07:39, 39nm remained of our longest sailing leg to date and after two days of busy shipping lane we were on our own once more.
The calmer waters provided the opportunity to empty and clean the fridge, dust, vacuum and wash the floors.
Top hatches opened at long last, fresh air streamed through our girl.
Mid morning, out of the hazy mist Rodrigues rose ever higher as Gratis motor sailed continually closer.
12:00, Rodrigues port authorities radioed and informed of our imminent arrival and permission for entry was granted.
What excitement coursed through us as our dream rapidly became reality!! With the steaming sun beating down from overhead, mooring lines and fenders were readied. All major work completed until the time for mooring approached, a refreshing shower removed the grime.
Rugged black peaks darkened in places by the shadows of overhanging clouds, 3 massive wind mills a stark white contrast against the background, lush green hill sides dotted with fluorescent signs of habitation welcomed us.
Just outside the entrance we met with Aurora who had departed Cocos Keeling four days in advance of us. Caught by two days of no wind, he had only just arrived.
It was a rocky welcome at the entrance into the bay as waters rapidly decreased from thousands to hundreds then just a few metres. Whilst I remained indoors watching our course and the charts, outside looking for the channel markers Bob found himself covered in saturating chilling waters as they soared over Big G – so much for that warming shower and an exceptionally unhappy Bob!
Markers spotted, Gratis’ bow was positioned for the final approach.
Inside the protective reef system, larger in area than the island itself, Gratis motored through what had become calm waters to the wharf. Thank goodness we had timed our arrival for daylight!! Both charts and plotter were incorrect and had us upon the reef as we motored in.
Upon the dock to meet us, a flotilla of men and some of our mates from Cocos Keeling. Mooring lines hurled landside, our girl was rapidly secured and the engine put to rest in Port Mathurin, the capital of Rodrigues:
15 days out of the estimated 20 – 22 predicted – not bad! Despite the couple of malfunctions this was the most relaxed of the legs we had undertaken.
Like a row of soldiers standing in line, the Rodriguan officials were awaiting. At 13:00 our procession of visitors commenced. Health, Customs, Immigration, Coast Guard, Port Authority: one after the other, each with a phenomenal amount of paperwork practically identical to the last for us to complete. Spear guns perceived as a weapon and not permitted, his expression woebegone with immense disappointment, Bob watched on as his were removed, to be reclaimed upon our departure.
A good hour later the monotonous repetitive process drew to a close and we were free at last to set foot upon land. First of our old friends to greet us was Norwegian, Stig, who presented us with the delicious gift of freshly baked chocolate éclairs, their aroma wafting tantalisingly surrounding us. Bob was in seventh heaven as he savoured the sweet flavours of not one, but two of those scrumptious cream filled, chocolate coated beauties!!
What a trip back in time this was!!!! Wandering the narrow streets we discovered a quiet backwater one didn’t expect to find in this day and age. No tourism mecca on Rodrigues: peaceful, relaxed, friendly, slow paced – one worked to the Rodriguan concept of time here.
No buses to be seen upon the inner streets of the capital: those brightly coloured spectacles came to a halt at the bus station on the edge of the ‘metropolis’. The majority of the population walked, whilst a number scootered and a select minority motored.
It wasn’t difficult to see how poor these people were – in monetary terms that was, for always with a smile they were rich in family and community: the average earned the equivalent of $125AUD per month. The shops reminded me of Bali, whilst for Bob it was a typical Asian style markets he had seen thousands of in his work travels. Most of the traders were either Indian or Chinese. No concept of the motto ‘less is more’ here. Packed to the brim, no room to move, the majority of retailers sold a pot pourri consisting of clothes, trinkets, food, bathroom, electrical and so on. Nothing expensive here, all cheap imports from China for it was all the population could afford.
Narrow streets, multi coloured buildings of red, orange and gold clashed with those of purple and green; aged abodes and work places decayed and eroding away, it was possible to espy the quarried coral from which the bricks had been formed; an occasional stray dog of skin and bone wandering; spoggies in the hundreds, bird song (so missing on Cocos); people walking in iridescent clothing so reminiscent of African culture – very few over weight here; French and Creole chatter from all sides, immediately immersed us in the culture. Cadburys, Arnotts and Doritos, the three big brands one could find here, and surprise of surprises, small packets of sheep feta in the supermarket.
Easily traversed in no more than five minutes if one chose to walk at a hurried pace, it wasn’t long before we discovered the bank, supermarket, bakery, phone/internet company (purchased credit, of course), and fresh food markets.
After the aged frozen or long chilled foods of Cocos, and to a large extent even Carnarvon, the fruit and vegetables here were mouth watering to perceive! Stall upon stall from which we could choose were there, our mouths drooled! Food in miniature – we presumed the result of reduced watering and less fertilised soil available. Outside here were the specialty shops from which a person could purchase fresh meats. Tiny rooms, each installed with cutting table, large hand wielded knives – no electric saws, old fashioned scales like my grandmother once used for weighing and small bags in which the monies earned were stored – no credit card facilities in most of the island’s stores, cash the monetary terms of the day. Health and hygiene laws unheard of – no glove covered hands or tongs, whilst storage fridges and open shop doors allowed flies to saunter in and out. If one desired to purchase meat, it was a good idea to arrive at the crack of dawn.
Our first day there, for $33AUD we purchased 1 bottle red wine, 1 can of Guinness, 2 chicken breasts. 1.5l bottle of soda water, 5 potatoes, 1l bottled water, 8 capsicum, 2 cauliflower ettes, 3 bok choy, 1 dozen eggs, 1 ginger, 4 garlic, 6 shallots, 1 pineapple, ½ dozen oranges, ½ dozen apples, bunch red grapes, 2 small lettuce and all the vegies fresh from the ground that morning Beat that Woolworths and Coles!
When purchased from the market gardens, we found our vegies remained fresh for 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the type. Food stocked up at Woolworths in Carnarvon prior to a two week sail to Cocos, found most of the veg and fruit going off by day 56 and that was in the FRIDGE!! With all the science and research at their disposal the supermarkets just have to find a better way to distribute FRESH food)
No need to say, but we had the most delectable mouth watering of meals for tea that night.