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Pictures of our Mauritius trip – part 1: Island of Rodrigues - without our vehicle in July 2011
Mauritius (part 2: Main Island 1st part)
Mauritius (part 3: Main Island 2nd part)
Mauritius Map
       Map of the Indian Ocean
latest picture: July 2, 2011
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301  The reef with the deep sea on one and
the shallow lagoon on the other side encircles
the whole 42 square miles small island of
Rodrigues. It belongs politically to Mauritius,
has a certain autonomy and lies 360 miles
East of the main island
302  On June 25th, 2011, we land
with a propeller aircraft of Air Mauritius
at the Sir Gaetan Duval airport in the
West of the island, because the
freighter with our LandCruiser is
arriving one week late in Mauritius
303  View over Port Mathurin, the
main city. There are two small
supermarkets, four restaurants
and one gasoline station,
the only one on the island
It is Saturday, June 25th, 2011. Full of expectations we peek out of the plane – a twin-engined ATR72 – at the deep blue Indian Ocean. Beneath us the white crests of the reef form a clear line against a turquoise shimmering lagoon – the lagoon that encircles the island of Rodrigues that lies 360 miles East of the main island of Mauritius. Shortly afterwards the completely full propeller aircraft of Air Mauritius makes a rather bumpy landing at the small Sir Gaetan Duval airport of Rodrigues Island.
304  The village church of Grand Baie,
3 miles East of Port Mathurin with
its rural charm
305  The colorful Bougainvilleas
are always an eye-catching sight
306  A special show:
Sunset at Grand Baie
Though this 42 sq.mi. small island with its 38’000 inhabitants belongs politically to Mauritius, it is autonomous in certain sectors. Hence we have to fill out a new entry form, and also the customs manifests with its presence that it has a saying too. The island has been named after the Portuguese seafarer Diego Rodrigues, who discovered it in February 1528.
307  The evening mood at Grand Baie, where
we rented a small studio, is always peaceful
308  Who is catching the first fish?
309  It needs a lot of patient
to get a bite to eat!
Where are we actually, we ask ourselves when we drive by taxi from the airport to the Eastern part of the island, where our guesthouse “Le Benitier” is situated at Grand Bay. The landscape that we cross is dry and stony in some parts. With its grazing cows it looks rather like a Swiss alpine scene than a tropical area. However, the neat villas that sit on the hills and the casuarina-lined sandy bays have a distinctive Mediterranean character.
310  The tiny “mom-and-pop” store at Grand
Baie reflects the unhurried island life …..
311  ..... it is the gathering place for a
cold beer and a chat with friends …..
312  ..... the idyllic corner table is still
empty. What a wonderfully relaxing spot!
The inhabitants on the other hand are unmistakably of African origin. They are descendants of slaves from Mozambique and speak Creole and French despite that their official language is English. The climate again is comparable with a European summer. A bit complicated, isn’t it? Despite that the Mauritian islands belong geographically to Africa, it is not the „real” Africa though. But this makes this small island in the Indian Ocean so charming.
313  What is happening out there?
314  Grazing sheep add to the
picture of this “stress free island“,
how Rodrigues likes to call itself
315  Three turkey males
compete to win the females favor
But the people around us give us definitively the feeling that we have arrived in Africa again. Their open friendly personality, their bright smiles and their unhurried way of life are so typically of Africa. It still is exactly how we remember the Black Continent from our four years crossing from North to South between 1989 and 1992. Their endless patience is still legendary. Nobody gets upset that the bus does not run at a fixed schedule and often one has to wait up to 40 minutes for the next one. Meanwhile they are quite happy to chat with each other.
Here, children do not need sophisticated toys
316  A small boy is happy to play in
the sand with a flip-flop and a stick
317  A girl goes for a bike ride
318  Three girls are exercising
handstands at the beach
That is exactly what we also do while at the same time we watch the people around us: The big mama’s clad in their typically bright skirts, the skinny old men in their wide-brimmed straw hats and the cute school girls with their thin braids, colorful hair ribbons and floppy hats who take the public bus to school. We have not seen any actual school busses. But we are eyed too – where probably might these foreign westerners come  from?
319  Rodrigues does not look tropically.
The hilly island rather looks Nordic.
Here at Grand Baie in the North
320  Limes grow in abundance
– carpets of fruits are rotting
on the ground
321  A rather unusual mixture: Palm
tree and cabbage grow side by side
In Grand Bay, where we rented a small studio for US$ 35 a night, we feel sort of “at the end of the world”, or in other words “where they roll the sidewalks up at night”. At least we find a mom-and-pop store, where we can get a fresh baguette and beer. Luckily the friendly mama, who – together with her husband – runs the nostalgic painted small shop at the casuarina-lined bay trusts us and sells us the beer without handing in an empty bottle; if she doesn’t get back the empty bottle, she faces a problem with the supplier to get new full bottles: Bottle exchange!
322  A nostalgic painted public bus
depicting the scene of the arrival of
the ancestors, who came
from Mozambique …..
323  ..... Emil is waiting patiently
among other people at the bus
terminal at Port Mathurin.
There is no set schedule …..
324  ….. a cute little girl sits next
to him. School children take the local
bus. There are no school buses
The two battered tables outside the shop are also Grand Bay’s “restaurant”. It is the place to meet for a beer at weekends, to play cards, to have a snack or simply to chat with friends. There are no other eating places. The “Maisons d’Hôtes” – the private guesthouses – cater for the tourists and meals are taken together with the host and the family at the same table. This is common in Rodrigues, and renting out rooms became an important income source. Apart of it people live mainly from fishing, agricultural produce and some arts and crafts.
325  Peaceful coastal road from
Grand Baie to Port Mathurin,
ideal for a walk …..
326  ..... traffic is very scarce
327  The well kept Christian cemetery
of Anse aux Anglais East of Port Mathurin
lies directly at the coastal road
What we really enjoy are the slow pace of life and the solitude. On our evening walks along the sea shore we hardly encounter a soul, only goats nibbling on the thorny acacia. Only once an engine noise interrupts the deep tranquility. We are just taking pictures of the colorful display of the sunset, when a car stops beside us. A friendly dark face smiles at us from the window. It is a policeman. He is pleased to see us enjoying the skies turning pink and purple and takes a moment to chat with us. “If you follow the coast further, the scenery is getting even more beautiful” he recommends us with a beaming face before he takes off. It is these spontaneous encounters – the taking time for each other that makes Rodrigues so special. Rodrigues really deserves its self-imposed name of “stress-free-island”.
328  The nostalgic Corner Store at
Port Mathurin recalls memories
of Georgetown in Guyana
329  A hairdresser salon in
Port Mathurin brings the “good
old times” back into mind
330  Emil allows himself a little break
from the Port Mathurin walking tour
It is Monday morning. We take the bus to the main town of Port Mathurin. Even the “capital” is reflecting the easygoing island’s life. There is no hectic, no honking, there are no yelling sellers, there is nobody pushing us to buy something. We stroll through the streets lined with stately trees and shady alleys and browse through the small market and the little shops packed with all kind of goods. Seeing the nostalgic “corner store”, a “hairdresser salon” from the good old times, Rastafarians selling fruits at a market corner – the city of Georgetown in Guyana automatically emerges in front of our eyes. Like there, life seems also here unchanged since decades.
331  Who does not feel tempted to
this fanciful ad of a tropical restaurant?
332  The choice of fresh fruits and vegetables
is big at the market of Port Mathurin
333  A legendary duo is selling apples and
oranges at the market place of Port Mathurin
In Port Mathurin there are two middle sized supermarkets, four restaurants of which two are currently closed for holidays and one gasoline station – the only one on the island. Following Emil’s natural intuition for viewpoints we end up at “Rue Mamselle Julie” from where we spot a broken stony stairway leading up the hill. Red ripe pomegranates adorn the gardens of the little houses lining the stairway. At some point, the stairs end at a house, guarded by an obviously nasty but chained dog snarling ferociously at us. At least, the panorama of the harbor city comes already into view, surrounded by greenery and the Indian Ocean.
334  View over Baie Malgache
in the West of Port Mathurin
335  A fishing boat hoists the sail at
Baie du Nord, the departure point to
the Cocos Island. The landscape towards
the West looks rather brownish and arid
336  The "frazzled" Baie du Nord is
dotted with young mangroves. The
coastal road to the East ends here;
we drive inland with our rented car
On the 5th day, we decide to rent a car for the next two days at the travel agency in town. We want to discover the lovely corners of the island for ourselves. The following morning at 8am a shiny red Toyota pick-up is standing surprisingly punctual in front of our studio in Grand Bay. When Emil wants to hop into the car and drive with the guy into town to put the deal on paper, he refuses it with a smile and just hands him over the car keys – contracts don’t (yet?) exist here. Where else in the world do you find this unconditional confidence and relaxed attitude?
337  We enjoy the sight of these
white mushrooms sprouting out
of the green grass
338  Vacoas plants, also called Screw
Pines (Pandanus vandermeerschii),
endemic to Mauritius, belong to the
Pandanus family. Baskets, bags and
hats are woven from their fibers
339  The trees of the red-green
pomegranate (Punica granatum)
adorn the landscape.
The fruit is edible
The road is meandering peacefully through a rural scene – be it in the West, in the East, in the North or in the South. And the turquoise sparkling lagoon that encircles the whole island is never far away and is eye-catching from every hill. Following the many access roads up hill and down dale along the countryside, the scattered hamlets, the grazing cows, sheeps and goats give a rural touch to the scenery.
340  Mangroves along
the Baie du Nord
341  View from Montagne Tonnerre
towards the Southwest. In the fore-
ground left the village La Ferme and
in the back right the Cocos Island
(Île aux Cocos)
342  View from Citron Donis to
the village of Rivière Cocos
on the South coast
On one rooftop „draperies“ of Chinese pork sausages are dangling to dry in the air. For Rp. 85 a pound (US$ 2.90) we buy some, but they are not what we hoped them to be. They contain honey and sugar and therefore taste sweet. On another flat roof there are yellow corncobs, and on a basic wooden frame five squids are left to dry on a stick between two crutches – the rural charm is at every turn.
343  The St. Gabriel church stands in
the middle of the island. As the biggest
church in the Indian Ocean it holds
2’000 visitors. Still, during the visit of
Pope John-Paul II to Rodrigues in 1989,
the mass had to be celebrated on
the soccer field of La Ferme
344  Two long stems of the Agave
flower bend towards the turquoise
Southern shore. Islands: Left in front
Île Hermitage, therefrom right
Île aux Chats, behind it Île Plate
and far right Île Gombrani
345  The lonely modest house
on grass covered hills above the
South coast adds to the Nordic
character of this island
When we reach the East Coast, we are greeted by lovely white sandy beaches, lined by casuarinas or every now and then by pandanus. From Anse Ally to Saint François there is one after the other. Now they all are still deserted. The high season starts only in November. Also at the Cotton Bay Resort in the Northeast we see just an elderly couple at lunch. But just entering the hotel is a „light bulb moment“. The blue of the pool melts into the blue of the ocean – simply an extraordinary sight, not for free however: A room costs US$ 177 per person/night.
The rural scene is evident
346  Squids are put on a line
to dry in the air …..
347  ..... “draperies“ of Chinese pork
sausages dangle on the roof of a house.
They contain honey and sugar giving
them a sweet taste. One pound costs
Rup. 94 = US$ 3.04 .....
348  ….. yellow maize
cobs hang in lofty heights
Soon after, we are at the “François Leguat Giant Tortoise & Cave Reserve” in Anse Quitor on the Southwest Coast. What an incredible sight it must have been 300 years ago when this island was still untouched and completely populated by turtles. Back in 1691, it was the home of hundreds of thousands of these creatures. But after a century of human exploitation and environment destruction, they became continuously reduced and finally extinct.
349  Pandanus trees are common. A
solitary group lines the Eastern shore
350  Most of the beaches are dotted
with Casuarinas providing wonderful
shade against the sun. Here at the
East coast at Anse Ally
351  The best sandy beaches on
Rodrigues Island are found on the
East coast: Here from
Anse Ally to Saint François
The extinction started in the days when freighters called at this island lying in the middle of the Indian Ocean to take refuge from storms and replenish their supplies of fresh water and fresh meat. The turtles being defenseless and easy to handle and to nourish were very convenient. They could be kept alive for months as meat supply on the ships.
352  At Saint François in the East:
A cliff coast interrupts the sandy beach
to give later way to more sandy bays
353  The public beach at
Saint François in the East
354  Stepping into the Cotton Beach
Resort in the Northeast is a “light bulb
moment”. Who can afford US$ 170
per person/night. We cannot!
Later the poachers with their greed of gain did the rest. It makes us so mad and sad: Everyday we enjoy each creature, each plant, everything Mother Nature marvelously produces. Then this selfish and irresponsible humans show up and destroy everything that makes life on our planet worth living.
François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve in the Southwest
355  Bizarre stalactites and stalagmites
adorn the “Grand Caverne’ at the
François Leguat Reserve in the South
West. With its length of over 1’600ft.,
it is the biggest of the eleven caves
of the reserve
356  The Rodriguan fruit bat
(Pteropus rodericensis) is endemic
to the island. In the enclosure of the
François Leguat Reserve we see a
few of these golden-brown mammals
357  Giant turtles graze in the Tiyel
Canyon of the Reserve. In the hundred
of thousands back in 1691, they became
extinct in Rodrigues due to human
exploitation. With the breeding program,
over 1’100 Aldabra- und Radiata-
tortoises are now living in the reserve
Well, thanks to the reputable breeding program in this 49 acres nature reserve over 1’100 giant Aldabra and Radiated tortoises, including 150 newborns, are living here again. They are fostered and looked after very well. We are pleased to see how a young lady is treating a sore skin with a red antiseptic.
François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve in the Southwest
358  Yes, we can get attached also
to turtles, especially when they
crawl towards us so trustingly …..
359  ….. this giant Aldabra turtle
obviously likes to be scratched at
the neck by Liliana …..
360  ..... who says that I
don't look cute?
Whose heart is not beating faster at the sight of the big numbers of turtles grazing peacefully among the unique flora of the Tiyel Canyon that once covered the entire island? It is so heart-warming when they crawl towards us so trustingly and lift their neck to be scratched. The oldest Aldabra turtle weights 440 pounds and is over 100 years old. It is just awesome to be standing next to such a „historic“ creature.
361  The tiny offshore rock on the
South shore is the „Île Hermitage“
– the “Eremite Island”
362  We like this monument in
Port Sud Est at the Southern shore,
but do not find out what it stands for
363  Typical for Rodrigues coasts are
the many land tongues with scattered
houses. Here in the South the arm
of sea Anse Grande Var
But not only turtles, also fruit bats (Pteropus rodricensis) live in an enclosure in the nature reserve. It is the only endemic mammal found on the island. Unfortunately, we see only a handful of these cute golden-brown animals, which were brought back from the verge of extinction. In the 1970’s only 70 individuals remained and it became the world’s rarest flying foxes. Now, the number has increased to several thousands, though they are still regarded as an endangered species.
364  Casuarinas and tiny sandy
bays line the coast at Anse Mourouk
in the South
365  The police patrols also in the
remotest corners of the island like
here on the South coast
366  Phenomenal are the dozens of
spiders hanging everywhere in huge nets
woven between poles. It is a silk spider,
the “red-legged golden orb-web spider”
(Nephila inaurata)
Much too soon we arrive at the second part of our tour, at the caves. This is one of the reasons, why especially Emil is not very fond of a guided tour: You cannot determine your own rhythm. Despite that exploring the 1’640 ft. long “Grande Caverne“ – one of eleven caves – with its impressive stalagmites and stalactites is interesting, we would have preferred to spend more time with the tortoises. As animal lovers, such encounters are always a most satisfying experience.
367  On this tiny island, we automatically
see the same people all the time! Emil
and Rene, a German living already
eight months in Rodrigues
368  Lovely handicrafts are sold at
the Saturday market in Port Mathurin
369  At the Saturday market in Port
Mathurin a family is sitting in front of
their booth with baskets and hats woven
from dried “Vacoa” (Pandanus) leaves
Our departure day, Saturday, July 2nd, 2011, closes in irreversibly. Our relaxed week on the island is coming to an end. But we still have sufficient time in the morning to visit the weekly Saturday market in Port Mathurin. While Emil is chatting with Rene, a German living already eight months on Rodrigues but still dreaming of the Seychelles – his last temporary stay, I am poking through the market stalls. They are filled to bursting with fresh produce, but also with fine handicrafts – baskets and hats woven from dried “Vacoa“ (Pandanus) leaves. From every corner black faces are smiling towards me.
Faces at the Saturday market at Port Mathurin that add the special colour to the place
Three hours later, we are already sitting in the plane back to the Mauritius. Rodrigues was an interesting starting point for our second African adventure, which continent we left in Cape Town with wet eyes almost twenty years ago (November 2nd, 1992) for Australia after having crossed it from North to South in four years. It puts us in the mood for more! There is just one thing missing: Our faithful “travel companion”. It finally arrived on July 1st, 2011, at the capital’s harbor of Port Louis on the main island of Mauritius, having been 30 days at sea from Sri Lanka via Malaysia and Réunion.
373  A girl is selling dried squid at the
Port Mathurin’s Saturday market
374  Two school children are on
their way home in Grand Baie
and smile towards the camera
375  A mama is selling glasses of all
kind of preserved homemade foodstuff
like lemons, chilis, honey and pickles
More websites from Mauritius:
Articles in newspapers about us in Mauritius:
Article"Le tour du monde en LandCruiser", Daily Newspaper "Le Mauricien" - July 9, 2011
Article"Globe lovers", Weekly Newspaper "Le Dimanche" - July 10, 2011
Article"Emil et Liliana Schmid sur les routes à Maurice", Daily Newspaper "Le Matinal" - July 12, 2011