By Michael H. Kew
TUESDAY, JULY 7: A howling gloom. High swells flexed and torqued against Praslin’s geology. Yonder was a rare surf spot. Perhaps tomorrow.
With a beer I sat on a low stone wall facing moored boats just north of the reef. A genteel Creole man appeared from a nearby shack. He was smiling, mustachioed, sixtysomething, wearing a heavy brown coat. Sans one leg, he limped with a cane.
He asked if I liked deep-sea fishing and pointed at his speedboat, bobbing in the chop, the sole vessel with two outboards. He said mid-year trades were too strong but in season he roamed forty to sixty miles out. He lived to hook billfish. He ran charters through a luxury resort. For eight hundred euros, he took four to six anglers out for the day. But business was sinking. He blamed Arabs and mentioned the Plantation Club, sold to the Seychelles government which sold it to sheikhs who now used it for their personal playground.
“When it was Plantation Club, we Seychellois had jobs. Now? No jobs. We used to take our clients to that beach to barbecue the fresh catch but now, since it is Arabs, they try to prevent anybody from going on the beach. Banyan Tree? Arab. Four Seasons? Arab. At Maia right now? Full of Arab. The Arabs want to buy everything here. And they bring all their own staff on their private jets. Only the hotels get the money. The Emirates airline is trying to build a hotel too. But the young Seychellois, they will stop this in the future—foreigners coming in and buying everything. Please tell people in America about this.”
Thursday, July 9: On Instagram the Indian Ocean is smoothly blue and sun-kissed. This morning it was again a thrashed gray. I began walking to the car rental office in time for another dense, soaking squall.
“Many rain today,” the office clerk said. “We are very happy now, because for so long we had no water. Now we have water. Usually this happens with the full moon. Lasts for three days. If we had no wind, it would last longer, but we have wind, so it will not rain for long.”
His assistant gazed out the window. “You would think we are in London.”
When the rain paused I went for a drive, first through the enchanted Vallée de Mai, then to a café in Cote D’Or, where I saw many tourists.
In a newspaper:
Tourists to the honeymoon hotspot of the Seychelles are being warned to take extra care following a rise in the number of robberies and attacks. The Foreign Office said there had been a spate of incidents on and around the Cote D'Or beach on the island of Praslin. Incidents have taken place both after dark and during daylight hours. “You should take care when walking in this area, particularly at night," said the Foreign Office in an update to its travel advisory.
As I ate, a young Creole man approached. He shook my hand.
“You want to smoke something?”
I finished the sandwich, bought a newspaper (five rupees for the Nation; its headline was “Faiths In Historic Union With Govt Against Drugs”), and got into my car. The man followed and knocked on the passenger window. He introduced himself as Christopher.
“How are you, my friend? Where you staying? Where you going?”
“Let’s go for a drive,” he said. “Anse Lazio? You been Anse Lazio?”
He asked for a lift to My Dream, a hotel on Praslin’s east coast. I obliged. Aloud I wondered why there were so many tourists on Praslin, far more than when I’d last visited.
“More?” he asked, wide-eyed. “My friend, there are less tourists now. Less jobs. It is very hard for me to make money. I sell a little bit of compost, but we are struggling. That is why I wanted to talk to you. I saw that you were alone and might want somebody to talk to. Maybe we could help each other.”
I mentioned the rain.
“Yes, this is very good now. We have water. Tomorrow will have more sun, believe me. Always around full moon there is rain.”
We arrived at My Dream.
“My friend,” Christopher said, “can you help me? Maybe so I can buy something to eat? I don’t steal, you see. I can talk about these things. I can just ask you instead of being a thief. I don’t rob.”
From my pocket I pulled a wrinkled 100-rupee (US$7) note and gave it to him.
“My friend, you can give me 200 rupees?”
“I spent the rest of my cash on lunch.” True.
He thanked me and said he hoped he could help me in the future.
Friday, July 10: Christopher was wrong. Rain blurred sky, flooded roads. The surf still sucked.
I breakfasted while skimming Louise Welsh’s The Bullet Trick, the sole English-language book in my bungalow. It was a gritty fiction drama featuring William Wilson, a Glaswegian magician who’d fallen on hard times.
Online forecast: four-meter south swell. Reality: two inches. Off seaweedy beaches the water was brown, far from Instagram opulence.
Drove to Anse Lazio, cool and dark but where tourists still swam. I had surfed there in 2004. In 16 days in August 2011, Lazio’s water gave two fatal shark attacks. Both were honeymooners.
Praslin’s other beaches were empty, the rain constant, intensifying come afternoon. Aquatic thunder. Last night, the news weatherwoman claimed the storminess was “very rare, especially during the southeast monsoon.”
Sunday, July 12: Island storms seemed to mute and privatize humankind—locals stayed at home, tourists hid in hotels. From my bungalow for hours I watched the winds whip and clouds drain. Drank from sweating green bottles of SeyBrew, noting that, since rain created Seychelles’ drinking water, SeyBrew technically was borne from it.
Tuesday, July 14: Bastille Day elsewhere. Festivities. On Praslin, the rough weather stayed stuck on repeat. No sun, no surf, no Instagram, no rare reefbreak. Palm fronds danced in the wind. I was quite alone, as sooner or later we are all meant to be.