La Digue’s appeal is best explained by the fact that bicycles are the primary and most preferred mode of transport of its populace. Yes, transport vehicles and buggies belonging to various tour operators and resorts pass by once in a while, but they do little to take away from the joy of riding a bicycle again.
As I stood there trying to sort out my bike rental, the kind-faced Seychellois woman from the tiny shop next door looked at me and exclaimed something excitably in the local language. Intrigued, I asked my guide what she was trying to say. A little embarrassed, my guide translated thus for me – “What a good-looking boy! Make him wait here, I’ll get my daughter and have them married in a jiffy!” I couldn’t help but laugh at the unanticipated male-ego boost – in one tiny detail, it explains so much about the warm Seychellois spirit. They are kind, honest, blatantly outright & somewhat raw around the edges about whatever they want, and that warms my heart because this is exactly the kind of human being I aspire to become. I stood there and tried to converse with her for a few minutes, while she tried explaining in broken English that I reminded her of some movie star from Bollywood, and proceeded to unsuccessfully search for it on my phone. A slight commotion broke up the conversation and we turned to see a 30-something man in diving gear on a bicycle holding what looked like…wait for it! That’s right! AN OCTOPUS! He’d just returned from the sea with an octopus on his hook. The poor thing was still alive – a fact we only discovered when one of the excitable lookers-on decided to touch it and the poor thing recoiled in obvious fright.
Soon enough, my bicycle arrived and I bid adieu to the kind woman, who’d have to find another ‘good-looking’ boy for her daughter, and set off at La Diguoise speed to explore paradise on my own. I’d just about covered one side of the island before dusk started setting in. Enchanted by the landscapes around me, I hardly noticed. I paid for it somewhat dearly; I’d planned to circle back to the pier and catch a beer at one of its sea-side pubs & witness the sun go down on the spectacular ocean. I reached a few minutes too late – the sun had already gone down, but I still managed a wonderful picture in the fading light of the day.
Compared to the other two major islands, La Digue is still wild & free. Like older days when electricity was an unknown commodity on the island, many islanders make home before dark. The evenings are a closely-knit affair of fires, music & dance. Even today, some of that old-world charm is sparklingly visible. As the weekend sets in, the townspeople gather by the pier. There’s music, a fire, lots of beer, a take-away shop on wheels, plenty of dancing and LOTS of that wonderfully musical Creole drawl. As we get deeper in the night, the mood becomes more raucous – this is beginning to turn into typically my kinda night, but I’ve been on my feet since 5 am – the effects are clearly showing. I’m visibly yawning, and I manage to somehow extricate myself from the spell and make for home.
The last observation I make of the night is the fact that almost all the other travellers (mostly seem to be European couples) are sitting in two of the wonderful, but comparatively character-less sea-side joints. They are participating in the weekend festivities of the island, but only from the luxury and safety of their walls. I look around me and notice myself in the midst of raucous locals. I’m not talking much, I’m not dancing; heck, I’m hardly even drinking, but I feel proud of myself. Proud & privileged to know that I’m here, in the midst of these celebrations, that I’m a participant – one of the people, and not a spectator, like some of the other folk behind those walls…and with this happy and as is usually the case, pompous thought in mind, I pedal back to into the midst of a wonderful jungle canopy, where I’m staying the night with a local family.
I arose a tad late the next morning and cycled for 3 hours straight, exploring the other side of the island. Passing through the sleepy lanes of La Passe village, dotted by adorable little cottages and artisan workshops, I notice the town is still largely asleep. Just as I pass another spectacular graveyard, I hear a chorus from a nearby parish – a familiar tune from the service I attended last weekend in Anse Aux Pins. By mid-day, I’d taken so many pictures and cycled up and down so many slopes, my limbs and my camera, both were on the verge of a protest-pee. I quickly grabbed some food and made it to the jetty to catch the mid-afternoon ferry back to Mahe. I was sad that my love-affair with La Digue had been so brief but there was just enough time for me to reflect upon the strange contrast of lives us city-dwellers lead compared to these wonderful islanders. Funny how we have SOOOOO much more luxury than they do, and are still SOOOOO much less happier. Raises the all important question eventually innit? Is it really luxury & comfort we’re all looking for? Or are the joys of life really hidden in its illusive simplicity?
If you find yourself in Seychelles, do not miss out on a visit to La Digue for anything. You can find the excursion I went on with Mason’s here. To be honest, you don’t necessarily need a guided tour for La Digue. Provided you have enough time, you can explore the little island at your own pace. That being said, the people over at Mason’s are really warm and well-informed, and if you feel like you could use some help & company, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. You can follow them on Facebook at Mason’s Travel Seychelles.
Seychelles on A Budget – How Much Will a Solo Trip Cost? (Coming Soon)