Well the Indian ocean lived up to its reputation! We read that the best month to do the crossing would
be June before the Trades blow too strongly, so we were horrified when we had near gale conditions for about 10 out of the
16 days from Cocos (Keeling). Vire Nord was on a reach for most of the time getting bashed by the irregular cross swell for
days on end – we spent most of that time hanging on, lying in our bunks reading, listening to podcasts and dreaming
of a little island over the horizon. Apart from torn weather cloths we had no real problems and we were very grateful to leave
the helm in the hands of our super reliable Monitor self-steering gear. The thought of handsteering in those conditions made
us shudder – we would have been utterly exhausted and soaked all the time. It was our fastest crossing yet (averaging
137 miles a day) thanks to the favourable equatorial current flowing up to 1 knot.
Of course it was worth it – we arrived (June 18) in the quaint, almost old fashioned little creole/french
speaking island of Rodrigues. Apart from the crew on other Ozzie boat here we have only seen a handful of tourists. The island is only 18km x 8km, but the reef surrounding the island covers a much larger area
– the entrance into the main town, Port Mathurin (where we are) is a man-made channel throught the reef. Yesterday we
had to move from our usual spot where we are tied up to the 2 tugboats; it was the big event of the week when the supply ship
arrives from Mauritius. It offloaded locals, containers and animals and sailed off again this morning.
The other big event of the week is La Marché – it seems as if the whole island descends on the
market on a Saturday morning to buy fruit, veggies, dried octupus and fish, spicy pickles and basketwear. Octupus catching
is the main fishing industry here – at low tide the reef is dotted with fisherman who sail out in their pirogues and
then seem to ‘stab’ the reef with long sticks, they also use these to punt themselves around in shallower areas.
Interestingly enough – the woven baskets and hats which are for sale here are not for tourists, the locals actually
wear straw-hats and school kids carry their books and lunch in woven baskets. They also use basketware crayfish traps. There
is also meat at the market, but we haven’t had a look as Charmain was upset by the squealing of the pigs and goats we
could hear from the boat the day before – we have been eating baguettes, mille feuilles, octopus, prawns and vegetarian
dishes since we arrived.
It is easy to see the interior and coastline of the island as there are colourful buses which whizz
around the place every half an hour for about 50 pence a ride. We have done a lot of walking – especially enjoying the
unspoilt beaches and black, volcanic rocky headlands on the east coast.
As soon we arrived we realised that without some basic french our visit in the Mascarene islands would
be somewhat frustating, so we immediately looked for a french teacher. We are now having a 2 hour lesson everyday with Madame
Brigitte plus additional homework so we are now able to have very simple conversations and understand the patient vendors
in the streets.
We will probably stay here for another week before we head off to Rodrigues’ big brother, Ile
Maurice (= Mauritius). It sounds like a busy and crowded place with lots of hotels and tourists, so for now we are postponing
that a little bit, preferring the gentler pace on this little forgotten island.