Bidding fond farewells to Indonesia we set sail for South Africa, 5,000 miles across the Indian Ocean. Our plan, to experience and hopefully enjoy, four islands on route that reportedly, in their own right, are spectacular, we were not disappointed!!
First stop Christmas Island, a small Australian outpost, famous for crabs and phosphate! Oh My what a place; isolated, sparse, minimal, yet charming, not just for the super friendly people but the way the whole community existed together and got on with things. Like taking us diving into caves, swimming with huge travelly, off-roading around the rugged volcanic coast, oh and sharing the odd drink or ten. The other local inhabitants are 'red crabs', billions of them. Every year they migrate from the hills down to the sea to spawn and back, literally going over, under, through, anything in their path? Then after a few weeks the young crabs pop out of the ocean and do their own march inland, totally unique, absolutely extraordinary.
Next stop Cocos Keeling a bunch of islands now part of Australia once privately owned by a Scottish family who made it famous for; coconuts, inviting the queen and joining the commonwealth!! The coconut industry, now in decline, employed migrant Malayans, who now live as a Muslim community on one island in perfect harmony with the more Aussie orientated settlement on another island. In fact the Cocos are renowned for their picture perfect tropical islands, of which we tried to make the most. We canoe safaried around them, snorkelled and dived in the reefs off them, 'spotting the elusive dugong hurray' fired up many superb bbq's, generally relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed them.
Then the long hop, 2,400 miles, 11 days, to Mauritius, a fairly fast, sometimes furious passage, arriving slightly shaken, a little stirred but in one piece. Mauritius is probably best know for its resorts, set on idyllic beaches, which as we found by jumping ship and staying at The Prince Consort were indeed world class, swinging in hammocks, splashing in seas, sipping, slurping cocktails, even swung golf clubs, thank goodness for low cost balls!! What we didn't realise is it's indelible charm created by a diversity which includes a wealth of religious buildings, some incredible landscapes offering unforgettable walks/clambers/climbs, Le Mourne being one of them, fascinating colonial history including a stamp worth £2m!! Indian influenced memorable curries (fill your boots Andy), mouth watering variety and quality of fruit and veg at the colourful markets, even a visit and trial at a sugar and rum factory. We even learnt that the favourite rarely wins at the second oldest race course in the world. Mauritius, life is not just a beach!! And finally we received a heartening ship’s blessing from four different denominations, proving religions can and should exist in harmony.
Our last island, Reunion, should be more famous in England as it has the most spectacular landscape we have seen so far. Swiss alps on acid - Jurassic Park meets the moon. We walked down volcanoes into dramatic waterfalls, drove the hair-raising hairpins, dived deep into the gorges in helicopters, hovering over active volcanic plains, eating superb food whilst enjoying breathtaking vistas, generally exploring a best kept French secret!
Islands, like the people on them are hugely different, what an incredible privilege to experience them this way. Next stop Durban.
The Meteorite Crew
Debbie, Hugh, Janice and Andy