
The diary of a commander for 10 years was a help. They put up slaves for sale but this was abolished in 1854. To the left you will see the toothless lion and a silly unicorn. The building to the right is the Dutch reform church. At the left is the Anglican Church which is the mother church where Archbishop Tutu, known for his work on resolving the apartheid problem in Africa for which he won a Nobel Peace, retired.
At the Company’s Garden, we saw children perform and Lyan commented that South Africa has the most important constitutional law that forbids anyone to work until he is 18. Schools are open from January to September. We saw the rubber tree and took a picture of it. We also saw the oldest tree planted in 1653 called Saffron Pear Tree which has been in ICU for sometime now.
But then our research showed there’s one older than that which is called the Endicott Pear Tree which was planted by John Endecott (Their name changed the spelling to Endicott in the 18th century), a governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639 as he reported in his diary.
We also saw where the President lives half of the year and moves to the other capital for another six months so he has two of everything except he has five wives. We saw the statue of Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902) who left all his hectares to Rhodesia and one other place we didn‘t quite hear.
The oak tree is useless and then we saw aloe vera plants. Then on we went to the Iziku Museum. As far as education is concerned, the whites get six months of the funding, the Indians half and the black are at a disadvantage. The new government promised reform in housing and education but there’s an enormous learning curve.
Both private and public schools are excellent but not the rural schools because of lack of trained teachers. It’s really mismanaged. Compulsory education was for all racial groups but of different ages and compliance is only loosely followed. Now Physical Education is being brought back. The discrepancies were evident and violence flared up so the government realized apartheid could not go on and started negotiation with Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned ANC leader. The gap slowly narrowed.
One of the eleven official languages of South Africa is Xhosa which is spoken by approximately 7.9 million people or 18% of the entire population but they speak English here too. In fact, TAB means, That’s Africa Babe. Cape Town is most tolerant.
At the Castle of Good Hope, we saw the firing started in 1770 and the collection of William Fehr, the John Thomas Baines painting of the Xhosa chief and the sundile. We saw a piano with covered keys made in Hamburg, the Malay Quarter and the 1780 Lutheran Church as well.
The Indonesians protested against the Dutch and we saw and took the picture of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for six years and moved to the minimum security in 18 months. They had a bash in 1990 and invited the Who is Who including the Clinton‘s but had a hard time with the road. President Clinton was busy but Hilary and Chelsea could come.
It is not good to generalize because when you do, you just lie. When you read James Michener’s Covenant of South Africa it is unbiased and you’ll understand it better. We also saw the Torino Chocolates, the excellent German school. We also went up the signal hill where we saw everything. We liked to think this is one of the secrets of Capetown but there were other people there.
We arrived here asking ourselves, what is it about these mountains that people find so fascinating? Now we know, as well as the mountains left to right: The Devil’s Peak, The Table Mountain, the 12 Apostles, and the Lion Head. Then we saw Camp’s Bay where only the Scandinavians go into the water which is always 52 degrees. The tour guide pointed to the area where the most expensive houses costing 100 million rand are. The house of the richest man from England on the shipping industry is there.
There were 3000 shipwrecks all told. She also pointed to Victoria & Alfred the second son, and not Albert. Then we saw the four Nobel Prize winners statues and the only 6 star hotel called One and Only, the only hotel in the city centre that stands in its own private island. You will be amazed at the sheer indulgence of it all. An aromatherapy, turndown menu and a selection of pillows? We could get used to this.
As we said goodbye to Capetown, we couldn’t help but think of the connection between the best of life offered now in this city and its country’s troubled past. Some economic and segregation still remain, and though apartheid has long been gone, poverty, crime and unemployment still exist.
Southern Hemisphere Sojourn - Capetown to Sydney in 17 DaysFebruary 5 - February 22
As soon as we were cleared of the Cape of Good Hope, we changed into a Southeasterly course on February 6, then went on the Easterly heading which was maintained but by 1:00 am, QM2 passed from the Atlantic Ocean into the Indian Ocean.
We rushed to go to mass at 8:30 and then went in for breakfast. Line dancing was fun and so was the lesson on Slow Waltz. We were almost late for lunch but we managed. It was a relaxing day that ended in the semi-formal dinner and the show with Chris Hamilton, a piano showman.
DurbanQM2 has thought of everything. They have assisted listening devices for the hard-of-hearing guests. Headsets and neck loops were made available from the Purser’s Office. The Daily Programme showed a symbol for the events that use these devices. Before our safari tour, we perused the literature on February 7 made available to us as follows:
Kwa Zulu Natal province is one of the most diversified and rich in South Africa. Most are Zulu but there are European and Indian residents as well. It is a picturesque place with the hilly north and the majestic Drakensberg Range lining up the province’s western side. How did it get its name?
To recognize the Zulu homeland, they added Kwa Zulu but Natal is foreign and it was Vasco da Gama who named it Rio de Natal (River of the nativity) when he saw the harbour on December 26, 1497 after a horrible trip around the Cape of Good Hope and the relief he felt for surviving that ordeal.
Durban’s name honors Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the 1835 governor when the city was first established. Its climate is sub tropical so it’s always a resort. The buildings in fine art deco architecture are striking. Art deco was popular in the 1920s when both commercial and residential structure were built in this style. There are many examples of this in the Berea District and Grey Street where merchants have operated family businesses since 1900.
There’s also Victorian and Edwardian style. South Africa became a member of the British Empire after the second South African War but Afrikaans participated in local government. As the latter’s power increased, so did the British appeal wane.
Victoria Embankment lines the harbour front. Natal Maritime Museum though small is remarkable. The Vasco da Gama clock given to the city in 1897 on Vasco da Gama’s 400th anniversary of Durban sighting is a few blocks away.
There’s a statue of a teen on horseback (Dick King) who rode 1000 kilometers to get help from a passing British frigate. The Boers had surrounded the British forces in Durban in 1842 and the teen saved the colony. Close to this area is a group of Edwardian and Victorian buildings which is now the Durban Club.
The city hall’s double domes were modeled after the Belfast City Hall. Statues of famous historic figures are outside while the Natural Science Museum (has a series of interactive displays and features dinosaur’s skeletons) and Art Gallery (with an array of Zulu art) are inside.
The Old Court Museum is now the headquarters of the Durban historical Society that focuses on the city’s development. The Zulu name for Durban is Thekwini. The Depatment of Native Affairs was a hated symbol of colonial attitudes. It was reclaimed as an honest retrospective on apartheid.
The museum is named after JS Marwick who helped 7000 Zulus leave the Transvaal during the “Boer war”. Kwa Muhle means the place of the good one. In part, the museum motto is: This is a museum about power and powerlessness and the struggle for human dignity by ordinary people.
Practically Speaking - Currency: South African rand; Shop: 8:30 am to 5 pm; Saturday mornings; Info: Visitor Office near the pier or www.durban.kzn.org.za ; PO: Gardiner St. (the Arcade); Browse: West St. at Marine Parade, Victoria Market, the Workshop; Buy: African Art and Craft
Arrival Information - The ship docked at Ocean Terminal, Port of Durban. Taxis were available outside the terminal. There were phones, facilities and a snack stand.
On the Zulu Splendor, here’s what QM2 provided us: The Majestic Valley of 1000 hills surrounds the Umgeni River Valley just beyond Durban’s highlands Kloof district. It is filled with small villages and the natural beauty attracted talented artists.
The 1000 Hills Choo Choo offers train trips from Kloof station to Cato Ridge. The dams in the district provide water for the city. The Umgeni (Mngeni) River empties into the sea at Durban but a section has been set up as a park land, known for over 200 species of birds and where you may also see giraffes and zebra. Closer to Durban is the Tala Private Game Reserve.
We woke up to this greeting: Ngiyanemukela Ethekwini! This must mean welcome to Durban, the third largest city in South Africa and the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal and the busiest port in Africa. Its population is 3.5 million and has a land area of 2292 square kilometers.
The first known inhabitants of Durban came from the north 100,000 BC according to carbon dating of rock art found in the caves of Drakensberg. These people were living in the central plains of Kwa-Zulu-Natal until the expansion of Bantu people from the north. Little is known of their history as there are no written records until Vasco da Gama arrived on Christmas Day in 1497.
Durban, the modern city, dates back from 1824 when British Lieutenant F. G. Farewell arrived with 25 men from Cape Colony and established a settlement on the northern shore of Bay of Natal. The British established a sugar cane industry but farm owners had a hard time getting the Zulus on their plantation so they brought thousands of indentured laborers from India. That is how Durban became the largest Asian community in South Africa.
Armed with the aforementioned information, we had breakfast early and got ready for the safari tour we booked at Tala Game Reserve. Our tour guide was Stephen and the driver Emmanuel. On the way to the game reserve, Stephen explained that Durban is the third largest city in South Africa behind the largest, Johannesburg, 600 km away and Cape Town.
Durban has 3.8 million people comprised of mainly 80% Africans, 12% Indians and the rest is a mixture of races. It was an old British Colony until 1955 which year does not seem right so we may have misunderstood him. It was founded by Vasco de Gama in 1497. It is cheaper to live in the city since the large companies have moved out.
To the right we saw the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere and to the left is the Victorian Market. Stephen also said the mini buses are used as taxis. The climate is subtropical and at the time of the tour it was 28 degrees C (82.4F). Farther away is the rain forest which is a wooded area.
There are two summer sports that Durban shares with Johannesburg: the canoe marathon that lasts for three days and the March marathon of 92 kilometres long between the two cities. The canoe marathon is supposed to be the world’s toughest that test the paddler’s skills.
To the left is the shopping complex with 300 stores. Buildings are not more than three stories high, reminding us of our old haunting ground in Sanibel Island. We saw eucalyptus trees used as paper pulp. We were on the road leading to Pietermaritzburg and the speed limit is 120 km.
To the left we saw a township area which the government had built for different race groups although now there are no longer segregation laws. But some still want to stay in the residential development projects.
To the right is the valley of 1000 hills which is supposed to have spectacular views complete with a tribal experience at a Zulu village which has been recreated for that purpose. There are huge chicken farms but what they do is they split the farms so that if there is some kind of disease, it is not spread to the rest of the chicken farms.
We saw the sign to go to Umbumbulu, which is a Zulu word. Some are in Dutch because there were Dutch settlements in 1800. The sugar cane industry started in the late 1800 which they harvested throughout the year, cut and do other stuff with it by hand. They have subcontractors who are paid by the ton when they are dry which depends upon the weather.
So after visiting Capetown and cruising the Indian Ocean on February 6, we looked forward to the safari in Durban, South Africa on February 7 at the Tala Game Reserve. The tour company seems to offer unique animal encounters. We knew we wanted nose-to-snout encounter with the zebras and giraffes. Where else can one do this but in South Africa in an open-truck safari tour?
But first, we had to figure out what to wear when rumbling with the king of the jungle, especially when we know we‘d see the rest of the exciting animal kingdom. As it turned out who cares what to wear when we ended up seeing the king of the jungle asleep. And of course we didn’t dare wake him up.
We knew it was important not to get too close to the hippos. The tour guide said to be careful as they are vicious and are responsible for more human deaths than other animals. We were told that hippos tip boats over, drowning people if they can’t swim. That said, much as we wanted a close encounter with the animals, we felt it prudent to stay in the truck even when later we didn’t see any for we still had to assume a mother is ready to protect her cubs with force.
Still it was nice to see these creatures free to roam and roar. Some even took a dip unafraid and untouched by human contact. We saw zebras and baboons gathered around a watering hole. Some baboons were curious and stared at us in our open-truck. Others ran across the dirt and gazed at us from afar. One sat like a guard on a tree top.
The zebras though froze when they saw us and then ran away but looked at us from a safe distance. The zebra lines are unique and when they herd together, they’re called dazzle of zebras. Their gestation period is 360 days. Their length is anywhere from 2.1 to 2.6 m while the length of the tail is from 40 to 55 cm. They usually weigh between 240 - 370 kg. They eat grass and vegetation with a lifespan is 30 years.
We laughed as we heard the grunts and snorts from the hippos sprawling in the pool and then we saw the giraffes sauntering through the forest. The antelopes ignored us but it was like a scene in the Lion King, the show we saw in Broadway, except here, the cast of thousands was the real deal.
The antelopes that did not care for us, had no antlers. (The tour guide said they were females). The antelope males fight to get the females and the winner takes a harem. They are very savage and hard to catch. They have horns that look like saws that can cut down trees. They are sneaky too because they will jump up and down to show possible prey they are friends and will not harm it but once they are close, they attack and start eating the prey.
We saw a small antelope that is so cute with white stripes on his sides and so, inspired by the song, “…where the deer and the antelopes play…”, we jumped out of the jeep to take advantage of the photographic opportunity but we were chastised as danger could be lurking around so we obeyed reminding ourselves we were not on a vacation but on a safari.
The Tala Private Game Reserve has 3000 hectares with a good variety of buffalo, giraffe, antelopes, rhinoceros, zebra, hippo, the rare sable antelope, wart hogs and ostrich. The ostrich is the largest bird in the world and is farmed for its eggs, feathers, skin and meat which they say is cholesterol-free.
It’s the healthiest meat to eat because they say it has hardly any fat. As a bird, it cannot fly which makes it unique but it can run up to 50 kilometres an hour. It seemed funny seeing the animals grazing like the cows do in the rural areas near around where we live.
There are 380 species of birds. There is a small dam there where we could see a cormorant or kingfisher which grabbed its prey from the pond. Nearby, two birds courted on the branch of a tree. A pod of hippos live there and we were able to see a close look. Their average weight is two tons. We are glad they are herbivores, aren’t you?
Those animals with lines are called kudus which are weird and made up of leftover animal parts like the body is from the hyena, the feet from the antelope but they are such confused animals just running sometimes with no reason but they are the emblem of Durban. The tail is used like the sangomas (witch doctors in Zulu but sometimes they are referred to as holy men or women) do. One kudu turned his large ears around towards us.
We were told that if a hyena stuck his nose near you, just pretend to sleep and he will slink away. We did not want to hear this but the tour guide told us some rules to keep safe. He said to stay close together for you are seen as a large entity. If elephants come, just back off slowly. It is the same with lions, just stay steady for if you run, you’re like a prey and they’ll run after you.
Having a rendezvous with the four-legged bulldozer of an elephant is no joke but the tour guide assured us. When confronted by animals, don’t stand up from the truck. They look tame because they think you are part of the truck. But if you stand up they could have you for breakfast.
That is why it is not wise to travel on your own in rented jeeps because not only could you get lost and stuck in mud but you could also run out of gas. At this point, we saw elephant droppings, as big as loaves of bread so they must be close by but the tour guide continued on the security procedure.
He said when confronted by a snarling animal, take safety in a mature baobab tree, the bark of which is just like the wrinkled skin of an elephant. You can find protection in the hollow centre of the baobab tree. After the danger from the hyenas and lions is over, use the chunk of thorn brush to close the entry point. Yes, but how do we get out of here? Who will know we are here? Does the cell phone work here?
Then the tour guide pointed to the bull-apes which are most feared because they are very aggressive and carnivorous with a terrible metabolism. They can eat something twice their size and can grow 25% in two weeks. They have two carved horns that are strong enough to cut, thick hides and fur with such coarse bristles they are capable of cutting human skin.
They kill each other too, to get alpha male status. They move in packs and the alpha male does little killing but the members present one part of the prey to him. If he is pleased, they may go with him. The alpha though is vulnerable and can get killed and when this happens, the tribe separates or they kill one another.
Lifespan of the rhinoceros is 45 years. They stay in the water during the day because they have sensitive skin under the sun, get out of the water at night looking for food for up to 30 km. At least it is a herbivore and eats mostly plants. Stephen pointed out that this animal belongs to the big five.
What is the big five? It refers to animals in Africa that are the most difficult to hunt on foot. What are the other four animals that belong to this group? Well, they are the African elephant, lion, leopard (one observed us strongly) and the Cape Buffalo. They were selected not because of size but rather based on the danger and the difficulty of hunting involved.
Of the above five, the buffalo is said to be the most dangerous as it has been reported to have killed more Africans than other animals although they say the same thing about crocodiles and hippos. The buffalo is said to have caused more deaths among the hunters for when it is wounded, it traps and attacks the hunter. But the tour guide said it’s hippos that kill more humans than any other animals.
We also saw the Egyptians geese which eat leaves, seeds, grass and sometimes worms, locusts and other small animals. The male attracts the mate by honking, stretching the neck and displaying his feathers. Both males and females are territorial and often pursue interlopers into the air and attack them in aerial dogfights.
As we approached the giraffes, their long tongues reaching the tree tops yanking tender acacia leaves, we were told they have a gestation period of 15 months. They are the tallest of all animals that live on land. Its scientific name of Giraffa camelopardalis refers to its spots that are similar to the leopard and its face which is the same as that of the camel.
The average weight of the male giraffe is 1200 kg and 14 to 17 ft tall while the female is 830 kg. The tallest recorded male is 20 ft. They live in grasslands, savannas and open woodlands and like areas with acacia trees. You can distinguish male from females with the help of the horns. The male’s horns are larger and they tend to have no hair on top while the females have clumps of hair on top of the horns.
Giraffes can run up to 60 km per hour but cannot keep up with a long chase. They are not an easy prey and a dangerous one because of their powerful kick that can kill a predator. The only animal that pose a threat to giraffes is a lion. They are attacked by lions and then eaten for three days. The lifespan is 28 years. They get arthritis and high blood pressure. Thus ended our safari where our wish (to be where the wild things are) came true.
It was fascinating to watch the cycle of life unfold before our eyes. We saw courting (wooing and cozying), mating, and nurturing of the babies by their mothers. There were also murder and death as we watched the predators grabbing their prey by their neck.
Relieved that we survived the safari, we were glad to be off to Mauritius setting a north easterly heading across the Mozambique towards Madagascar. We were told that throughout the day, we would be feeling the adverse effects of the South Equatorial Current which ran in a South Westerly direction between 1 and 3 knots the next day.
We were sad to leave Durban, a city full of European and Asian influences. This is also where Dr. Sears found one of the best and most beautiful kinds of aloe called aloe saponaria, just growing wild along the roadside. And the clever blending of cultures in Durban makes you wonder why people can’t live as harmoniously together as these people can.
On February 8, we had breakfast at 8:30 in order to have plenty of time before line dancing. The room was not finished by the time we got back as there was a supervisor there watching Maria Luz clean our room so we went upstairs to pick up our fruit for tonight before going to the tango lesson. The formal dinner of black and white was okay and so was the show after which we called it a night because the time would be advanced one hour again.
Learning to samba on February 9 was fun and so were all the activities we did but in the afternoon, we passed some 50 nautical miles to the south of Cap Andavaca on the coast of Madagascar where beneath the keel the depths of the water was in excess of 5000 meters.
Getting tired of all the dressing up, nevertheless, we enjoyed the show featuring jazz and roll by the dancers and singers and this time it didn’t feel like a high school production. Pardon us, for we are kind of spoiled from all the Broadway and Las Vegas Shows we frequent.
Surprise, we’re now assigned to a table for two every dinner and glad for not all tables are charmed. Much as we like the people at our dining table during the first segment of our tour, we found we were unable to do as much as we wanted for there was so much entertaining talks around. Sommelier Jean Francois Angovin from Mauritius gave us a list of wines, the first night we dined, all by our happy selves. Guess we had to celebrate.
We met Father MacLean from Nova Scotia, the priest on board for the whole world voyage. We were glad to have him around for one of the reasons we were not sure of going on a world cruise was missing our Sunday Mass. We were lucky to have Father MacLean because we didn’t miss even one Sunday obligation.
We learned quite a few things from this trip for it’s true what Benjamin Disareli said that travel teaches tolerance. Another proverb is that travel broadens the mind but it’s correct to say as someone said that a pleasant company reduces the length of the journey. Then Madame someone said, “The more I see other countries, the more I love my own.”
Throughout the day on February 10, we kept the North Easterly heading bound towards the coast of Ile De La Reunion. We didn’t pay too much attention to this though because despite the feet hurting from all the dancing, we still went line dancing and to the ballroom lesson on the quick step.
The formal dinner was fine and then it was on to the show from the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Dynamic sound of violinist Greg Scott. By this time, we passed some 20 nautical miles to the North of Reunion and then set a more Easterly heading for Mauritius.
As usual, to get ready for our tour in Port Louis, we studied with interest the reading material QM2 had ready for us. The quotation from Andre Maurois, French author and critic was the start from a book of his on The Art Of Living, “The Art of Growing Old”.
“Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.” That said, we guess we will never grow old for we keep busy from sun up to sun down. There is always a project to work on, rather to enjoy, just like this World Cruise Book.
Dutch Navy Admiral van Warwyck arrived on the shores of what is now Baie de Grand Port at the end of 16th century. He claimed the land for Prince Maurice of Nassau as Mauritius. Dutch settlers returned and established a harbour. Colonists from Holland’s Indonesian settlements built the port and cultivated the land.
They imported livestock, cut hundred-year old ebony trees and replaced them with sugar cane. By the middle of the 17th century, the pirates were already at work and the severe weather discouraged more development. So after struggling until 1710, the Dutch left and the French took over.
The French were already established at Ile Bourbon (now Reunion) and so sent a team to Ile de France (Mauritius) in 1721. They met the same problems as the Dutch but they persevered and by 1735, Bertrand Francois Mahe de la Bourdonnais became governor of the colonies that included Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles. He ordered a new harbour.
The British took control during the Napoleonic Wars until Mauritius became independent from UK in 1968. It is a parliamentary republic and is member of the South African Development Community, the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations.
It is a fairly large city for a small country and Port Louis named for the king is the commercial centre and main port. The natural harbour was a supply stop for the colonial ships following maritime routes to India. It is a diverse community showing its cosmopolitan history but French influence prevails especially in the beautiful colonial architecture.
The Postal Museum has a collection of antique Mauritian stamps, a rare blue stamp is so valuable that only a replica is shown. Central Bazaar is the center of the local life with the fragrant spice floating in the air. And the handicrafts are near the Queen Street entrance.
Place d’Armes (aka Place Bissoondoyal) in the historic district best describes the hybrid heritage of Port Louis. At the plaza entrance stands a statue of Mme. Mahe de la Bourdonnais who established Port Louis. She and her son are buried at Cathedral St. Louis.
The French colonial buildings are well preserved especially Hotel du Gouvernement and the mustard colored Municipal Theatre. Jardin de la Compagnie was an essential supply source from the French East India Company. Its Musee Institut Mauricienne shows the now extinct dodo bird. Mauritius is renowned to be the only known home of the dodo.
New research showed the dodos (simpleton because they didn’t seem too bright) did not experience any predators before the settlers arrived so they became easy prey due to their bulky body and short wings that made them unable to flee from danger. They were also passive birds and their lack of fear and innocence made them vulnerable.
Maison Eureka is just south of Port Louis so named by Eugene le Clezio who exclaimed Eureka! (I found it!) when he first saw the mansion in 1856. It was his prized possession. The Moka Mountain adds to the home’s majesty and the antique furnishings are all original.
Other noted colonial mansions are Chateau de Mon-Plaisir (1735), Chateau de Villebague (1740), Chateau du Reduit (1778), and Chateau de Labourdonnais (1850). Mauritius heritage includes sugar and tea production and you see the plantation owners lived well like at Domaine des Aubineaux (1872).