The Seychelles - 115 islands of love
The Seychelles official theme for 2016 is: I love Seychelles
Is it really that wonderful? Well, we'll get to that. But it's certainly much more than palm trees, coconut oil and beautiful beaches. People actually live here! That shouldn't really surprise you. However a country is nothing without people and people have problems.
Why so negative? I'm not trying to go negative here. I'm simply trying to state that I've never been to a country without problems. That's a simple fact to me. Paradise doesn't exist in the real world. Paradise is a memory of brief moments added together. No one, or at least very few, are in love with someone for an entire lifetime like they are in the first few weeks of a relationship. And here's my point: If the Seychelles have any problems then you're highly unlikely to discover them on a 2 week vacation.
The Seychelles is "something else"! The mere fact that the inner islands, of this 115 island rich nation, are granite - baffles me!? How? If you pull out a map then you might discover that we are really, really far into the Indian Ocean. And the inner islands are made of granite? Most islands I've been to have been coralline or volcanic. This is different...
I reached the Seychelles main island (Mahe) on a ship. It was the good ship "Cape Moss" that got me all the way out here. It was under the command of captain Zoidze and with the kind courtesy of Columbia Shipmanagement (www.columbia-shipmanagement.com), which I still remain grateful to.
A bit of the "Cape Moss" crew.
The ships agent in the Seychelles, Alex from Hunt, Deltel & Co.(www.huntdeltel.com), picked me up and welcomed me to the Seychelles. Was there anything special about that? Yes, there was! Normally I meet with immigration and after that I'm on my own. The very polite Alex brought me to his car and suggested that we would go straight to the Red Cross office for a quick greet and meet. The Seychelles is "a small place" and everyone knows everyone. Word gets around quick. On the road to the Red Cross Alex informed that his boss, Christophe, had heard about the Saga and wanted to meet me. So if I was up for it, he could take me there afterwards.
I had a lovely meeting with the Red Cross and we agreed to meet again after the weekend. A short drive later and I was sitting in front of Christophe, who is the Managing Director of Hunt, Deltel & Co. Alex had left to go and handle immigration on my behalf. Christophe and I chatted for a bit in the office before he said: "Let's go and have lunch". So we did. During lunch Christophe explained that he had arranged for a place for me to stay. 10 minutes later Alex was by my side and fitted me with a company simcard with plenty of credit along with my passport which had been stamped by immigration. Then he drove me to "Marie Laure Suites" (www.marielauresuites.com) which became my home in a luxury apartment throughout my entire stay. It even included breakfast and dinner. There I met Jack who took it upon himself to make my stay as pleasurable as possible. This was all on the same Friday as I disembarked the "Cape Moss". What the heck was going on?!?
Top from left: Alex and "the captain" (Christophe's father).
bottom right: Mr. Christophe in person! :)
Saturday was kind of quiet. I needn't worry about leaving the Seychelles as that had already been arranged for by Maersk (www.maerskline.com). I would be leaving onboard the "City of Xiamen" (containership) the following week. A bit new to know that ahead of time as that isn't as it normally goes with the Saga. New is good! :)
On that Saturday Alex called me to say that Christophe had booked a return ticket for me (business lounge) on the fast ferry to and from Praslin. Praslin is a nearby island and I was told that the fast ferry would get me there in an hour. All I needed to do was sleep well, then Ameen (also Hunt, Deltel & co.) would pick me up the next day (Sunday) and drive me to the ferry. At the port in Praslin the office supervisor of Hunt, Deltel & co. would collect me and bring me to Cote D'Or Footprints Hotel (www.seychellesfootprints.com). Another place in complete luxury!! After a night at "footprints" I would return the way I came with the same amount of service and chauffeuring. If the Saga would have been like this from the beginning then the Saga would have been SOMETHING ELSE! :)
My room view from "footprints".
It all went as planed and I stuck my feet in the white sand, at the beach, in front of "footprints" the very next day. It was a pleasure to stand there and glaze across the light blue water...and far into the horizon. The Indian Ocean softly spilled over my white Scandinavian feet...and time stood still...
The beach at "footprints" on Praslin.
At "footprints" it was "self catering", which meant I had to pay for my own food. I had arrived to the Seychelles Thursday late in the evening. I left the ship Friday morning. It was now Sunday afternoon and I was about to spend my first money in the Seychelles! Boom! Such a different experience!! Sheltered and protected from my very arrival. Had this happened to me before? Anywhere? Perhaps the time I reached Cat Kay in the Bahamas? Or sort of like when I was greeted by press on arrival to Latvia and then chauffeured around for a while? No...this was different.
I expected a few things of the Seychelles prior to my arrival:
1) That it would be a tropical paradise.
2) That it would be really expensive.
3) That immigration would be tough on me.
Number 1 was true. Number 2 is true as well...but it wasn't for me. Number 3 could have been true...but not in my case. Number 3 is interesting though! The Seychelles is all about knowing someone. Once you know someone you're in a completely different situation. It's like Greenland...or most Caribbean islands...or most small island nations...or small societies anywhere... I grew up in a village with around 1,200 people and went to a school with around 325 students. I know the feeling of "everyone knows everyone". It would be impossible for anyone in the Seychelles to know "everyone". There is at least a population of 90,000 people across the 115 islands. Most of them live on Mahe which is the larger island. But you don't actually need to know everyone. Some people are more relevant to know in a society than others. You might know the butcher, but not his 90 year old grandmother. And in a society like the one on Mahe you definitely know a lot of people...and whoever you don't know is known by someone you do know...you know? ;)
Downtown in Victoria - the capital of the Seychelles.
Then you also have the few dominating families that everyone knows. They are the ones that run things. And they exist in the Seychelles too. But no one I met seemed posh. Everyone I've ever met in the Seychelles has been down to earth. It's a beautiful country with beautiful people. And the people have an honest desire to make a stranger feel welcome and at home. Christophe is a true ambassador of that spirit.
Can you spot the T-Rex? ;)
While still on Praslin and with my feet out of the water I went to visit Vallée de Mai. Somewhere I read a sentence which went something like this: "Anyone can travel far, but only few can travel back in time". That was a reference to Vallée de Mai. It's untouched primary forest from the time of the dinosaurs. Walking among the palms in the unique atmosphere of the UNESCO world heritage site could easily provoke notions of time travel. It's home to a parade of endemic flora and fauna, but the most famous one is the Coco de Mer palm. It produces the worlds largest seeds which is no joke! They are huge and heavy and erotically shaped. It has become the trademark for the Seychelles as they are endemic to the Vallée de Mai and hardly grow anywhere else. In fact you'll get this question a lot around here: "Have you been to Vallée de Mai?" If you haven't then I think you might be deported from the country or as a minimum publicly flogged! Of course you won't :) But it's regarded as a "must do"! So is a visit to nearby La Digue. That's another granite island which is host to a life of tranquility among old giant tortoises and remarkably beautiful beaches. So beautiful that people can't stop photographing them! It's a big problem as cameras and smartphones overheat and explode from the thousands of photos!! People are literally unstoppable when it comes to taking photos of the beaches...and chasing Pikachu! Yeah? You though I was disconnected from the world and I don't know about Donald Trump, terror attacks, BREXIT and Pokémon go? Sadly I do. I live more "in the world" than most people and what I lose out on are children's first steps, friends birthdays, relatives funerals, friends weddings, a cold beer with an old friend and holding my girlfriends hand.
The huge seed is the famous Coco de Mer. In my other hand the produce from the male plant. Use your imagination ;)
Did I get off track there for a moment? Hmmm...not really. So the part about phones and cameras exploding was complete fiction. But it might as well be true :) La Digue being another paradise is true as far as I can tell. I know that from doing some research on it. But I won't go there without my girlfriend. And that's the holding hand part. See...it all came around ;)
Not all is expensive. 35 rupees is about $2.80.
There were no people on any of the 115 islands in 1509 when Vasco de Gama's ship first discovered the outer islands. Don't tell me you don't know who Vasco de Gama was?!? He was the first man to discover the sea route from Europe to India. He did this by sailing south of Africa on an incredible voyage thus challenging the inland silk route between Europe and Asia. He was Portuguese and a bit of a vicious pirate kind of type as well. But a formidable explorer! That makes the Seychelles the 3rd African country I visit which had no population until the Europeans arrived (the others are Cape Verde and São Tomé & Príncipe).
Jack from my luxury suite at Marie Laure.
The entire time while I visited Praslin most of my belongings remained in the luxury apartment on Mahe. No need to check out of luxury in one place before I go to next. That's not my style anymore ;) Here's a real luxury problem: What to do with all this luxury without my girlfriend? The Seychelles is that kind of place to me. It's very beautiful in the kind of way that easily pleases the eye. Some beauty is more easily recognizable than other. Have you ever noticed that something only became beautiful after a few days? Well, the Seychelles is "right in your face beautiful". And there's stuff to do. Besides every beach activity, imaginable you can obviously go diving as well. But there's rock climbing, hiking, shopping, arts, casinos and so much more.
The lovely Anya from "footprints".
After getting back to Mahe the Red Cross arranged for me to meet with the Red Cross club at the Anse Royale Secondary School. Some journalist showed up for that. Afterwards we had a press conference at the Red Cross HQ and I had a chance to tell more about the Saga. The following day there was a radio interview with the lovely Dawn at Pure FM. After all of that I got the feeling that everyone knew who I was. The news on tv was repeated in both English and Creole. My Creole only stretches to: Mon Kontan Sesel ;)
I enjoyed the interview by Dawn at Pure FM.
If I'm to round up this blog then I would say this is an extraordinary country. Apart from hosting a highly pleasing population I also feel that the Seychelles is not a country that lets any opportunities pass. And I personally figure that's the reason for the very high level of development. It's also an immensely clean country. You'll hardly find an empty can on the side of the road. Now why would the Comoros be unbelievably well adapted to tourism, but at the same time isn't. And Comoros is a friendly but poor country. And meanwhile not far away you find the Seychelles which is shinning bright among the stars. Why the difference? It must be many things but overall I credit mentality. The Seychellois are "go getters". They make the best of a situation and they cooperate. It's valuable and around here it's visible.
I usually take a photo when I spot a phone booth. In this day and age everyone has a smartphone. But they run out of power I guess?
Someone from the Seychelles will read this and say: "That's not true? We fight each other. We let opportunities pass. It's not that clean". Well...sometimes the perspective is clearer when seen from the outside.
Jerry and Corrie invited me to see Eden Island which is a very cool project! Check it out: www.edenisland.sc
In the Seychelles they are completing an artificial island on a reef near the capital. It's almost done with all its splendor of residencies, a mall, parks, gardens, beaches, restaurants, marinas and more. In Libreville (Gabon) the sand has been delivered for a waterfront project. But that's where the Gabonese project has ended.
In the Seychelles everyone is talking about solar cells and alternative energy. When you arrive to the port you will see a number of wind turbines which feed the power plant with additional electricity. This was a test. Now everyone seems to be looking towards solar energy. One idea is that every roof on every building should have solar panels which all feed into the grid. And many have it already. Then they have a meter which measures how much they use and how much they produce. What isn't used go into the grid so someone can have it. And vise versa. That kind of development is light years ahead of other countries!
I went on quite an adventurous hike. Would you climb through this if you had no idea if it would fall on you? I did. There are times when you need to take a calculated risk.
So I'll end this blog now. There will be no blog next Friday as I'll be at sea. I'm boarding the "City of Xiamen" today. Arrangements have been made with the offers by the curtesy of Maersk (www.maerskline.com)
Final words on the Seychelles: I've never been to a country that doesn't have problems. I still haven't. But your highly unlikely to notice any of them by visiting the Seychelles, because it's pretty close to bliss.
General Charles George Gordon of Khartoum (1833-1885) was convinced that Vallée de Mai was the Biblical "Garden of Eden". Perhaps he was right...but I never found the apple tree ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Mon Kontan Sesel
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga