Day 76

This was another leisurely morning at sea. There was no excursion to rush us. Tomorrow is another story with a 7:30 am departure time. Today was special in another way. It is Palm Sunday and we made our way to the 9am service in the theater. Jamie, the Cruise Director, lead the Sunday service as he has for the entire cruise. He read several appropriate Palm Sunday passages and the congregation had two printed sheets with words to hymns and responsive readings. It was very nice. They are planning a Good Friday Passion Play with volunteer passengers reading several parts. We will attend and watch the performance of our friends.

Terry’s lecture was the concluding “Part III – The Jewel in the Crown – The British RAJ (Rule).” After yesterday’s story of bloody rebellions, Britain finally acknowledged they must do something different. EIC could no longer handle the national troubles. Parliament recognized three concerns; need for more communication and comradery; react to the needs of the local people-no more land reforms; and no more religious intervention-social and cultural changes must be at local pace. The Government of India Act of 1858 created a Secretary of State for India, and a 15 member Council of India, requiring 10 years of previous service. Universities were built in 1862 in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. Railways were built from and across the interior to coastal ports. In 1877, Queen Victoria was made Empress of India. In 1885, the Indian National Congress debated ideas for independence, but there was still violence between the Muslims and Hindus. The Viceroy, George Curzon 1899-1905, decided to separate Bengal and gave the east to the Muslims and west to the Hindus. This arbitrary decision lead to chaos and deaths as the two sides tried to move in opposite directions onto each other’s property. After years of turmoil, political assassinations, and boycotts, the partition was rescinded in 1911. WWI interrupted Britain’s attention, but India was still loyal, supporting the war effort with 1.4 million troops, raising India’s profile. Gandhi, a lawyer in S. Africa returned to India in 1918 and started efforts to help the poor and under-represented. WWII came along and India was well represented again in the Commonwealth’s war effort. After WWII, Britain was too tired to deal with this. The country was divided along religious lines again with Muslim Pakistan getting independence August 14, 1947 and Hindu/Buddhist India on August 15, 1947.

Don Walsh had his lecture on “Tsunami – Killer Waves.” He explained some of the causes for these waves, but 90% are earthquake based. The Pacific is encircled with warning stations to detect and locate earthquakes and predict the speed and timing of wave approach all over the Pacific. The Indian Ocean had no such warning system at the time of the Banda Aceh (Sumatra) 9.2 quake, where 226,000 deaths resulted from the 33-foot wave. The quake released energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. He showed many pictures of the 2011 Fukeshima 9.1 quake and resulting 113-foot tsunami that killed about 16,000 and left 2,500 missing. The quake caused a 90-foot vertical land movement on the continental shelf and actually increased the earth’s rotation by 2 seconds. He mentioned other historical waves that hit the Netherlands in 1858 and destroyed the Scotch Cap Lighthouse in 1946.

There were no noontime games today but we scored well in the Mensa quiz. We were arriving into Mahe Island around 1pm so we went up to watch our approach.

This afternoon’s excursion was called The Northern Highlights (of Mahe Island). We were a small group of 15 in a large passenger van. There were 4 vans with this tour. Our first stop was the Botanical Gardens, a pretty area with over 200 species of indigenous plants and trees. These included elephant apple trees, octopus trees, and the coco de mer (or double palm) tree. These fruits are huge double coconuts that weigh more than any we have seen, up to 40 pounds. They also take 25 years to mature. We saw many fruit bats flying overhead and hanging from trees. These were obviously not nocturnal.

A special area was dedicated to containing 39 giant endangered Aldabran tortoises. They can live to be 300 years old. Some were walking around, some eating, and some mating. It was very fascinating. We spent about 45 minutes walking around the gardens with Marilyn, our local guide, who spoke excellent English, although French and Creole are the native languages here. People of the Seychelles saved much of their colonial French heritage, but they do drive on the left-hand side of the road, which they continued from British times.

We drove around Victoria, the capital, and saw the clock tower, a replica of one in London, the Old Courthouse, National Museum, New Courthouse, Parliament, and other landmarks. We then continued through central and northern Mahe, past lovely beaches and towering granite peaks until we arrived at Beau Vallon Beach at the Bahiyana Hotel. We walked through the lobby to the expansive beach where we had an hour of free time. After putting our towels and clothes on a lounge chair (we never did lounge), we went for a refreshing swim. The climate in this area near the equator is hot and humid, and everyone was soaked in sweat. We swam for about a half hour and then walked along the beach. We all received coupons for a complimentary water or soda and later got a diet Coke.

Returning to the ship around 6:30, we just had time to shower before attending a special barbecue dinner on the pool deck. What a beautiful and artistic display of food – and it tasted good, too. There were fruits, salads, a roasted pig, vegetables and barbecued ribs, lobster tails, chicken, tuna, and many desserts, including a chocolate fountain and crepes Suzettes. We joined our friends Art and Joanie, and Bob and Twila at a table. Tonight, we had pina coladas instead of our usual wine, and compared notes on our various excursions. They are doing tomorrow what we did today, and vice versa. It was a fun dinner, but again we were sweating on deck and needed another shower afterward.

Tomorrow we leave at 7:30, so I hope we get to bed earlier than midnight tonight.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac