Mountain(r)eering

We’re a couple of months into our time here now and, inevitably, our daily and weekly routines are becoming more established. We’re starting to become familiar with the locations, people and nuances of our local area and, so far, we’re feeling very positive about life in general. As we get more comfortable in the heat and new surroundings, we’re finding ourselves becoming more adventurous (both in terms of exploring and the parenting side of things). As little J is getting older, we’re becoming less convinced that we’re going to kill the child (or each other) by leaving a temperature controlled habitat or a carefully choreographed parenting routine.
The first target on our hit-list was the hill that overlooks our house (and, helpfully, provides us with something of a weathervane; our relative ability to see the top indicating the likelihood of some sporadic relief rainfall).

Unbeknownst to us before we bought them, H and I had each picked up the same pair of sandals for the odd bit of walking in the heat and we thought this might be the first opportunity to accidentally be that couple with his and hers shoes. Fortunately for our meagre reputation, the company providing them had helpfully shipped H two different sized shoes so our good name remains untarnished (in that sense, at least). To their credit, and against all of my expectation, they did offer a refund despite our inability to return the odd mixture.

Feet suitably attired, we set out to conquer Dans Gallas. She’s not the biggest of peaks for seasoned walkers like ourselves, at a piddly 556m (that’s about 100m less than the gargantuan Old Man of Coniston, Frankie), but to those of us who have only been exposed to the lofty temperatures of an Irish autumn, heading out onto the hill was a brave step into the unknown. With no intention of summiting in the short amount of time we had alloted to dip our toes into the Seychelles hiking scene with a toddler in a carrier, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves at the top in no time at all (and still maintaining an OK hydration level). The good news, too, was that little J had not forgotten the fun that was had being carried up Diamond Hill in Connemara last year and a visibly happy toddler was to be seen (and heard) throughout the trip, especially charming us with repeated exclaims of “wow” at the summit view.

It didn’t take me long to conclude that I am going to very much enjoy hiking here for several great reasons: there are trails marked and mapped out with different abilities/times in mind BUT they’re by no means paved walkways taming the whole idea of a hike in the wild, the weather is either going to be gorgeously sunny or refreshingly cool rain, the views are always going to be exquisite and the distance to travel to each walk is going to be far less than the 6 hours it used to take to reach the Lake District. Over 70% of the island is still primary rainforest (a ratio I highly approve of) so there’s plenty of space to get lost in yet!
All in all, the whole experience was a great success and was only improved by visits to the local bakery (where a sort-of doughnut with an apricot-y jam bit can be picked up for the very addictive price of a few rupees) and then the beach by way of a reward. As you’ll soon see that it wasn’t the only hike to be had in recent weeks.

We’ve also been endeavouring to try out new beaches beyond the nearby 3 we frequent most and we’ll update on that separately. The handy thing about our local beach, though, (apart from the distance for cooling down after a hot, hot hike) is that is has got a pizzeria attached to it that has become a little too regular lately. Perhaps it’s the view from the tables:

With a taste for the local walking scene, I was fortunate enough to jump on another short nearby walk, this time far less used or maintained walks; one of the ‘look for a bit of paint on a rock while you scramble’ kind. It was a large granite slab in the shadow of Mont Bernard that didn’t take long to get up but was equally rewarding with its view nonetheless.

When I mentally combine the accessibility of great walking with the daily beach trips, the abundance of local fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood, the helpful and friendly community, the weather and so many other factors that have made our initiation here so positive, it’s clear that a (physically and mentally) very healthy lifestyle is a big draw to this island. Inevitably, we all question major life decisions (especially ones that involve taking your child away from old friends and family in Europe), but we have to admit (and remind ourselves) that the quality of life that this place offers the little’un (and us) would be very hard to top elsewhere (especially right now, as the world tries to piece itself back together). As parents, this is going to be our priority, but it also allows us to feel much better about the decision that we’ve made.

In the interests of fairness, it hasn’t all been gravy: H’s foot came off much worse in her argument with a sea urchin that has resulted in many hours of foot-soaking and tweezer work. Similarly, I’ve ended up coming out in a large and very itchy rash for a few days that, we are reliably informed, results from proximity to the local hairy caterpillars. These are things that could very easily taint a short trip here and won’t be mentioned in brochures, but I guess are inevitable risks that come with moving to the tropics. At least the giant crocodilians are no longer here (a story for another time) and the poisonous snakes and spiders of mainland Africa never made it to these volcanic outposts. Really, we’ve not much to complain about and plenty to be thankful for. As ever, the blog serves its purpose in reminding us of this.