I had arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 9:30 this morning to take us to the airport with a stop at the François Leguat Reserve, which has as its goal to recreate the conditions on Rodrigues before humans arrived. Leguat was a Huguenot (French Protestant) who fled France after the Edict of Nante (which had allowed Protestants to practice their beliefs freely and legally) was revoked in 1689. He along with a group of nine other Huguenot men landed on Rodrigues in 1691 to start a colony.
There were no women in the party, and the men grew unhappy with their situation, so two years later they built a boat and sailed to Mauritius, most of them made their way back to Europe, and Leguat spent the rest of his life in England. He wrote a book about his adventures in the Indian Ocean. He mentioned several species of birds that are not extinct, one related to the dodo, and several species of tortoises that were also hunted to extinction. Sailors in search of meat could easily catch the lumbering reptiles, which could go without food and water for as long as 40 days.
It is estimated that when humans first made landfall on Rodrigues it had the highest density of tortoises (land turtles) anywhere on earth. Within 100 years there were none left, around 300,000 were taken for food by passing mariners.
At 10:30 a guide took us out to show us the smaller tortoises, behind fences for protection. Then we entered an area where we could see the giant aldabras. These can actually climb stairs, but they won’t try to come back down, they instinctively fear rolling on their backs which can be fatal since it puts weight on their lungs and eventually suffocates them. One was trying to climb the stairs we were descending. Marjolaine had to do some gymnastics to get around the big guy.
They enjoy having their necks scratched and will stretch out into a picturesque pose when treated this way. It’s quite fun. I’ve had the chance to interact with aldabras on Mauritius and Madagascar, but it’s been a while so we both had fun interacting with them. Their just reptiles, so not very smart at all, one can’t form a relationship with a reptile the way one can with a mammal, though they’re not, they look wise, thoughtful, and noble.
After a very interesting visit, we had lunch in the little restaurant. I had goat curry; Marjolaine a vegetable curry, both tasty. Then we went back to the taxi-van for the short drive to the airport. The driver had asked earlier what I did for a living. On the drive to the airport, he wanted to talk about God, and how without Him, life has no meaning. It was a brief but thoughtful discussion.
The flight back to Mauritius went smoothly and on time. THere were some fascinating cloud formations on the flight back. Bright white on deep blue is a striking contrast.
We stopped at a supermarket on the way to the hotel, and bought some food for dinner. I had my sandwich saved from the flight box they gave us, Marjolaine bought a salad. We relaxed in the afternoon and I got caught up on some more preparation for the ILP. We’ll be buying plane tickets up to the very last moment.
Tomorrow will be our last day in Mauritius.