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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

He Promised Me Africa - Part 8 - Nosy Be, Madagascar

As we cruised up the eastern coast of Africa in the original Pacific Princess ship, we took in some of the interesting island countries along the way. On this day, we had signed up for a tour of Nosy Be, an island off the coast of Madagascar billed as being a little bit more adventurous. The big attraction was the lemurs. Oh sure, there was a fort at the top of a mountain in the middle of the island and we fully intended to explore it...but lots of places have forts. You can't find a lemur just anywhere.

We were told to cover ourselves with sunblock and mosquito repellant, but as one fellow tourist said, "Why do we need stuff like that in a bus?" Johnny and I were believers though. We slathered ourselves with Banana Boat and Skin so Soft, wore thick socks and  high-topped boots, covered our heads with wide-brimmed hats and put on sunglasses. Our bolder comrades wore crop-tops, short shorts, and cork sandals.

We were excited when we went out on the deck. Several buff young men with boats full of souvenirs and fruit had rowed out to meet us and were calling up to us to buy their wares.

Business men wanting to do business.

 We were excited by the prospect of communing with the lemur and had been one of the earliest arrivers in the room where we were to wait for instructions. The ship employees prepared us for the fact that we would approach Nosy Be in a small flotilla of small boats operated by locals. It turned out that because of where we were sitting, the guide led us out to where we clambered into a small catamaran. Little did we know that there was a bit of a stampede behind us as folks elbowed each other to get into the first boat. (While we enjoyed our fellow travelers, there were some who put great value in being first for everything -- first on the boat, first for breakfast, first to get water, first on the bus, first off the bus. In fact, we were greatly amused by one fellow who put great stock in being the first to get his martini every evening with the first cherry out of the cherry bottle.)

I had to admit that the catamaran looked sleek and fast. About twenty of us climbed aboard and took a seat. A bare-chested Frenchman in horizontal striped shorts, took the wheel and guided us away from the ship. However, instead of hoisting a sail and catching a breeze to carry us across the short space between where the ship was anchored and the beach that we could see a couple miles away, the captain started the engine and put-putted across the water at a snail's pace.

Me hanging on for dear life as we poke across the narrow channel. Note that I was already burning in the bright sunlight even though I had taken all the recommended precautions...and that the woman behind me is cool as a cucumber.

Small flotilla of various types of boat ferrying the passengers interested in seeing the lemurs from the ship to Nosy Be.

Johnny and I relaxed, enjoying the ride -- as did most of the other tourists. However, that pleasant moment was destroyed when a large motorboat carrying a smaller number of passengers sped past us. 

"They are beating us to shore," a woman carrying a large straw bag, which I presume she intended to fill with souvenirs, screamed.  "Go faster." 

The Frenchman continued at the same measured pace as before.

A second boat and then a third zipped past.

"We're going to be last," Martini man moaned. "Get cracking."

"What's wrong with this thing?" Someone else cried. "Is it broken?"

The Frenchman took his cigarette out of his mouth and turned to look at his distraught passengers. "Not broken, just slow."

Not wanting to be thrown overboard by our agitated traveling mates, Johnny and I smothered our giggles.

Eventually we arrived at the beach, dead last, even though we had been the first to pull away from the ship. The rest of the boats floated in the surf. Empty. Everyone else were already on the island -- buying up all of the good stuff, boarding the air conditioned bus, drinking martinis with the first cherry, circling the island on beautiful paved highways. Already upset and frustrated by their last-to-arrive status, everyone stood up and the most anxious shoved their way to the back of the boat where they waited for the Frenchman to back up to a dock so we could get out of the hated slow catamaran. Only problem was that there was no dock. No dock, no highway, no air conditioned bus -- and worst of all, no cherry and no martini.

Martini man turned to look at the Frenchman. "How do we get out?"

"Over the side."

"You mean..."

"Qui. You wade in."

"Oh my God," the woman with the big straw bag wailed. "Are there sharks?"

The Frenchman grinned. "Maybe."

You can't make this stuff up. 

 Welcome to Nosy Be!

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