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Published: August 9th 2015
How can you visit the Mascarenes without stopping by to say hello to the inhabitants of Rodrigues. Although the island is technically part of Mauritius, it's a 600 kilometre flight east across the Indian Ocean before touching down at the airport. My host Jerry was there at 11:00pm to greet me, and drove me to the north of the island where his three bedroom house was on offer courtesy of AirBnb. Jerry showed me around the house, left the keys, and then headed home to his place around a kilometre away. This was the start of an unforgettable visit, as there are only a few neighbouring houses in this isolated area of the island. Jerry came to check on Tom first thing in the morning before heading off to Port Mathurin for work, and I later caught the bus in to the capital of this Mascarene island.
The journal left off at the conclusion of an intriguing visit to Reunion, and a flight via Mauritius ensured my on time arrival in Rodrigues. Once settled at home Jerry explained I could keep an eye out for the bus as it rounded the point of the coast, and hop onboard for a
journey into town anytime. It proved a handy piece of advice, and is far preferable to relying on a timetable. So next morning I locked up the house when I saw the bus coming around the coast and hailed the driver right outside the driveway to the house. It costs less than a dollar for the three kilometre ride in to town, and it's a great experience soaking up the island rhythm of the locals as they start the day. Port Mathurin is compact as you would expect, but visitors keen to explore will find there's everything you need, including a tourist information office where the helpful young lady planned an exciting itinerary for my island visit. The village has a couple of supermarkets, restaurants, a service station and stores to cater for the needs of tourists and locals alike.
The pace of life and attitude of the locals is a real joy, and I settled in to an island routine in Rodrigues. I found a great restaurant in the centre of town to relax over a meal and unwind after spending the morning exploring the village, and Jerry called on the phone to say a friend of his
would take care of motorbike hire from tomorrow. How cool is that, I was sorted for a house and wheels in no time, and because Rodrigues is such a small island getting your bearings is a breeze. I followed lunch with a stop at the supermarket for essential supplies, and then headed home on the bus.
Jerry popped by again after work to ask after my day, and I mentioned a tour option to Cocos Island, an uninhabited island off the west coast. Jerry got on the phone to his friend Joe Cool, who could fit me for the boat trip the next day. He promised to pop by in the morning with instructions to get to the bay, Rodrigues style! Sure enough Jerry was at the house early in the morning and took me out on the porch to show me how to find the launch point for tours to the Cocos. See that point, he said, well just count four points in total and then look for a sign to Cocos Islands. There was no poring over maps out here, he just pointed out the landmarks and off you go. Jerry took off on his bike, and
I did the same on mine. But the timing was quite extraordinary, as a storm had suddenly swept in over the island. I rode out to the Bay in driving rain and strong winds, and found the situation quite frustrating. Perhaps I've been spoilt with the glorious weather so far on this trip, but the remarkable change just as I embarked on my first bike ride certainly wasn't the best of fun.
I was provided with a skull cap, and the wind and rain were literally lashing my face as I rode along. I screamed and cursed my frustration at the top of my lungs, but the gods were unmoved amidst the downpour. Anyways, I arrived at Bay du Nord wet and miserable in spite of a poncho, and met Joe Cool who planned to check with the Bureau of Meteorology, before getting back to a French family and myself regarding our boat trip. He confirmed the weather had closed in for the day, so we all headed off to hope for the best tomorrow. I stopped off at home to dry off, then headed out again to the well known beaches on the east coast. The weather was
poor all morning and in to mid afternoon, as I struggled with the wind and rain blowing across the island. It wasn't a great fun day, but I'm glad I made the effort to check out the beaches despite the inclement weather.
I arrived home mid afternoon, and almost on cue the wind dropped and the clouds disappeared to promise a beautiful day on the morrow. I woke up and repeated my routine the next morning, but the difference couldn't have been more stark. I rode to the bay in glorious weather to meet Joe Cool and the French family a second time. It takes around an hour to navigate through the shallow waters to get out to Lie aux Cocos, an uninhabited island off the west coast and a renowned sea bird sanctuary. The island is sublime, and a representative from national parks took us on a guided tour to view the sea birds at close quarters. It must be the fact it's an uninhabited island that makes the behaviour of the birds so unusual. They don't shy away from humans even when they're not nesting, and I could hardly believe how close I got to snap macros
without the birds flying away.
After the guided tour we enjoyed an excellent barbecue lunch together, and then had two hours free time to laze around on the glorious white sand beach. The Cocos islands are a truly special place, and the boat trip to this beautiful place will live on in my memory. Jerry was up early the next morning to ensure I got to the airport in plenty of time for my morning flight, and I won't forget this visit to a unique destination in the Mascarene Islands. When I think about all Rodrigues has to offer, basically all of you should be here now!
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive." Elbert Hubbard
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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