Almost a month in Rodrigues. Time sure does fly. So what have we been up to? The usual. Lots of reading, planning, eating, walking, and our favourite ‘ing’ word, drinking! This post may read like an extract from Lonely Planet, however it’s intended for anyone planning on sailing, or visiting, here.
Rodrigues is a small island so it’s easy to get around. So small that you’d be squinting to actually find it on a map. It’s big enough though for a simple and reliable bus system allowing visitors and locals to travel around the island. The roads are very good for the most part and to ride is no more than A$1 each way. This is a good alternative from hiring cars or bikes particularly for yachties who usually have time to spare. Fares are usually displayed in each bus and the buses usually come around every thirty minutes. Most of the bus routes travel up steep horseshoe bends to Mont Lubin before diverting to various corners of the island. The bus station is a short walk from the port and next to the market so you can always pick up veggies for dinner on a return trip, before stopping off at the local market for a bottle of South African red wine.
The small town of Port Mathurin is easily walked in a day, but to stretch your legs you can venture east along a pleasant 4km coastal walk. Passing two cemeteries you reach Anse Aux Anglais (English Bay) then continue further on to Grand Baie. The return bus (204) travels back to Port Mathurin through the higher roads where there are some lovely guest houses and hotels. There’s also a track up the steep hill at the end of Rue Mamzelle Julia that takes you up to the lead marks overlooking Port Mathurin. Great views.
On Sunday afternoons a short 20 minute walk back to English Bay to sit with locals in the park and have an ice cream. La Marlin Bleu restaurant in English Bay has cold beer, tasty food and seems to be a hit with locals and tourists. If you feel like a longer coastal walk, take the west road through Acacia, Baie aux Huitres and the Rodrigues Prison (which has excellent views for the inmates) then along to Baie du Nord about 9km from Port Mathurin. You’ll need to step aside as buses pass by, but there’s not much traffic. I had a lovely walk along this road, taking in the sights of the northern part of this island, before catching the 205 back to Port Mathurin.
To reach the Francois Leguat Giant Tortoise Reservation and Caves, catch the 206. After 30 minutes you’ll end up near the airport where you can walk a further 2km to the park. Entry is around A$10 per person which includes a guide to show you around the park and through the caves. I think it’s well worth the visit. These cold prehistoric reptiles were very curious and stretch their necks to enjoy a scratch under their chins. (See our encounter in our list of videos). I’m impressed by the way Rodriguens look after their small and pretty island with wind turbines, desalination plants, solar powers, refundable glass bottles and prohibited plastic bags. They’re also taking positive steps to reintroduce animals, birds and flora decimated over the years by sailors and other hungry adventurers. Unfortunately neither the Solitaire of Rodrigues nor the Dodo from Mauritius will be coming back any time soon.
Travelling to the coastal walk from Petit Gravier on the south east coast you catch bus 210. This is an easy two hour trail to Saint Francis then onto Point Coton where you can catch the 208 bus to Port Mathurin. Along this coast you’ll see kite surfers catching the southeast trades. There is nothing here besides a small shop and some hotels/resorts, guest houses for tourists at each place, but the forested path has pleasant views. From up high you can look beyond the wide coral reef that surrounds and protects Rodrigues from the white capped ocean swell.
A more strenuous, but short, walk is to catch the 209 bus to Riviera Cocos then up the steep 260m to the Deux Montagnes. The bus travels the ‘other side of the coin’ mentioned in my last post. Houses made from unpainted cement blocks and perhaps some goats in the yard. Lots of vegetables are grown on this side of the island. This is not a marked trail so it took me a bit of time to make my way through the scrub. I initially asked a local woman to show me where it started. “Why don’t you take the bus?” She inquired. Hmm. Always a problem explaining why us tourists walk up hills with perfectly good roads! Anyway she was most helpful to the point of almost completing half the walk with me. This steep walk takes around 45mins but you end up on the airport road where you either keep walking along the road to enjoy the views, or hail a bus coming from La Ferme or the airport. There’s plenty of bus stops on all the main roads.
Back at the port, we enjoy chatting to Gilbert the harbourmaster. He’s a great bloke with a wealth of local knowledge for sailors, not only in Rodrigues but Mauritius, Reunion and Madagascar. He spent a couple of years in Australia as part of his maritime training and said he had a great time there back in the ’80s. It’s always nice to have welcoming ports, unlike bloody Galle! (Still traumatised!).
During our stay Blue Heeler had to leave the port twice to allow the supply ship entry. Gilbert coordinates the movement of the yachts so the ship can berth and unload in 24 hours. As there weren’t many yachts we were able to anchor in good holding on the north west corner of the port basin without having to go all the way out. Tucked in the corner we were well out of the way of the incoming ship.
Many yachts we’ve met along the way are moving west more swiftly than we are. Some already in Madagascar on a expeditious journey to return to their home ports and complete their circumnavigation. Here there’s yachts from France, Germany, Spain, Scotland, England, Germany, USA, Netherlands, Finland, Canada, plus one Russian guy with a torn jib. Some plan to leave their vessels in Mauritius and return to their loved ones for a couple of months until the sailing weather improves for the voyage across to South Africa. Strangely not many Australian yachts out here.
On the dock last night we had a ‘potluck’ where everyone takes a plate to share. With French, German, Canadian and the Russian guy we enjoyed good conversation and drank plenty of rum and Pastis to celebrate the birth of a grandson back in France. Voila!
Our journey hasn’t taken us far from home, so we won’t return this year, although it would be good to see family and friends a bit more often than we do. We have four months before we cross the Mozambique Channel and the infamous Algunas Current. Planning has already commenced, but we’re waiting for the southern spring before we head south from the tip of Madagascar, as most yachties are. As I’ve said earlier, I’ll continue eating this very large elephant one bite at a time.
Our next leg is to Mauritius about 350nm west. Seas this week are over 6m high with over 30knots of wind and squalls. We’ve waited at Port Mathurin for the seas to subside and on Thursday we will leave. The voyage will take three days and seas will hopefully be less than 4m.