RODRIGUES – BACK IN TIME

March 6, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (1)

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Rodrigues - kitesurfing adventure

The island of Rodrigues is like Mauritius 20 or 30 years ago – or so they say. In spirit it feels faraway and free – with little traffic and only a few hotels on natural sandy beaches with Casuarina trees. Few palm trees. No five star hotels. Yet some of the world’s true Royals frequent the island, seeking barefoot chic.

Rodrigues is a self governing island of the Republic of Mauritius. It is actually only 1 hr 30 minutes hop with Air Mauritius (or 2 days by boat). Just a teeny price supplement on your MK ticket to Mauritius will give you this refreshing experience.

Like Mauritius it is ringed by coral reef and turquoise lagoons, and most of the people speak Creole (French patois). But the people are different. Also a rainbow, but more to the burnt sienna end, as 85% of the population have come from African slaves brought to the island by white colonists.  

There is something African about the island too. Signs and shops favour giddy sun colours. People seem more languid and laid back than the people of the main island. Service is a problem concept I understand for the budding tourism industry, as the work ethic is something that obviously needs to grow for generations after annihilation with slavery.

Rodrigues has an interesting mountainous interior with rainforest, and areas of acacias in the rainshadow. Here are all the cows, as on Mauritius the cow is considered holy by the majority – who are Hindu. Cows are everywhere on Rodrigues  – along with the pigs and chickens people keep around their homes.

For us the sky was blue and as we drove up the steep hills the world was a ring of blue and turquoise. In the sky were kites flitting adding to the fantasy of freedom. Rodrigues is famous for kite surfing.

In our short visit our activity included looking out the car window, and visiting the market at Port Mathurin and a snack bar that actually served espresso.

We also took a peep into a lava tube (tunnel in the lava rock), Then of course – we inspected three hotels.

Three 3-star hotels.

Pointe Venus – Rodrigues

4-5 Feb overnight, dinner with management (from Mauri Tours), breakfast, hotel inspection

Pointe Venus sits on the hill above Port Mathurin with a big swimming pool, bar and restaurant, and partial views of the lagoon. Here we enjoyed a fascinating show of music and dancing in Rodrigues style. The dance is colonial in inspiration, with bursts of Africa still in slavery, and strange shuffles that reminded of legs in chains.  It filled the heart. For that it was worthwhile staying there.

Though Pointe Venus claims to be four star, it has been severely slashed down to two stars by many observers (trip advisor) (and our party).

On the plus side it does have a nice pool with sunloungers. But it is 10 minutes walk down the hill to Port Mathurin and the sea.  There is a shuttle once a day.

The dinner was a buffet, but not the kind of buffet that lifts the concept of buffet. A lot of perhaps overcooked stews. (But then I do not eat meat.) Breakfast was acceptable, but hardly four star.

The room was small but quite pleasant in a separate wing. It did seem much smaller coming after our spacious accommodation at Le Touessrok, and two near strangers had to share it. One of us slept on the small sofa. The bathroom did not have cockroaches, and the reason why was evident. It smelt of cockroach poison emitting from the plug hole.

I sympathise. The cockroach presents a poison versus complaints dilemma.

This little animal problem coloured the usual spa visit. It was closed at the time, so there were none of the fragrances of ylang ylang permeating the air. Then as we entered a very large cockroach came out to greet us (flying cockroach). It was stamped on and was still lying there as we filed in.

The service was as predicted not very hands on. You got rather vague looks when you tried to order things.

Nevertheless I felt that there was goodwill and good nature at work, and that it will all come right in time.

Les Cocotiers – Rodrigues

 

Feb hotel inspection

Three star. Same owner as Pointe Venus. Very Caribbean in feel, with its brightly painted metal roof, and happy turquoise theme. Our welcome drinks in coconut set a pleasant tone. The rooms were cute, with pastel covers and balconies with turquoise striped wicker furniture.

Les Cocotiers is on the beach and has three pools (one for the kiddies). The beach is narrow but it is sandy and the lagoon is turquoise.

It shares watersports and kids club with Pointe Venus – not sure where the watersports is situated.

Cotton Bay – Rodrigues

5 Feb hotel inspection and lunch with management

Yes. Charme. At the end of the road somewhere, far away. Far back in time to innocence.

We were warmly greeted by the reservations manager and other management, shown around and hosted to the “best lunch” of the tour. Those words come from a meat eater – I had a nice enough vegetarian option but certainly nothing like the splendid meals we had been having.

The beach is natural, sandy pale gold, lined by casuarinas. The lagoon turquoise, but as with so many lagoons, dotted with bits of coral. We were told that the coral reef was alive and that snorkeling was excellent. I hope they have improved safety after a complaint I read in trip advisor. Boats on the water add a nautical atmosphere.

The rooms were rustic sweet. Their top suite nice enough on the rustic scale. You get many points for luxury when you can step out from pale cool tiles onto a bank above a beautiful beach, and feel sand between your toes. Comfy sunbeds too and palm trees have started to grow.

We heard royalty stays here. And the same personage stays also at Constance Le Prince Maurice.

The world of Rodrigues is small indeed.

Our minibus had been stopped by “the police”, and our Rod Tours guide told us “oh no – he stops us all the time”. One of our party joked that our driver might be having an affair with the policeman’s wife. When we told the joke to the reservations manager at Cotton Bay, she instantly knew the policeman involved though he was on the other side of the island.

“No that is not true!” she said. “He is a very good policeman who does his duty. He never takes a bribe.”

So who will visit Rodrigues?

Firstly someone who is posh enough not to need to be posh. Someone looking for another time, another place. Kite surfers. Romanticists. Laid back nature lovers. People who spend a few days in connection with a visit to Mauritius, out of curiosity.

I met an Englishman at the airport who goes there every year and stays with a family.

Whatever the reason, it will not be for pampering and traditional luxury. The next hotel on my list will…