24.03.2013 - 27.04.2013 87 °F
You’ll be glad to know that we made it safely through the pirate zone. We are now in the southern Indian Ocean en route to Madagascar, having spent the last few days visiting the islands of Mauritius and Réunion. Mauritius used to be the home of the dodo bird, a very large bird that lost the ability to fly because it did not have any predators. So when human beings came to Mauritius in the 17th century, dodos were an easy prey and a favorite source of food. So many of the birds were killed that the dodos became extinct within 200 years. Their loss is a sad reminder of the irreparable harm that human beings can do to the earth's environment.
Réunion used to be a French colony but since 1947 has been an overseas “department” of France. It is odd to hear the people of Réunion speak of France as the “mainland,” since France is many thousands of miles away. However, that is probably no different than Hawaii being a part of the United States even though it is out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
An interesting fact about our next destination, Madagascar, is that this large island off the coast of Africa is the only place on earth where lemurs, a species of monkey with big eyes and ringed tails, are to be found. I hope that we human beings do a better job preserving these delightful animals than we did with dodos.
We didn’t have enough time to see the lemurs on Madagascar, but we did visit the port town of Port Dauphin. The people of Madagascar are very poor; the average yearly income is $1400. When we were waiting to board the van to take us into town, returning passengers warned us not to get off once we arrived. “People surround you trying to get you to buy souvenirs and give them money,” they said.
In the town, we did get crowded by eager vendors, mostly little children offering bead necklaces. There were also many taxi drivers wanting to show us the sights. However, all we had to do was say, “No, thank you” and keep on walking. We were soon left alone except for one small boy who continued to follow us until we bought one of his necklaces.