My fellow passengers were a mix of intrepid tourists, government officials and Rodriguans heading across the gap between the two islands. The little prop plane lifted out over the wide blue expanse of the lagoon, the reef, the sand, the fringing islands and then the deep blue Indian Ocean below me. Another project colleague Paul, picked me up from the airport and I spent a difficult night at the project house in Calodyne. At this stage I just wanted to get back to my family. Every hour I was in the wrong place was painful. I drove us to the airport the next morning, narrowly avoiding a speeding ticket from a cop on the motorway near Curepipe once I explained the circumstances.
Rodrigues – I hardly got to know you
As the plane pulled out over the Grand Port lagoon, turned left over the eastern part of Mauritius and set its course for the UK, I still felt numb. I was so grateful at the understanding from Mike and Jeremy, from the consulting firm I was working for, and later I got so many messages of condolence from the people in the Mauritian government with whom I had been working – the incident over the visa issue totally forgotten. The next couple of weeks would be intense, but in fact the whole of life would now be different.
The call came around 2 am. I awoke with a start and fumbled to put the bedside light on, but by the time I lifted the receiver I already knew what it was. My brother Christopher calmly told me “Hello mate, she’s gone”.
Equally calmly I told him I would be back as soon as I could. Then rather pathetically stated that I hoped he was OK. Of course he wasn’t but I could not think of anything more useful to say.
I lay numb in bed for most of the night – I can’t remember if I slept at all. I certainly was moving by day break and took a long walk along the sandy beach to the limestone headland, watched the waves breaking for a while then ambled slowly back to the hotel. I sat at the restaurant table long before the staff arrived, and waited patiently for Mike to emerge. He came across with his usual ebullient mood, but he could see on my face that this was going to be a different day. I told him about the conversation I had had with my brother the night before, almost able not to break my voice in the telling. Mike was brilliant at this moment. We would head into Port Mathurin first thing to try and make the travel arrangements.
Cotton Bay Beach was a good place to walk that morning
Cotton Bay – undercutting
Cotton Boy – bad news while in paradise
We needed to get me on the earliest flight to Plaisance and then I needed to rebook my final return flight with BA back to the UK. Cotton Bay in those days had no reliable email, but Mike had stayed at a hotel in town that had some internet connection so we headed over the hill. First we visited a travel agent and arranged a flight back to Mauritius. Then we sat in this hotel, the TV blaring out Obama’s election to the US presidency, while I tried to get online to the BA website to rearrange my ticket home. The ticket agent in Port Mathurin had found a space on the 2pm flight. We had little time to get back over to Cotton Bay for me to throw my belongings in the case. I knocked on Jeremy’s hotel room door and apologized for leaving him in the lurch, but would support him from back home. Mike and I exchanged few words as we crossed the island – I kinda felt sorry for the guy – what do you say to someone who just lost his mother. At the airport as he shook my hand and thanked me for what I had done, I had to say “ I won’t be coming back” .