Like many before us we have really enjoyed our few days here. It is a quiet but civilized place and a little different from anywhere else we have visited. The closest comparison I suppose would be with a French West Indian Island. One off-beat note is that the official language is English but nearly everybody speaks French most of the time and many seem to have little English.
We shifted off the quay at 0600 Tuesday but did not have to leave the harbour; we joined a group of other boats crowded into the north-west corner. Whilst we were preparing to cast off the previous evening the Port Captain came round to advise us to stay where we were overnight and only leave once we could see the whites of the supply ship’s captain’s eyes as he came down the channel – otherwise we should have to move twice. (Perhaps he didn’t put it quite like that). We stayed out at anchor for 24 hours then joined the rush to get back on to the quay as the monster left.
The supply ship cometh
Yesterday we walked in the rain to the bus station, took an hour’s ride across the island and 45 minutes walk to see the “giant” tortoises. We had an early lunch in delightful surroundings, walked for an hour and a half across country, through the limestone cave replete with stalactites and stalagmites and into the tortoise canyon. We have seen bigger tortoises but never so many, nor been encouraged to touch them. They are very strange creatures. We couldn’t help wondering how it was that they have evolved the way they have. Did you know that if you stroke a tortoise on his or her huge shell they will wriggle, slowly rise on to tip-toes and stretch their necks in the hope of being tickled under the chin? We loved the tortoises. We then walked and scrambled for half and hour over the short cut to the airport where we took the bus back to Port Mathurin at “school out” time. One of us thought it was a fairly long day – in fact I haven’t felt so weak and stiff since I ran twenty-six miles through the streets of London all those years ago. But it was a good day and we were very pleased to have taken the opportunity to have a look at the island and its people from the bus. Our guide at the tortoise reserve was an enthusiastic local girl and I found it rather poignant to think that most people in the great wide world had not even heard of her beautiful island and its 38,000 inhabitants.
Now we think we shall leave tomorrow, Friday, and sail west to Mauritius. It should take two to three days. We must check in at Port Louis and then, as the small marina there has been block-booked by World ARC rally, we will make our way to Grand Baie in the north-west corner of the island.
* Photographs one and three reproduced by kind permission of Jim.