We arrived in Gan with a day to spare for my rendezvous with Deanne in Male and for Ben with a surf charter on Sojourn. The Coastguard watch at Gan kindly agreed to provide security for Galaxy III during our 2 weeks shore leave.
I was curious what makes the Maldives, a nation of 400,000 people scattered across 26 atolls with 1,192 islands, tick. The answer is 1.5 million tourists a year that account for around 30% of the economy, with fishing the next largest industry. There are plans to double the 100 existing resorts and attract 7.5 million tourists a year!
Deanne & I began our time together at Club Med Kani on the island of Kanifinolhu. We both enjoy the way Club Med create a holiday, with fantastic staff from all corners of the world and amazing food. I took full advantage of the inclusive food and bar to restore some reserves depleted after a 20-day passage. The French style presentation and serving size was a small obstacle to overcome.
As you do, we went snorkelling and saw firsthand the effect of bleaching on the coral reef. Bleaching occurs when the stress from increased water temperatures cause algae to be expelled from coral, which then dies if temperatures do not fall. It seems the damage is extensive and around 60% of coral colonies in the Maldives have died from bleaching and I imagine this would be a real threat to the Maldives as a premier diving destination.
From the Maldives, we travelled to Italy for a friend’s wedding in Positano. First stop was Rome, a.k.a. the Eternal City, which is history on steroids – over 2,700 years of it. With due apology to scholars of history, what follows is a summary of tour guide history; The legend is the city was founded in 753BC by Romulus who killed his brother, Remis, to win the naming rights. However, it wasn’t until 509BC there were any written records from the Senate – the early democracy gave way to Roman emperors after Julius Caesar, who was elected Dictator for Life and subsequently assassinated by 23 Senators. The emperors had a penchant for monuments and there is none grander than the Colosseum, which was built by 30,000 Jewish slaves after Jerusalem was burned to the ground by the Romans, to quell an uprising.
The Colosseum, which opened in 80AD, was built for entertainment, which consisted of contests that killed over 400,000 Gladiators, slaves & Christians and a million wild animals over hundreds of years. The turning point in the conversion to Christianity is credited to Emperor Constantine who in 312AD, at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol at the battle, and thereafter they were victorious. Christianity was subsequently decriminalised in 313AD. The ascendancy of the Vatican, as well as cost pressures to supply and operate the venue, sent the Colosseum into decline and abandonment.
Italy as we now know it was unified in 1871 and in 1929, Mussolini signed over the Vatican to become the world’s smallest country of 44 ha. Who knows, this might have been enough to improve my modern history results at school…….
From Rome, we travelled by fast train and ferry to Capri – the Italians seem to thrive on dramatic chaos and if you are short of time to get to the Opera, the taxi ranks and ferry terminals are a good alternative; I was convinced the taxi drivers at Naples station were about to kill each other.
Capri is a beautiful island with crystal clear water, some spectacular natural features, thousands of steps and eye watering retail. Intrigued by the Italian concept of a beach and the water clarity, I learned that the Mediterranean has a low concentration of nutrients and subsequently low levels of algae that give seas a turquoise hue. A coloured umbrella in some pebbles remains a mystery.
A ferry from Capri brought us to Positano for a 3-day celebration of the marriage between Deanne’s friend Giulia and Christopher. It was both a wonderful and surreal three days.
The commitment ceremony was held on perhaps the hottest day of the Mediterranean summer. The priest is also the groom’s father and he began proceedings with the comment that it was like opening the bowling in New Guinea. Perhaps, though I’m sure the bowler wouldn’t be wearing black tie. Despite the rivers of sweat, the jackets stayed on for the brief ceremony and was arguably the best display of British grit since WWII. We dined on the finest Italian cuisine on a terrace overlooking Positano and heard heartfelt speeches that reminded me the English language is indeed a beautiful thing.
Deanne & I cherished our time together and of course, I’ll miss her (except hearing about how good the tomatoes in Italy are) – we have already made plans for our next rendezvous in Cape Town.
On returning to Gan, I was relieved to see Galaxy was in tact, where I left her. Ben & I had become known locally as the “boat people” as we moved around town provisioning the boat for the next leg.