Second night in the island: a first day dense of adrenaline was leading the way to a relaxing and blissful evening in store for me that day:-)
Driving south, we reach the centre of the island. Places may look far away when seeing them on the map, although I can tell you that the drive to the opposite extremity of the island takes at the most 30 minutes!
I arrive in the green hilly area of Eau Vannée where an oasis of serenity, harmony and familiarity is located: Gombriani lodge.
I am such a sun addict that I never complain about being too warm and yet, it was so pleasant to be higher up and benefit from fresher temperatures after an entire day spent under a very warm sun!
To say that the hospitality of this place is extraordinary is an euphemism!
A lovely couple, Christelle & Franceau came to welcome me. It is Sunday and normally the rhythm of the island slows down even further. I was feeling the ‘inaction’ of the day, a first chance to appreciate this much underrated value, such as a serenity of not having to be anywhere or do anything….a “stress-free life”, we would called it. Having spent my entire life living in big Western European cities known for their fast pace (London, Naples, Brussels, NY), it was taking me sometime to understand and adjust to the new “tempo”.
Franceau and Christelle are the reflection of wholeheartedness; Franceau takes my luggage to the lodge’s common area, overlooking a swimming pool with a breathtaking view.
I entertain with him in a nice chat, while Christelle is kindly making sure that everything is perfect for my stay. I discover that he was a teacher in biology (my PhD’s subject too), that decided to shift his career and open this dream lodge.
I am offered the typical lemon drink, which I have fallen in love with: the limes here are not just delicious but their smell is captivating …
I now have the habit of putting lime almost everywhere, from the tea to the salads and plain water: what a healthy succulent delicacy!!!
Franceau walks me to the room through splendid gardens with an idillic sense of harmony.
I take some fruit to the room as everything that Christelle & Franceau grow in their garden is for the guests to serve themselves whenever they fancy some fresh organic product.
That day I made it just in time to admire the stunning colors of the sunset from my patio…only imagining what would be a sunrise next morning.
I had an appointment at 7.30pm to go for dinner with Christelle that wanted to make sure I was not alone during my second night here. In the lodge you have breakfast and dinner everyday but the Sunday. Thus she takes me to Port Mathurin (only 10mins away by car) and introduces me to the local cuisine. We went to ‘Le marlin blue’ in Anse aux Anglais.
It is a small coastal village located in the north of the island and apparently its name, French for “English Bay, is linked with the fact that English troops landed on its beach in 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars between France and Great Britain.
It is actually a very lively area at night where you can find most tourists hanging around. Not my type of place from the sound of it, and yet the company that night was exquisite! We had a full course fish menu: I adored the ‘marlin’s salad’, and I got to taste a very popular fish in this area.
I fully enjoyed the evening of sharing and laughing with Christelle: she is one of those ‘hardcore’ women that managed to do everything at a high standard. Beyond taking care of the lodge with Franceau and making cakes for the guests, she has a 9to5 job that requires competence and time commitment. I told her how much I find this admirable! We found many similarities between us…..
…the most fascinating thing about traveling:
you are thousands of kilometres away only to find similarities with others …a closeness of heart and soul, well beyond borders and cultures.
Contrary to what is usually thought of in such a society, the women play an active part, after all, they are the backbone of the island’s economy. Courageous and determined, I could spot already them everywhere: at home, in the fields, at the market and even, at sea!
We went back to the lodge and I stayed a little longer in the common area where the internet connection is working the most. I am forced to slow down here: connection isn’t great wherever you are in the island; this was maybe the most unfamiliar situation to adjust with, given that nowadays internet is just an ordinary commodity for the majority of us.
Went to my room…a spacious and comfortable space equipped with a king size bed and a small kitchenette ideal for some tea or coffee and quick snacks. Had a restful night, waiting for the sun to wake me up.
A stunning room with a breathtaking view
As expected, one of the most beautiful sunrise alarmed me that a new day was approaching.
I could enjoy a delicious breakfast made by Christelle, and fresh warm bread made by Franceau. The table was dressed wonderfully with an evident female touch there. I could not believe my eyes when she brought to me a smoothie….as only the night before I had told her that at home I am used to make vegetable and fruits’ extracts every single day.
Well, this is the people I was starting to meet in Rodrigues, those types that welcome you with open arms!
After stuffing myself…(with the excuse of a long day ahead), I was starting to learn what relax means there… I take my time on the hammock in the garden, I play with the tortoises, and pick bananas from the trees.
What a warm, gracious, and friendly stay…far from artificial formality!
A new driver, Paul came to pick me at 9am to head for another crazy activity, built up to grow my adrenaline straight away …..on a full stomach :-/ !
In fact, first stop was a the Tyrodrig….
…a 400meter slide connecting two peaks on Montagne Malgache (not far from the lodge). I was on 100 meter height above a dense vegetation overlooking the sea on my right side.
There were two options: I could either take 2 shorter slides to get to the other side, or a long one….the further 2 ones to get back to the starting point remain the same.
What do you think I went for…?!
Following a jump from the suspended bridge the day before, I definitely could not miss this one…ahahahaha!
You may be wonder about those threatening clouds…
Yes, it started raining just about when I was starting to get set up for the ride….this definitely didn’t help but to increase a slight feeling of anxiety…
I have learned by now that generally there is no point to get surprised about the weather. In fact it changes abruptly and very often, with some ‘aggressive’ refreshing rain pouring out from grey clouds and with a warm sun coming out of a blue sky the next moment. The clouds roam the island without never really staying back; which makes the job of a meteorologist here quite tough!
Made it my friends!
The best one was actually doing my way back upside down….while I was being shoved even more via a ‘gentle’ squeezed on the wire…..
I was literally bumping in the air!
At the end of the day, only a competent stuff could get me to do what I actually did!
Time now to move to Montagne Bois Noir, direction South-East.
I was so impressed when I got here….There is a botanical garden, like no others: a very special one. It is designed to guide the visitor in a journey through our 5 senses.
Strange enough in my last position within the Pharmaceutical Industry, I was a Director in the R&D sensory department. It is only a year now and it feels already a very far away life:-)
I learned a lot in that job, which gave me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge about individual perception related to our senses; for example, if we were to introduce a new OTC (over the counter) medicine on the market, it was key for us to create a product that would be appealing to the eyes, taste, touch, smell and even hear. Especially during a dull moment when one is sick, a nice odour can be stimulating as well as a vivid colour or texture can be comforting. Additionally a sound made from dispensing a product, such as bubbles (effervescent pill) for example, would usually suggest its efficacy: the medicine is working as it should…
….I didn’t mean this ‘pindaric digression’.
It was nice to revisit a part of my life that I cherish and appreciate for who I am today.
The tour in the botanic garden was a captivating journey through the natural and medicinal properties of plants, that were identified by their look, texture, smell and touch.
There is even a tasting session during which I was asked to share my perception of different drinks….which I managed to recognise:-)
If you wonder about our sense of “hear”, I was reading loud from a board at the end of the tour some local expression in creole, a very nice way to introduce me to some local say.
You can try to have a go at guessing what they mean:-)
Generally, in the island the most frequent trees found are casuarina trees, lataniers, aloes, lemon trees, vacoas and vetiver. There is also an unique plant, known as “vieille-fille” (old maid), a kind of small shrub with pink flowers that are infused to make a drink; and other rare plants, mysteriously named: café marron (brown coffee), bois pipe (pipe wood), bois de mangue (mango wood), bois de fer (iron wood), bois chauve souris (bat wood), bois cabri (goat wood), bois puant (stinking wood)…
Overall, a lovely visit that I strongly advise: take with you a mosquito spray as I happened to be there with the rain and it wasn’t funny being caught up by many ‘happy’ mosquitos:-)
We left Montagne Bois Noir in the North-East direction towards the coast’s area called Riviere Banane. It is a small agricultural village lost in a valley where you can see plantations and two wild beaches separated by a peak formed in basaltic rock.
This is another natural spot whose state remains preserved. Me and Paul stopped there for a look around, for me to take the opportunity to pause from the hectic day and breath the simplicity of this fishing village.
It is one of those villages that seem to be frozen in time while in the ocean, the profusion of colorful fish earns it the definition as ‘Marine Reserve’s Aquarium’.
The Rivière Banane contains around 280 species of coral reefs, an impressive array of marine life such as jack fish, rays, turtles and octopus as well as other marine creatures. This marine environment was so well preserved having been considered by fishers and scientists as a good potential source of fish larvae that could replenish surrounding areas if left unfished.
A must do I would say. The natural aquarium at Riviere Banane is extremely beautiful.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to snorkel here and discover the amazing underwater sights the Rodriguan lagoon has to offer. I was on a tight schedule; on this regard my most sincere advice is to stop long enough in this secret island to benefit from each hidden treasures.
The biggest mistake one can make is to underestimate the power of this tiny unknown island of beauty; in fact the tendency is for visitors to roam the island in a flash of lightning like the wind. Rodrigues is worth a longer stay and visit! Normally everyone stops at Mauritius that is the most touristic spot, being unaware of this unrevealed land.
It is a place, which needs to be discovered gradually, patiently, to the cadence of the lifestyle of its inhabitants. The Rodriguans live to the rhythm of the passing time, calmly and serenely even though life is rough and the future uncertain. A human dimension, without any excess. It didn’t take long for me to feel immersed and integrated into a way of life that easily comes to light. It owns “this little extra something” that charms everyone at first sight: a discreet and sincere beauty where the word “authenticity” has never sounded so true.