Saturday is the big Market Day in Port Mathurin. There's a certain energy in the air on market day in small towns. People from all over the island come to sell their wares or buy their fresh food for the week. It's a social time. Several people had advised us to get there early. Since the sun rises here around 0515 at the moment, it's not hard to get up early. In fact, with the sun so bright, it's hard to sleep in. We were up and in the dinghy headed to shore by 0630.
There was a buzz on the street. People were all heading in the same direction, chatting as they walked, stopping to shake hands or hug a friend or neighbor along the way. The main marketplace is a huge covered hall with mostly veggie vendors inside who seem to be the “regulars”. Alongside the market hall, a pleasant pedestrian alley away, was a line of meat, poultry and fish vendors, all in their own little shops. We purchased some fresh chicken for dinner. We had seen what looked like strings of sausage drying on a rooftop on an earlier visit into town. Sure enough, today the sausage was on sale at the market.
A few vendors were still setting up when we arrived, but all the fresh fruit and veggie vendors had their wares displayed and were already conducting a brisk business. A slice of squash here, some tomatoes or apples there. We purchased onions at one stall, garlic at another and broccoli and tomatoes at yet another. We do our best to spread the wealth. Fruits included local papaya, bananas and small, sweet pineapples, as well as imported melons, citrus and Australian apples. We stocked up. As usual, figuring out the new currency was a challenge. 25 rupees for onions? Are you crazy? Oh, yeah, that's less than a dollar. Okay. Let's see which coins or bills make up 25 rupees?
Vendors were set up all along the street outside the market hall and the perimeter. One fellow had a mountain of coconuts and he was hacking off the tops for his customers and supplying straws for coconut water.
Behind the hall, women sold their baked goods … beautiful tarts with papaya, pineapple, coconut or banana fillings. The crusts were golden brown and very decorative … some even spelling out Rodrigues or the flavor of the tart. We couldn't resist. We chose a pineapple-papaya tart for our evening's dessert.
The two main souvenir items for the island are woven items of straw made into hats and baskets and small, colorful jars (they call them “pots”) of spicy sauces in various flavors. We checked them all out, and bought three small pots to try. I also chose three small souvenirs that might be good mementos of our Rodrigues visit.
After wandering around for several hours, we found an open air “food court” for an early lunch. All the locals seemed to be gathering here for a bite to eat. Little kiosks offered different fares. Hot dogs, rotis, octopus delights. We tried a fried rice concoction that was very tasty … two full plates for $5 including Cokes in old-fashioned bottles. We sat at a nearby picnic table with some locals and chatted in a mix of French and English.
By Noon, the market was winding down. Vendors packed up their wares. Buyers, laden with their week's freshies, headed back home. All the local shops close at Noon on Saturdays as well. The buzz dissipated. The streets emptied for “le weekend” … life in a small town on a small island.