Sunday, August 1, 2010

So long Rodrigues

So, we are off again, this time bound for Mauritius. But we are a little
sad to leave Rodrigues which certainly has been one of the most pleasant
stop on this voyage.
I bet that a great number of people have no idea that this island even
exists, and even more have no idea as to where it is located. And this
is a small paradise, roughly 12 miles long and 8 wide. It remained
desert until the end of the 18th century, the first settler being
Francois Leguat in 1691. Eventually, it was populated by freed slaves
from Mauritius and the descendants of those slaves constitute the great
majority of the 40,000 inhabitants of the island. There is however, a
small minority of chinese and indian shopkeepers who started settling on
the island at the beginning of the 20th century. The language used by
most is french and a local creole, but curiously enough, one of the
official languages remains english and all public signage is in english.
There is only one town, Port Mathurin, with about 4,000 people. The rest
of the population lives all over the island in small villages and
hamlets. In Port Mathurin, most of the public administrations and banks
are located, together with a great number of small shops selling almost
everything. No big shop or supermarket, but one can find almost
everything, except for what is specifically boating stuff.
We were of course tied up at Port Mathurin in the main harbour, which is
the only place where one can tie up. No facitlity of any kind there,
except a well sheltered harbour. No water, no electricity and of course
no showers, laundry, toilets, etc...
However, after some searching, we found a shop where we could take our
laundry and got it washed, dried and ironed. We also learned that at
certain hours and in certain locations, we could get free wifi from
public administration builings.
And more importantly, plenty of restaurants, some little tiny snak bars,
some looking like real restaurants, some event with live entertainment.
On Friday, we hired a cab to visit the island. Among other things, we
visited a park where a project has been started only a few years back to
resettle giant turtles which used to cover the whole island before it
was settled. Unfortunately, seafarers believed that eating the flesh of
those giant turtles would help them fight many illnesses and as a result
those turtles were totally exterminated on the island. Today, the
project counts more than 2,000 of them and it seems to be going well.
We also visited a large cavern, well organized and very interesting.
The remainder of the island is essentially devoted to agriculture and
fishing. There is a little bit of tourism, unfortunately not much. But
there are a few resorts to welcome visitors and there are 2 flights per
day out of Mauritius.
The one thing about which all visitors are unanimous, is the
friendliness and cheerfulness of the population. Everybody is smiling at
you and greeting you everytime they come across you. It really makes a
difference and we enjoyed our stay tremendously despite the fact that
this island does not have much to offer in terms of comfort and luxury.
But what a great people !
So remember where it is, and if ever you want to spend a couple of weeks
in paradise at a very affordable price, this is it !

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