There's always a bit of regret when we leave a place we've enjoyed and been comfortable. There's always a bit of apprehension mixed with anticipation and exhilaration as we haul anchor and head out of a harbor and across a vast ocean. What's out there? How will the weather be? What will break this time? How long will it take us?Read More
Le Weekend … after the market and all the shops closed down on Saturday, Port Mathurin eased into the weekend. By 3pm, there was little traffic on the streets and not all that many people. The sidewalks (or lack thereof) were rolled up tight. We were content to stay aboard with our newly acquired freshies and while away the rest of the day with naps, chores and a nice dinner. Sunday morning and we could hear the church bells ringing. Rodrigues has many religious sects, but the most prominent is Catholic. The church is right in the middle of town and the faint strain of singing voices wafted out to the anchorage.
No shops were open. No restaurants. The bakery opened at 0430 (but, of course … people need their daily bread!), but closed right after the church services. There were a few people out and about, but not many. That is, until about 3pm when “Le Nightclub” opened. We had read about the “nightclub” from previous cruisers and thought we'd check it out. The name is a misnomer in that it opens from about 3pm on Sunday afternoons and closes about 8pm. It's more of an afternoon club … a social club for Sunday afternoon get-togethers, a few beers and lots of loud music and dancing.
We showed up at the entry door around 3pm and were immediately turned away. David, and our friend James on Banshee, were in shorts. Long trousers were required along with proper shoes … no flip-flops.
There was discussion as to whether the men wanted to change. I convinced them that they did, so we walked back to the dock, David dinghied back to the boat to change while I chatted with some other departing cruisers. Properly attired, we walked back to Les Cocotiers, paid our cover charge (125Rps for men; only 75Rps for women), and found a table. The Phoenix beer was cold; the music was loud; the place was dark and stale.
The locals were dancing up a storm. We sat and watched and enjoyed. I love dancing and was anxious to get out on the floor and strut my stuff, but I wanted to get a feel for the music and dancing first. A DJ kept the momentum going. A huge multi-faceted, mirrored disco ball hung limp, evidently having lost its spin sometime in the past. The music ranged between 1950-60s pop and country. We heard “Please Release Me” several times and “Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry” at least twice. No original artists were recognized, but the tunes were familiar.
All dancing seemed be a simple country two-step to a calypso-type beat ... with a twirl thrown in every once in awhile by the more energetic dancers. Not my kind of music, but it was enjoyable to people watch and check out the dynamics of the local folks. Women outnumbered men and danced unabashedly with each other when no male partners were available. Women were decked out in their Sunday finest. Some wore high heels. All wore lipstick. When a new tune started, the men stood up, checked out the potential field and pointed at a woman, gave her the “come on and dance” high sign and that was it. Not much formality involved. I passed on my opportunity, preferring to watch rather than participate.
After a couple of hours, the music changed to an accordion-based, polka-style of music … still with that pronounced calypso beat. Hard to explain. A younger crowd started walking in and the older crowd dissipated … as did we. Enough nightclubbing for one Sunday afternoon.
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.