Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Tale of Two Islands

7 January 2018

We're currently in the Seychelles, back on the main island of Mahé.  But I wanted to cover the end of our time in Mauritius, because it was interesting.

We can now say that we've experienced some kind of tropical storm in every ocean that has tropical storms.  Richard and I got to know each other in Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn in the Caribbean, just off the Atlantic Ocean.  (And we went through numerous hurricanes after those two.  Got married in a tropical depression, but that's another story.)  When we were in Japan, we encountered two typhoons - basically, a hurricane that develops in the northwest Pacific region, pretty much west of the International Dateline.  And then a tropical cyclone is a tropical storm that originates in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean.

They all officially become a hurricane-typhoon-tropical cyclone when sustained winds reach 74 mph (119 kmh).  And they are named, although often they are named when they reach tropical storm status (39 mph, or almost 63 kmh).  Due to the Coriolis effect (the rotation of the earth), storms and cyclones in the northern hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise (or anti-clockwise), which storms/cyclones in the southern hemisphere rotate clockwise.  So the satellite imagery of Ava, our most recent storm, definitely shows clockwise rotation.

We didn't get much in Mauritius.  Ava was much closer to Madagascar, and made landfall there.  But we had the outer bands, with intermittent light to heavy rain showers, for about a week.  Winds up to about 30 mph (48 kmh).  Just wet and grey and dismal weather.

Grande Baie is fairly enclosed - you can see on the map that the mouth of the bay is much smaller than the rest of it.  Sort of like an upside down heart, with the point chopped off.  Just outside the mouth is a coral reef, which slows down some of the large waves as they come into the bay, so that this really is a tranquil body of water, a very smooth and safe harbor.  At times, it looks like a lovely lake.

During the storm, however, the waves were crazy!  They were crashing against the rocks and small retaining walls, and splashing onto the road.  One of the small piers where people gather to fish was half underwater with most of the waves, and completely submerged at times.  It really was a dramatically different bay.  I'm not sure if we were getting some of the storm surge, or if this was all wave action due to the winds from Ava.

While we rarely use our rain jackets or umbrellas, weeks like this are why we always pack waterproof items, including shoes.  It was quite an event.

Every time the rain stopped, the birds would come out.  They obviously know not to get drenched in a deluge, because so many of them are really small birds.  Plus they can't fly well with wet wings.  And I suspect insects and worms come out of the ground when the rain is this constant and heavy.

We had some dried out bread that I crumbled into a bowl, and put on our patio for our bird friends.  Little Mr. Red Fody was often the first to show up, and he was not happy about sharing.  Then the various sparrows and ground doves would come over, and a yellow-masked black bird (which we call the bandit bird, but it turns out this is a common myna bird) would show up.

But I noticed we had several red-whiskered bulbuls, a few noticeably smaller that the two biggest.  And that when one of the larger bulbuls picked up a piece of bread and flew off with it, the smaller one would fly after that bird.  Plus the smaller bulbuls were very hesitant about coming to the porch and taking a crumb of bread.

I think these were our red-whiskered bulbul babies, grown to adolescent birds!  I don't know who else they might have been!  I'm so glad we saw them again, so I know they left their nest as part of their normal life cycle.  (And they tended to go back to their original tree and check the collapsed nest, I'm not sure why.  But they definitely knew the tree.)

Whew!  Really, we were so relieved to see the young bulbuls.

We were scheduled to fly out on Saturday, the day our visas for Mauritius expired.  Good thing the planes were flying and all was normal.  Except for a rather officious and confused ticket agent.  Certain countries require a ticket "home" or for onward travel to ensure that travellers don't get stuck in this new country, and then that country has to deal with people.  To prevent any problems, as well as ensure that the airline isn't fined for letting people on planes who don't have onward tickets, the ticket agents ask for proof of that onward travel.  A ticket, a reservation, an itinerary from a travel agent, we've even used our cruise ship itinerary.

Well, our ticket agent was perplexed by the fact that our proof of onward travel was a ticket to another island nation.  He kept asking when we were going home.  And our response of "we don't know" made him more confused.  I finally told him that our next destination, the Seychelles, only asked for a ticket onward.  We had given him the tickets to Sri Lanka, proving we will not overstay our time in the Seychelles.  And we also have tickets out of Sri Lanka before the visa expires, again proving we will not overstay.  I told him that nothing says we must go to our country of origin, only that we have proof of onward travel.

I don't think he was happy with that, so he took our passports and paperwork to his supervisor.  She apparently told him that we were just fine and not to worry.  Nothing said we couldn't travel forever and had to go "home."  We just had to ensure that we wouldn't overstay a visa in any country.

So he came back and told us all was okay.  We already knew that, but didn't make a point of it.  Grrr, just a pompous little tyrant keeping watch over his job and overstepping his responsibilities.

We're back in the Seychelles, where the weather is warm and partly sunny, partly cloudy.  We're at a small guest house vaguely in the neighborhood of the first place we stayed (give or take a mile or kilometer or two).  There's a beach, giant tortoises, and a couple of eating places nearby.  Plus orchids.  Incredible orchids that don't even look like real flowers.

We are dreading our next flight.  Take off is scheduled for 5:30 AM.  That means we should arrive at the airport here at about 3 AM.  Getting up at 2 AM.  Not happy with this, but the airport is roughly 10 minutes away, and we have a driver booked.  

I just hope he - and we - all wake up on time!

Next stop:  Sri Lanka!

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