24th of December: On the spur of the moment, I decided to visit Seychelles to climb the highest peak. There were only three African countries I haven’t visited where I did not need a visa. I knew very little about the island – just that Morne Seychellois was only a 45 minute easy hike from the tea factory. It was, however peak season but things always work out and a friend of mine’s uncle managed to find me ‘cheap’ accommodation for ‘only’ €35 per day. Al he wanted was 6 milk stouts and some biltong and whiskey for the lady that arranged the accommodation for me. Two hours after I received his e-mail, my flight was booked.
25th of December: Finding milk stout at the airport? Instead I bought more whiskey and biltong. Sometimes I forget how much I love travelling. I love to watch the people waiting at the airport, meeting new people and sharing their excitement upon arrival.
I loved the island the moment I stepped off the aeroplane. At the airport, I drew some Euros, a lot more that I expected to spend, but since I travel a lot, I knew it would come in handy in the future. It was magic driving past Victoria with the Christmas lights all lit up.
My flight was delayed and I only arrived in Bel Ombre after 22:00, where I was pleasantly surprised with the apartment. It was humid and I really appreciated the air conditioner. Falling asleep with the sounds of frogs, fruit bats and the sea, was incredible.
|Villa La Cachette - a lovely place I stayed in|
26th of December: I woke up in lovely Seychelles with only a printout of the hikes I googled and showed my landlady, who was on her way to visit family for a week, I gave her a list of all the hikes. She gave me a map and showed me where they were on the map, but it was all Greek to me. I felt like an idiot and then she instructed her husband to drive me to all the starting points. I was just as clueless as before but I took some useless GPS readings and at least I now knew where the Anse Major hike started.
|The start of the Dans Gallas Trail|
I was dropped off at the start of the Dans Gallas trail – according to the book, it is the most strenuous one. The view was magnificent and after 90 minutes, I bumped into a couple coming down. “We couldn’t find the path to the top – so good luck”. I hiked for another 30 minutes before the path disappeared. I was on my own and the reason I was in Seychelles was to climb to the highest peak. It was silly to risk injuries so I turned back. Because of the humidity, the sweat was pouring off me.
Once down, I started walking. After walking for quite a while on a tarred road, I remembered that my landlord mentioned something about ‘whatever you do, do not turn right!”. I have, of course turned right.
Ages later, I stood in front of a police station. I only had a piece of paper with the apartment’s address on and asked a passing lady if she knew where it was. She looked at the paper, looked at me, looked at the paper again and burst out laughing. She then said I must take a bus – and when I said I would prefer to walk, she burst out laughing again. I definitely made her day – if not her year.
Eventually I stumbled through the apartment’s door having had enough excitement for one day. I sat on the veranda and listened to the bats, sea and birds. Tomorrow, I was going to see the view from the highest peak in Seychelles.
27th of December. It was raining and although the bus service is pretty good, the house sitter offered to take me to the bus station in Victoria. While waiting for the bus, I showed
to the guy sitting next to me, and realised with a shock that I was on my way
to Morne Blanch instead of Morne Seychellois.
He suggested that I take the same bus as him, get off at Sois Sois and
then take another bus to the tea factory.
Although I made several “small” mistakes, I was finally on my way to the
highest peak in Seychelles. I was also able to buy a local sim card so I could
at least phone the house sitter.
|The bus station in Victoria|
Just to make double sure, I asked a local if this was the way to Morne Seychellois. He looked stunned, shook his head and told me that I definitely needed a guide but that everything was closed because it was a Sunday.
I was given the number of the sports centre and told to phone the next morning.
The next moment a tourist stopped and before he could ask me for directions, I told him I was also lost. He said his son can drop me off – but then I discovered that he was going on a hike and this was how I ended up hiking the Copolia trail with a German. It sure was my lucky day. Not only have I discovered that I needed a guide to get to Morne Seychellois, I also got a lift back to my apartment with the tourists.
|"Batman's Fruit Bat"|
It was still early and I decided to do the Anse Major trail. I was told that it was at the end of the road so I could not get lost right? At the start of the trail I met Richie aka Batman who invited me to meet his fruit bat. After a while, I bumped into a couple who told me that they were lost. I guess I might have gotten lost as well but eventually we found the trail to the beach.
|Richie aka Batman|
I had to buy some water but missed the shop closest to the apartment and ended up at the police station. After hiking just about the whole day, I was pretty tired but at least I was getting to know my way around. I had one more day left in Seychelles and my evening was filled with nightmares about not reaching Morne Seychellois.
28th of December. I woke up early to discover that my phone was not working. With the house sitter’s assistance, I finally got through to the sport centre and the lady that answered informed me that I definitely needed a guide but that everyone was on leave.
I begged, explained my situation and then just as I was about to burst into tears – she told me she will see what she can do. It started to rain again and for some reason, I still thought I needed to get to the tea factory so the house sitter drove me once again to Victoria Station. After a while I got a phone call from Francis – who offered to take me to the top for RS5 000. I only had RS1000 on me and told him I will EFT the rest – still thinking I am halfway to the start of the trail. I had no choice. If I postponed my flight and stayed another day or two looking for a cheaper guide, it would cost me at least RS5000. I told him I will go back to BelOmbre to get the rest of the money. Thinking I would have to go and draw more money, it was such a relieve to find out that I had exactly RS5350 left of the ‘extra money’ I drew at the airport
An hour later we were on our way and I was informed that it would have taken ages to pick me up at the tea factory and that it was already very late to start the hike. I had my doubts about being taken for a ride, but I had no choice. It was still raining and already 12:00.
It turned out to be quite a jovial hike and both of them had great senses of humour. We came across snakes, hedgehogs and a lizard. I was told that I was lucky because not everyone sees animals. During the 5 hours it took us to get to the top there was constant laughter. He also mentioned that most of the people turn around a quarter of the way into the hike and that his boss had to almost beg him to take me.
In the beginning I asked him if this was a special price and he said yes – it definitely was.
I then said I will also just charge him RS5000 to take him to the Drakensberg and of course, we all laughed. He turned out to be the Sports Director and travels a lot with children to other countries.
And then we were on top of Seychelles highest peak and it was like paradise. The trees were covered by ferns that only grow where there is no air pollution. Francis told me that people thinks he photoshopped the pictures he takes of the trees. It was raining so unfortunately I could not take a lot of pictures during the hike. But then the clouds opened up, something that does not happen that often once it starts raining.
|On top of Morne Seychellois|
They just had to make another joke showing me where I would have ended if I followed the ‘trail’ from the tea factory. Since it was getting dark, we did not stay long. At one stage Jimmy stopped to tie the lace on his pants and Francis said: ‘you better fasten your seatbelt. This means Jimmy is going to run down!” And we did it in 3 hours. I felt like Jane swinging from branch to branch and they told me that they were surprised that I was so strong, which definitely restored some of my self-confidence.
I was dropped off at the apartment and although soaked throughout and muddy from some falls, I could not thank my guardian angels enough for how things turned out in the end.
Using a taxi in Seychelles is extremely expensive but I could not get hold of the person who offered to take me to the airport. I was getting in a flat spin and then there was a knock on the door and Debbie, the lady who arranged the apartment stood in the doorway. She was there to collect her whiskey. It also just happened that she worked at the airport and gave me a lift there the next morning at 06:00.
And this is why I love travelling. Meeting interesting, kind people, seeing beautiful places, getting out of my comfort zone – and yes, every now and again I tell myself I am going to stop being so impulsive and give my guardian angels a break.