A day in Rodrigues

Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Caverne Provert, Rodrigues, Mauritius
Marjolaine had a pretty good night, but she was still tired and didn’t feel like getting out of bed right away. We talked at 10:00; I said I would walk into to Port Mathurin and have a look around, take my photos and probably have lunch there before walking back.
I did walk into town along the coastal road. It was about 80 degrees F at this point and of course, very humid, but there was a welcome breeze most of the time, so that was good. The capital, with a population of 6,000 is very like other small tropical towns we’ve seen, like many in Mauritius, and similar, but not as much alike as Caribbean towns we’ve seen. But just like all sub-Saharan African towns look a bit alike, most tropical islands have a lot in common. We’ve had the privilege of seeing Caribbean islands, South Pacific islands, Philippine Sea Islands, South China Sea islands, Andaman Sea islands, Indian Ocean Islands, North Atlantic Ocean islands, I’m forgetting some, and there are almost always important similarities.
As I entered the town, I heard Christian music being sung at a meeting of some kind, by the beach. It was being sung in French. English is the official language of Rodrigues, but everyone commonly speaks Creole or French. I read that when the vote on Independence came up for Mauritius in the mid-1960s, 56% of Mauritians voted in favor of independence, but 98% of the inhabitants of Rodrigues voted against it. It was probably “tribal”; most of the people of Rodrigues are of African extraction, the majority in Mauritius is of East Indian origin. The Rodriguais didn’t want to be governed by East Indians. This happened in several former British colonies in the African area. Smaller tribal groups preferred to remain under British rule rather than be dominated by their more-numerous neighbors. But as elsewhere, they Rodriguais didn’t get the choice, but they did get a great deal of autonomy in 2002 and are now governed by their own Regional Assembly.
There are a few interesting views and structures in Port Mathurin. There is for example, next to the island’s only bus station, a covered market, with a mix of tourist souvenirs and fresh produce. It boasts vegetables, fruit, honey, spices, fish, beef, pork and so on. The market was half empty this day. I’ve read it’s busiest on Saturdays. I had a look around and took photos, shot some video for future use and bought some postcards. 
Then I started the walk back, stopping in English Bay to buy water before the shops closed for lunch. The Marlin Bleu was closed for the day, but there was another restaurant called La plage, which looked inviting.
I texted Marjolaine to see how she felt and if she wanted to have lunch. She said maybe something vegetarian. I asked if she would prefer take-out that we could eat by our apartment. She said yes, so I went to La plage and looked; there’s wasn’t a single veg dish on the menu. I asked about takeout. Yes, they did that. How about a veg fried rice? No problem.
I ordered and waited about 15 minutes until the food arrived. Back at our apartment, I found Marjolaine up and dressed and looking much better. We gathered our things and walked across the road to a lovely, lush park with benches and picnic tables. It was the perfect spot for lunch. I had bought a bottle of Bordeaux rosé yesterday, it was chilled and ready, so we brought it too.
It was a beautiful spot for lunch. The sun was glistening off the wind-swept waves in the lagoon. There was a refreshing breeze. We reminisced about other island picnics and other meals we’ve had over the years. We broached the subject of our 40th wedding anniversary which will occur in just about 3 years. Do we want to celebrate with a trip somewhere? Yes. Where? Somewhere not too far away, Marjolaine said. She always feels that way when she’s tired or sick. But when she feels better, the world might again be her oyster. I’m thinking someplace off-the-beaten-path. I’ve always wanted to dive Chuuk lagoon, for example. There are Greek islands yet on our list. But there are also Caribbean islands, closer by. We have time to think.
After a glass of rosé, Marjolaine felt sleepy again, and went back to nap. I brought back the rest of the food, it went in the fridge along with the rest of the rosé. I went back to work for the afternoon.
Mid-afternoon Marjolaine was up and feeling quite a bit better. We decided to walk to English Bay where the restaurants are, so she could at least have a look around. We arrived about 5:00 because sunset would be at 5:30, and we wanted to watch it. Many people had gathered to watch the same event. La plage, we found when we looked, didn’t open until 6:00, and we didn’t want to wait that long, nor did we want to walk the road in the dark, there are no shoulders in some places, so we made our way back to our apartment, then back to our table in the park where we watched the sky slowly darken. It was low tide, rocks that had been under water were now visible, many fishing boats were beached on dry sand. Dusk was beautiful over the water.
Part of the wonder and the pleasure was to think of where we were, to imagine a map and our location on it, so far out into the Indian Ocean, so far from any other inhabited island. We were in a part of the world that would have been labeled “here be monsters” on ancient maps. I will write in Discern about our visit to Rodrigues, though I haven’t thought of my angle yet.
Back on our terrace, we ate our leftover fried rice from lunch and enjoyed our last glasses of rosé. The evening breeze was pleasant in the night air. We had a few mosquito bites, but knew we didn’t have to worry about malaria. My view of the blood test on arrival had softened. Since there is no malaria here, it is reasonable to test people on arrival who have been in malarial areas. The disease is such a bane on Africa. It kills hundreds of thousands every year, mostly the very young and the very old. I’ve had it once, and even with medication, it was a very unpleasant, sweaty and painful three days getting past it.
Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, we will visit a park that is attempting to restore a part of the island to its state before humans arrived, with forests, and giant tortoises, on our way to the airport for the flight back to Mauritius.
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Tess Washington

Thank you for the narrative & the photos of your day! Glad that Mrs. Meeker feeling much better! And you are still in good health!


Nice to see photos of you, Marjolaine, and hope each day finds you feeling better. Great photos, especially the fisherman at sunset and dusk over the ocean.