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Desroches and Mahe
It was almost exactly six years since I left the Seychelles and going back was amazing. We were lucky enough to go as Karl had a job shooting photos for various hotels and I was lucky enough to go to Desroches, which we visited briefly seven years ago.
Desroches was amazing, it is a luxury resort with lots of private villas (we didn’t stay in one of those but we were hardly slumming it (if we had paid it would have cost at least £8,000). Whilst we were there Mr Amazon.com and some Tottenham player were staying (can’t remember his name) and the owner of the island flew in on his private jet. It is a fantastic island; the Seychelles really does have the most beautiful beaches, trees and plants I have ever seen. We got around the island by bike. A small plane comes in about three times a day, which is all much more romantic than arriving by car. They even have their own fireman, armedwith an extinguisher and tractor! I had to go running every day to work off the huge amount of food I was eating – three courses every time. Unfortunately trying to run in the morning, nearly killed me as it was so humid, so I had to go at night time and try not to fall over. But running at night is fantastic as you get to see the amazing stars, now I can also identify Leo as well as Orion’s Belt and the Plough! Tried to learn more but my star book is designed for the northern hemisphere, think I saw the Southern Cross too. The oldest tortoise on the island, Caroline was amazing, I want one, they are so funny with their sticking out ET style necks.
One of the best things was the snorkelling, I always loved doing this and this time it was even better as the coral that was bleached after El Nino is slowly growing back and it is amazing to see some of the most amazing corals – ones that look like brains or beautiful purple tipped ones. Saw seven turtles on one snorkel outing alone. There are also rays just swimming at your feet as you stand in the sea. I became obsessive about learning all the types of fishes again and loved seeing the angel fish, bat fish, Moorish idols, parrot fish, etc.
When it was time to leave Desroches I cried on the plane as it had just been so idyllic, but obviously it is not real life and people who go on holiday there don’t know anything about real life in the Seychelles and there wasn’t even much Creole style cooking. Overall though it was amazing
Then it was back to Mahe, to have a bit more of reality but even that was pretty amazing. Martin, my ex-head kindly let us stay for as long as we wanted and even gave up his bedroom for us (felt guilty about that). He now lives in Glacis surrounded by all his huge pieces of art work and with the best stocked fridge and bar on the island I think. Must remember that, this is not typical Seychelles living. He is planning on going to work at the new school in Praslin, as normal he is tempting me with job offers, and am now in complete state of confusion as in someway I feel I was crazy to leave somewhere so beautiful and interesting but also think I should be practical. People say never go back but a lot of people do seem to go back to the Seychelles, there is obviously a good reason why.
Return to the Seychelles
Landing in the plane I had forgotten how green the Seychelles is, it is just so beautiful. Admittedly there have been some major changes like Eden Island, a horrible island built on reclaimed land and Sheik Kalifa’s house. He is the leader of the UAE and has built the biggest most revolting house on top of La Misere which dominates the whole island and ruins the view. The mountain had to be flattened by 6 metres in order to build it and the lights are so bright that you can see them from the island of Praslin. Apparently there is now a plan to make a cable car link between his and his son’s house near Anse la Mouche (I think). Martin, my old head says that the Seychelles has been put up for sale, in some ways I think this is true. The marine reserve at Port Launay now has a massive hotel on it and the land at Cap Tiernay has been sold to Emirates, it would be a real shame if the Seychelles loses its charm and just has a load of hotels with no atmosphere built on the most beautiful sites and restricting public access to the beach.
Some things however never change, the elections are this month and according to the more cynical people Michel will definitely be elected again, however more optimistic taxi drivers are convinced the opposition party the SNP will win. We stole an election poster of Michel. Campaigning is rather bizarre, during one day lots of people pile into the back of a truck, drink and sing a lot and stick up posters all over the island (in fact some people just do the singing and the drinking). The government has posters that seem to be bigger that half the buildings.
One sad fact is that there is a much bigger drug problem, especially with heroin; this has led to increased prostitution, theft and robbery.
The most significant change for me was the fact that there is now no shortage of foreign exchange and you don’t have to use the black market and the fact that there is more food in the shops. Went into my old local shop to find it now with a bar, flat screen TV and Pringles. Apparently in Mahe there is a big shop where you can buy whatever you want, including Cadbury’s chocolate, I can’t forget the trauma of my four months without chocolate in the shops when I first arrived. Martin my ex-head referred to the time that I was there as the ‘bad old days’, I had always just assumed that things were always like that before and would stay that way, so it is very interesting to see the changes.
Being back on Mahe was just so strange. These are the main things that have changed:
The mini moke has virtually died out! This is a disaster, I wanted to hire one but this was impossible. There are so few left on the island due to few parts, so we made a special visit to Karl’s friend Christina who has one of the best mini mokes on the island that she converted from a wrecked shell after it had been stolen. The lack of mini mokes was one of the saddest things for me.
The underwater centre is no longer at the Coral Strand. Russians are building a new hotel and shutting the Coral Strand down. Went on a dive at the new place at Berjaya and freakily my dive buddy, was Lucie who I taught in year 8 (in your tutor group Steve!). Every student I met was completely grown up and some even had beards (the boys). The dive was great went to dredger which was good but seeing the corals at Vacois was sooo fantastic, it was like the wonder of my first dive at Aquarium all over again but with even more fish and better coral. I even managed not to get sea sick at all. Realised that I had forgotten how to dive in the three years since I last did. So had minor freak-out when we started off with a 27m dive, nothing like breaking you in gently. Was too scared to clear my mask the whole way in case I couldn’t do it and was crap at staying at the right depth during the safety stop, but apart from that it was all great.
The school is so different – new buildings, over 700 students, my old classroom, fancier tuck shop, security guards asking me who I was, etc. Some things however do not change, lots of the old staff were there – Denise, Vivian, Selwyn, Carol, Louise, Hazel, Daphne, and Sue Ansell (of course, exactly the same and running around as normal with some new emergency). My classroom was still unchanged however, except for displays that weren’t as good as mine. Everyone was very excited to hear about the offspring of Steve, Jem and Vicky (separate of course not just one child between the three of them). Your old cleaner Vicky was especially pleased to hear about you. Wasn’t sure whether to be depressed at the fact that all the cleaners are still doing exactly the same, but Martin says they are the best paid cleaners in the Seychelles! Louise says that Nobby is now one of the family and that he speaks to her, so he has obviously fitted in well there, she said that the parting of Nobby and Steve and Jem was very distressing, maybe Eva now fills that gap in your life! Vivian exactly the same, pissed from the night before and only went to bed at six, slightly concerning being as he sometimes drives the new school bus. I also saw Shalindra with shamila at the airport going back to London to study engineering, I still remember the bookmark she made me to the ‘best history teacher’.
Things I did that I had forgotten about:
How annoying it is trying to be letting in to the Seychelles, hours of bureaucracy and very slow service, but maybe the complete lack of service is part of its charm.
The lovely singsongness of Creole.
Everyone walking on the roads and nearly getting run over in the dark
How all the shops in Victoria sell exactly the same thing
The great little Indian shops with the counters, that all seem to sell those potpan crackers or whatever they were called.
The great green road signs (I am stupidly nostalgic)
How long it seems to take to drive around the island even though it is so small, also trying to avoid falling down big ravines.
How hard it is to walk anywhere, let alone up the hill where you live without being a sweaty mess.
How completely beautiful my old house was, it was very strange being there again but without any of us still being there. Had been reading Stephen Fry and he talks about this type of feeling, it’s the fact that the place is still fantastic but things have moved on so you will never have the same experience with the same people again.
How difficult the drive up to the house was, missed the turning as well. Had forgotten about how wet and slippy it was and all the times I reversed the moke into the ditch (Martin says I often did this but I think that is unfair)
How crap mokes were – I remember the day mine nearly fell off the edge of the hill near my house and I had to lie behind it to stop it falling off until Steve rescued me.
The sandy floor at Baobabs and the way most pizzas aren’t available.
How hot and sweaty it is sitting between two teenage boys on a bus.
Fantastic fruit cocktail drinks – but couldn’t find any fish or egg rolls, disaster, had to make do with samosas and banana chips.
Giving nice people lifts but also crazy drunk people who didn’t even realise we were going to Anse Royale, not Anse La Mouche
How fantastic Anse Soleil is, wish we had had time to eat at the great fish place there.
The way that people go to the shop and just buy one cigarette.
Overall it was fantastic and I want to go back right now!