"a different Mauritius" Rodrigues by jorgejuansanchez
Rodrigues Travel Guide: 33 reviews and 57 photos
Rodrigues Island is located in the south of the Indian Ocean, at 2500 kilometres from continental Africa, 3500 from India, 5000 from Australia, and 5000 from Antarctica. But it is worth the effort to get there if you are looking for unspoiled places.
The islands of Rodrigues, Mauritius and Reunion form the archipelago of the Mascareignes. They are of volcanic origin and surrounded by coral reefs. Arabs and Malaysian navigators visited them regularly as from the X century. The Portuguese, under Pedro de Mascareignes, used them during the XVI century as calls in their journeys to India and the Spice Islands. Portuguese navigator Pedro Rodrigues named the smallest of the three islands. Then came the Dutch, and at the beginning of the XVIII century they were occupied by the French. After the Napoleonic Wars the English took possession of them but finally returned the island of Reunion to the French, who still keep it, while Mauritius and Rodrigues received independence in 1968. The population of Mauritius Island (about 1.300.000 inhabitants) are mainly from India brought to work in the sugar cane fields for a derisory salary, and profess Hindu and Muslim Faiths, but in Rodrigues (36.000 people) practically all are Catholic and Creole, or Blacks mixed with Europeans, plus the unavoidable Chinese businessmen. I also met natives from Chagos archipelago that were expelled from their islands when the British ceded the atoll of Diego Garcia to USA Army to erect a Military base. The Rodrigues natives are so different from the Mauritius’s that in 1967 they all voted against the independence from U.K., at the contrary than in Mauritius Island. In Rodrigues people speak French and English, although they use among themselves a special Creole and a French patois. Many natives are illiterate and sign with the fingerprint. Creole language is simplified French, funny and easy to understand. It reminded me the Papuan New Guinea pidgin: “Missie” is Monsieur. “Sa pa fini” (instead of Ça n’a pas fini) means not yet finished. “Mo content toi” means I love you, etc. Rodrigues is cheaper than Seychelles and Reunion, and its beaches are great, but the island is not so mountainous as Reunion or Comoros. In general, people are generous.
Rodrigues is a pocket island (104 square kilometres) and everything is at a stone throw. You can hire a bicycle or take a bus around the island stopping in the small charming villages by the beautiful lagoon and eat fresh octopus with the fishermen. The imposing Cathedral Sacre Coeur, the greatest stone building of the island, with a capacity for 2000 faithful, in the village Saint Gabriel, constitutes a fine visit (I was so lucky to be there the 15th August 2005, a especial holiday, and in the service played accordions). The women assist to the Mass wearing “retro” and showy sombreros evoking Scarlett Ohara in the film Gone with the Wind. The best beaches are near the capital Port Mathurin, in Anse aux Anglais, where there are many tourists’ activities, as for instance diving and snorkelling. Rodrigues is not crowded with hordes of tourists; there are not even backpackers.
Rodrigues people live according to natural laws; after 5 PM, when darkness falls, everything is closed, the central market and the shops, and the streets deserted. At 10 PM everybody is in bed sleeping to wake up with the sunrise. Locals might lack agitated night life, but in compensation they have a rich day life and gather very often. In Rodrigues I met several happy French expatriates living there forever, not wishing to go back to the Western World anymore; they just spent their time enjoying the Nature of the island, fishing when they were hungry, and their souls were fed by the impressions of the beauty, by its nectar and ambrosia.
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