Archive for October, 2009

Kayaking – it involved equipment

I should have known not to dabble. However, I had fond memories of kayaking in Cape Tribulation, Australia many years ago and thought as they had the stuff at the hotel, we should give it a go. I was careful to tell Josef, the sports guy, that it had been many years since I’d done it. He told me not to worry, it’s just about belief.  Still not sure, as insurance I decided that we’d go for the double kayak rather than one each (yes, yes, I know). A very quick demonstration of how to use the paddle, no lifevests, and we were off.

Two minutes later we were headed for the rocks alongside the narrow beach.

The other one (at the back) shouts at me to paddle backwards but seemingly I have my oars the wrong way, though there’s a rudder on the kayak the other one’s attempt to use the peddles are useless, we aren’t turning and are still heading for these rocks. Next thing you know, Josef comes hurtling down the beach shouting instructions at us, the other one is still shouting at the back and somehow among the chaos we scrabble out of  harm’s way. All belief in our capabilities shattered, Josef comes out on a kayak to coach us (me) and, determined to save face we paddle about, not very confidently, for about another 20 minutes, basically trying to avoid things while the other one moans, I worry we’ll tip over and, worse, a small gathering of people onshore enjoy watching the worst kayaking performance ever. Embarrassed enough already, having gotten out, we worry that our voices probably carried and that they expect our first action back on shore to be filing for divorce. It was like our relationship in microcosm, two stubborn individuals, one pushing the other pulling, avoiding obstacles and against the odds somehow steering a clear course but never really knowing what the destination should be (old age being the obvious aim but even this can’t be taken for granted – see charades)

Dear god, I just came up with a kayaking/relationship analogy. I’ll be writing self help books next.

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Pool school

Being that we are graced with having many beautiful beaches to visit and can get sand stuck between our toes on a regular basis, we opted for the tranquillity of our ‘exclusive’ pool as our premier hangout. Close by to our room, we could come and go as we please, though the hotel beach being only two minutes away it was hardly a stretch but still it involved stairs.

The pool wasn’t massive but big enough to splash about and deep enough in the middle that we couldn’t touch the bottom. Neither of us being natural water babies (my diving a long and distant dream away) we spent one afternoon messing around in the pool. As they were a bit enthusiastic with the chlorine, the other one had the grand idea to put our masks on. So, there we were in a pool with our masks on practising with great relish forward and backward somersaults – at the height of our skills proudly managing to synchronise two forward and two back. Not sure which was more surreal, us or the couple by the pool reading who didn’t flicker an eyelid at our antics.

While not even close to the expense of places such as North Island or Fregate, I think this is what the rich do, pay obscene amounts of money so that they can act like big kids without anyone knowing and, through paying so much, think that this can excuse them anything. Lacking such funds, I just act like a big kid – politely.

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Introducing the Black Parrot…

pool with a view

So being very lucky people again, having mentioned to a colleague that the other one and I were considering splashing out for a nice hotel as it was our wedding anniversary (really just an excuse we never really bother- waking up every day next to him is enough – HA!) he put us in touch with a friend. Before you could say ‘how much?’ we were staying in the fancy pants Black Parrot Suites for less than the tourist dollar of 300+ EUROS per night. The place consists of the Hotel Coco de Mer (lumpen proletariat) and then a little further up the Black Parrot Suites, 12 Junior Suites complete with own pool and bar (hoi polloi). So after enjoying a welcome drink with N and the hotel manager, who was great, we were taken by a golf buggy to our suite – at this point I should mention that we were staying on a bed and breakfast basis and knowing that food was probably expensive, along with our rucksack we were carrying two plastic bags full of crisps, noodles and other rubbish (oh yeah rum) – traveller habits die hard.

On opening the door, we squealed like pigs and ran around taking pictures of me on the bed, by the bath (which was in the bedroom), in the bathroom, on the balcony, on the settee, you get the picture. The room was spacious, decked out quite simply but with a Balinese air, there were flowers scattered on the bed and best of all a wide screen flat TV – joy! Very excited, we celebrated with rum and coke and pot noodle.

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Run rabbit

If it was only one morning that we managed it at least we could justify the stupidly full rucksack (full of our running gear of course) that we had brought for only five days away. And managed it once we did; a run along Anse Volbert (Cote D’Or) beach. Even at 8am, it felt pretty hot and we were knackered before we even there! We ran up and down it twice and with a few people breakfasting from their hotel terraces, for a moment, I gained some shallow pleasure from thinking that they may look upon me as some hard core health nut (being sure to collapse in sweaty and panting heap at the undeveloped end of the beach where no-one could see). Not having had the foresight to put my cossie on, sitting sticky while the translucent calm Indian Ocean teased at my toes, I thought sod this. There was no-one about so I waded in with my M&S sports bra and knickers (how English/classy am I?!) thinking about how far away home is.

Homestead for breakfast and it was still only 9am! Breakfasted with N, tidied up and then set off for our next adventure – posh hotel here we come…

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Anse Lazio, Praslin

Going to Anse Lazio highlights a curious thing about Praslin; there’s very nearly a ring road that goes around it, about 90% of the way, but then the two ends fail to meet. There is also a road that goes across the island – aha to bridge where the two ends don’t meet you might think – uh no, that’ll be on the opposite side of the island. So, if you live around Grand Anse on the left of the island (looking at a map – my methods are simple but you have to make sure you have the map the right way) instead of just hopping across the island or going left a bit to get to Anse Lazio, you have to drag your sorry ass all the way around t’other way. The good news is it’ll probably only take you about 20-30 minutes.

The drive is hilly and bendy and at least on one occasion one might wonder if you’re headed the right way, especially if you’re driving down a narrow rocky road, but if you are, all’s well. Parking might be tricky as it was a busy old place when we got there. Finding the beach, it was evident how it has earned its reputation. The small crescent is framed by lush vegetation flushed green with envy as the beach dwellers gaze is caught by the Indian Ocean’s iridescent waters. Less dramatic than Anse Source D’Argent and more manicured than Cote D’Or its waves left me a little breathless and nearly bikini- less. I didn’t venture in again fearing for one’s modesty (!).

Basking for about an hour, nestled in the pliant sand, I watched the tourists’ comings and goings (it being more resort than local beach) that didn’t really amount to much unsurprisingly; sun lotion, bask, bathe repeat. Then with hunger at our bellies but no money in our pockets (there is a restaurant right by the beach that we didn’t visit on this occasion) we headed back to the homestead.

Later we went to pick up N from the ferry and I had a go at the automatic and wahey, no more pedals than a dodgem car, no fear of stalling, I actually nearly enjoyed driving. Nearly.

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Vallee de Mai, Praslin

Today we had the day to ourselves as N was off to La Digue. The other one had his first go at driving an automatic as we dropped N off in our host’s car (a Toyota Starlet- I love it for the name alone). Not much to learn no but after 20+ years driving manual I like to think that for a brief moment, the other one glimpsed what it’s like to be in my world where driving feels anything but automatic (take the pun as you will).  So we ‘zipped’ inland first to the Vallee de Mai, a world heritage site, where Coco de Mer trees, endemic to the Seychelles

It's a girl one

grow in abundance. We flashed our resident cards (flimsy bits of A5) scooting past tourists, diving headlong onto one of the marked pathways. Armed with our free leaflet we held the modest ambition of recognising the various palms surrounding us from the diagrams given; identifying a real person from a Lowry painting may have been an easier challenge.

The park was cool and shady and you could feel quite alone most of the time. I seemed able to spot loads of female Coco de Mer but the male ones were thin on the ground. Like trying to be a single woman in London really.

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Cote D’Or scores

We took comfort from the kitschen sink drama in a beachside pizza lunch, courtesy of N, and then did that healthy walk off your meal thing down the length of Cote D’Or beach (confusingly called Anse Volbert I think) that stretched languidly ahead of us. The sand was bleach white and though hotels were peppered here and there alongside it, it was somehow more pleasing than that at Beau vallon, more discreetly integrated into their surroundings perhaps? Somewhere near the middle of the beach, a small island has been cast adrift opposite its shores, Chauvre Souris, which to my mind (and bad french) means ‘hot mouse but’ surely that’s not right?

Having some time ago decided to collect shells from each beach I visit (it beats weaving baskets) I get on the beachcombing tip and end upwith  many more than I know what to do with.

And then it struck me, how about creating a shell animal zoo?

A variety of nature’s creatures lovingly crafted from shells. Why should we content ourselves with only scary looking owls with beady eyes when there is a whole kingdom (let us not just confine ourselves to kitsch here people) of animals out there to explore? If people can collect crystal frogs and other pointless crystal objects whose only purpose for existence is that they can be rendered in crystal in the first place (and even that is debatable) then there is room for collectible animals made from shells.

Problem is I’m too busy trying to work out if I can bite my toenails off with my teeth. Go on someone else run with it…

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It’s not all tat tastic

The treats keep on coming – real cafetiere coffee for breakfast and a choice of cereals. I opt for the unopened Rice Krispies though unfortunately, snap, crackle and pop appear to have upped and left. We drop our gracious hosts off at the airport for their adventure and we set off on ours – first stop, a clothes shop… The other one tries to pretend like he’s interested while N and I rifle through the rails, I bag two top for 50 rupees each, a rare bargain. More misery for the other one as next stop is Kingdom of Kitsch 1 which is exemplary,  not necessarily because of its wide of range of crockery, cutlery, clocks, teasmaids, brushes, pans, you name it, but more because of the colours that this stuff comes in; orange, yellow, green, pink anything neon. It’s like London’s Nu Wave Ravers have gone mad in Woolworths (again skipping over the inconvenient fact it doesn’t really exist anymore sob). Of course, we were set up for a fall. Kingdom of Kitsch 2 was rubbish. They actually sold practical products in normal colours, some of which weren’t even made of plastic. Well, N could hardly stand it, she had to leave that shop straightway, yes sirree, she was not standing for that.

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To Praslin!

Even though we live in a paradise island, I firmly believe we still need to get away – or have any excuse to at any rate. Lucky as we are, friends of a friend live on the island of Praslin and as they are away for half term, they have generously offered us the use of their house and car. We brave another run on the Cat Cocos ferry and spend 45 minutes watching an American Wrestling DVD that doesn’t actually feature wrestling rather a load of gnarly wrestlers pointlessly bigging themselves up and doing their opponents down, like a standoff between two peacocks but a whole lot uglier. Bring back Big Daddy I say (skipping over the inconvenient fact that he’s dead).

We’re collected by the couple whose house we’re staying at so we can have an evening to meet each other (and they can reassure themselves that we’re not the type to hold all night raves). We pootle along the main thoroughfare of Praslin, passing the school where our Praslin hosts work as well as a smattering of shops that include the ‘Kingdom of Kitsch’ so named by our friend N who’s in ecstasies of excitement as apparently there’s now a Kingdom of Kitsch 2’ – treasure troves of plastic tat hurrah!

Following little more than a car-wide gravel path, we pass some prize pads before alighting at our adopted homestead. A simple single storey villa, made from white concrete and soapstone (I think), it creates a coolly calm ambience. It has three generously sized bedrooms each en suite and is beautifully decorated. What a treat to be here for a couple of days! We sit and chat awhile before heading out for dinner at one of the few local restaurants, helping ourselves to heaps of delicious food, it being a Creole buffet affair (a restaurant favourite it would seem). As usual, my eyes are bigger than my belly though thankfully no winch is needed to facilitate my exit. Back to at the homestead we are spoilt by decent sized bed with decent mattress, mosquito net and best of all, our own bedside table lamps. Really it doesn’t take much to keep me happy in paradise.

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Toast Tales

Sinking my teeth into a hot, buttered piece of toast, munching merrily away, the other one pokes around the toaster as it’s been smelling rather pungent of late.

He finds a very dead and toasted gecko, its tail wrapped around the element, head bobbing up and down as he tries to remove its stubbornly stuck self from the toaster.

I gag.

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