In order to begin our journey onwards along the TOCAP, I felt it would be nice to recap a bit and then go forward. So let’s just return back to the Atlantic Coast when we hit the desolate beach in the Namib-Nauklaft National Park in Namibia. We already know about the skeleton coast and how really rugged, arid and spectacular the landscape is. For the very reasons that normally drive away people, many diehard adventurers from across the world flock here each year to try their hand at something exciting. Going ahead we also make a stop at Swakopmund, Namibia’s second city, a place with strong German connections, where Mein Kampf and photos of Hitler are still on sale in the local curio shop. Namibia used to be a German colony and the country has a dark past: German colonizers killed tens of thousands of locals in a forgotten genocide, in German ‘concentration camps’ in Namibia. We would try to watch pack of Cheetahs who often roam around the Namibian wilderness in search of food and if possible, let’s also stay put for a while with the Herero tribe, and learn their horseback skills. We also witness the Herero Holy Fire ceremony which is a complex ceremony of dance and rituals, much steeped in local wines and drugs and shamanic incantations.
As we move across the Kalahari Desert we enter Botswana, which though a poverty-ridden nation, has the world’s largest diamond mine, that lies close to TOCAP where millions of dollars worth diamonds are mine every week, and the money generated is used to fund education and healthcare. So I am sure you would like to take a peek at the diamond mines too. Well, to tell you honestly, if any of you are claustrophobic you can’t go inside a diamond mine since it penetrates the earth for kilometers and you have to go down in narrow chutes and one feels as if the earth is swallowing you in its enormous belly. But it’s worth a visit.
Traveling further on, at the edge of the Kalahari Desert we encounter the legendary San (bushmen of Kalahari) people who have lived and coexisted peacefully with their cousins, the lions. San people are among the poorest African tribes and they literally live off the desert land and for generations they have shared the meager resources with other animals. Their world is a perfect example of sharing and caring and living in harmony with your surroundings. San people are also known for their vigor and vitality.
From Botswana we enter the northern part of South Africa. This region was white stronghold during the apartheid era. Even now majority of the landowners are white Afrikaaner farmers who are armed and ready to defend their land. It’s a kind of wild west and a part of SA I haven’t seen much. They don’t welcome black people or the natives but I am sure we would be welcome as I have many influential friends in SA. If you recall history, this was also the site of the famous Boer War. Much ravaged land, it is not a happy place to be so let’s get going and hit the Kruger National Park. Now this is a park I have seen and it is simply awesome, can’t think of any other word to describe it. So we must stay put here for a while. The park is very well maintained with trails and all facilities for comfort. We can camp in the wild (though we may be run over by elephant herds or eaten up by lions or attacked by wild dogs) or we can camp in one of the game sanctuaries, depending on how much money we are still left with and where has our sponsors gone.
From there we literally bump into Mozambique, a country that is amazingly beautiful but still not so well known or developed and is still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal civil war 15 years ago. We got to be careful either driving or walking since landmines still litter the country and I am not an expert on landmines. Funnily enough someone has found that Giant Gambian Pouched Rats are great at smelling the explosives buried underground, so I guess we got to pick up a pair of rats who would make a safe passage for us. Since we are following TOCAP, we would cross Mozambique rather quickly as we reach the Indian Ocean. Much of the Mozambique coast is a typical tropical paradise. It is a cheap country to be in and one can have plenty of fun and frolic with modest means. The beaches are rolling dunes of white sand lined with swaying palms and coconuts. The weather is always moderate with cool evenings and mornings. There’s plenty to do in Mozambique in terms of social enterprise too, as even now not much of the world’s attention has gone to this extremely poor country.
We finally take off from Mozambique in a shanty boat for the final leg of our journey and sail across the Mozambique channel and land on Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island. I guess as this would be our last country on our journey before setting sail for India, we can stay here for a while and explore this beautiful country. So let’s head for the capital city of Antananarivo where we would see a unique blend of African, Indian and French Colonial influences. There are many Indian origin people, so we would be welcome profusely, especially when they hear of our valiant tale of navigating around the world. If you are up for some gastronomic adventure then no harm in trying out the zebu penis soup, which is a local delicacy. Madagascar is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and also one of the poorest nations in the world and while we pass through its forests and lands and encounter giant octopuses and the ubiquitous baobab trees we might also go on sapphire hunting with the locals through the dangerous maze of underground tunnels. Finally we would take the train through the mountain highlands to the east coast for our home run.
But as we are about to set sail and head north towards the Malabar coast of India, we spy the girdle of Mauritius right on our path that we would otherwise skirt to our left and I insist that we must land there too. This is purely off the records since our TOCAP journey is now complete, but on Mauritius we must set our feet for a while, since I have been there couple of times and it really has some of the finest beaches and islands in the world. So we go to Mauritius and romp around much like nature meant us to, both in Rodriguez Island and Port Luis. By now I am sure we all are expert scuba divers so we play in the corals with the dolphins and the manta rays. From here it’s a long journey back to India and for some reason none of us seem really keen to return, so let’s just stay put here till we figure out where to head off to next. Our next stop might well be to another Indian Ocean jewel, the Seychelles, another of the tropical paradise I have been to and can vouch for. It has white beaches, gorgeous sunsets and green hills to climb.
That's where I would conclude our journey and thank you all for being with me on this incredible voyage. I hope it was a memorable journey for all of you along the Tropic of Capricorn though some parts were done virtually. If this excites any of you to undertake the journey in reality then do let me know and I would love to be at the helm of the boat that would be needed to cover the Oceans.