South We Go

Episode 1 – Rodriguez

From Paris to London to Mauritius to Rodriguez

After travelling for 2 days, taking a train and 3 planes, we arrived in paradise. Rodriguez a unspoiled, innocent, almost unknown island in the Indian Ocean.  Relaxing on white sand beaches looking out at the clear blue sea, eating fresh seafood curries and hiking, just a few of the highlights.

Episode 1 video

Week 1

After leaving Paris as everyone is returning to the city to go back to work or school, we take a train and 2 planes to arrive on the tiny island of Rodriguez, know as the No Stress Island. The sun is shinning, its at least 25 degrees (not bad for the winter) people are smiling, we are welcomed with coconuts...

Week 1 by Nat / Semaine 1 par Fred

Week 2

In just a few words the second week of our trip went like this....lots of sun, sea and sand, good fresh local food and of course we explored the No Stress island more. Read more to find out about the Saturday market capital, Port Mathurin, of this No Stress island and is famous caverne patate.

Week 2 by Nat / Semaine 2 par FredPicasa Album

Day to day

Day 0 (1/9/10) It's time to take off

Picture of the day

St Pancras

7 am the alarm clock rings, but it’s not time to get up to go to work, it time to head to the Gare du Nord in Paris to Catch the Euro Star. It’s a sunny warm day, school starts back tomorrow and people all back from their holiday. For us the adventure has just started, after some struggling with the big back packs that we are going to live out of for the year to come, we boarded our train headed for London. There we had lunch with Fred’s sister before taking the tube to go to Heathrow terminal 3. The weather in London is sunny and we spend the afternoon in the airport drinking coffee waiting for out 12 hour flight. We had our Irises scanned so that in a years time when we are headed we home we can hopefully skip the huge welcome to the UK immigration lines. Heathrow airport duty free has many designer shops and a large choice of restaurants…fancy some sushi before your 12 hour flight? We were not so brave.

Day 1 (02/09/10) Landing in the tropics

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Arrivée à Maurice

‘Good morning, we would like to inform you that we will be arriving in Mauritius in approximately 1hour’ the crew of Air Mauritius told us as woke us up and started serving breakfast. The flight went well; we got to sleep, watched some recent movies and enjoy not too bad food. Once we landed we passed through immigration quickly, collected our bags and met our driver, Hassan, who is also the Lodge owner of where we are staying tonight. The weather is sunny it is 24 degrees here, not bad for the end of winter. The sun we soon figured out just came out when we landed to tease us. Once we were ready to start to explore no sooner did we get outside that the rain started. But not the rain we are use to in Europe, tropical rain and a wind that is so strong that you can not understand from which direction the rain is coming from. We found a small restaurant called ‘Salut Mon Copain’, where we had a a lunch that consisted of fried noodles with different kinds of meat. We took refuge in the lodge for a few hours before going to see the local festival ‘festival de rire’. I think it was funny but we could not tell as it was in the local language Creole.

Day 2 (03/09/10) Welcome to Paradise

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Welcome flowers

8 am a knock on our door ‘breakfast is ready’ it was our host Hassan, breakfast was had on the roof top of the lodge, where we enjoyed a view of the river, ocean, the mountains and the sugar cane fields…what else can you ask for….hammocks? Well there were 2 on the roof top, a great way to relax after breakfast. We head to the airport where we take our flight for the Rodriguez island, after an hour of negotiating we were finally able to take all out luggage with us, as we are taking long haul flights, we had too much for the small charter that does the shuttle between the two islands and we almost had to leave some behind. After an hour and half of flight we commence our descent, however we still not see where we were landing until less than 3 minutes before landing, we view from up above is stunning, the water is so clear that you can even see the ocean bed from the sky. Greeted by my dad at the airport we are taken to the hotel Point Venus, one of the two four star hotels there. Greeted in the typical island tradition with coconut cocktails….life is hard.

Day 3 (04/09/10) Discovering Rodriguez

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Trou d'argent

Finally a day where we get to sleep in, travelling is hard work. Breakfast by the poolside with the birds flying overhead hoping that some toast will fall to the fall for them. A trip to the capital Port Maurtin follows, time to get connected to the world once again, a sim card in hand we head of to buy a few supplies, from the islands one supermarket. The supermarket is like that of anywhere in the world. A family lunch follows at a small restaurant called the ‘restaurant du quai’, a mix of noodles and rice and local spices, washed down with ‘Phoenix’ the local beer. Time to head to the beach, after a short 30min walk we reach ‘Trou d’ Argent’ a beach hidden away from the world by rocks on both sides. No need to look for a good spot to place our towels, we beach is all ours, the water is so clear and warm, this is paradise. On the walk back to the car, we pass a family of goats, some cows, a few pigs, and chickens. The animals roam around almost freely here. Tonight we are going to see a traditional Saga show, followed by a night on the town in the only night club of the island, safari club.

Day 4 (05/09/10) The local culture

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Vache rodriguaise

The Saga show last night was very fun, we were shown how to dance by the dancers. The trip to the Safari club, was uneventful, it was like a night club you can find anywhere in the world. Today we went for lunch in a Table hote Rodriguez, what this means there is that you eat what you host cooks for you, our meal consisted of, spicy fish, chicken, green papaya salad just to mention a few. After lunch we head off on another walking travel, where we spend the afternoon taking picture of the local wildlife and the sea. Life is hard. Back to the hotel for dinner and a acoustic band. We learn that they have to let people go because they are too many staff for the number of guests, and my dad warned us to expect strikes or threats… lets see what happens.

Day 5 (06/09/10) Françoise Leguat Nature Reserve

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Paysage Rodriguais

After a breakfast from the balcony of our hotel room we head off to visit the Tortoise and roussata bat Reserve. The reserve was founded in the memory of Françoise Leguat, he was the first man to document the wildlife of the island of Rodriguez. In his memories, he wrote that the island had so many Cylindraspis tortoises that one could walk from the east to the west of the island on their backs it we would line them up. He also documented the existence of the Solitaire, a cousin of the Dodo bird formally found on the Mauritius Island. Its so sad for me to see that the first conquerors of Oceania destroyed the habitat of these creatures so much that they became extinct within less than 50 years of human settlement. The reserve breeds and protects two types of giant tortoise, the d’aldabra that come Seychelles and the tortues étoilées that come from Madagascar. They have a parenting program where, people can sponsor a tortoise, for 25 euros a year, this helps improve the care the centre offers, and spreads awareness of what is being done here to protect this amazing animals. The reserve also has a cave that can be visited, the guide are very professional and friendly, sharing information with you interactively. On the way back to the Hotel we played taxi and brought home the staff, dropping them off at different points on the island.

Day 6 (07/09/10) Iles Aux Coco

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Ile aux Cocos

Early start today, we had to catch the bus that would take us to the port at 9am. The weather does not look promising, tropical rain is pouring down as we leave. We arrive at the port, if you can call it that, it’s more of a small beach, where about 5 small boats are docked. We boarded a small boat, and headed off on our 1 hour and a half voyage to reach the Ills des Coco, the tide was out and there was less than one meter of water in the lagoon, the motor often hit the sand, and the boat came to a halt for a moment. The tropics did not let us down we had the pleasure of having an out door shower on the boat, all that was missing was the soap. The island is stunning a true paradise; the water around the island is different shades of clear blue and turquoise. Birds fly over the boat diving into the water to pick up seaweed for there nests. The island is a nature reserve, so access to the island is very strict, you are not allowed to bring any food onto the island, as the birds may eat the leftovers and get sick, no touching of course, no smoking, no feeding the birds, on scaring them and everyone must leave the island by 3 pm at the latest. The island is home to 4 types of birds that nest here and another 6 that use the island as a resting point on their migrations. In the summer season over 45,000 birds can be found here. The guide explains the importance of protecting the island, and the different spices of birds and their habits. A lunch of only fish, fished from the waters around the island is served. This is to protect the birds from illness. Time to have a swim or just rest on the beach, before taking the boat back to Rodriguez, the journey home was not as smooth as the way out, we had we wind a against us, that meant that the waves were crashing against the boat. I was totally wet by the time we reached land.

Day 7 (08/09/10) Port Mathurin

The day started with a full breakfast by the poolside, fully stuffed we wondered what we could do on this lovely morning. Then we saw a flyer for the hotels spa proposing a hot stone massage, so without thinking twice we went ahead and did that. The Massage was great an hour of pure bliss in the relaxing and refreshing environment of the spa.

In the afternoon we visited the Island's capital Port Mathurin, it is very small, but clean and you everything you need in small amounts, I even found a Billabong shop. The few locals we have had the chance to meet so far came up to us and said hello, people here are friendly. At exactly 3pm all the shops close and by 315pm the city becomes an abandoned  town.  People head home, collect their sheep from the fields and have dinner, they do not go out in the evenings.

Day 8 (09/09/10) Lazy Day

Today we woke up late, had a bit breakfast and spent most of the day lying by the pool. We spoke with a few local people and started to understand their culture more. Here things don’t work the same way they do in Europe. Here things work based on sunrise and sunset, just like they use to in Europe. The sunrise is at 5 am here and business, schools; life in general start at 6am, where as for us it starts at 9 – 930am. Here at 3pm the day is over, where as for us that’s just the middle of the afternoon. By 6pm, there is not light left in the sky and the island is bathed in darkness, in contrast to Europe, there are few lights at night, making outdoor activities harder and some time dangerous.

In the evening we went down to the only night club, that hold Karaoke night, in total there were 7 people in the bar, it felt friendly and like a night out with friends, we had a good time.

Day 9 (10/09/10) Time to face the music

As I mentioned a week ago in my journal, because of the economy crisis, the group of hotels that manages this hotel decided that they need to reduce the amount of staff working in Rodriguez as occupancy is lower here than in Mauritius and it doesn’t make business sense to keep the staff. The problem with letting people go here is that it is very hard for them to find a new job, as there is very little in terms business here, 50% work for the government in the public sector. For the rest, they compete for the jobs in the few hotels, shops, and other small business that are here. Because of lack of resources farming and agriculture are very minimal even if the conditions are optimal, and people other raise a few animals themselves.

D Day having commenced early in the morning, we were warned to except some action. Finally not much happened, the employees that were let go stood outside the gate for a few hours, and when we went outside they shouted empty threats, the remaining staff went on strike for a few hours in the afternoon, but went back to work in the evening.

In the late afternoon we went to play tennis on the courts right next to the hotel, after a while we started to have an audience, a group on children ranging from 4 to 9 all looking at us. We invited them to play with us, they were very happy, and God young people fit, we were so tried after that. I need to do more sports.

Day 10 (11/09/10) Saturday Market

Every Saturday, in the Rodriguez capital, Port Mathurin, there is a market. The market sells mostly fresh food items, fruits, vegetables, live stock, but also many types of spices and dried octopus. If you want to catch a glimpse of this original market you have to wake up early, the market starts at 6am and by 11am everything is packed away. It’s really interesting; this is where the Rodriguen woman come each week to do the shopping for the week. The street is filled with ladies in straw hat carrying straw baskets that they will fill up with the goodies sold. People by live chickens as well, they tie them up and carry them by the legs back to their homes, where they let them grow until they become big enough to make a good meal with.

In the evening we hear that they was a show and dinner happening at a restaurant called the ‘Bois du Olive’ we went up there, sat down and tried to order, I said tried because, I chose three things from the menu that they did not have, at the end I gave up and let the waitress choose for me. The show never actually started, I think the band didn’t show up.

Day 11 (12/09/10) Caverne Patate

Today we returned to the Caverne Patate, as the last time we went there is was too late and they were closing. Caverne Patate is the largest cave network in the republic of Mauritius, it 1.2 kilometres long 600 meters of this is open to the public. We start by walking over land for 600 meters until we reached the entrance of the cave, a goodbye way to the goats that were hanging around at the entrance and we step into the darkness. Armed with small flash lights we stay close to the guide that takes us through the cave and explains to us the different formations that are made out of the rock, we spend about 30min walking under ground. Caves are very cool, each are unique and each rock formation ‘grows’ at 1cm every hundred years, that’s why we should preserve and respect these amazing sites.

We spent the afternoon at another hotel on the island the Mourouk Ebony hotel, the made up of a collection of colonel buildings with red roofs hidden on the edge of a turquoise coloured bay. We had a beach lunch, then spent time in the sun and finished off the afternoon with some Kayaking as the sunset. We also booked a kite surf lesson for Wednesday, which should be fun and maybe a bit painful.

Day 12 (13/09/10) Hairdressers

Well today its been a month since a quit my job in Paris and started to prepare for the journey of a life time, so I felt like I needed to mark it by doing something special, I went to the hairdressers, yes I know that in itself is not shocking, but I have breaded my hair as the woman here do. I look a bit strange, but it’s cool. People look at me in the street and wonder what’s wrong with me I am sure, as people already looked at us because we are tourists, now they look even more.

Part from the change of look, I managed to change the tickets to leave Rodriguez on Saturday to go to the Mauritius, its always very difficult to find a flight to leave or come here, as in low season there are only two fights a day in low season and four flights in the high season, the flights have 40 passenger seats, but there is a weight restriction for the aircraft as they are small and often they denied boarding to passengers if the maximum weight of the aircraft has been surpassed, and you can get stranded here for a few days until there is space on another flight.

Other than that we rescued a kayak that went floating our to sea by itself, I love kayaking so much, if one day I live by the sea, ocean, river, lake I will buy one and teach my dog to swim along side it with me. There is no chance I am going back to live in a city that is over an hour from the sea, or nature, life is too short and should be lived the way you want to live it.

Day 13 (14/09/10) Centre & Southeast

Today we decided not to be lazy, the last few days, we have spent at least half of the day in the hotel, doing not much, and so, at 8am we are already in the car heading off to discover the island. First stop, the highest point on the island of Rodriguez Mont Limon, at 389.3 meters high. The view is stunning; you can see the lagoon and its different shades of clear water. Next stop, St. Gabriel, where the islands only cathedral is located, it was constructed in 1939, and is very charming, made out of greyish white washed stone, it has no door and when you go inside you can hear the birds singing.  On to Roche Bon Dieu, where we ‘met’ something we did not know existed on the island,  big spiders, as big as my hand, hanging from power lines and making their webs, quite shocking as we found an army of them. At Roche Bon Dieu there is a stone formation to take a picture of, nothing exciting except the spiders. On to the islands most famous hotel Cotton Bay, which apart from the food turned out to be very standard, for a lunch of baby octopus, really tasty and worth the journey over small gravel roads to reach this secluded hotel. After lunch we wonder along the breath taking coastline and take pictures of the waves crashing against the rocks.  We then went back to the place we visited on our first day here, Trou d’ argent, only we found out that last time we were there we did where not at the right place and had to continue on the path the reach it. The beaches on the south east of the island are the most beautiful, golden sand and clear blue warm water with no rocks. It’s 6pm and there is a fire in the sky, its sunset and the sky changes into all the colours a sunset is sold to be.

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