Indian ocean

Rodrigues: the authentic island

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After a tough 11-day crossing from the Cocos Keeling Islands, Jangada, dropped anchor on the morning of September 14th in the cove of Port-Mathurin. This is the island’s main town and is situated on the north coast. The coral here has been dug out to create a port that’s always accessible, whatever the height of the tide, by the two mixed cargo ships that are responsible for the weekly link with Mauritius.The only naturally deep passage is to the south east of the islands. This was used in former times by vessels making stopovers on Rodrigues, usually to deliver… tortoises, a living food store for the sailors in times past!This is where we moored, unlike the other boats which were safely anchored by Port-Mathurin. I have to admitthat I had a few jitters during the night due to the proximity of the coral when the wind was blowing at 30 knots in our anchorage. However, this was where we spent most of our very pleasant time on the island.

 

A paradise that is still preserved

The island is surrounded by a huge lagoon. It is mainly shallow and not navigable except for the numerous fishing pirogues under sail that are everywhere. Even they with their shallow draft use routes known only to the fishermen, and governed by the time and coefficient of the tide.In some areas, the coral reef is 7km (4.5 miles) from the coast while at Cotton Bay, it is only 15 meters(50’)from the shore. There are 18 small islands in the Rodrigues lagoon, some of which, like Hermitage, Destinée, Frégate or Catherine are basalt, whilst others such as the Ile aux Chats or the Ile aux Cocos are coral sand. Rodrigues is an autonomous territory of the Republic of Mauritius. Because of this, the official language of the of the 40,000 Rodriguans is English. However, the Rodriguans speak to each other in Rodriguan Creole, a language which is extremely easy on the ear. Most of the inhabitants also speak French, a souvenir of the past. Traditionally the two main economic activities were farming and fishing.Over the last few years, a selective tourism has developed for people who know what to expect, given that there is very little hotel infrastructure, not much electricity production, a lack of fresh water and slow communications. These drawbacks which do sometimes disturb the peaceful Rodriguan way of life, do have at least one advantage: they have allowed Rodrigues to preserve an authentic character, untouched by mass tourism. It’s the opposite of Mauritius which chose the other route, and the outcome has not always been positive…

In Port-Mathurin you will find the Rue de la Solidarité next to Victoria Street. On the map of the island there are some wonderful names : Camp du Roi, Anse aux Anglais, Pointe La Gueule, Cascade Pistache, Caverne Patate, Ile Paille en Queue, Jardin Mamzelle, Fond La Bonté, Baie Malgache, Rivière Banane, Roche Bon Dieu or Bois Puant…

 

A tropical atmosphere

As soon as we stepped ashore, the crew of Jangada hurried off to the charming streets ...

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