Rested, after a good night's sleep, we were ready to launch the dinghy and do a bit of exploring in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues' largest “city” and port. Rodrigues, pronounced the French way by the locals as Rod-reeg, was discovered and named by the Portugese explorer, Diego Rodriguez, in 1528. It was originally settled by French Hugenots fleeing France to escape religious persecution. The French subsequently colonized the island and, though it was ruled by the British from 1809 till its independence in 1968, it remains very French.
From the moment we passed through the port gate onto the street, we were charmed. We were reminded of the French Caribbean islands, especially Martinique, as we saw the colorful shops and French signs and narrow streets. There was no doubt in our minds, we were going to enjoy Rodrigues.
We had our priorities. First, we needed to pay the port health fee … 1,352 Mauritian Rupees (Rs) … which necessitated finding a bank and an ATM. Barclays Bank was easy to find. We inserted our ATM card and voila … out popped ten colorful, well-used 1,000 Rs notes. The exchange rate is currently 30Rs to $1US, so we'd withdrawn about $333US. The port cashier made it very plain that no change was provided, so we needed exactly 1,352Rs which meant we needed to buy something to get change. No problem. We hadn't spent anything in two weeks, we were primed for spending.
Our second priority was figuring out internet, so we decided to do that first in hopes of getting some change, so we could then pay our port fees. We found the Orange building … yes, that's the name of one of two phone/internet companies here … bought a dongle so we could do internet on the boat and in doing so, got the correct change. Though we bought and registered the dongle, it would take two hours for it to become activated, so we needed to return later to purchase internet time. Very complicated. In the meantime, we found the port cashier and paid our fee. We stopped into the little Tourist Info office to get more info about what “to see and do” on the island, but there wasn't much info available. We'd have to rely on other cruiser's notes and my research. We did, however, find the name of a little restaurant for lunch and headed a few blocks away to Tirozo for a delightful lunch.
David had crab curry and I had an encrusted chicken dish (think McNuggets with a French flair) and we both tried the local Mauritian beer, Phoenix, which was very cold and very good.
The streets are very narrow with no sidewalks. Motorbikes, trucks and cars whiz by, honking at pedestrians to move out of the way. Luckily, most of the streets are one-way and we quickly got into the habit of hugging the curb and walking up streets where we could face oncoming traffic.
En route back to the Orange store, we found the boulangerie (bakery) where we purchased two fresh baguettes for 20 cents each (oh, my!). We also found the post office and purchased a few stamps in anticipation of finding some post cards to go with them. The local grocery, Rousetti, was just getting in all its new stock from the supply ship and the lines were long. We figured we'd wait to check that out later. The whole downtown area is probably only 6 x 4 blocks, so figuring out where we were and where to go wasn't complicated, nor were the walks much of a distance.
I think Rodrigues will be a photographer's heaven. There are neat old buildings along each narrow street, some hopelessly abandoned, others with colorful murals on them. It's a very third world place with lots of friendly, smiling faces and a laid-back attitude. Tomorrow is the big weekly market and we're looking forward to it. In the meantime, internet for the first time in two weeks. Yahoo!