In this journal:
a bat the size of a cow;
a locker to deposit your fresh tuna;
eating a sprouting coconut.
The transit in Abu Dhabi was smooth enough, as the airport had nothing too much to brag about while the brand new terminal was still in construction, and the short hop to Mahe island was not eventful either. But it is time to say…
Land only started to appear once the airplane was barely ten stories above the ocean. In a infrequent flyer’s mind, this would be the same as an emergency water landing. The airport was small, although it was the only international gateway this country has. I passed through the immigration quickly, as nobody is required to get a visa in order to visit Seychelles. As I walked out of the terminal, I turned a sharp left instead of following the crowd for a taxi. Seychelles is a strange place. It can be EXTREMELY expensive if you do not pay attention, but if you use services for locals, it is just as cheap as it can get. For example, the taxi can easily cost 30 dollars for the 10 km trip to town, while a bus cost a measly 8 Seychellois Rupees/60 cents USD. I asked the security which direction I should take, and the man even personally took me to the station directly! Thanks to the airport’s small size, I was waiting in the bus station 1 minute after I left the customs. A bus came, I dragged up my big backpack, and boarded. All locals stared at me like kids looking at a panda in a zoo. The 500 Rupee bill was rejected by the driver, so he let me ride free.
Seychelles’ buses seem to be stuck in time
The bus arrived in Victoria, the capital of the country, in 20 minutes after going down a long and mountainous road. The bus terminal was quite big for one of the smallest capital in the world, to be honest, as there were more than 30 lines departing from the 8 platforms, with more than 100 buses in sight. Now that is a system I will call efficient and cheap. In comparison to this, Los Angeles sounds like an underdeveloped 3rd world shanty town. However, for it being a Sunday, I had to wait a full 1 hour for the bus to my super remote airbnb location. The accommodation situation in Seychelles is very grim for someone who has already sold both of his kidneys like me. The hotels price way over the roof, and amazingly there is no hostel in the entire country. I triple checked on all of my resources and still could not find anything cheaper than 30 dollars a night. Eventually I had to bleed 50 dollars a night for an airbnb out of town, which still mounted to an incredible amount of money for my 6 days there. However, for an ocean view in a quiet village in a single bedroom, I cannot complain too much.
The bus dropped me off in the little village of Quincy, up the hills in the back side, and I climbed up even more to reach my home for the future week. The old couple treated me like their own son, fully embracing me with their warm Creole hospitality. I was treated with fresh fruits, juice, and a big big hug. I thanked them profusely for doing this airbnb, as my next best bet would be 100 dollars a night in town. I gathered all information I needed, and set out for the town again: there is no time to waste, for that I am on my single honeymoon!
I walked my way back to town, and this downhill walk only took me about 40 minutes. The sun had already started dropping into the Indian Ocean, and I hurried around the 3 blocks of “city center” looking for food. Victoria truly deserves its title as one of the smallest capitals in the world, since the entire city center stretched from the bus terminal to the market, and, uh, that is it!? Covering an astoundingly enormous area similarly big as my life achievements, which is about 2 square inches, the city had everything simple and easy.
the iconic clock tower from the colonial time
I bought myself some groceries, and found out the only place offering food that was still open was a small food truck. I greeted the two ladies running the shop with my horrible French, and tried to order a burger with some nuggets. However, for their Creole French being too bizarre, or more likely, my French hearing is almost as non-existent as my imaginary girlfriend, we resorted to English as the medium of communication. To my surprise, almost everyone spoke a perfectly understandable tone of English, despite Creole was considered the most prominent tongue, according to my guide book.
I walked home in the darkness (my old friend), and climbed up the hill. Jet leg got nothing on me! I slept soundly on the windy night, as I could hear the tropical winds forcing the coconut leaves to rub against one another. I woke up to a brilliant breakfast set up on the balcony, now that is what I call life! After stuffing myself with 2 metric tons of food, I rolled down the hill to catch a bus to the most beautiful secluded bay on the island: Anse Major. I took a bus to Beau Vallon, the settlement on the other side of the island, and started walking towards Anse Major. I knew it was a far walk, and after passing Bel Ombre village, the road turned into a real trail in the dense jungle. Now that is something I like!
boats in Bel Ombre
on the way to Anse Major
I started to notice that the island had no large birds in the sky, but there seemed to be a lot of large flying animals up there… I wondered a bit about what those black dots were flying high up there, and suddenly I saw one getting close. HOLY. MOTHER. OF. ARCEUS. It was not an eagle or an albatross, or a drone. All those black dots, were actually giant fruit bats! Their wingspan was definitely bigger than an eagle’s, and they fly so slowly that you could actually take a decent picture of them with a normal cellphone camera.
a giant fruit bat flying in the distance
Regarding the trail itself, it was a relatively easy climb. The trail rises up 50 meters after you pass the tiny fishing village, and quickly entered an area where the iconic Seychellois granite forms bare rock paths. This type of rock is probably the most famous thing that distinguishes the beaches here from the ones from Maldives, Cook Islands, or Fiji. The giant boulders towered over the trees, but were so slippery that not even the most stubborn trees could root there. The gray, barren fields on a mountain feels like a middle aged man’s freshly shaved beer-belly. Uh I am trying my best to paint it in a positive way okay?
huge granite rocks form the side of the mountains
On the way, I had to cross little streams with tiny fishes in it. Sometimes I had to bend over and crawl under a huge rock tunnel. I stopped from time to time, sitting at the edges of large rocks appreciating the sound of the waves crashing into the shore in the distance. After an hour of casual walking, the trail started descending. Quickly I reached a little hut serving as the viewpoint.
Now that was a secluded place! I could only see 2 other people on this beach, and before I could run into the ocean, it started raining, hard. I was not worried, however, as I could enjoy this view all day every day~ I took out my phone to play some music, and watched the water turning its color from turquoise to white, then to yellow, then back to that mesmerizing shade of blue again… I had enough money to get me here; I had enough heart to adventure out into this bay; I just needed a little bit of company… but the rain would suffice, I guess. The moment the rain stopped, I rushed down to the beach, so fast that I forgot my camera, my bag and my name back in the hut. I splashed in the gentle waves, feeling the undulation on my thigh. The joy of being free spread throughout my body, forcing me to burst into laughter. I did not remember how long I was there alone in the water playing, hopping, jumping and laughing. I only knew when I got back to the beach, the two girls sunbathing on the beach were talking about something regarding “taking the wrong pill”. I circled back to the hut, picked up my things, and returned to Beau Vallon.
Beau Vallon Beach
This is likely the most touristic beach. However, there was a large number of locals chilling there as well. I guess a Monday is as good as a Friday for the people here to relax and have fun. I sat down at the beach, watched the sun spraying its rays onto the glimmering ocean, like a professional sushi master spraying fire onto that large piece of foie gras nigiri. For Seychelles being the most popular place for rich couples who have just married, or for super rich sugar daddies who have just acquired his 27th mistress, I had to bear witness to countless pairs of couples passing by in front of me. I was brought to tears, either by their super-ultra-cute-sweet-romantic-summer-afternoon-bikini-beach-walk, or by my crippling loneliness, hmmmmmmmmm, I could not tell.
y do I cri every tim
I got quite hungry after my eyeballs suddenly decided to have a lot of salty water overflowing (strange, isn’t it?), so I decided to go for the only thing in the world which still loves me: food. I found a stall selling local food, run by a nice lady. I was drooling even before I paid my money, but for a small fee of 80 Rupees, I got a nice box of rice and Creole barbeque, the only thing giving me comfort in the moments of despair. Food is also the only thing giving me warmth in my bed (what? can’t a grown man eat his food in his bed?) besides my dear teddy bear Tom. (what? can’t a grown man have a teddy bear?)
dandy ol’time in Seychelles
I carefully devoured every bit of this beautifully crafted box of delicacy. I did not leave one grain of rice behind, as I am a responsible man. It was so good that I thought I just saw Creole Jesus. Ah, Creole Jesus with some coconut shreds still stuck on his sexy beard… Oh sorry I digress. I waited patiently for the sunset at my spot under a large mango tree, watching pairs of lovebirds leaving two trails of footprints on the white sandy beach, just to be washed away by the next wave passing by.
this is what a single honeymoon looks like?
Unfortunately, the clouds started coming in again, obscuring the dark orange fireball in the sky. However, I did get a very nice glimpse of sunset when the clouds broke for a split second. Being a responsible blogger as I have always been, like, for the past 10 seconds, I captured this moment with my trust-worthy camera which had fallen a cliff on Kilimanjaro, fallen into a bowl of soup in Norway, and been mauled by a quokka in Australia, and had been threatening to go on strike for a few months.
sunset in Beau Vallon
I watched the sky dimming from flaring red to dark grey, and it was time to go home. I took a bus back, and walked straight to my bed. I woke up to an even more beautiful morning, and I lounged on my balcony for the first two hours, looking into the distance and sipping my tea. I felt like I instantly turned 85 years old, but I actually loved it. I set out again around lunch time, and headed into a local restaurant in the market. To be honest, the market had little to offer for a tourist since most of the produce there was just simple groceries and fish. However, I did find a few of the stalls selling whole sharks and whole octopi, which was rather interesting. I sat inside the local restaurant, and I was offered a buffet, Creole style. It has none of your normal shitty bullcrap, and was surprisingly good for such a cheap meal. I had a dish made from shark, and one made from swordfish, and one from the spiciest chilli I had ever tasted. I screamed for help, but my throat was already burned down to ashes so I looked like someone who was choking in tears (and silence), which accurately reflects my inner emotions.
I left the restaurant with a big round stomach, despite the food had burnt a few holes in it already. My goal today was to visit the Botanical Garden, home to a few of the most iconic plant on the island: Coco de Mer. This is not your normal coconut. This is a sexy coconut, and I mean it. The seeds are formed in a, uh, slightly attractive shape. Okay, okay, I will cut the euphemism. The seeds of this palm tree shapes exactly like a butt. Satisfied? Oh also a side note, they are the largest seed in the world, easily weighing 30 kg and measuring half a meter in diameter.
Coco de Mer trees
Fun fact: do you know that the old botanical name for this kind of tree is Lodoicea callipyge, and callipyge means “beautiful buttocks” in ancient Greek. The more you know, right? 😉
women’s bathroom sign in the botanical garden
men’s bathroom sign, this is the shape of Coco de Mer flower 😉
The garden itself was not enormous, but it did have a very good atmosphere. Carved into the mountains in the bustling capital, it was a nice change of pace, especially on this quiet afternoon where I was the only visitor. I found a lot of tiny paths covered by trees, and I slowly explored the corners of the park, carefully listening for bat calls so I could take a better picture of those GIANT fluffy flying monsters.
I came across a little enclosure for the unique Seychellois giant tortoise called Aldabra Giant Tortoise. They were enormous, one of the biggest species of tortoise in the world. While other types of tortoise were hunted to extinction in Indian Ocean, these giants bred their way through comfortably in the isolated Aldabra Atoll in eastern Seychelles. Now, the tiny island held more than 100,000 of them!!!
yoooooooooo, man, do you, want to, uhhhhhhhhh, go for a, waaaaaaaalk?
The garden now also opened a new area called Canton garden. Yep, you guessed it, Chinese government influence has officially reached Seychelles, much like in Kenya and Tanzania. The city of Guangzhou contributed millions to have this garden set up, and actually it looked quite nice. The city symbol 三羊開泰, basically three goats on the peak of Tai mountain, was clearly visible. The Chinese symbols surely brought a different tone into the garden.
As I was walking past, an old lady, apparently still working for the park, was carrying a large bag of leaves and branches just cleared from the ground. I offered help, and delivered the bag to the truck. Before I tried to ask her if she had more bags that needed my help with French as bad as my dating skills, she thanked me profusely in Creole, and gave me a hibiscus flower she pulled out of thin air with her wrinkly, dark hands. I suddenly felt touched, touched somewhere deep beneath. I did not know if it was just a heartwarming sentiment, or something much, much more. She then proceeded to hug me, and said a lot in the only language that I do not understand on this island, but I seemed to understand every word. I guess this is the language of human nature. I wore that flower with pride for the rest of my days there.
I am a princess~!
After some searching, a giant fruit bat finally decided to show up in the woods. I approached it like a professional Pokemon trainer, and I even reversed my hat like Ash did in the anime. However, it quickly jumped higher into the trees, and I could only snap a far shot of it. I would not call them well-camouflaged, but the lack of a predator made it unnecessary as well. Most importantly, though, is the fact that they are actually fluffy!!!
I decided to name it Baseball (get it? haha? baseball bat? no?)
After my cosy afternoon in the Botanical Garden, I returned back to town, ready to pick up some groceries for the few days ahead of me. Upon entering the country’s only supermarket, named Seychelles Trading Company, I found a hilarious sign.
fish not allowed inside?
I can almost imagine the following incident once occurred in this place…
“What do you mean I cannot deposit my tuna?” A giant 7-feet tall dark-skinned fisherman with one foot of beard with a 250 pound tuna on his back yelled at the counter receptionist.
The receptionist pointed towards this sign.
“God dammit! Why is the whole world against me!” He slammed the huge fish unto the ground, creating a small earthquake; a 6-year-old bystander peed himself.
“I need to go home and find mama, boowoooooowowoooo~!” The man left the store crying, leaving the fish gulping for air on the ground.
After getting my daily dose of “the more you travel the more bizarre shit you witness”, I got back home on the bus, ready to cook a dinner as I have a date booked with myself. However, a new resident moved in to the other side of the house, and it turned out he was a Chinese who needed my help to get around. Well, of course I am down for more friends to add to my long list (actually 2!) of travel buddies. I had not spoken Chinese for a while, but I had to try. I suggested him to come check out a restaurant that I always wanted to go. Being the most popular local Creole fancy restaurant, it boasted a wide range of local cuisine typical only to these isolated islands. Meanwhile, I had already made up my mind which food to go for.
dinner, Creole style
The set menu comprised of mango salad, grilled parrot fish, fresh tuna, carefully handpicked papaya in a sauce, and shark. However, the most exclusive dish had to be ordered as an extra, and full disclosure, it is definitely going to be on the strange food list, so here is your warning.
sauced giant fruit bat (right)
Yes, you read it right. The signature dish is the fruit bat, those creatures flying almost everywhere, overshadowing the dusk light by the time dinner started. It was customary for the locals to enjoy this dish before any spaghetti and meatballs invaded the local cuisine scene. Nowadays, it is rather hard to find it. The taste is almost as weird as guinea pig, full of bones and has next to no meat. Other than that, it felt like I was tasting a new flavor of General Tsao’s chicken. I had a great chat with my new buddy, finding out why he lost his arms, and why he decided to sail despite such hardship; meanwhile, we downed many bottles of the local SeyBrew beer, but he had to leave first light next day, so we parted our ways as we got home.
For my 4th day, I decided to take a little trip to the east side of the island, which I had not been to before. I took my cheap local bus through the terminal, and continued east past the airport. The scenic ride took me all the way to Anse Royale, and I saw a beach so nice that I had to get off. Loads of local children were playing with someone’s anchored fishing boat, and other locals picnicked under the shades of giant coconut trees.
I was welcomed by a group of women picnicking on the sand, and they warmly offered me food they cooked themselves. It was de-li-cious. They seemed to have absolutely no problem with me not able to understand anything they said, and kept feeding me all kinds of little things, and laughing at me stuffing my mouth pouch like a clinically obese chinchilla. It was an unexpected lunch for sure, and I never loved Seychellois people more. Though their country is conquered by honeymooners and their industries, these people still retained their most heartwarming Creole hospitality. Developed world, no matter how technologically advanced, will never be able to match that. Ah boy, sometimes I just love my decisions to come out and explore this tiny blue planet…
children playing in Anse Royale
The ladies called back their kids, and the children all hurried back to the beach, picking up their bikes, helmets, pants (yes some of them went to the sea naked), missing slippers, and schoolbags, and suddenly I was left alone on this beach again. The sapphire blue ocean felt like a pair of beautiful eyes; I stared into that pair of eyes, and those eyes stared right back at me. The beach was quiet again, and only the waves formed the rhythmic backbeat of the tranquility. I just stared, for who knows how long.
why can some water be so blue?
I then took another bus to continue my clockwise circle of the island. It took a while to come to a halt, and suddenly I was kicked off the bus: it terminated in the middle of nowhere. Really, there was no village around, just a parking lot for the buses to layover. On this lazy afternoon, not even a car passed this part of the country. I saw a church in the distance on a mountain. “Well what else can you do, Young?” I asked myself, and started walking towards it.
conveniently named “the church”
This was a large rock structure, standing on top of a lonely hill overlooking the ocean. I sat down beside the guard, and we just looked into the distance in silence, enjoying each other’s wordless company. I thanked him for his cigarette offer, but I was not in the mood to kill myself that day. I saw a bus coming from the distance, and I ran down the hill to catch this one that was going back straight to Victoria. However, I hopped off just as I saw a brilliantly beautiful beach by the road, and ran towards it. I was so happy that I even forgot to take off my shoes.
After a while, my shoes, my pants, my cellphone, all got soaked wet, and I stopped caring: I threw everything into a large tree, and jumped into the water. It was usually not my thing, swimming with my shirt and pants, as my body is shaped like an ill-fated potato; however, I still don’t know why I did that. I guess it was just what other other people call “love on first sight”, the idea that you are so happy that nothing else matters, except instead of a human being, I just fell in love with the idea of being so carefree, and the idea of swimming in the blue, blue waters…
this, is why I travel. I wonder what are others’ reasons to travel?
I climbed back onto the next bus with water still dripping from my hair, and I laughed foolishly towards the driver, completely forgetting that I needed to pay. After the driver reminded me, the only other rider on the bus, a young man, laughed so badly that I secretly wished a Coco de Mer fall onto his head next time he walked pass one. I loved the bus ride back home, as the tropical summer breeze blew through my hair, and the bus entered bushes, re-emerged by the ocean, and delved into more rocks afterwards. It felt like an adventure itself.
the best 8-rupee ride ever~! ❤
Some people suggested me to make this a career. I knew that I am not a blonde haired, 6 feet 5 white guy with stunning face and killer abs. I knew that I am not even a girl or a slightly attractive lemur. I knew I would never be like those travel blogs/vlogs/shows, or whatever, because those require looks, money and determination. I am just a simple guy who wishes to be free, and not willingly chain myself up in the vicious cycle of work-experience-apply for more work. I just want to live a life worth living for, and I was questioned many, many times, by other travelers, by my family, by my handful of friends, and by myself. It was when the bus passed by a wave crashing onto the road so closely that I could taste the salt in the air, that I may actually be doing something worth doing. I may actually not am an ugly idiot who wants to waste money on useless experiences. And for me, that reassurance is more than enough to keep me going.
Another interesting thing I discovered was that their election was about to begin soon. The entire island was covered with countless boards with different parties and candidates. These boards were put everywhere. Street lights, trees, coconut trees, mountains, rocks, buses… Some of those guys were white, some were Creole, and sometimes you even see an Indian, Islamic, or Asian one! The diversity puts the so called “melting pot” USA and Canada to shame. I got home, and apparently the other room was now taken up by two Chinese businessmen who just finished a business trip in Madagascar. They were transiting in Seychelles, and guess what, they needed my help to show them around tomorrow! I said of course! (after they liked me so much that they offered to pay me for my service, which I denied.) Thus, for the last full day, my 5th day, the hosts called up a taxi for us, and I, along with the taxi driver, took them around the entire island.
on top of the mountain range, looking towards east, with Victoria on the left
on top of the mountain range, looking west
So while I show you spectacular pictures from this free tour, I would love to introduce the country of Seychelles and talk about its history, culture, people, and lifestyle. Seychelles was uninhabited before the French took control in 1756, if you do not count the pirates residing on them. Seven Years War took place in 1754, and quickly the French influence in the Indias diminished to nothing by the end of the century. British started blockading the French islands, forcing Reunion, then Mauritius, and eventually Seychelles to surrender.
Fast forward to 20th century, by 1960s, independence was picking up momentum as the Seychellois people were treated so badly that it even made the new Fantastic 4 movie sound good. A new party, mostly Creole, advocated for independence, but lost many times to the other party, mostly British descent, that advocated closer ties to UK. However, by 1974, the trend was so strong that both parties campaigned on the grounds of liberating the islands.
Independence finally came in the year of 1976, but quickly a coup exiled the leader of the pro-British party, and Seychelles fell into a dictatorship. It was not until 1991 that people got to truly cast a vote again. Nowadays, it is the smallest country in Africa by population, yet one of the highest in humanitarian index as well as wellbeing of its citizens. Per capita income had septupled since independence, and this island nation has the highest per capita GDP in the whole Africa.
Police Bay, look at the waves!
passing a bus
As a result, the culture these people have is extremely diverse. Lots of people speak both French and English, coupled with their Creole mother tongue. The food is a mix between African cuisine as well as middle eastern spices, with the addition of Indian curries. The ingredients are all native from the islands, from tropical fruits to birds and bats, and of course, the overflowing amount of seafood. Barbeque is also very common, and rice is the main staple.
cracking open a seeding coconut, the flesh tastes like cotton
can this get any bluer?
As you may have felt by reading the previous parts, I have a very good impression of the local people. From the moment I got out of the airport, the people had demonstrated to me that they treat everyone like their family. There are few areas where the hospitality can match those of the Creole people. They smile even in the most adverse situations, and their smile will make you happy from the inside as well, like some kind of infectious spell. I think this is what sets these islands from all other 2000 tropical paradise islands: their people, and their culture.
locals call this “pig rock”
Interestingly, despite everything looking fine and great on the papers, Seychelles has the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world. They have an astoundingly high 800 prisoners per 100000 people rate in 2014, putting them as one of the very few countries above United States. (sorry America you need to work harder for that) Do note that over half of the prisoners are actually Somali hijackers.
a beautiful bay called Anse Boileau
some signature granite rocks at Anse Boileau
After this 100% certified Seychellois tour was finished, I bid farewell to the two businessmen in the airport. I helped them with their check-in, (they have some titanium balls to do business in Madagascar without speaking one word of English) and sent them into the security. They thanked me profusely, and promised we would meet again. I, however, felt like I always knew my Chinese skills definitely helped me score some freebies, but never had I imagined that that this would be so easy even in the remote island of Mahe.
waiting for love~♪ waiting for love~♪
I returned home after a satisfying lunch at a vegetarian cafe in Victoria, and I sipped tea until the last light disappeared from the Indian Ocean. It was time for me to finally pack. I left with the first bus the next day, leaving a thank you note for my “mom and dad” for the past few days. The bus ride was again interesting, as I had to squeeze through the morning rush hour crowds in a Tata truck/bus that seemed to be older than Betty White. However, I did make to the airport in one piece, as my body and my backpack were squeezed so hard that they basically merge into one.
Emirates B777 pushback
I checked into my flight, and I waited a solid 2 hours for anything to happen in the terminal, which was under renovations. I boarded my Air Seychelles flight to Johannesburg, which I had briefly passed by in part 3 of this trip, and I luckily got a bulkhead row.
breakfast, actually fit for human consumption, not like some US airlines (United *cough*)
I sincerely loved Seychelles. This is a special place in the world, and has definitely earned a special place in my heart. Though I never got the time, or the money to visit La Digue and Praslin islands, I found out that this is more than a set of picturesque beaches. Once you can live a local life, you will find out that the people have a spectacular culture, brimming with passion and hospitality. The food is very interesting; the animals are cute and fluffy (some of them quite slow); transportation is easy and efficient; the lifestyle is simple yet full of happiness. Though the couples kissing blocking my view of the setting sun was heartbreaking, and the prices of anything non-local were about a kidney and a half, I found that those were not reflecting the true Seychelles. The true Seychelles is the summer wind that rustles the Coco de Mer leaves; the true Seychelles is the people welcoming a stranger to join their Wednesday afternoon picnic; the true Seychelles is sitting with an old men in silence, looking into the blue, blue ocean… I bet I saw a completely different Seychelles than those honeymooners, and that is why I found my true-worth, and fell in love with the islands, in my single honeymoon.
passing a tiny atoll
Before I finished my rumination, the plane was already flying over the African continent. I looked outside, the familiar Johannesburg skyline was there again. The afternoon sun was burning the streets on this spring day, and the early rush-hour traffic was already starting to clog up the main arteries of this ever-busy metropolis. I leaned my heads on the window, and smiled: we met again, Jo’burg. Now this time, let’s see what you really have got under your sleeves.