Sonntag, 3. Mai 2009

"The best kept secret in the Indian Ocean....."

Diesmal ein Bericht über Rodrigues auf Englisch, Paul Richardsons Artikel für den Guardian über seinen Aufenthalt hier im März liest sich gut und hat mich inspiriert nach ein paar zusätzlichen Fotos zu suchen, damit es sich gleich noch etwas heimischer anfühlt, der Lesbarkeit halber bleibt der Text im Original, damit sind wir quitt, wer sich erinnert, der Artikel von Thomas Worm über die Tintenfischstecherinnen blieb ja ebenfalls unübersetzt...

Just to make up for the article of Thomas Worm about Rodrigues and the lady octopus fishers which was in German, here an article of Paul Richardson in English. The article was published on April 12 by The Observer/Guardian... It's Paul Richardson's account of his stay here in March, the photos I have added just to make you all feel a bit more familiar...Enjoy the article!-

Claudine Moneret came to the door in bare feet. A big-boned lady with a big smile, she had been in the kitchen making lunch: a fish curry with aubergine pickle. Sitting me down on the front porch of her guest house, just a few steps behind a coral-sand beach fringed with coconut palms and casuarina trees, she brought me a glass of rum punch.Dazed with jet lag I couldn't quite work out what it all reminded me of. The Caribbean? The South Pacific? West Africa? Or all of the above? There aren't many places left in the world that not even your best-travelled mate has heard of, but Rodrigues may be one of them. This island is so very remote and so little known, only the poshest of atlases reveal its existence.

When I first heard the name, I assumed it must be one of those windswept uninhabited rocks somewhere in the South Seas, maybe a military base, or some tiny Polynesian atoll where the population subsists mainly on Spam. Then I Googled it, and sure enough, there it was: an island in the Indian Ocean, 600km (in fact it is 650km/B.R.) east of Mauritius, named after a Portuguese explorer, population 40,000, religion Roman Catholic. The last scrap of Africa before you reach south-east Asia, Rodrigues is a dependency of Mauritius, and is often described as its sister island. In reality, they are siblings who have little in common. Where Mauritius is lush and verdant, its tropical woodlands alternating with vast fields of sugar cane, Rodrigues is drier, rockier, more sparsely wooded, and has no sugar cane at all - which is ironic, since 97% of its population is descended from African slaves brought to work the plantations.

Just two flights come into Rodrigues every day, and both belong to Air Mauritius. The connection takes 90 minutes, but the only alternative is a 36-hour crossing on the weekly cargo boat that constitutes the island's main commercial link with the outside world.

After the 12-hour night flight from London, the buzz of the turboprop engine sent me into a drooling slumber, from which I awoke to the shock of an all-blue world: powder-blue sky, dark blue sea to the horizon, and a big splotch of dazzling turquoise: the wide lagoon, twice the size of the island, that is Rodrigues's greatest natural asset.

Economically, Rodrigues has very little going for it - no industry, no commercial fishing to speak of, and it lacks the hugely profitable machine of Mauritian tourism or the honeymoon island's dazzling array of five-star hotels. Agriculture is strictly subsistence: every family has its vegetable plot, its fruit trees, its pigs and goats. Some of the men have small fishing boats, and the women go out to hunt for octopus in the lagoon. The extent of Rodrigues's tourism industry is a handful of three-star hotels and between 30 and 50 guesthouses (no one seems to know the true figure) known here as chambres d'hôtes or gîtes, where you stay with local Creole families
and share their tasty home-cooked meals.
Chez Claudine is one of these places. It is a chalet-like house in the hamlet of Saint-François, at the beach end of a quiet valley grazed by flocks of goats. On the window of Claudine's front room it said "Joyeux Noel" in snow spray. We were now in March, which tells you something about the pace of life on Rodrigues. My room had peach-coloured walls, a fan, plastic furniture, a fridge with nothing in it, and a papaya tree outside the window.On Sunday morning I walked out of Claudine's house onto a tropical moorland strewn with rocks and dotted with strange stubby trees called screw pines.Rodrigues was once thickly wooded with ebony forest. Giant tortoises roamed the island in huge numbers; birds unique to the island flitted among the branches, or, in the case of the flightless solitaire, a relative of the dodo, pottered about on the forest floor. Then humans arrived to colonise the island and created an ecological disaster zone. Now most of that forest has long since gone, and most of the birds too, though a few native species have recently been dragged back from the verge of extinction.

But, despite the disappearance of the forest, the island looks extraordinarily beautiful. I couldn't suppress an audible "wow!" as I rounded the headland on the coastal path to see a string of delectable bays, ringed by white sand. No beach bars, sun-loungers, parasols, or any of the usual seaside paraphernalia here - nor the hawkers, masseuses, cocktail waiters, and sunglass-cleaners that work the beaches of Mauritius. Where much of the coastline of the big-sister island has effectively been privatised by the swanky hotels, pushing out local punters to ever more crowded public beaches, all Rodrigues's beaches are public. But with one big difference: they have no public on them.At Trou d'Argent, the island's most photographed stretch of sand, the only signs of life were a cow lying on the grass behind the beach, and a hen with her chicks, clucking and pecking among the rock pools. Earlier generations would have passed Rodrigues by as insignificant, terminally sleepy, primitive, even dull. To me it's precisely the absence of stuff - I mean hotels, restaurants, entertainment, other tourists - that makes the island so appealing. It is so new to tourism that people still seem genuinely delighted to meet a foreign visitor. Service is gawky and informal. There is no luxury accommodation as such but more than enough homely, unpretentious comfort.

After leaving Chez Claudine I checked into another chambre d'hôte, Fantaisie, which stands at the top of a hill in the island's fertile interior, with views down the valley toward the lagoon. In the field below my cabin, two ladies in straw hats whacked away with mattocks at a maize
plot. The nights were silent and starry; I awoke to the sound of cooing pigeons.

From here, I moved on to what is almost certainly Rodrigues's most upscale accommodation. Cases à Gardénias belongs to Fernand Verbeeck, a Belgian, and Marie-Line Comarmond, a member of one of Mauritius's grandest families.Before pitching up on Rodrigues, the couple lived in a château in Bordeaux, and they have brought most of their furniture, paintings and glassware with them. The rooms at their chambre d'hôte are tastefully done up in the European style, and surrounded by lovely gardens with splashy fountains.Marie-Line has her own bees, and keeps herself as busy as them. She makes delicious preserves from island fruits and vegetables, and brews her own fruit wines. Like most of the female hosts of the island's establishments, she is also an excellent cook. One of Rodrigues's main attractions is its delicious Creole cuisine. The island's volcanic soil is ideal for vegetables (they are practically
organic, since farmers here cannot afford expensive imported
pesticides).The local meat - pork, beef and kid - is also good, as is the octopus from the lagoon, typically served in a vinaigrette salad with chives. But the staple food is fish. I ate grouper and parrotfish, sea bass and dame berri;all tropical species with meaty white flesh. Favourite cooking methods for fish and meat are rougail (a kind of casserole, with tomatoes) and cari (curry) gently spiced with ginger and garam masala. As a first course you might have cono cono: abalone, sliced and marinated with lime juice and spices, or smoked marlin. Everything comes with side dishes of achard (pickles) and chatini (chutney), and a paste, made from crushed green chillies, that is a misleading shade of avocado green but as piercingly hot as wasabi. For afters there might be gâteau maïs, a yellow pudding-y sweetmeat; piavre, a deep-fried doughnut drenched in honey; or the pride and joy of the island's patisserie, la tourte rodriguaise, a thick-crust pie with a jammy filling of coconut and papaya.

When I wasn't eating, I was buzzing around the island with Jean-Paul, my driver, in his big 4x4. Before becoming a driver, Jean-Paul was a boxer. He is probably the island's coolest guy, to judge by his fancy shirts and the number of times his cellphone rang. Jean-Paul drove me on the switchback roads, many of them potholed and overgrown, until I started recognising not just places, but faces. He waved at everyone we passed: he knew them all.His CD player played mostly French pop and Mauritian séga, a tropical party music with African roots. But Jean-Paul also had some real Rodriguais folk.This is a strange mélange of old-fashioned European dances - the waltz, the mazurka, the reel - given a rustic makeover with accordion, triangle and thudding drums. It is the kind of music that you could almost imagine Jane Austen's heroines dancing to, but with a backdrop not of Regency ballrooms but colonial lawns, with slaves peering through the bushes.There is a story-book quality to island life. Even the place names - Grande Montagne, Rivière Banane, Malabar, Château de Fleur - sounded childish and innocent, like the names on a Treasure Island map. At the seaside hamlet of Gravier, a pig ran across the road, pursued by a little girl in a dark blue school uniform.Rodrigues has cultural oddities that charm and puzzle. You drive on the left, and the road-signs are UK-style, with curvy white letters on a green background. The currency (the rupee) and the spiciness of the cooking plainly reveal the influence of India. The French were in charge here for
just 74 years, from 1735 to 1809, and the
English for the next century and a half. Yet it's French culture that has triumphed, oddly. English may be the official language, yet most locals speak Creole French and/or French. The shops are all quincailleries, tabagies, boucheries. Even the island's name, a Portuguese word, is pronounced the French way, with two syllables instead
of three.

The island gained its independence from the UK in 1968, along with Mauritius. But there are still signs of the British way of life, if you look hard enough, in the three-pin plugs, the sandwich biscuits, the Weetabix, the Embassy fags.

Despite being only 18km long and 8km wide, Rodrigues has plenty to see. One day Jean-Paul took me down to Port Mathurin, the island's diminutive capital. It was market day, and it seemed le tout Rodrigues had turned out in force to buy or sell fruit and veg, fish and meat, home-made preserves, cheap clothes and Chinese-made homewares.
In his book Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons, Gerald Durrell describes Port Mathurin as the perfect set for a Somerset Maugham novel. I know just what he meant. The town's few thoroughfares have names such as Victoria Street, Johnston Street and Rue de la Solidarité. It has a low-rise, somnolent,villagey feel. The government buildings are single-storey colonial houses with corrugated roofs under the shade of giant banyan trees. There is a branch of Barclays Bank, a bookshop called the Bold Endeavour, a cyber café with the slowest internet connection I have ever experienced (So true!!! B.R.), and a general store, the Magasin Mackoojee ("Fondé en 1901"), which sells kitchen mixers, brooms and palm-leaf hats.

The tourist office in Port Mathurin is a room in a colonial residence dating from 1897. Two keen young people, Sandrine and Cliff, talked me through the island's range of tourist possibilities. I could dive the island's coral reefs, or walk the trails of the interior. A popular excursion was the boat trip to Ile aux Cocos, a desert island where the rare birds of Rodrigues enjoy protected status. Something more active, perhaps? The wide, calm lagoon is a perfect place for kite-surfing, explained Sandrine. She showed me a list of the tourist figures for the previous month: there
had been 3,555 visitors from Mauritius, 1,486 from Réunion (ie France), a handful from South Africa, Australia, Italy, and 47 from the UK.
And how is it going, I wondered? Sandrine rolled her eyes. Not so good.There is the global economic downturn, of course. And with only two planes a day, visitor numbers are unlikely to increase much any time soon.

We drove west out of town towards the island's main tourist attraction, the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve, named after a Huguenot exile who arrived on Rodrigues in 1691, when the island was still uninhabited and pristine. The park and its installations, which include a small museum and a long cave through which visitors are take n on tours to
gawp at the stalagmites and stalagtites, were founded in 2007 by the Australian naturalist Owen Griffiths. There is plenty to keep you occupied here for an hour or two, what with the cave, the tortoises in their picturesque surroundings, and the fruit bats in their special enclosure. The
Rodrigues fruit bat, Pteropus rodricensis, very nearly met the same fate as the solitaire. At one point in the 1970s, there were only 70 left in the wild, and it became the world's rarest bat. Now it's up to several thousand,though the species is still endangered.
Life on Rodrigues can seem such a convincing version of paradise that it's tempting to ask: what's the downside, then? The answer is surely the delicate environmental situation, the pressing problems of erosion and drought, and the chronic over-fishing of the lagoon, which has reduced
stocks of octopus to unsustainable levels.There is another shadow in the island's political and economic life: many Rodriguais harbour a simmering resentment towards Mauritius, which, they
feel, funds the island meanly and strangles its attempts at self-develop
ment. According to the World Bank, 37.5% of the population lives below the poverty line.

If there is any serious discontent or hardship, it lurks below the unruffled surface of island life. There is almost no crime on Rodrigues. The island's prison accommodates five or six, in a come-and-go-as-you-please regime. No one can remember the last murder. In any case, dangerous felons are promptly shipped off to Mauritius.One afternoon I left my posh new Havaiana flip-flops on the beach at Anse Ally. Hours later, when we were sitting down to dinner, I remembered, and ran back along the beach like a paranoid Londoner, fully expecting they'd
been nabbed by the gaggle of kids I'd seen playing on the sand.

"Oh, ils seront là," said Claudine nonchalantly, mixing up a glass of rum punch for when I got back. And it was almost comically predictable, somehow, when she turned out to be right.

You find Paul Richardson's article here...including some additional rate infos...
Here something about Gerald Durrell, the well-known zoologist from Jersey Zoo - auf dt. hier

Photo credits:
Guardian (1), Chez Claudine (2,4), Carantini (5), Fabrice Bettex (3, 6, 10), Casa A Gardenias (7),
ROD (8,9,12), Internet (11), Marion & Frank (13, 14, 16) , Jan Erik Johnson (15)


UliS hat gesagt…

Hi Birgit,

wie wir es von Dir gewohnt sind, hast Du wieder die schönsten Bilder Deiner Heimat ausfindig gemacht.

Danke Uli

BetsyD hat gesagt…

Birgit, this is such a lovely place I'm just salivating..I have done so since first seeing your pic with that BLUE ocean in the background so long ago. Are you sure you want to tell others about it? It seems a place too good to be true. We are glad to have you in our community. Your lively blogs are an essential part and so glad you write from such an exotic place. I'm also so thankful that you can communicate in so many languages. I'm thinking of you and holding out for the very best...

Anonym hat gesagt…

Paul Richardson gets me thinking about dinner.... Will I gain weight when I sample all the food he describes in his mouthwatering style of writing? : )

Get out your ccokware and make a tasty cari for yourselves guys and let me have all the tourte rodriguaise.


clydene hat gesagt…

Hi Brigit,

I love your posting on the Island of Rodrigues. I am working again in the Preventive Medicine division at UCSD, and was in charge of Clinical Epidemiology seminar last month. I had a chance to talk with one of our medical students and asked her where she came from, and she told me the following:" I come from a small country you have never heard of called Mauritius."

She was delighted and surprised when I told that I knew exactly where Mauritius and the Island of Rodrigues are located in the Indian Ocean...and of my friend Brigit who lives there on the Island of Rodrigues.

We had a long discussion right before class and I learned that there are daily flights from London to Mauritius.

I have to send her the link to your your influence expands beyond the borders of those you know on your blog....

Take Care! Keep the information coming, it is so interesting to see your world and be able to share it with others.


Viktor hat gesagt…

Liebe Birgit und Dirk,

was für ein schöner Artikel über die Insel Rodrigues. Ich verfolge Euren Rodrigues-Blog schon eine ganze Weile, und ich muss sagen, dieser Blog ist ein wunderbares Fenster zur Insel und macht neugierig. Wenn das so weitergeht, werden wir Rodrigues wohl in unsere Urlaubspläne einbeziehen müssen.

Mit lieben Grüßen aus Berlin

Anonym hat gesagt…

Liebe Birgit

Vielen Dank für diesen Bericht! Bei den schönen Bildern bekommt man wirklich Fernweh und möchte das alles mit eigenen Augen sehen. Danke dafür, dass Du uns, bis das einmal Realität wird, virtuelle Augen gibst und wir so an der Schönheit von Rodrigues teilhaben können!

Liebe Grüsse und bis zum nächsten Bericht


Anonym hat gesagt…

Dear Birgit -- you are the best kept "secret" in the Indian Ocean. Ever since I read an article about Mauritius many, many years ago; in the back of my mind, I have always wanted to visit. But your stunningly beautiful blog renews my wish to visit everytime I read it. Keep up the fabulous work. I hope you stay in the Rodrigues Island -- which is clear that you love -- forever, so you'll be there when I manage to come by (one day, I hope!).


LUISA (Brasil) hat gesagt…

Dear Brigit
This place is incredible! When I read your blog I think that one day I will have go for this island, to know you and such nice people. Thank you for showing us this marvel of nature.

Anonym hat gesagt…

Dear Birgit

You presented an other beautifully written article about your favourite place in the world, Rodrigues. The pictures you found to decorate and make it even more spicy and mouthwatering are fantastic.

One is tempted to collect ones tooth brush and a few clothes and to catch the next flight direction Rodrigues. How long would such a journey take by planes and boat and local transportion means? Can you tell us?

Betsy is completely right asking you whether it's good to make too many people too familiar with this paradise in so many aspects ;-)

Well, I think some Rogrigues residents would appreciate a lot a little more visitors for economic reasons but tell them which kind of treasure they have and probably risk to loose when too many tourists would overflow their paradise. However, they deserve that their island is more known in the world and some more travellors will visit it - fully respecting its special charmes!

Thank you so much for an other interesting thread.

Berlin gretings to Port Mathurin.



Anonym hat gesagt…

Gerade habe ich noch die Seite von Claudine MONERET angeklickt.

Die Frau alleine ist ja schon eine Spitzenwerbung für Rodrigues. Wer hat wo zuletzt oder überhaupt jemals schon so ein tolles, offenes Lachen gesehen!?

Und die Außenansicht des Hauses und der Blick aus dem Fenster unterstreichen nochmals den Paradies-Charakter DEINER Insel!

Hingerissen und wohl heute von Rodrigues träumend


Leaf hat gesagt…

Dear Birgit!
you are doing a fantastic job with your blogs. This one is very interesting. Without you bringing the little islet into light, nobody in the world would know about it and want to visit it.
After reading your blog I would love to visit it. Maybe one day I will be able to come see the island and you of course.
Bear hugs from Leaf

Dostoy hat gesagt…


I love your blog! You are a wonderful "ambassador" to the world for the island of Rodrigues.

Before discovering your blog I didn't even know the island existed. Now I can't wait until the day I can travel there to see it all with my own eyes.

Keep up the good work!!!

Anonym hat gesagt…

Liebe Birgit,

eigentlich habe ich ein volles Arbeitsprogramm und wollte nur kurz ins Internet; und jetzt hänge ich schon seit einer Stunde auf Deiner Seite fest und komme aus dem Träumen nicht heraus; es gibt so viele interessante Berichte über "Deine" Insel! Hast Du schon einmal darüber nachgedacht, ein Buch über Rodrigues zu schreiben?!
Käufer gäbe es mit Sicherheit genug, denn Du schreibst das nicht aus der Distanz eines Beobachters, sondern mit der Leidenschaft eines Menschen, der dort seine Heimat gefunden hat.

Liebe Grüße

jesica putri hat gesagt…

Ayo kunjugi permainan terbaik dan Menarik dari kami