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Archive for August, 2009

Beach detectives – Anse unknown

One of many!

A day later and we visit the west coast via the Sans Souci road, one of the most scenic drives on Mahe through the Morne Seychellois National Park, which is conveniently the road that we live off. The other one is still doing 99% of the driving, I’m doing baby steps, as the roads are windy and hilly (that’s the bit I don’t like). The drive climbs through the forest of Takamaka, Bwa Rouz and Bwa Zonn trees (Creole names), past the tea factory and the Capucin Mission ruins, where children of freed slaves were educated in the 1880’s, before descending down into the other side of the island. Again the scenery is stunning, looking out to the ocean with the abundant hills of the island interior visible and a couple of islands floating green and luscious. We follow a road off to the right towards Port Launay, mangroves on our right and left, before entering an area of development, a new housing estate for Seychellois and it seems also a new hotel. We spot a car park (well gathering of cars) and assume a beach is nearby – it is. I break into a smile, only my third beach but I think it might just be my favourite…

A family Sunday out with only a few  locals, people are picnicking, kids are running, a small group sings and drums and the whole beach is a sheltered cove with granite rocks scattered and the calm translucent waters of the Indian ocean lap gently. I’m in the sea before you can count to ten, floating, thinking this is the Seychelles.

A little later we end up talking to a couple of Sri Lankans, who it seems are part of an immigrant workforce helping with the building of the new hotel if our broken English conversation is reliable. This to my mind will ruin everything but then for the Seychellois it may be a good thing.

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Beach detectives – Anse Royale

Beach detectives – Anse Royale

With apparently 60+ beaches to be found on Mahe, we have a lot of beach detecting to be getting on with. Different beaches suit different interests, sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling/diving, surfing etc as well as being affected by the climate. We were told that at this time of year the best beaches for swimming are Beau Vallon and Anse Royale. Having sampled Beau Vallon, we decided to head for the latter in the south east of the island. Driving past the airport and onwards, we hug the coastline and the views are amazing out to the blue blue ocean. We pass through Anse aux Pain, so named I reckon as it’s like a small baguette of a beach, though that could be my fanciful explanation, and drive onwards through areas that seem more local before we get to Anse Royale. The place itself is small, parking outside a small strip of shops, we hotfoot it across the road to the beach. An arc of sand stretches out before us, at one end a small rocky island topped with trees (Ile Souris) and pockets of shade are provided along the beach by overhanging trees and bushes. This is a beach that likes to belch its flotsam, strewn with seaweed, though not enough to be off-putting. Quiet with few tourists, we settle in to bake for a while. I test out the water but am surprised by its pull as it flows out and so sit splashing around like a beached whale, the local lads somersaulting in, highlighting my immobility. Sometime later, back on the bake, I realise my inability to move was probably related to the amount of wet sand I appear to have in my pants, prompting concern about how fat my ass is that I couldn’t tell…!

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Rooms with a view

Very kindly two of the newbies, who live close to each other, both offered to put us up for the night so that the other one could drink at the Regatta. This would be our first sighting of anyone else’s accommodation other than our own. Negotiating the steep hill, the other one jumped out of his skin (in rather a dramatic fashion) when a dog decided to surprise him, amusing the newbies no end. I made a beeline for the toilet, so didn’t notice the view initially – ha, was I to turn green with envy. The views were amazing. Right over Beau Vallon beach to the horizon, a panoramic vista easily admired and absorbed from the massive veranda complete with full dining table, two sofa beds, pot plants and all round lived in ambience; all completely walkable to the beach to boot. I was a tad envious– how did they decide who got what?? Shallowly, it gnawed a little but hey we’re here two years, there’ll be plenty of time to move around and experience all the Seychelles has to offer, like real Londoners we can live north, south, east and west and then proclaim the best area that which you can actually afford to buy a flat/house in.

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Regatta –tastic – Heavy metal heads

The surreal factor is upped a notch when the band for the evening is not as you might expect playing  traditional Creole music nor perhaps a more contemporary R&B outfit. No, instead my ears are given an aural onslaught by a bunch of (mainly) white middle aged rockers (and teenager dude) in a heavy metal band called ‘The Red Trees’. Led by a guy who looks like Bill Bailey, though perhaps slightly more part troll, on bass is the former director of the other one’s place of employment, on guitar is a stoned-looking Seychellois and on drums a former student, shirt off wearing his youth proudly. They race through a set of original songs, and according to the other one (who went through that phase most suburban male teens seem to go through of listening to Priest, upping the danger of their denim by wearing studded belt and cuffs) they are actually very good for the genre. A few drunk people are dancing at the front and a sizeable crowd is watching them, however I can’t see any big breasted groupies so can only conclude they’ve not hit the jackpot yet.*

* I later discover they have recorded an album in South Africa with one of David Bowie’s former producers and have been on TV.

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Regatta –tastic – Fashion faux pas

Talking of making impressions… our first Saturday night and its ‘Regatta Weekend’ over at Beau Vallon again. Like a mini festival there are stalls of food and drink, a stage for live music and a massive screen for football. For some reason, though I know it isn’t, I have sailing regatta in my head and decide to wear trousers which are long thus necessitating wedge shoes. My imperceptible nautical nod comes off as clueless princess who only ever travels with her hairdryer and insists on wearing shoes she can’t walk in, made doubly embarrassing by the time it takes to walk down the steep hill from newbies’ homes given I have to walk sideways like a crab .

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It seems football is well loved by the Seychellois. The big screen is on and showing live (sound down) the Liverpool- Bolton match. I feign interest as Liverpool is my team, though at any one time I can never name more than three players (except when it comes to 80’s players I do much better). The other one is delighted to learn that Man United – Arsenal is the big match they’ll be playing, his team being Man U (you can see how much fun we have over football in our house – though we are united in our loathing for Arsenal and Chelsea). We end up decamped on the beach, Takamaka Rum cocktails (a local rum) in hand – the other one rejects the one mixed with blue Curacao as I think there is some unwritten law that blue drinks are emasculating. A young boy entices a gang of older girls to chase him and then pretends he really doesn’t like it when they bury him in the sand, he escapes and annoys them again to guarantee a round two. Boys will be boys. Man U wins after a losing start and I hear the words ‘Stretford End’ uttered by the commentator and can’t help but feel it’s all a little surreal.

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Yoda is not Welsh

I’m a bit of a take me as I am person, light on the must make an impression thing (work excepted), which is usually ok as generally the older you are, the more likely you are to be surrounded by people with similar tastes and less likely that people will be getting to know you from scratch. This strategy is more risky when embarking upon a new life in one of the smallest places you have ever lived and these people are probably your social life for the next two years.  Therefore, I do not recommend a random outburst of a Yoda impression that your partner then has to quickly explain to his new Welsh work colleague – acquainted for less than 72 hours – that what had been attempted was indeed a Yoda impression* and not in any way a mangled, mocking, ill advised attempt at a Welsh accent. Of course anyone who knows me will know that any impression/accent I attempt sounds like a bad Welsh accent. I would like to report, though, I recently had brief success emulating a Russian accent, winding up the other one no end, but it appears to have been a 24 hour virus as now I can’t do it.

* See Channel 4 comedy ‘Inbetweeners’ for similar misappropriate use of Yoda impression.

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Longing for our belongings no more

Over two days we finally pick up our five boxes of our life for the next two years. Day one we arrive in the afternoon, wait, wait some more and eventually establish which our boxes are, however, customs want a list of what’s in them. We have a list at the house and a list in the box but have neglected to tattoo it on our person, meaning instead that we have to recall it from memory (never a good thing). List done, we’re told that we have to return the next day for the boxes, grrrr. Day two, we arrive with our lists, money (to pay the airline and the customs people) and realise why the big bench- so people waiting, like us, can sit and  get out of the way of the forklift trucks. I chat with the guy who’ll be transporting our boxes who used to work for the ships. He tells me one of the best places he’s been to is St Helena (near Argentina I think), one of these weird British territories that no-one really knows and hardly anybody lives. I mention it only because, bizarrely, a mate of mine went for an interview for a government job there recently, his (no doubt understated) verdict being ‘I don’t think it was for me’. Wrongly I’m sure, but I imagine it as a wasteland for civil servants that the civil service doesn’t know what to do with… yup that scary.

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Beau Vallon night market

The other one hates being late. We are meeting the newbies at a weekly night market at Beau Vallon beach – the first time we’ll have actually been near the beach. We’re late as the other one’s mobile phone has got the wrong time on it. I cackle with glee as it’s not my fault this time (he he) but I soon stop as bumping into some of the other one’s work colleagues, I again (not for the first or last time) become The Wife, my heroic deed of Woman vs. Charade all but forgotten. I am officially a kept woman-albeit one in the Seychelles – really mustn’t grumble.

Beau Vallon is the most well known of Mahe’s beaches, a wide crescent of sand about 3km long, with various hotels dotted around it, though unobtrusively, and a smattering of yachts at anchor further out to sea. On first sight, I am a little disappointed as I thought the beach would be wider (could be the tide though) with informal places to eat/drink and sling your hammock, more like Zanzibar. I’m being picky I’m sure, more than a little spoilt by the Tanzanian experience methinks, it’s still pretty beautiful.

Behind the beach is a promenade sheltered by trees which is where the stalls are set out and produce and refreshments can be bought. I try Calou, an alcoholic drink made from fermented coconut, sold either strong or sweetened; I prefer the sweet. We also buy some fresh chillies, lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. Apparently, in January, tomatoes can’t be bought (will double check though as not sure my memory is right!). We each grab a chapatti filled with prawns from a very popular stall (I can see why) and the other one undertakes his first night drive and home successfully.

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Hire car charades and near death experiences

It nearly killed me believe it or not

It nearly killed me believe it or not

Hire car – part one.

 

Apparently, I can be named as the driver on the car along with the other one. Lucky me, a dependent  free zone, so though I can’t work, I can endanger other people’s lives on the road, happy days.

Hire car – part two.

Having been in possession of the car for, what, less than 24 hours and my big psyche up to take the wheel (at least a little go), I find the battery flat, completely. How can this be? I don’t think its related to the dashboard being lit up and possibly the ignition not having been  turned  off properly and left all night, with the other one having  been so far the only driver, but let’s skip that trifling matter…

What a charade – my near death experience

On hearing our plight, others helpfully advise that we could try and jumpstart the car by starting it downhill, though I think the battery’s gone pretty much the way of the dodo. However, the other one wants to give it a try and so he rolls it to prime position at the top of the hill with me (little known for my caber tossing or tearing of phone book skills*) at the front of the car. Common sense prevails briefly as I protest that my skills are not being put to their best use, not in 30 odd years having ever single-handedly stopped a car from rolling down a hill even if it is only a Daihatsu Charade. The other one suggests that I let the handbrake go instead but being car shy and wary of causing his early demise, what with a new career in the Seychelles beckoning, I foolishly opt to stay where I am, arms outstretched, valiantly posed to save the day.

Handbrake off, and if I possessed the ability to push, I think I could also have given walking on water a crack but we’ll never know given that the window of opportunity was extremely narrow being that I was running backwards, car bearing down upon me, the other one frantically trying to run alongside and pull the handbrake while I meanwhile am yelling, god knows what but it wasn’t ‘ please could you stop the car from killing me if you don’t mind thank you, you’re ever so kind, careful you don’t put your back out’. Luckily, the other one makes contact with the handbrake and I get to live another day and plot to wreak my own revenge, recalling sage advice from a friend of a friend from years ago – mashed potato in trouser pockets, weapon of choice for the woman scorned. Still gets me every time, I thought I was mad…

Mind you, despite having cheated death, I find myself in the position of being asked to let the handbrake go, as two plucky volunteers, a barely made it teenager and girl, have stepped into the fray to push the car, quite possibly they are better at tearing phonebooks than me or evolving my definition of mad.

Evolving my position of non believer is the fact that my quandary is solved when a car comes up our drive that only contains two mechanics come to fix another car. Unbelievable. Battery is salvageable, they move the car, hire company replaces battery (allegedly) and job is done.

Oh how we laugh about it now.

*phone book tearing must now be much easier as who’s in them? And what has happened to the strongest man/woman competition?

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