Lost & Scared in the North of Mahé

I jumped into our scorching hot car, practically burning myself on the seat. Above us, the sun shone down relentlessly, hardly a cloud in the sky to threaten its brilliance. It was 3pm and so far we had hardly done anything. That morning we had visited the butchers only to find they were closed. We were especially disappointed because the owner told us to visit on Wednesday (today) in order to try some octopus which she was going to prepare especially for us.

Our time in Mahé was starting to run out and we had hardly seen anything of the North of the island. We had been to the capital, Victoria twice but there were other places I wanted to see like Port Glaud and port Launay. I had read that the marine life around these areas was meant to be great with frequent sightings of turtles, sharks and clownfish. People have occasionally seen whale sharks!

We had bundled our snorkels in the back of the car and were cruising up West Coast Road, a road we were very familiar with by now. Looming in the distance were the majestic mountains of Morne Seychellois National Park, dark clouds looming eerily close behind them. That was where we were heading. Port Glaud was to the West of the National Park.

The further north we got, the darker the sky became. The once blue sky was now a threatening deep grey, eerily turning the forests into a murky green colour. Soon we were in unchartered territory and the landscape abruptly changed. The happy, bright areas of the island that we had become so familiar with had given way to a darker, quieter landscape. There were far fewer people at the side of the road and tall trees hung over the roads. The beaches faded behind us, for a while at least.

We turned a corner. Lush green grass grew at the sides of the road and to our left a metal barrier appeared. To our right, tall tropical trees stood elegantly beside the road, clustered closely to one another. Beside the barrier, the land gave way to a steep slope and the road turned sharply downhill. I gasped in astonishment at the view. Behind the palm leaves, the vast ocean crept into view, two ghostly islands standing in the clear water. These islands are Thérèse and Conception.

On the coast, towering above thick vegetation and facing the two islets stood a desolate white building. Even from a great distance, I could see make-out the windowless panes and cracked paint that hinted that the building was abandoned. What surprised me the most was the shear size of the building. Nothing on the island had any resemblance to this towering concrete giant. It looked like something you would find in Benidorm or Magaluf. I could tell at once it was an abandoned hotel. I actually researched it after our trip to find it was called 'Mahé Beach Resort'. The weird thing is that it is still listed as an operational hotel in various places online. The road to the resort was completely blocked off by an intimidating barbed-wire fence with large 'No Entry' signs on it. It's a shame - I like exploring abandoned buildings.

In the distance you can see the abandoned hotel

We drove down the slope and arrived in Port Glaud. Beaches greeted us, offering beautiful views of the islets that dotted the Northern coast. We pulled over beside one of the beaches, in what looked like a small carpark. There were one or two tourists here, drinking a fresh coconut. Almost at once, a local man started approaching our car, locking eyes with us. I'm guessing he was going to try and sell us something but I wasn't going to wait to find out. We quickly set off again. I just don't like it when people approach me and try to sell me things. I'd have liked to have been able to explore the area without feeling pressured to do anything.

After that experience, I was nervous to stop off again. We only saw a handful of tourists on our drive, despite reading that the area was a popular place to visit. We quickly left Port Gauld behind us and continued our journey to Port Lauray and finally the marine park, where we could have a snorkel.

The landscape had another dramatic shift. We left the rainforests behind us and entered the mangroves. In case you didn't know, mangrove forests consist eery-looking trees which grow out of swamps. Their long, tangling roots are clearly visible above the water. The roots were intertwined with one another, as if each tree were trying to stay close to their neighbour. The water in these mangroves was a murky brown colour. The surface was undisturbed, acting as a perfect mirror to reflect the angry clouds overhead.

Apparently a large proportion of Mahé consisted of mangroves which were infested with crocodiles When humans started to inhabit the island, the crocodiles were killed-off and much of the mangroves were cut-back. Mangroves are a truly magical wilderness, with a strange creepiness to them. It's so odd to think of trees growing out of water.

The mangroves

The mangroves eventually gave way to beaches once more. Suddenly, the road lurched to the right and started to slope upwards. The road's surface turned from smooth tarmac to an old, bumpy road that looked like it hadn't been maintained for years. The edges were corroding and the path started to get narrower and narrower. Soon, we could barely fit the car on the road, it was that narrow. I started to feel worried. Was this a road at all? I hated to think about what would happen if we were to meet an on-coming car, or worse, a bus!

Then, the trees that were on our left disappeared behind us and we were left with a tremendous drop, right beside the road. I suppressed a gasp of both fear and wonder. The view was incredible! There was a small bay with a beautiful white-sand beach sheltered inside. We were travelling on one side of the bay, up the steep slopes which sheltered the little beach. Without the barriers, our view was completely undisturbed. Ahead of us, the sun started to show through the clouds, casting valiant rays across the bay as it started to descend over the hills.

We pulled over at the side of the road. Well, we pulled over into the vegetation as there was no road to pull-over on. We felt thoroughly lost. It felt like the road was starting to veer away from the coast and into some unknown, remote place. I had no idea where this path was going to take us but it didn't feel like a main road. I had looked at my google maps before the journey and knew that to get to Baie Ternay Marine National Park, we needed to drive to the end of the main road and we would be there. So, where was the marine park? Had we taken a wrong turn?

We decided to take the drone up because the view was just amazing. Taking the drone up isn't just a quick thing. It took us several minutes to prepare the drone and then our car started interfering with the signal. Despite the area being beautiful, there was a strange atmosphere that was making us feel uneasy and we wanted to leave quickly.

Just when we were about to lift the drone into the air, a car came from the other direction. It slowed down as it passed us and two young men fixed us with a stern, intent look before slowly driving away. I'm sure they were just curious to see the drone but it was the final straw. We aborted Droney's flying mission and bundled him into the car. We didn't even get to put him away, we just quickly started to turn around and drive back.

We were quite shaken up as we started to drive back. We didn't care about finding the marine park anymore. The whole time we had been in Port Glaud and Port Launay, there was a strange atmosphere. It may have just been down to the dark rolling clouds above us, but it just felt weird. I think it was a combination of the bad weather, the abandoned buildings, the creepy mangrove swamps, the people walking up to our car and the scary narrow road. It also didn't help that my partner had told me in the journey that apparently Seychelles has the highest levels of rape in the world and that many people get mugged in the Morne Seychellois National Park, which we were right next to. Anyway, I hadn't written off the area yet. There was a sense of mystery about it that was drawing me in. As it was getting late, we decided to head back to base but I'd already decided that I would be back the next day for some more exploring.

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