Archive for January, 2019

Beautiful Beau Vallon

This morning, when we got up and went out onto our balcony, we discovered we were docked in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, situated on the island of Mahé.  Today we were booked onto a half-day tour to explore this area and also spend time at the beach.

It was hard to believe we were halfway through our fabulous voyage already.  Some of the people we’d been speaking to, including our quiz team-mate Joe, were spending seven weeks on the Boudicca, staying with her all the way back to Dover and taking in India, the UAE and the Suez Canal on the way home.  Trevor and I would love to do a 21- or 28-day cruise, once we’re retired.

But today here we were in another new port and we looked forward to exploring.  We went up on deck after breakfast to take in our surroundings, as our trip wasn’t scheduled to depart until 9.30am.  While we were up there, we watched a fishing boat arrive quayside with a huge load of fish in a net; this was attached to a crane and lifted ashore into the back of a truck, and sent down a chute into a large refrigerated container.  Then the fishing boat left and another boat with another load of fish arrived in its place, for the process to begin again.  The fish looked quite large, and we later found out they were tuna.

It was then time for us to go down to the Neptune Lounge and wait for the call to disembark the Boudicca, which didn’t take long.  We then boarded a small bus which took us through the bustling streets of Victoria, where there was lots to see.  At one point we got off the bus and followed our guide through the narrow thoroughfare, passing the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clark Market, a large fish and fresh produce market, where we saw more boxes of the fresh tuna.  It transpires that there is a large tuna canning factory, Indian Ocean Tuna Ltd. which produces 1.5 million cans of tuna a day.  Amazing!

We also passed an ornate Hindu temple and well as a Catholic church; the Seychelles has a multi-cultural population.  The church was lovely and cool inside and had some fantastic stained-glass windows, as well as a life-size tableau featuring the Nativity.

Back outside we strolled through the colourful streets, looking in shop windows and just people-watching.  We then reboarded our bus and headed out of the town towards what the Seychelles is famous for – the beach.

As the traffic and the buildings thinned out, the scenery became more lush, with gorgeous trees bearing colourful flowers and palm trees, interspersed here and there with little shops and boutiques.  After about 15 minutes or so we pulled up at the front of a hotel and resort, the Berjaya, in Beau Vallon.  We had an hour and a half to make use of the hotel’s pool, bar and beach facilities, and first of all we were given a complimentary soft drink which we enjoyed sitting at a table looking towards the beach.

I really wished I had brought my cossie today as the beach was absolutely stunning.  There was a wide expanse of white, powder-soft sand and coconut palms fringing the crystal-clear water.  Some people were para-gliding, the speed boats hoisting the colourful canopies into the sky, others were swimming and sunbathing.

We rolled up our trouser legs to above the knees, kicked off our shoes and walked along the shoreline, allowing the gorgeous warm water to lap around our ankles and lower legs.  I took loads of photos and short video footage and just delighted being in such a picture-perfect location.  Then, as the morning edged towards mid-day and the sun reached its zenith, we decided to seek refuge in the shade, so we went into the hotel foyer to make the most of their free wi-fi and to post the cards I’d written out yesterday.

We then reluctantly made our way back to our waiting coach, for the journey back to the Boudicca, where we arrived in nice time for lunch at one o’clock.  The pool looked very inviting, so I donned by tankini, coated myself liberally in factor-20 suntan lotion, and took to the pleasantly-warm waters, while Trevor went to the stern to continue watching the tuna boats being unloaded; they’d been busy all day.

I did a few lengths in the pool and, when I got out, I had to run to get my flip-flops back on as the wooden decking was roasting hot underfoot.  I then joined Trevor and watched one of the full tuna containers being hitched to the tractor unit of a waiting lorry, ready to be taken to the factory.  A new container was then craned back into place again, while yet another boat full of tuna arrived.

We then decided to return to our stateroom (suite!!) where I got showered and washed my hair before getting dried off and into clean clothes.  I put my cossie and the wet towel out onto the balcony to dry; it didn’t take long in the 30+ degree heat.

We then enjoyed an afternoon power nap and sat out on our balcony for a while, reading and relaxing.  The Boudicca was due to set sail at 16:30 hours, so we went up on deck to enjoy the sailaway party, with live music from the Boudicca Orchestra and Ricardo.  Everyone was dancing around on the deck and enjoying cold cocktails and refreshing, foamy beer.  I had a deliciously fruity sangria, and had a bit of a bop about.  Everyone was smiley and happy and euphoric; the bright sunshine, sparkling ocean and the tantalising sea breeze just had the effect of making us so glad to be alive, and we took in huge lungfuls of the fresh sea air and felt full of contentment.  It’s very hard to describe the feeling, but all I can say is if I was a little dog I would have been leaping about, my tail wagging frenetically.  😊

After an hour or so, we returned to stateroom 7038 in time for the soft knock on the door which heralded the arrival of our canapés.  My nicely blow-dried hair was all over the place with the breeze and the humidity, but so what – tonight’s dress code was smart-casual and no-one’s hair was immaculate anyway, we were all in the same boat, so to speak.  😊

The Boudicca was well underway by the time we went down to dinner at 6.15pm, in fact we had three full days at sea to look forward to now, en route to the Maldives.

Dinner was the usual grand affair; good food, good wine and good company.  Then we spent the evening in the usual way – along to the Neptune Lounge for the dancing and the evening’s entertainment.  Tonight, it was the magician Rick Green again; this time he was doing close-up magic, where we could see his hands manipulating the cards via a camera projected onto a large screen.  He really was very good and put on a great performance.

Then along we went to the Lido Lounge for the quiz.  There was no sign of Joe tonight, but we were joined by another very pleasant couple who introduced themselves as Gary and Angela.  We didn’t win the quiz (again!) but our score was an improvement on what it had been recently, so things were looking up.  😊

We enjoyed a few cocktails in the Lido Lounge, while listening to Colin James, the resident pianist, and watching the dancers.  It was hot and sultry in the lounge because the huge glass doors, the width of the room, were open and the tropical warmth infiltrated the room, so I didn’t have the energy to get up and join the dancers.

We then took the last drink along to our stateroom (suite!!) and sat out for a while, winding down, before settling down for the evening, in happy anticipation of whatever tomorrow had in store.  😊

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The Living Seychelles

We had to be up at 07:15 hours this morning as we were due to go on tour at half past eight.  We enjoyed a good breakfast then gathered together suntan cream, mozzie repellent, hand gel and local currency ready to disembark the ship for today’s tour, which was called “The Living Seychelles”, hence the title of today’s blog entry.  😊

After getting the liberty boat across the bay once again, we boarded the small local bus and it was only a short journey of about 20 minutes, through dense, lush vegetation and small houses and shops, until we arrived at the Praslin Museum.  It was a bit of a misnomer, however, because it turned out to be a living museum rather than a building full of dusty old relics, and our guide (and the museum owner) was a large, ebullient man called Mr Steve Esther.

Mr Esther had bought a plot of land in 1995 and had built a seven-bedroomed guesthouse, complete with dance/entertainment area, as well as planting and cultivating lots of the plants and trees native to the Seychelles.  His family, including his cute little 10-year old daughter, helped him run the place.

After welcoming us to the Praslin Museum, we were each given a refreshing glass of tropical juice, along with some samples of fresh coconut and breadfruit crisps, and some dried banana slices.  We then began our tour.

The first thing we saw was a wire enclosure containing three large fruit bats. Unlike most bats, however, during daylight, these ones weren’t asleep but were climbing about in their enclosure, their bright black eyes framed by their cute little fox-like faces – in fact, they are known as “flying foxes” and they have a wing-span of about a metre.  The guy told us that the bats were not held captive; they could fly wherever they wanted but they always returned because, to them, it was like a “bat 5-star hotel” where they were well-fed and looked after.  He said on one occasion there had even been baby bats.  😊

Next, we were taken to see some giant tortoises.  There were three altogether; two females and one enormous male, who Mr Esther told us was 136 years old.  The tortoise was friendly and people were given fruit to feed to him, where he would take it out of their hand.  Along the way, Mr Esther would point out the various plants to us, tell us what they were, and what they could be used for, i.e. medicinal, healing, making things etc.  As well as many coconut palms there were vanilla, breadfruit, patchouli and citronella.

The coconut palm is an incredibly useful tree; all parts of the plant can be used.  We were shown how to de-husk and open a green coconut to get the refreshing water; the fibrous husk is used to make matting and baskets.  There were also some older coconuts that were starting to sprout and Mr Esther opened one of them; instead of containing water, the white flesh filled the interior of the coconut and, when we tasted it, it was much drier and more ”woolly” than the coconut flesh we’re accustomed to; in fact, it wasn’t really all that nice.

We were then given some copra, or dried coconut, to try; this tasted different but wasn’t unpleasant.  Coconut shell is also used to make a wide variety of things, from bowls to ornaments to carvings and other household items.

Next, we were taken to where a dreadlocked guy in a crocheted hat showed us how to grate the coconut flesh which is mixed with water and squeezed out by hand to make coconut milk, and to extract the oil, which is used for a great many things, in cooking, cosmetics and hair-care. In fact coconut oil is one of the best conditioners you can use for your hair.  The same guy also used the palm leaves to plait and weave into a basket, complete with handle.  Palm leaves are also made into brooms and are dried and used to thatch buildings as well.  An incredibly versatile tree indeed.

After learning all about the coconuts, we were then taken to the main building and offered a cold drink of water or juice, as well as being able to use the loo.  The guest house looked lovely; set in all this lush greenery off the beaten track it looked like the kind of place where you’d come for a week or so to take time out of life.  😊

We were then shown to a building where fresh breadfruit was being grilled, and each given a hot slice of the delicacy; it didn’t have much taste or texture, it was a bit like mashed potato, and we guessed that perhaps it was used as a staple carbohydrate to “pad out” meals.

After Mr Esther explained to us a bit more about the endemic plants and trees, he showed us how to take a root cutting from a tree, by removing a piece of bark from the branch, then tying a freshly-cut twig, in a bit of soil in a plastic bag, onto the larger branch, where the twig will take nourishment from the mother tree and begin to sprout roots.  It can then be planted where it will grow and bear fruit in about three months.  Fascinating stuff.  😊

We finished this really interesting and educational tour by going to the “disco” area (a large open-sided shelter) with some guitars, local instruments, speakers and a microphone in one corner.  Inside, Mr Esther played the guitar and sang for us, then he played some local music on a hand-fashioned instrument which had a wire stretched lengthwise above a hollow tube; when different areas of the wire were struck with a stick, a different note sounded.  He then took up the guitar again and everyone joined in when he sang Take Me Home, Country Roads.  Then we were each given a paper beaker containing home-brewed palm wine, which tasted quite strong!  😊

What an excellent morning it had been so far!  Our little bus then took us back along the sea front where our guide said we could spend an hour at the beach.  We saw a small supermarket-type shop that was selling cold bottles of Seybrew (the local beer) so we bought a chilled bottle each and the proprietor removed the caps for us.  We then brought the beer onto the most gorgeous beach imaginable, where we sat in the shade, our toes in the sand, and looked out at a scene straight out of Paradise.  We then walked along the shoreline but the sun was very hot, so we went back into the shade, then walked through a small grove of coconut palms; several of the trees and dropped their nuts and we avoided walking directly underneath the trees as we didn’t fancy a coconut falling on our heads!

We then returned to the landing stage where we were pleased to see that all the closed shops we’d spotted yesterday were now open.  We therefore went into one which was displaying colourful clothing and other local souvenirs, where we bought some postcards and stamps, and I also bought a very unusual hand-bag hand-made out of squares of coconut shell joined together and lined with an inner satin pouch which closed with a drawstring.  It wasn’t cheap at £40.00, but it is certainly different and a nice reminder of our visit to Praslin.  In fact, we discovered that the Seychelles aren’t a particularly cheap place anyway; they probably up all the prices for the tourists!

We then joined the queue at the landing stage to get the liberty boat back across to the Boudicca, where we arrived back just after one o’clock – in nice time for lunch.  Dumping our stuff in our stateroom (suite!!) we went down to the Poolside Grill, and enjoyed a freezing cold beer and a light lunch, just sitting in the shade by the pool enjoying ourselves. Hey, this is the life!  😊

We spent the afternoon pottering around the ship until it was time to start getting ready for dinner once again.  At six o’clock Captain Sartela’s voice boomed over the tannoy to announce that the Boudicca would shortly be weighing anchor and setting sail for Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles.  As the sun dipped lower in the sky (sunset was at 6.32pm), we made our way to the Tintagel Restaurant and enjoyed the usual scrumptious meal, washed down with copious quantities of rosé wine.  As everyone on table #31 had got to know each other by now, we enjoyed the conversation and the banter, and Trevor and I decided this was turning out to be a fantastic cruise.

After dinner we did the usual – went along to the Neptune Lounge to take part in the dancing (the best we could, anyway!), then order our drinks and sit back to enjoy the show.  Tonight the fabulous Boudicca Orchestra were in the spotlight (instead of ‘just’ being the superb backing for the main show).  They were performing their tribute to all the Big Band greats, such as Glen Miller and Duke Ellington.  Their show was excellent, and judging by the foot tapping we could see going on in the audience, everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.

Afterwards we adjourned to the Lido Lounge, where the resident pianist Colin James was just finishing off before the quiz.  Joe joined us tonight, but we were nowhere near winning again.

After the quiz we hot-footed it back to the Neptune Lounge; most of the best seats were already taken because tonight was featuring the Crew Cabaret.  This was a selection of talented singers from around members of the crew, from the engine room to waiters to cabin stewardesses; all of them received enthusiastic cheers and applause from the audience, and we wondered why some of them didn’t become professional singers rather than their usual day jobs.

We returned to the Lido Lounge afterwards, but we were quite tired after our packed day, so we just got a drink to enjoy on our balcony, and we took it back, put our feet up and enjoyed the sounds of the sea along with Enya’s relaxing music emanating softly from my iPod.

We had another delightful day in the Seychelles to look forward to tomorrow and, with this happy thought, fell asleep more or less instantly.

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New Year, New Country

Got up quite late this morning (9.00am) and, while Trevor went down to breakfast, I preferred to enjoy some coffee and fresh fruit in our cabin, while I slowly (and rather sluggishly) got washed and dressed.  Going out onto our balcony, we looked around with interest at our surroundings.

We were not booked on an excursion today; we’d be going on a tour here tomorrow as we were due to stay in port overnight.  Therefore we had the whole day to explore at our own pace in this, our 87th country.  😊

First of all, a paragraph or two to describe the Seychelles.  The islands were first discovered in 1502 by the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama on his voyage to India.  However, it was the French East India Company who colonised many of the nearby islands and in the 18th century laid claim to the Seychelles.  It was a common stop for Arab slave traders, British and many European sailors travelling the routes to Africa and India.  It was Britain, in the early 19th century who took control from France.

The country of the Republic of the Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976. Since then, the Seychelles opened up and developed as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world, with its glorious beaches and picture-postcard beauty.

The Boudicca was at anchor about a mile from shore, and we could see the liberty boats ferrying the passengers across.  We decided to put our swimming costumes on underneath our clothes in case we found a gorgeous beach on which to relax and swim, so I wore my tankini with a matching strapless overdress.

We then went to collect a tender ticket to await our turn, because priority was understandably being given to those who had booked a tour.  Eventually our number was called so we descended down to the pontoon on Deck 2 and embarked the liberty boat for the 10-minute ride across.  The day was already hot and sunny and we could see hillsides with little houses perched on the side, in among the lush greenery, as well as a line of gleaming white catamarans moored up.

Once we got ashore, we decided to try to find a beach.  This seemed to be the more populated part of the island and there were several private dwellings as well as shops, restaurants, bars and commercial buildings, all of them closed on New Year’s Day.  There was quite a bit of traffic about, and we had to be careful walking on the narrow roads, which had no pavements.

The sun was already scorching hot, even though it was only around 10.30am.  We had only been walking about 10 minutes or so, but in this heat it was pretty tiring, and I soon wished I hadn’t worn my Lycra cossie under a Lycra dress, as they were not the best fabrics for keeping cool.  After we’d walked about half a mile with no glorious beach in sight, we decided to turn around and come back the other way, staying in the shade of trees as much as possible.

We did find a tiny little sandy beach area which gave a charming view out towards the small boats and yachts bobbing about on the water.  I kicked off my shoes and walked in the sand down to the water’s edge, paddling in the warm water, where a lone coconut was gently rolling backwards and forwards on the tide.  We could see several holes and mounds of sand, and we wondered what had made them, until we saw several large crabs emerging from and going into the holes.

Continuing on our way, we walked a bit further along until we came to the water’s edge near where the liberty boat had dropped us off.  We sat on some large rocks looking out to sea; one lady had adventurously clambered down the steep rocks to get to a patch of pristine white sand and have a swim in the sea, but in my flip-flops I prudently decided to stay where I was. 😊

As nothing seemed to be open and we didn’t yet have any of the local currency (the Seychelles Rupee) to get a taxi, we decided to return to the Boudicca in time for lunch, because we’d have the chance to come back again tomorrow when we were doing a half-day tour.  We therefore waited in the hot sunshine for the liberty boat to come back, and once again we skimmed across the bay to the pontoon and boarded the ship.  I had thought that I might swim in the pool as I was wearing my cossie anyway, but after a light lunch by the poolside I decided I was still quite tired after our late night and went back to the cool cabin (suite!!) for a post-luncheon nap instead.

Then I had a lovely refreshing shower and did my hair, and we sat out on the balcony for a while, just taking in the scenery and passing pleasantries with anyone passing by our terrace.  😊

The afternoon passed in its pleasant way, then it was time once again to start getting ready for dinner.  The food, service and company on table #31 have been superb so far, and it’s always a treat when dinner time comes around! 😊

Later on, in the Neptune Lounge, Trevor and I practised our ballroom dancing once again, and then it was time for tonight’s entertainment by Welsh comedian Lloyd Davies.  We realised we’d seen him before, on the Braemar, but he’s really funny, as well as being a talented composer and musician, so we looked forward to seeing him again, and he didn’t disappoint.

Then it was along to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz; no sign of Joe tonight because he said he was going to see the comedian again (!) so we were joined by another couple but, as ever, we came nowhere near winning.  Nonetheless we enjoyed the drinks and cocktails and the banter with our fellow passengers until it was time to return to stateroom (suite!!) 7038, and enjoy our final drink of the day out on our balcony, listening to the sounds of the sea and the crickets chirping, and enjoying the balmy night-time air.

Then we settled down in our crisp cotton sheets and, once again, enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

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