Thursday 3 May 1984 – Mahe #5
I was up at 05.00 as I had agreed to go deep sea fishing with Richard Scholl of Swiss Re. He is very Germanic and reminds me a lot of Klaus Selmer complete with facial grimaces etc. he was at reception promptly at 05.30 as arranged and seemed to be a little surprised to see me. I even saw him glancing surreptitiously at his watch - in case he was late presumably!
We were at the yacht club at 05.50 and were off by 06.00 as arranged. I was a bit worried about being sea sick as the wind was blowing pretty strongly. The boat wasn’t very big and had twin outboards and we were soon hurtling along the coastline heading for the fishing grounds off Silhouette. I needn’t have worried about the seasickness as it was easier than the QE2.
The coastline was beautiful in the dawn light and we got a good view of all the beautiful homes we had seen on Tuesday afternoon, but this time from the seaward side. Just off the point of Beau Vallon Bay we set our lines and then were off trolling. It was about twenty minutes before we had the first strike on one of my rods and I soon hauled in a bonito of about 8 lbs. They look a bit like tunny. Richard had a strike soon after and we thought we were in luck but it was to be about two hours before we caught anything more.
During this time we went right out to Silhouette and got a good look at the island which is beautiful and uninhabited. It looks very Robinson Crusoeish. Of course in the shallower water around the island the waves were getting up pretty high and we had some interesting times. Rab might have enjoyed it but I suspect Matt would not have done – although he enjoyed the QE2 and Gloria in heavy weather.
Having tried around Silhouette for a while, with a conspicuous lack of success, we now headed back to Mahe, right in the face of the south easter which seemed to have got a bit stronger. There was a lot of spray flying about and we all got soaking wet. It was a most interesting experience though. The water was that incredible purply/blue colour of the deep ocean tipped with white here and there. Every now and then a flying fish would skim across the waves. I couldn’t believe that the first one I saw wasn’t a bird because they go quite a distance.
I was a bit worried about the sun because we had to take down the canopy on account of the wind. But I applied the Coppertone liberally and took some Silversun so I seem to be OK. After bashing through the waves for about two hours we finally spotted a flock of birds feeding and made a run through them. Richard had first strike this time with another bonito and then I had my second – and the biggest of the day at about 12 lbs. We circled the area for about half an hour without any further luck and as time was running out we headed for home.
It was quite a relief to be running with the wind and of course once we got into Beau Vallon Bay it was really quite calm as it is so protected. Richard was lying on the front deck sunbathing and I caught another couple of small bonito. About half way across the bay the line began to scream out at high speed and I thought we would be able to come back with something really good. But whatever it was broke the heavy wire trace and was gone off into the distance. The skipper thought it might have been a big tunny or a wahoo.
As we rounded the point, where there were a dozen or so boats fishing off the bottom with handlines, we realised the wind had not dropped after all and were soon battling away in clouds of spray soaking the clothes which had been drying out rather well. We got back to the dockside just after noon as planned after a most enjoyable trip. I had a silent laugh at Richard who stripped down to change into his dry clothes on the dockside. He modestly turned his back on us apparently oblivious to the fact that he was then facing the yacht club where the entire veranda was full of members and their wives.
Back to the hotel for a quick shower and a shave and a quick change of clothes, a rather nice tuna salad for lunch and a quick call to Rab. I hadn’t realised until yesterday how good the communications were from Seychelles. I had tried to call last night but there was no reply. All was well with her and Matt.
I got to the airport early – about 14.30 for the 16.30 flight to find a complete shambles. Everyone seemed to want first class seats, including those who were clearly waitlisted. It was really quite incredible the lengths some of them were going to and I regret to say that most of the really vociferous ones were British despite their three piece suits and ties. The Swiss were pretty aggressive too and finally to satisfy this demand the first two rows of Economy were re-designated as First Class.
What they achieved therefore was to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get free drinks and sit where they would have sat anyway. In a final irony, the air-conditioning failed in the First Class section so they flew back to Nairobi at 30°C./86F. By the time I came to the front of the queue it was quite clear that since my name was not on the manifest I was not going to get a First Class seat so I settled for a refund and a nice window seat at the rear where it was cool and which enabled me to disembark rapidly. I must say I was taken aback at the time. It was amazing to see the appalling behaviour of some of these allegedly well bred, men with senior positions .
The flight across was pleasant and the service good. The only fly in the ointment that we landed in Mombasa first which meant that we had to clear Customs and Immigration there. All the baggage was unloaded and then re-loaded all of which took about an hour and a half. Matters were not helped by a party of Greeks boarding at Mombasa who took their time and finally boarded after we had been sitting, sweltering for about twenty minutes on the aircraft.
I was off like a dirty shirt when we finally got to Nairobi, my bag came off fairly quickly and pushing aside all the pawing hands of importuning taxi drivers I got hold of a Ketco cab. They are the best since they are all new air-conditioned Mercedes sedans and since they charge the same fare structure as the other rattletraps one may as well be driven in comfort. (These Mercedes had been purchased to ferry around the dignitaries and Heads of State for an Organisation of African Unity meeting held in Nairobi. The deal was that after the meeting, instead of being distributed to local favourites, they would be used as taxis.)
I was a bit weary by the time I got back to the Hilton. It was just after 21.00 local time, about ten hours since I had left the Coral Strand. I got a very warm welcome – and the same discounted rate as last week. I had an omelette and went to bed. They are letting me keep the room until lunch time tomorrow.
Friday 4 May 1984 – Nairobi again
I went on a final shopping trip this morning. I really wanted to get a clay model of a matatu which I had seen in a shop last week. It was only $10 and very well done. These matatus are Peugeot 404 pickups used as taxis and are unbelievably jammed with a dozen or more passengers hanging on wherever they can get a grip. There is a matatu rank right outside the hotel and in my previous room I could hear them whistling and shouting and hooting as they tried to attract fares.
I asked Joe the driver where the name had come from, since matatu is Swahili for three – and there are never as few as three people in one of them. His response was that when they were first licensed the fare was three shillings so the cry was always “Matatu! Matatu!’ to attract attention.
The model was the only one I saw apart from one in Mombasa at three times the price so I got it plus two more snake boxes because they were so cheap and a sisal bag to carry everything as the suitcase is really bulging now.. and since this gave me a bit more room, I bought a few of the local chocolate bars and some mango juice for Rab and Matt. I also bought a bottle of local Papaya Wine made, as the name implies, from pawpaws. It is said by some to be not bad and by others to be awful, so I only got one bottle – for all of $2.00. (It was indeed truly awful.)
I took the opportunity of confirming my flight again only to find yet another bugger up with no sign of my booking. I finally got a confirmation but I will be going out to the airport early just to make sure I get home. I also picked up some pills for my cold from a chemist but they don’t seem to be doing any good and my nose is still dripping – damn nuisance.
So! All in all I have had a splendid time. Apart from the rain in Mombasa the weather has been good if a little hot. It will be nice to get back to the comparative coolness of Harare.
I have met some interesting people many of whom may be useful contacts for the future and I have spied out the land for potential future holidays. I think that, unless there is an incredible difference in price between Kenya and Seychelles, I would opt for the latter especially as Richard Scholl says all the resorts in Mombasa are similar to Nyali Beach. Ideally I would like to have a week here for safari and and a week in Seychelles. Time will tell if we make it.
(We never did.)