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jorgesanchez Port Mathurin - A travel report by jorge
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Port Mathurin,  Mauritius - flag Mauritius
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

Rodrigues, a tiny island at the end of the World

  25 votes
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Rodrigues Island is located in the south of the Indian Ocean, at 2500 kilometres from continental Africa, 3500 from India, 5000 from Australia, and 5000 from Antarctica. But it is worth the effort to get there if you are looking for unspoiled places. report of the month contest
Sep 2005


Life in Rodrigues is natural, trouble-free, easy going, authentic…
Life in Rodrigues is natural, trouble-free, easy going, authentic…
The islands of Rodrigues, Mauritius and Reunion form the archipelago of the Mascareignes. They are of volcanic origin and surrounded by coral reefs. Arabs and Malaysian navigators visited them regularly as from the X century. The Portuguese, under Pedro de Mascareignes, used them during the XVI century as calls in their journeys to India and the Spice Islands. Portuguese navigator Pedro Rodrigues named the smallest of the three islands. Then came the Dutch, and at the beginning of the XVIII century they were occupied by the French. After the Napoleonic Wars the English took possession of them but finally returned the island of Reunion to the French, who still keep it, while Mauritius and Rodrigues received independence in 1968. The population of Mauritius Island (about 1.300.000 inhabitants) are mainly from India brought to work in the sugar cane fields for a derisory salary, and profess Hindu and Muslim Faiths, but in Rodrigues (36.000 people) practically all are Catholic and Creole, or Blacks mixed with Europeans, plus the unavoidable Chinese businessmen. I also met natives from Chagos archipelago that were expelled from their islands when the British ceded the atoll of Diego Garcia to USA Army to erect a Military base. The Rodrigues natives are so different from the Mauritius’s that in 1967 they all voted against the independence from U.K., at the contrary than in Mauritius Island. In Rodrigues people speak French and English, although they use among themselves a special Creole and a French patois. Many natives are illiterate and sign with the fingerprint. Creole language is simplified French, funny and easy to understand. It reminded me the Papuan New Guinea pidgin: “Missie” is Monsieur. “Sa pa fini” (instead of Ça n’a pas fini) means not yet finished. “Mo content toi” means I love you, etc. Rodrigues is cheaper than Seychelles and Reunion, and its beaches are great, but the island is not so mountainous as Reunion or Comoros. In general, people are generous.

Favourite spots:
Cathedral Sacre Coeur in Saint Gabriel
Cathedral Sacre Coeur in Saint Gabriel
Rodrigues is a pocket island (104 square kilometres) and everything is at a stone throw. You can hire a bicycle or take a bus around the island stopping in the small charming villages by the beautiful lagoon and eat fresh octopus with the fishermen. The imposing Cathedral Sacre Coeur, the greatest stone building of the island, with a capacity for 2000 faithful, in the village Saint Gabriel, constitutes a fine visit (I was so lucky to be there the 15th August 2005, a especial holiday, and in the service played accordions). The women assist to the Mass wearing “retro” and showy sombreros evoking Scarlett Ohara in the film Gone with the Wind. The best beaches are near the capital Port Mathurin, in Anse aux Anglais, where there are many tourists’ activities, as for instance diving and snorkelling, which would make the delights of our audacious globo members such as “gloriajames”, or “eirekay” with her sons. Rodrigues is not crowded with hordes of tourists; there are not even backpackers.

What's really great:
Water Lilies Victoria Amazonica, the greatest in the world
Water Lilies Victoria Amazonica, the greatest in the world
JARDIN BOTANIQUE DE PAMPLEMOUSSES. This terrific botanical garden in Mauritius Island is a must, and it is free! It is located at a few kilometres south of Grand Baie, near the Sugar factory. Allow at least three hours to admire the rare specimen of exotic plants. All illustrious guests to Mauritius, such as Kings and Presidents, have visited in the past this internationally renowned Garden and given their name to a tree: Indira Gandhi, François Mitterrand, the great traveller Pope of Rome John Paul II, etc. It is didactic and poetic. I copied in my notebook the following saying of an eminent French botanist in his monument: “To discover a new plant is more useful and valuable to the Humankind than a mine of gold, and its effects last more than the pyramids”. There are lotuses, gigantic water lilies called Victoria Amazonica, and “Talipot” or “Coryphe parasol” having a particular interest because, according to the legend, they only bloom once every 60 years and then, immediately, die.

Sights:
Poor and affectionate Dodo! They were good, kindhearted and naive
Poor and affectionate Dodo! They were good, kindhearted and naive
In Port Luis, Mauritius capital, there is a superb museum inside a historical building from the XIX century that no visitor should miss: MUSEE D’HISTOIRE NATURELLE, and again is free. Apart from a stupendous collection of marine species, you will see the skeleton of the Solitaire of Rodrigues, a kind of pigeon weighing up to 25 kilos, the skull of a cachalot, a giant green turtle, etc. But the most impressive is the Dodo (Didus Ineptus) reproduced by taxidermists. Its name is Portuguese and means stupid, because they could not fly. Unfortunately, it was exterminated by the Europeans, mainly Dutch, and by the introduced dogs, pigs and rats that ate the Dodo eggs. In Rodrigues, near the pier, I saw a monument devoted to the Solitaire. Today the Dodo is the symbol of Mauritius (as the Kiwi in New Zealand or the Bull in Spain) and you find all kind of souvenirs representing it. They loved children but made the fatal mistake of trusting men. I felt like weeping in this picture with the Dodo

Accommodations:
CIEL D’ETE Hostel is near this central street in Port Mathurin
CIEL D’ETE Hostel is near this central street in Port Mathurin
In Port Mathurin I stayed in a hostel that in Spanish we describe as having the three “B”, or “Bueno, Bonito y Barato” (Good, Beautiful and Cheap): CIEL D’ETE, a pleasant colonial house with lovely gardens at 100 metres from the bus station, ruled by a gentle Chinese couple. A single costs 400 rupees (1 euro equal to 35 rupees) and a double 600 rupees, including a copious breakfast. In Mauritius Island I stayed in the famous tourist resort of Grand Baie and found an inexpensive room in VILLA NASSER, in Route Royale, at 50 metres from the beach, where I paid 500 rupees for a single with TV, air condition and enormous bed, but no breakfast. The town of Mahebourg, near the airport, is very convenient to spend the last night if you have an early flight next day. Try the Catholic Mission, which acts as a cheap hostel. In Reunion the cheapest option is the Youth Hostel in Saint Denis, and a moderated one is the HOTEL DU CENTRE, starting as from 25 euros a single, in rue Marechal Leclerc, 272

Nightlife:
Rodrigues people in one of their regular gatherings
Rodrigues people in one of their regular gatherings
There is only some night life in the expensive hotels, such as COTTON BAY, LES COCOTIERS, LE TAMARIS, MOUROUK EBONY, etc., or in Night Clubs for the tourists like LAS VEGAS, or HERMITAGE NIGHT CLUB. In Mauritius you have dozens of clubs in Grand Baie only, plus in Port Louis, for instance. In Saint Denis, Reunion, you can find shows like in Paris. But Rodrigues people live according to natural laws; after 5 PM, when darkness falls, everything is closed, the central market and the shops, and the streets deserted. At 10 PM everybody is in bed sleeping to wake up with the sunrise. Locals might lack agitated night life, but in compensation they have a rich day life and gather very often. In Rodrigues I met several happy French expatriates living there forever, not wishing to go back to the Western World anymore; they just spent their time enjoying the Nature of the island, fishing when they were hungry, and their souls were fed by the impressions of the beauty, by its nectar and ambrosia.

Hangouts:
All Creole women have at least one lovely Sega dress at home
All Creole women have at least one lovely Sega dress at home
Sega is a characteristic musical style from Rodrigues and Mauritius alike. It was created by the slaves torn from Africa, mainly from Madagascar, using “ravanes” or large flat drums, “bobre” or a kind of guitar with a single string, “maravanes” or a sort of rattle consisting in a frame filled with seeds or gravel, the triangle, and other basic instruments, although sometimes they also play accordion. In the British era singing or dancing Sega was taboo and punished with the whip. The colonial administration aimed to cut off the Africans slaves from their roots, but they, especially the nights with full moon, played and danced in secret before a bonfire by the seaside. At that time Sega was the expression of their sufferings, but the blues has finally given way to rejoicing rhythms and is present in all the weddings and other social activities. The sensual whirling and twirling of the flowery skirts of the dancing girls is an overwhelming spectacle and reminds the Spanish flamenco.

Restaurants:
Tourists go to the restaurants, but Rodrigues people love to prepare barbecue
Tourists go to the restaurants, but Rodrigues people love to prepare barbecue
There are three wonderful restaurants in Port Mathurin: the best is LE QUAI, near the pier, where the friendly owner serves fresh fish. Second option is LE DRAGON D’OR, which is much more elegant than LE QUAI, on a second floor with terrace, but a little more expensive. Third choice is LE CAPITAIN, where they also sell food to take away. In Mauritius Island you should try PATRICK RESTO, in Mahebourg, with Creole food and original and delicious desserts with ice creams. In Grand Baie I had a wonderful and cheap seafood lunch with Creole lively music in LA VIEILLE ROUGE, and for a romantic dinner by the seaside go to CAFÉ DE LA PLAGE. In Port Luis you have hundreds of choices; just in the waterfront you will find dozens of excellent restaurants and a patio where customers from about ten stalls around sit down after buying local food. Restaurants in Reunion are so expensive that there I ate mainly baguettes with fromage that I bought in the supermarkets, and cuscus to the muslim community.

Other recommendations:
Nature in Reunion Island is awe-inspiring
Nature in Reunion Island is awe-inspiring
REUNION ISLAND. While in Rodrigues and Mauritius you should take the opportunity to visit the third Mascaireigne Island, Reunion, which is a French department. Since there are not many nice beaches compared with Mauritius, tourists go there mainly to practice extreme sports, such as “canyonning” or rafting. I made an easy trekking to the “Piton des Neiges”, the highest peak in the Mascareignes (3070 metres). If you climb slowly it will take you two days and one night, round trip. There is a camp base near the peak where you can spend the night, eat and drink. The views are rewarding; Nature is wonderful in Reunion Island. Air Austral offers a cheap air pass flying to Comoros, Mayotte, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Harare and Nairobi, but the ticket must be bought in Europe. Two ferries make regularly the route Reunion - Mauritius - Rodrigues. From Reunion sails the scientific ship MARION DUFRESNE to Crozet, Kerguelen, Saint Paul and Amsterdam islands, in the French Antarctica.

Published on Thursday September 29th, 2005


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Wed, Mar 22 2006 - 03:45 PM rating by sajjanka

great excellent

Wed, Feb 01 2006 - 11:47 PM rating by ehs1193

Good report. I like the sailboat picture.

Sat, Oct 01 2005 - 10:12 PM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Jose!
U done it again! One thing i can rely on is on you bringing us the adventures and stories of places that one would rarely go to. I doubt i can fulfill my dream to travel around the world, so i have to count on you to bring me the stories!!
Loved this report too!!

Gloria

Sat, Oct 01 2005 - 04:49 AM rating by britman

Excellent

Fri, Sep 30 2005 - 12:12 PM rating by ta-shy

I love reading your reports because they are so infused with detailed information. Truely the best so far

Fri, Sep 30 2005 - 08:00 AM rating by magsalex

Great report

Fri, Sep 30 2005 - 12:28 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

very nice report

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 09:02 PM rating by isaacmolina

Hi Jorge
Esta bien este report, pero me gustan mas los que cuentas tus aventuras.
Sigue viajando, no pares!

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 08:35 PM rating by eirekay

Jorge, the photos are worth ***** all by themselves! Sounds like you had wonderful trip!

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 08:20 PM rating by porcupine

I had to read this since this island has my last name. I was pleasantly surprised to find out about a very interesting place I would never have heard of otherwise. Seems like you go to a lot of remote places. Good for you!

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 05:13 PM rating by bear495

Otro reporte maravilloso! Bien hecho, Jorge. Great job!! I always enjoy reading your travel reports and viewing the photos that they contain.

Russ

Thu, Sep 29 2005 - 03:38 PM rating by rangutan

Wonderful report! I had heard of Mauritius and Reunion but not Rodriques, must be one of the remotest places on earth. A tone down from your previous "extreme adventures" but nevertherless an exiting report...

style & originality *****
grammar & spelling ****
info and tipps *****
length **** (almost too factual, more personal feelings?)
use of GLOBO headings *****
photos ***** (excellent)
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AVERAGE *****
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