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Oceania Nautica Part 4

Click the image to see a gallery of all the images.

Crossing the Equator: Sometime last night we crossed the Equator.  From the beginning of time seafarers have partaken in ancient ceremonial initiations for crossing specific navigational parallel's on the globe.  Such practices are so vintage in origin that their derivation has been lost, but it is believed that invitations in such secret societies began in the Middle Ages, and it is possible that it began with the Vikings.

Today the tradition continues with the initiation of all Pollowogs, those soft, gushy creatures that have never crossed the Equator into the secret Society of the Shellbacks, the hard, tough creatures that have crossed the Equator before.    King Neptune, the Master and Ruler of the Seas, called all Polliwogs who wished to be initiated into the Society of Shellbacks to appear on the pool deck dressed for baptism.  Bathing suits were suggested.

As this was Cecilia's first crossing, she prepared for baptism.    First she had to kiss a dead frozen fish, offered up by George.  Then she had to bend before King Neptune played by Terry Bishop, on board lecturer.  King Neptune baptized her with a ladle of milk.  We now have two Shellbackers in Room 6000.

A little additional information:  Places on the Equator experience the quickest rates of sunrise and sunsets in the world and have a theoretical constant 12 hours of day and night throughout the year.

I have attended previous baptisms, and this was the mildest so far.  Anne's way of saying, "I got off easy!"

Male, Maldives: I am sitting on "the dock of the bay" in Male, Maldives waiting for the submarine to whisk us off to the depths of the Indian Ocean.  

The Maldives consists of 1190 low lying coral islands scattered across the equator in this archipelago which is 300 miles southwest of India and 450 miles west of Sri Lanka.  It was described by a famous Moroccan traveler, Ibn Buther, as one of the wonders of the world.     The sun, sand and sea beckon tourists to the sun kissed beaches, crystal clear lagoons studded with colored corals.  There are 80 odd self-contained resorts to provide all the comforts and warmth excluded by traditional Maldivian hospitality.

The capital is Male, pronounced Mar-lay.  It is 1.2 miles long and .62 miles wide and is packed to the edges with buildings, roads, a few open spaces and close to 100,000 people.  People are everywhere, sitting on stone walls, motorcycles, ferries waiting to transport people to other islands, and just walking down the streets.  I have never seen so many motorcycles except in Vietnam.  The place feels like it will soon burst at the seams. There are land reclamation projects using burned garbage to increase the land mass.  There are plans to develop other islands to reduce the pressure on Male.

These islands are a favorite playground for Europe and there are many 5 star resorts scattered among the many islands. Several people left the boat for overnight at different islands.  One couple went to a Taj Resort built over the water and came back saying it was a fabulous experience.  It should be.  It cost $2000 a night.

The people are Muslim and have been since 1153 and there are over 20 mosques in this small area. The faces of today's Maldivian displays the features of various faces that have inhibited the island for over 4,000 years.  The language is Dhivehi, a language whose roots are Sanskrit.  The close knit community practice mutual aid to each other and there is a system of extended family who also contributes to the care of children.  Traditionally men go out fishing during and women look after the affairs of the family. We found the people to be very warm and friendly.  People with children would stop and greet us.  The children would shyly shake hands which is the normal greeting.  Everyone spoke and smiled to this lot of foreigners who had invaded their country.

English is required in schools. It is a democratic country and the newly elected young president
(in his 40's) is working to improve the country.  There are a few modest attractions in Male.  The major attraction is the outlying islands.

We tendered in and waiting at the pier were men trying to sell trips to the islands and other tourist things.  We met Rixam immediately and he turned out to be a real gem.  First he walked us to the free wifi at the Jade Bistro. It is the Maldives answer to Starbucks and also as expensive.  A cup of regular coffee was $6.00, and a milkshake was $8.00.  The cheapest breakfast listed was $24.00.

We has decided not to take the ship's excursions here but wanted to go on the submarine.  We had been told by someone else's there was no room.  We told Rixam how disappointed we were and he said let me call my cousin who works on the ship.  He said be at Jetty 2 at 3:30 pm and my cousin will meet you there.  So we were there.  Along came a man who said this way to the submarine.  We followed the crowd and were told there was no room and the boat left.   A that time Rixam shows up and said "why did you not  wait for my cousin?". Then the cousin comes barreling up on a motorcycle.  Rixam takes us to a cab, says I am paying for the cab; told him to follow the motorcycle and we were off through the narrow streets of Male.  To our surprise the same boat minus the others was there to meet us and take us to the submarine station.  Needless to say the people on the boat were surprised to see us.  

The sub went down a 120 feet to a coral wall.  We saw beautiful fish of many different varieties and many beautiful colors.  We even saw a large turquoise colored turtle swim by. I guess this is an unusual sighting.  The boat employees were exceptionally nice.  Doing it on our own for $85, we saved $100 from the ship's price and had a little adventure.

Rixam was there to meet us when we came back so we asked if he could arrange a van to see the city tomorrow.  He did so and we covered almost all 3 miles of Male stopping at the few landmarks such as the President's house, mosques, and government buildings.  Rixam accompanied us as guide and then took us to his brother's shop which had souvenirs and jewelry.  Some folks were the scooping up the jewelry.

It was a good two days in Male but to really enjoy one need to be into diving and snorkeling.  I think it would be fabulous to be in one of the off island resorts.

Mangalore, India: Yesterday was a sea day but this morning we wake up in Mangalore, India. India has 5000 years of recorded history.  It is a country of varied geographic area from snow covered mountains, cool forest foothills and humid deltas.   The people are as varied as the geography with many different languages, 18 language specifically recognized and thousands of dialects.    You think we have a problem in the US with languages, the schools in India there are more than 150 different languages, and there are films in 15, newspapers in 90 or more and radio programs in 71.    "The beauty of the Indian people lies in the spirit of tolerance of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colors, and while maintaining their own entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden- India."


The first view of Mangalore from the ship is the well-worn terminal and to get into the city  6 miles away one has to pass through some of the worst parts.  As I had been to Mangalore 2 years ago I opted for the shuttle bus to town.  It took us to a very modern 4 story shopping mall with many of the items we see in the US.    As I was experiencing some knee pain today I opted to return to the ship.  There was a shop in the port with pashminas, carvings and other trinkets.  There was also a duty free wine and liquor shop so I stocked up to save from the high prices of the ship.

Cecilia did a tour- A Day in the Life of Mangalore- which I did last time.
We began the tour by walking down the red carpet to the terminal exit; two beautiful Indian maidens dressed in traditional Indian saris welcomed us to India.

The drive to the Achal Cashew Processing Plant was short. The plant imported raw cashews from Goa and South Africa to be processed in Mangalore.  The women who do this menial labor are at the bottom of the labor market in India.  Child care and schooling are provided by the plant management for the children of workers.  And yes, we did get samples!

Although most of the people are Hindu, they value Catholic education.   St. Aloysius College provides education from kindergarten through Ph D.  The St. Aloysius Chapel was built in the year 1899-1900, the walls of the church are covered with the paintings of the artist Anthony Moshaini of Italy. St. Aloysius College Chapel, an architectural gem, comparable with the Sistine chapel in Rome, is situated on lighthouse hill.  The special beauty of the chapel is the wonderful series of paintings that virtually cover every inch of the interior roof and walls

We drove to Belmont House, a stately mansion built originally by Michael Thomas Harris and the Collector and Magistrate of the Canara District. The house was named after his home, Belmont, in
Haversham, Kent.  The house was built in the colonial style; high verandas, high ceilings and cross air passages.  The affluent Peres family, successful planters of coffee and rubber, purchased the home for a handsome sum of 400 US dollars. The family still owns the home.

The last stop was to visit the Kudroli Gokarnath Temple. This temple has been renovated and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mangalore. Since today is Sunday, the temple was crowded with families worshipping.  Most were in there Sunday best--many beautiful saris were worn by the women.  After taking our shoes off, we entered the temple.  The bells and noise were deafening; the incense was thick.  One thing about the places we have visited, everyone seems glad to see us.  People wanted to have their pictures made with us and were happy to let us photograph them as well.  All in all, a very positive experience!!

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