University At Sea travel blog

Singers on the beach


Ylang-ylang trees


Cinnamon tree

Ylang-ylang distillery


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Grande Terre, Mayotte

Today, the Exploritas group could choose from tours offered by Discovery; I chose a cultural tour; however, there wasn’t very much culture included in what we saw.

Mayotte is composed of two islands, Grande Terre and Petite Terre between Mozambique and Madagascar just above the Mozambique Canal. Even though we were not visiting any mosques, women were required to have their knees and shoulders covered as respect for this mostly Muslim country. We arrived by ship tender, then boarded a small bus that took us in a circular route through the center of Grande Terre. This is very different from all the other islands we visited. We drove from 9:00 a.m. until noon, with one rest stop and a couple of photo stops and encountered very little habitation. There was a small village near the dock and another near a furniture factory, which seemed to be one of the island’s main industries, and another small settlement near its major seaport. There was one very modern looking school that I noticed. All along the road was dense vegetation: mangrove with twisted and gnarled roots that would be a nightmare to get lost in, bamboo, mangos, palm, banana, coconut, raffia used in building traditional houses and other native trees. I wish I could have gathered some of the lantana that was growing so freely on the side of the road for my planters this summer. But they were much larger and bushier than the compact plants we use. Our guide said that when people planted gardens they didn’t plant flowers but food. When I asked what kinds of food they planted, he wasn’t able to answer. He said bananas and coconut, but that was hardly the answer I expected; however bananas are a staple in the diet. Our guide got his guide training in France, and he didn’t have too much information to share, but tourist ships do not make frequent stops at Mayotte, so guides probably don‘t get much practice. We stopped to look at the ylang-ylang trees that were not in flower at the time, but the flowers are picked to extract the essence of ylang-ylang, which is used in the perfume industry. We stopped to look from the window of the bus at a distillery that was extracting the oil. It takes 50 kg of flowers to make 1 liter of essence oil

We made a stop at a beach where women were singing accompanied by rhythm sticks and I had a glass of papaya juice. There were items for sale, but it looked more like a rummage sale with children‘s games, DVDs, clothing and some craft and hand made items. A young man was selling small bottles of essence of ylang-ylang for 6 euros. I had a 10 Euro bill, but he didn’t have any change. Communication was very difficult because he spoke French and didn’t understand English. He went to the bar where we got our juice and asked for change, but all he managed to get was two 5 Euro bills, which he gave me for my 10 Euro bill.. That didn’t help giving me change in singles. The bus was ready to go, and I asked if he’d take 5 euros, and he hesitatingly agreed. According to other people, I got a pretty good bargain, because other places were charging 6 and 7 euros.

As our tender was making its way back to the ship, we had a brief rainfall; the “hot rainy season” is from November to April.

Our Cruise Director really did his homework in researching films that correlate with where we are. I’m seeing “African Queen” with more appreciation. Movies are shown on a large screen in a theatre setting, then repeated continuously to view in our cabin TVs. “The Ghost In the Darkness”, which I never heard of before is a true story about man-eating lions that kill many workers in the building of the Tsavo Railroad. The lions are on display at Chicago’s Natural History Museum.

The cabin stewards closed my deadlights for the duration of transit through the affected pirate area. The captain announced tat we’d be picking up speed and advised securing items that might roll and get damaged, like cameras.

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