Other than one or two trucks, used for agricultural purposes, there are no motor vehicles to be found on the island of La Digue. The inhabitants of this 10km² island, part of the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean, get around on foot or by bicycle – mostly the latter. No cars and the most beautiful beaches known to man? That’s about as close to paradise as I’m likely to get.
You can find perhaps the most beautiful of these beaches – Grand Anse, French for “large cove” – at the end of a paved stretch of road that cuts across the island’s jungle interior. Look up at any given moment and you’ll catch sight of fruit bats gliding above the tree tops. Perhaps it’s the bread fruit they’re after – a sweet, starchy fruit that does indeed taste like it just popped out of the oven – or the deliciously tangy passion fruit. One thing’s for sure – if I come back as a fruit bat after I die, this is where I want to be.
I might not be a fruit bat yet, but the moment my eye catches sight of a sign with chalk letters reading “Fresh Fruit” that beckons passing cyclists over to a little thatched roof hut on the side of that paved road, I’m shrieking with a delight to rival any of the creatures flitting overhead.
I’m off the bicycle and sitting at one of the two wooden tables inside the empty hut in a matter of seconds. Behind the hut a modest blue house stands. A woman breastfeeding her child on the second floor balcony glowers down at me. I find myself wondering whether the milk of the Seychellois contains the same buttery notes as the breadfruit I had for breakfast. Then I realize I’m staring, and that perhaps the fruit hut is closed, which would explain the absence of people, and that I’ve interrupted this mother and child during this sacred moment of … milk transference. I suppose I would be upset too, but before I can stand and leave the door of the house is flung open and a man whose skin resembles a coconut husk bursts forth. He ducks beneath the palm fronds drooping over the entrance and positions himself behind the makeshift counter, on top of which sits a blender and a few spent fruits.
“Hello and welcome!” He says with much enthusiasm. I’m enthusiastic too, because now I know I’m going to get some fruit.
“Hi!” I say, extending my hand.
Yes, everyone here really is that friendly. And why not? This is the center of the earth and all that is good surely emanates from here.
Greetings aside, the man asks me what I would like, gesturing to the many, many fruits lined up behind him – most of which I have never seen before.
“Whatever you’d like to make me!” I tell him, content to fall back on my preference of allowing the experts to make these decisions.
He seems happy about this, and immediately takes out a machete and begins chopping, slicing, and smashing.
I sit contentedly, protected for the time being from the thirsty sun’s rays, and admire the bright colors dancing inside the blender. He pours it all into a glass and dresses the rim with even more fruit.
He asks me where I’m from and the talk immediately turns to the U.S. Presidential election that has just taken place. Hillary is “corrupt” he says with confidence, and compares her to a former Seychellois President. Trump at least says what he thinks and in a profession where everyone lies, that is to be admired.
He sits the glass down in front of me and I take a sip. The taste is so overpoweringly godlike that it renders me incapable of speech. What did he just say? I nod fervently – I wasn’t about to argue with someone capable of such divine acts.
The Seychelles has a new president too, he tells me, the former president having resigned the previous month.
“Do you like him?” I ask, my tongue working again.
“Sure, why not?” He says. Since I don’t know the first thing about Seychellois politics, I can’t answer this.
“The only people who don’t like him,” he goes on, “are those who don’t realize how lucky they already have it. Health care is free, education is free … the government will pay for you to go to Africa to study at a University – for free!” The man waves his arms in the air. “What more could anyone want?”
Combine that with the ability to get fruit smoothies like this every day, and it all sounds pretty good to me, so I agree. What more indeed.
I learn with interest that new President Danny Faure is only the fourth head of state since the Seychelles ceased to be a British colony in 1976.
“Yes,” the man says at last, whatever indignation formerly in his voice now fading, “life is good.”
Damn right it’s good. I detect the taste of avocado, breadfruit, and something else – mango, papaya? – and I’m about to pass out in a “Moses encounters God on Mount Sinai” kind of way.
But suddenly the glass is empty, and I hear voices approaching from the road. A couple, French by the sound of it, walk in and sit at the other table. The man goes back behind the counter and I stand to leave.
“Hey,” he says before I can exit, “when do you leave?”
“A couple of days,” I say, not happy that he had to go and bring THAT up.
“Come back tomorrow,” he orders, machete already chopping. “We’ll talk some more.”
Oh yes, I think. We’ll talk, and I’ll drink, and afterwards I’ll follow the road the rest of the way to Grand Anse for one last sunset, while the fruit bats shriek overhead and I imagine life as one of them.