I'm now settled back at home in rainy old London, and quite glad to be, although I did love Mauritius. We had two special birthday parties this week, both a lot of fun. And we've been babysitting, because Littlest A was sick. Not very sick, but very proud of his snotty nose and other symptoms, pleased to be lolling in our house watching CBeebies and eating snacks, and having the drawing program all to himself. T and I are always glad to spend time with our grandkids, but now we both wonder if we've picked up something from Littlest A. I'm not as proud of my drippy nose as he was!
I've been working hard transcribing some of the interviews from Mauritius. This is many hours of work and I'm not halfway through yet, but also preparing for another trip to Jersey sometimes after Christmas, to interview more people.
And looking at the weather (above) I think I'll post some nice tropical island photos too, just to prove Mauritius and Rodrigues weren't just a delightful dream. These pictures are all of Rodrigues.
So, down at the beach at Pointe Cotton, someone is about to go fishing ...
There were only about a dozen people on the beach when I took the photo in late morning, and here are seven of them swimming.
This is the view from our first guesthouse which was on the hill outside Port Mathurin, the capital of Rodrigues. You can see the waves breaking on the coral reef beyond the lagoon.
And here's the extremely steep road down to Port Mathurin.
People are not wealthy, but it is a very close community, and religious (Catholic). It feels very safe in Rodrigues, which is perhaps not that common in an area where so many people are hard up. So it is nice to feel here that the people you meet will be friendly and honest. You can see one of the typical brightly coloured small houses peeping from the trees on the right, and usually there are chickens and goats roaming about.
Below is our second guesthouse which was near Point Cotton, on the east coast.
The beach was round the corner from here, hidden in a forest of the casuarina trees that have been planted around many parts of the coast and provide welcome shade. Perhaps today native trees would have been planted, but I must admit I love the feathery, elegant casuarinas.
There were a couple of tin shacks, one sold drinks and snacks, the other was a little restaurant which cooked whatever fish had been caught that day, at lunchtime.
Rodrigues has an excellent, frequent and cheap bus service, and I like the way the buses here (and in some parts of Mauritius) are elaborately painted up with motifs, ideas and mottoes of their owners' choice. The bus drivers are very confident - they have to be to get their vehicles around the narrow roads, many of which have hairpin bends.
This was our favourite bus, "Prince of Love," painted and polished. Who wouldn't want to give it a try?
Inside, there were butterflies and flowers where most buses would have adverts.
And just to make the point that it isn't always sunny in Rodrigues, here is another bus in the pouring tropical rain.
There were many small family run restaurants serving home cooked food. All that we visited were good. They usually had only one or two choices, but all were served with an extra helping of red beans which is a staple food in Rodrigues. "Chez Madame Larose" was over the road from our guesthouse. You ate on the verandah.
The garden was shaded by a breadfruit tree.
People in Rodrigues and Mauritius mostly speak French Creole, which I'm told you can just about understand if you are a native French speaker. Fortunately they mostly spoke some English, and most of them could understand my rubbish attempts at French. This advert for Phoenix Beer is written in Creole, and if I understand that it says: "Our country, our beer"
As I suggested in my last post, Rodrigues is almost a cliche dream desert island - it really is beautiful, peaceful and friendly, it has no poisonous snakes, reptiles or insects, and just the occasional stonefish or sea urchin in the sea (although we saw none).
As I said in my last post, the local people seem conscious that over-development could kill what makes their island so nice. Yet it's only fair to say that it is not that simple - it never is. There is a lot of poverty and many of those colourful tin shacks are not much fun to live in and not remotely proof against the cyclones which sometimes wreak havoc. Nor indeed can they be much protection from that heavy tropical rain or baking sun. If I lived there I'd be pretty fed up with the dreadful quality of some of the local shops, too - I went to a supermarket in Port Mathurin that was a real hell hole - dark, dirty, cramped, disorganised, and smelling of mice. I can't imagine shopping there every day is much fun.
Like everyone else, the people of Rodrigues want a better life for themselves and their children, and it's good that so many of the young also want to stay on the island. I do feel its prospects are more hopeful than in many other places, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed for them.
We went for several evening walks along the coast and in the forest, but dusk comes quickly (at about 6.30 PM) in the tropics. So if you linger too long, you might be walking back by the light of the stars, and not even the Prince of Love will come to your aid, because the bus service stops at six p.m!