“Welcome to Paradise FM!” a chirpy radio-voice announced while I was preparing breakfast. When turning on the tap produced yet again nothing but a faint and distant hissing noise I felt a tinge of frustration in my heart. My hopes for a clean kitchen followed by a refreshing shower were once more dashed. The problem is: there is no water in paradise.
It’s the dry season and for weeks there has been no rain. And Seychelles cannot cope. The exclusive tourist resorts are eager to preserve the cocoon of paradisiacal perfection in which they keep their wealthy clients by supplying them with round-the-clock water including their private infinity pools. For the rest of us it means water only for a few hours in the evening (if we are lucky) and with that dirty clothes, piles of used dishes and un-flushed toilets... Recently one poor soul got so frustrated that he broke into the pump station opposite my house in an attempt to steal some of the precious liquid. The result was that he damaged the pump which is meant to distribute what little water there is to the surrounding households, and with that incurred the fury of the locals – and
a term in police custody.
According to my neighbours the water shortage is a yearly recurring theme and during the recent elections both main parties promised an improvement to this situation. As predicted the ruling party won (amidst allegations of vote rigging and other illegal activities...). There is no change expected for the immediate future but there is always hope, although my suspicion is that with the first rain the water will flow freely again and all worries (and promises) will disappear down the drain with it. Until next year.
But water problems aside, Seychelles really IS a piece of paradise. Its beauty is awe-inspiring both above and below the sea, and to me one of the main reasons why I would love to make it my permanent home.
Since the sea temperature has fallen below my tolerance level I have ditched diving for bit and taken up hiking. What better way to explore the islands? A scramble through lush forests, trees heavy with mangoes, papayas, bread fruit and frigitaires (and no need to worry about venomous snakes or other unfriendly beasties...); a dip in a rock-pool with crystal clear water; plateaus resembling botanical gardens with stunning views over
Mahe and beyond; visits to Silhouette with its deserted, picture-perfect beaches and mysterious forested volcano, and Bird Island, a tiny speck in the ocean, home to thousands of terns and only a handful of tourists...
Life in paradise is generally easy. The climate seems like a perfect perpetual summer’s day back home in Germany. There are very few biting insects, no tropical diseases, and when we have water it’s safe to drink from the tap. Everybody, regardless of skin colour, creed or sex, is treated with respect, and as a woman you can move freely without having to worry about such things as a dress code. Admittedly shopping can be a bit tiresome, mainly because you can’t usually get everything you need in one place. Consequently you may spend half a day scouring the entire town for something that would take a few minutes to buy in a supermarket back in England. On a positive note Victoria must be one of the few capitals in the world which is happily devoid of any chains or designer shops. Even McDonalds does not feature anywhere. Long may it stay that way! But although most essentials are available it’s difficult to find
some other items which we take for granted, like a good sun screen or a decent conditioner (hence my hair bears a canny resemblance to a particularly coarse kind of sea weed right now...)
I’m renting a tiny house in La Batie, uphill from Beau Vallon and only 5 minutes walk to the beach. Beau Vallon consists of a string of houses, small shops and restaurants along the main street and the famous beach. Two exclusive hotels either side, 4 dive centres and the rundown (and meanwhile closed for renovation) Coral Strand Hotel make up the rest of the town. For the locals the most important part of Beau Vallon is a huge old Boisdamier tree at the northern end, in whose shade the men meet to play dominoes, sell the catch of the day and put the world to right.
On Wednesdays there is a food market where people sell home-cooked delicacies by the beach – a great occasion to meet up with friends and savour kalou, a local palm wine, which once you get past the repulsive smell actually tastes quite nice... The Seychellois men are very fond of their booze – whether jungle juice
(fermented fruit juice), Seybrew (the local lager), Takamaka rum or Guinness (a favourite and very different from the Irish drink with the same name). They are also not shy to proclaim their appreciation of feminine wiles and after the food market groups of young men congregate around friends’ cars – Guinness in hand, car doors open, deafening music blasting out – trying to woo passing girls with a “pshpsh” or a “hellooohh!” or a more refined “ća va”.
What really surprises me is the level of superstition that still exists here: at the moment an alleged werewolf sighting at Mare aux Cochons is making the national news headlines; and voodoo or grigri is fairly common, and even distinguished businessmen have been known to consult their local bonhomme for advice and the odd curse in order to out-do a competitors....
The dive master internship was fabulous fun; it was also hard work – 3 months of lugging tanks, loading and unloading pick-ups and boats, and cleaning equipment. But assisting with taking clients for their first dives, helping them to overcome their apprehension and with that discover the beauty of the underwater world, and in the process meeting some wonderful
people, more than made up for aching muscles and a sore back.
So now I am considering my options. I have no plans for the next couple of months and I love Seychelles. I love exploring the stunning beauty of the islands above and below the ocean; relaxing on deserted beaches, listening to the eternal whisper of the waves while watching the setting sun paint the sky over Silhouette a deep golden orange; sitting on my balcony, gazing at the stars above the majestic Trois Frères, deep in conversation with my friend Benny. Here I feel a sense of belonging. The lure of foreign countries, of travelling, of capturing moments in pictures, experiencing the unknown, the unexpected, is still there. But for the time being I want to stay here; at least until September, when a new adventure beckons in South Africa.
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