We were up early this morning so we could catch our 08:00. I filled the car’s tank on the way to the airport and we turned it in at the counter. Then we had to find the check-in area for Rodrigues, which is a semi-domestic flight. Semi-domestic because Rodrigues has a great deal of autonomy. We checked in our suitcases. Marjolaine’s was about 17 kg, mine was 20kg or 44 pounds, the normal international weight limit. We’re spoiled in the US, we get 50 pounds when there is even a limit.
I was informed that the weight limit on flights to Rodrigues was 15 kg, 33 pounds, not very much. So while they let Marjolaine slide, I would have to pay an fee for the extra weight. I took the elevator to the international departure zone and payed the fee and the Air Mauritius counter, about 15 dollars.That wasn't much, and the original ticket prices were obviously subsidized by the State to allow people to travel easily to Rodrigues.
Then we were able to complete checking in our luggage. We were also informed that we our rollaboards would have to be checked. I said mine contained camera equipment. The person behind the counter looked dubious. “My apologies” I said “we’re traveling internationally through many countries, we can’t just make some of our luggage disappear.” She told us that we would have to discuss this with the flight crew. OK.
Our passports were checked, and we went through the security screening before waiting in the departure lounge. Marjolaine had not slept well, which is often the case on nights before a departure. The early start had her feeling not altogether well. She said she thought perhaps the fish she’d had for dinner hadn’t been quite right. Not a good way to travel.
At 07:20 we boarded busses take us to the plane an ATR 72, a turbo prop of French-Italian construction. These planes have a cargo hold between the flight deck and the passenger area, and one boards up steps at the back of the aircraft. The flight crew didn’t say anything about our rollaboard. Because top speed is much lower than for jet-powered craft, it was a 90-minute flight to Rodrigues. We dozed most of the way.
A little before 09:30 we saw the island with its very broad lagoon protected by coral reefs. We came straight in and landed on the south tip of the island at Plaine Corail. We had to fill out two forms, one for immigration and one for health. We had to list countries we had visited in the last 6 months, so I listed, the ones from this trip: Togo, Cameroon, Congo, Rwanda and Kenya. The health agent asked about our Malaria medication. What were we taking? I said we didn’t take medication prophylactically, because we had had very bad experiences with it. We traveled with Coartem to take if we came down with the disease. “Yes, but that does not prevent you from getting the malaria parasite. You will need to have a blood test” he said. That would be after immigration. Not a very welcoming experience.
So, after immigration and health, we waited for our suitcases, which we had to put through a scanner. Then we were ushered into the health office where the official pricked our left index fingers and worked them back and forth to get blood to smear on a microscope slide. Then he said we could go.
A driver, I had arranged in advance, was waiting for us outside, he drove a crew-cab Nissan pickup truck with a cover over the bed. Such trucks are very common here, mostly working vehicles I supposed. We drove up and over the central mountains on the island then back down to the water near Port Mathurin, the island’s capital. The population is about 40,000, and the place has the feel of a village. There is very little crime, everyone seems to know everyone.
Rodrigues is famous in Mauritius for being a trip back in time. BBC travel published an article last year, entitled: Rodrigues: The Indian Ocean island time forgot. Situated 600 km east of Mauritius, it is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.
The houses were very simple, most we saw had their doors and windows open. The plunging views to the turquoise lagoon were stunning. We arrived at the apartment we had reserved very inexpensively. It is located just across the coastal road from the ocean. The road often passes very close to the waterfront, the gentle waves of the lagoon lap at the shoulder.
A young woman was preparing the ground floor apartment for us. It’s equipped with WIFI, a kitchen, and air con in the bedrooms. We settled in about 11:00, but by this time Marjolaine was feeling truly sick. The winding roads had pushed her past the tipping point. She felt sick to her stomach, and just wanted to sleep. She went to bed and feel off to sleep almost immediately.
I got organized, then just before noon, took my shoulder back and walked toward Port Mathurin about a mile away. About halfway there I came to a quaint village with several shops and a restaurant, le Marlin Bleu. It was right on the roadside. I sat on the terrace and ordered a pizza. I intended after lunch to buy some water and snacks for us, incase Marjolaine didn’t feel like going out, which she probably wouldn’t.
The problem was that by the time I finished lunch around 12:45, all the shops had closed for lunch. Island pace. I sat in the shade by the water in a little park and enjoyed the view and the breeze. A middle-aged woman walked up to see. I said bonjour. She asked me for a cigarette. I said I didn’t smoke. Then she rubbed her forefinger and thumb together in the universal sign for money. I said no, as politely as I could, and she moved on.
I stayed with her the rest of the day and worked on my laptop, there is still much to do in preparation for the ILP just under two weeks away now. It’s pleasant to be able to look up from my makeshift work station and see the turquoise waters of the lagoon, just outside. Several times I took a break and walked out to the water. There were a number of young men sitting on their motorcycles apparently just talking. A few fishermen walked out in the shallow lagoon, searching for a catch. Octopus is a particularly sought-after seafood. I’ve read that most people on Rodrigues eat octopus several times each week.
I’ll stick with my leftover pizza.