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Hunting Pirate Heaven Paperback – 25 Apr 2002
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Frequently hilarious and always entertaining . . . teeming with the joy of travel and brimming with literary élan. (Spectator)
Kevin Rushby's objective is to locate the descendants of the 16th century pirates who had carved kingdoms for themselves in the remote jungles of north-east Madagascar. Hitching rides on a motley assortment of freighters, dhows, yachts and fishing smacks, he sails up the African coast, then east towards his goal. It is a story full of incident: voyages to islands where forgotten Portugese forts lie covered in jungle, places where some have tried to shoot their way to paradise, and where the ever-present ocean can destroy lives and dreams as quickly as men and women create them.See all Product description
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What little we know about pirates mostly comes to us through fiction . . . often built on bits and pieces of what people have claimed to be true about pirates. Mr. Rushby did his homework before starting by locating the regions on the Indian Ocean on or adjacent to Mozambique where pirates were supposed to have been active. From these stories, he heard tales of "edens" where pirates went to rest up . . . or even retire. "What were these edens like?" he wondered.
Starting from the area where the British East India Company launched its first voyages 400 years ago, he quickly moved to a freighter leaving South Africa so he could hedge-hop the coast of Mozambique. From there, his accommodations and creature comforts went mostly downhill. As he visited each area, he asked about pirates . . . but usually didn't learn very much until almost the end of the trip. But he did meet modern equivalents of people living in tropical "paradises" and he often reflects on what he finds. He often finds "trouble in paradise" as well as paradise.
Along the way, he suddenly discovers that not everyone is as friendly as they might be. Nature can be dangerous, too!
Be sure to stick with the book until the end. It just gets better and better.
I did grade the book down one star though. Why? I found that this would have been a better book if it had focused simply on what life is like in that part of the world . . . and either mentioned the pirates in passing or skipped them. I found the pirates to be more of a distraction than an appeal in my reading.
But if you are a great fan of books about pirates (no matter how remote the connection is), you will probably enjoy learning about the current reality and the ironies these facts reveal about the legends.
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