Rodrigues – Where time stands still!
At some 11 km bird-eyes view, stands a small preserved, authentic island, Rodrigues: neighbour to Mauritius but so much different. A welcoming land whose inhabitants’ life motto seems to be: ‘Trankil’ – Creole word for calm! Time appears to be at a standstill! Nobody pays attention to time, so much so, that some would say that Rodriguans do not wear any watch! Demonstrating a gentle casualness, the natives get on with their life without paying any attention to you while always being ready to help when necessary.
The rhythm of life on this island is peaceful, a laid-back lifestyle that has no equal and which is felt in the very tone of Rodriguan conversations. Dinnertime there is no later than 7:00 p.m.! And wake-up occurs at the rooster’s crow! Around 9 p.m., you’d be lucky if you find a single soul at the capital city Port-Mathurin! While driving across the island at evening, you may come across a car or two…probably tourists. Surprisingly, the only three existing fuel stations in Rodrigues all close down at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays! A proof of the serene way of life that exists on the island. Anyway, that doesn’t bother anyone since the majority of the Rodriguan population enjoys walking.
Domestic animals roam freely through the meadows and valleys: cows, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs… all of which, remain unconcerned by the beauty of the breathtaking landscape around! A joyful din at dawn. Rodrigues can be discovered by scooter, car or simply on foot like the locals, for the more adventurous (due to the steep coastlines). Driving around our neighbouring island is spectacular. The lagoons’ hues of blue offer a drop-dead sight, sometimes blue, at other times, emerald green… it is hard to understand how deserted the beaches are, be it a Sunday or public holiday. Here and there, magnificent creeks and bays: Trou d’Argent, Topaze Bay, the changing sceneries are quite surprising.
Rodrigues sets the tone as soon as you land! Plastic is prohibited here! One would immediately notice how spotless the island is. They favor organic and focus on local products. Each Rodriguan has his own little plot of land where he grows his animals and vegetable garden. Eggplants, corn, onions, cassava, peanuts, breadfruit, papayas, lemons, passion fruit… You’ll also be pleased to find long-forgotten fruits such as java plum, jean bourgeois fruit… which will be served at breakfast in the form of jams or fruit juices. Throughout your stay, your plates will be filled with fruit from the orchard, local seafood, more particularly the ‘zourit’ (octopus) from the famous Zourit lady fishers, Rodriguan charcuterie: definitely, only 100% local products available.
Unlike Mauritius, local dishes are eaten with ground corn instead of rice. Local red beans, “zourit” (octopus) stew or sausage rougaille, served with their famous sweet and sour lemon pickles and Rodrigues chili pepper, one of the most popular dishes here. Their ‘Zi limon’ (lemon juice) remains a must when visiting the island. Furthermore, do not miss the rum-lemon punch straight from the garden, a very popular cocktail that will most certainly allow you to easily join the Rodriguan Sega “tanbur” (drums) dancers (different from the Mauritian Sega) on the dancefloor.
Rodriguans, very gifted for craftsmanship, create a whole range of artisanal products to bring back home. Using ravenala, bark of coconut or palm trees, pandanus, tecoma wood, to name a few; they portray their know-how in their ‘tant’ (baskets), hats, trays, various decorative objects, jewelry, paintings… Products from their apiaries, organic and natural, extremely tasty, and healthy, deserve a small space in your luggage: Eucalyptus honey or the one with Peruvian balsam, sweets or fondants made from honey, soaps, and moisturizing creams, propolis! Do not miss the Rodriguan “tourte” (pie) perpetuated through generations. On Saturday mornings, as from dawn, you will certainly find something to treat yourself at the Port Mathurin open air market, in the midst of this joyful and colorful bazaar.
Rodrigues is, after all, an island that can be visited through hiking, where encounters with the discreet and authentic locals will trigger unforgettable memories. Some gliding sports enthusiasts can happily indulge in the practice of kitesurfing or windsurfing in an idyllic setting. Be amazed by the Rodriguan’s generosity who will bring you a whole plant of lemongrass when you only asked for a little! You may confidently leave your car keys on the vehicle without any fear of finding yourself finishing the journey on foot!
During a short break, it would be wise to imitate the Rodriguans by getting rid of your watches! Walk around languidly taking a deep breath of fresh air, savor the here and now moment, connect harmoniously with Mother Nature. Leave Rodrigues with in mind, this unique population enticing you to slow down, and enjoy every second of life to the fullest!