I’ve been reflecting on country names. The countries I’ve been disappointed with seem to begin with an M: Malta, Mexico, Mauritius. This doesn’t bode well for Malawi, though the rule doesn’t always apply; Mongolia and Myanmar were lovely
It’s hard to find something positive to say about the fossas. They prey on the lemurs, are only found here and look something like an ugly grey cross between a dog and a cat. They are actually part of the mongoose family. I am supposed to go night trekking to look for them, but like the colobus they have come to find me instead. One sneaks into the open air dining room and eats my lunch
Rwanda is at the heart of Africa. It’s also Africa’s Switzerland: small, green, mountainous and very neat, surprisingly clean and manicured, with little hedges and brickwork lining the roads. It’s deliciously warm and pretty with refreshing alpine air.
We fly north to Gondar, seventeenth century capital of Ethiopia and marvel at its arid mountains, sandstone castles and wooden orthodox churches. One, smaller castle has a 'swimming pool' that is filled with water for the annual Timkat Festival. The people parade their copy of the Ark of the Covenant (under cover of course) and then all jump into the water.
I get a really good peek at the scatter of islands that form the Cape Verde group as we swoop in. Hardly anyone in the UK had heard of them. They’re about 300 miles west of Senegal-but used to be part of (also Portuguese colonial) Guinea Bissau. And things get adventuresome as soon as I arrive.
I take a boat trip to Cousin Island to see the fluffy tern chicks and the giant tortoises and snorkel in the marine reserve. Lunch is set up on a long table on the beach. I’ve already established that nearly all the couples on the trip are indeed on their honeymoon
The Indian influence is pervasive and at least adds some character. The crater lake of Grand Bassin, sacred to Mauritian Hindus, has a pink temple with white icing decoration. I can just make it out in the mist, and some mournful statues of Shiva and other Hindu gods suspended in the water.
The jeeps have jolted over what must be the worst roads in Africa and that’s saying something. The ruts seem to be feet deep and we’ve threatened to tip right over on more than one occasion. Our esteemed leader’s preferred method of driving is full on throttle. A sports bra is a necessity.
Johannesburg. We are warned not to go into the city and are put up in a cute little B & B on the outskirts. It is just up the road from Gold Reef City and the casino - the main entertainment on offer here.