Tranquil, unstressed, friendly, welcoming... and easy to get lost! Rodrigues Island was a lovely, surprising stop-over on the journey from Chagos to Mauritius.
|View from Ketoro in Rodrigues harbour: fishermen poling, as the tide drops|
Tiny, rugged, volcanic Rodrigues Island lies about 600km east of Mauritius. Steep green sides reach down to tiny beaches; these and a few small uninhabited islands are completely protected by a broad reef around the island: the scenery is beautiful, rustic, peaceful.
With this island geography, the Creole islanders (of mixed African and French descent) have a difficult task feeding their population of 36000, but wherever they can the locals manage small market gardens,
tend their cattle and goats, and catch fish.
|Pirogues are poled out of harbour at low tide; masts and sails will be raised further out|
|Pirogues on their way to fishing grounds|
|Low tide on the reef: anchor not working very hard here!|
|Drying octopus to preserve it|
The island has a small but successful honey industry. Many islanders cannot travel easily, either due to being physically disabled or due to the location of their small home in the most rugged parts of the island. To assist these people with getting an income, in early 1990 a project on teaching bee-keeping and honey collection was begun, and Rodriguan organic honey has since become renowned.
|Local specialties: organic honey and achars flavoured with ginger or crystallized lemon|
Rodrigues is an autonomous outer island of Mauritius; it used to be the tenth District of Mauritius, but gained autonomous status in 2002 and is governed by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly. However, Rodrigues essentially relies on Mauritius for all its supplies and the weekly supply ship Mauritius Pride carries passengers and an amazing range of cargo to sustain life on the island.
|Mauritius Pride seen from Ketoro: the ship fills the single wharf to which we were previously tied|
Since the harbour is small, all yachts (about 6 of us) had to leave to allow the ship in, and then we were able to return into the basin to anchor.
|Early morning departure of the Mauritius Pride, accompanied by two local tugs|
This is a population that prides itself on having little stress; and indeed, several walks around the capital, Port Mathurin, (only seven streets wide and easy to walk!) at various times of the day and days of the week confirmed this – shutters are closed on an ad-hoc basis by the small shops, and weekends and late afternoons offer few shopping hours. Strategy: venture out mid-morning on weekdays to make the most of the colourful town and people and enjoy the tiny interesting stores, market and craft shops.
|Colourful , quaint Port Mathurin, Rodrigues|
Local Rodriguans are really friendly and welcoming. This starts with the officials on first arrival and clearing in and continues through all contacts until you leave, with people going out of their way to assist visitors.
We fully appreciated this helpful hospitality - on several occasions we found ourselves exploring the island, getting lost, and an approach to the nearest local person resulted in their giving up a few hours of their day to see us on our way.
Possibly it was Irene’s pitiful French and the listener’s exasperation, or simply to ensure we did not stay, but most likely it was motivated by a wish that the tourist not come to harm and do find their way home whilst still experiencing and seeing the best of the island. Certainly we believe this to be the case in our fun explorations on at least three occasions; the pictures highlight the beautiful terrain and the kind “tour guides” …
|Rolf is made to walk to the cross on the hill…|
How to go down the quick way, and not retrace our steps? Local knowledge is everything …
|We get lost on our return and are shown the local way down|
by a kind man who was tending his bean patch
We were guided down the steep paths through the back gardens of the villagers, and in one case we went into a man’s home by the back door, through his kitchen and bedroom, and made our exit via the lounge front door! This was the only way down the steep hill. The homeowner was most obliging, it was all rather festive, our guide had a good laugh with us then left us, to return to his small farm way at the top of the hill.
|Farewell, and thanks for the help!|
Another day, we set of on a walk to see Trou D’Argent, a famous tiny hidden treasure beach.
|Very lovely… but we are not yet aware that the bus driver |
had dropped us off at the wrong place and we are lost
|Claude, on his way to collect his goat herd, |
takes us in hand to ensure we find Trou D’Argent
|Beautiful Trou D’Argent, an old pirate treasure hide-out?|
|Claude only let us continue on our own after about an hour, |
when we could (surely?) not again get lost – and returned to herd his goats
Another day, another story: Caverne Patate is a cave beneath a coral plain. Arriving here by motorbike after the staff had gone (but not after closing time!) we met a young man collecting leaves for his (apparently fussy) goats. Fortunately there is unofficial cave access away from the formal enclosure, and with a private guide… well, who needs opening hours?
|Scramble through here to enter Caverne Patate|
The pride of Rodriguans in their autonomous status and their welcoming community is evident in their urging us to stay longer rather than move on to Mauritius… which they assure us will not be as much fun!
|Saying farewell to this concrete wall and aeroplane tyre tie-up |
was the only easy thing about leaving Rodrigues
|Sunset from Ketoro: |
walking on the reef at low tide to find fish and octopus