Had us a great time, LOF, of that there was no doubt. I'd never fancied myself a cruise ship passenger (at least not for another 40 years or so), but I tell you, after a week aboard the Pacific Dawn I certainly had my sea legs (or was that the copious amount of beer I was drinking in the Lido Bar in between speaking engagements?). My favourite spot on the ship, however, was the poop deck, where Mrs Blog would lounge in our deck chairs in the sun and barely have to raise an eyebrow to attract the unifromed drink waiter's attention.
It was very, very relaxing. And WARM. Bloody hell, LOF, who turned off the heater in Australia while we were gone, eh?
I learned a new saying on Tonga: "Island Time". Island Time is remarkably similar to something else many of you will be familiar with - "African Time". Let us just say that unlike the snappy ship-shape service on the Pacific Dawn, things happenned ashore at their own pace in the Friendly Islands, and rarely without being asked for three or four times.
But how could you not be laid back and blissfully uncaring of interlopers' concepts of time and service when you lived in paradise? The people of the South Pacific (if one were to generalise) remind me of the good people of Botswana (if one were to generalise again). They live in a very nice place, run their own show, and don't much give a fig if tourists arrive late, early or not at all. I have to admire them for that.
Another similarity between the islands and Africa (apart from questionable and variable adherence to the rules of the road when driving) was the ever present spectre of times-past. I saw several charming old colonial homes and administrative buildings in Tonga and many of these had been allowed to go to rack and ruin. Why? Who knows. People don't have the time, inclination, or threat-of-flogging to keep the walls painted and the grass mown, I suppose.
The coast of Mozambique, I noticed (warning, warning, self-promotional segue approaching) is similarly studded with once shining touristic colonial jewels that are in dire need of a dip in coca cola or a scrub with the toothbrush.
In my soon-to-be-released sixth novel IVORY the lead character and modern-day pirate King, Alex Tremain, is trying to restore a once grand, but now run-down hotel on an island off the coast of Mozambique. Alex was born on the island, the priveleged son of the hotel's owners, but he and his family were forced to flee Mozambique when the Portuguese left en-masse in the 1970s.
I based Alex's hotel and the ficitious island where he lives on a number of similar old hotels and beautiful locales on the coast of Moz, from Xai Xai in the south, to the Bazaruto Archipelago, where I travelled extensively in search of inspiration and tax-deductions.
I had a pretty good idea in my own mind of what Alex's hotel must have looked like in its heyday, and how it looked these days. However, truth always being better and more interesting than fiction, I was de-socked to open an email from my ex-Zimbo friend Viv, and find this series of pictures which shows the Grande Hotel in the coastal city of Beira during the olden days of Portuguese rule in Mozambique...
...and then this pic which shows what the exact same hotel looks like these days!
... and today, where's it's still in use as a mosquito and malaria breeding facility.
African Time and Island Time are all well and good, LOF, and I'd hate to sea the Indian Ocean coast of Mozambique built-out from north to south, but there's room on the beach and in the market for a few more of these concrete colonial casas and their snappily-attired and snappily-moving drinks waiters to make a come back.