Lying 1,600 km off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean, the island of Praslin seemed like the perfect place to escape the turmoil of the American election. Best of all, the villa my girlfriend and I had rented had no internet, no television, and a radio rendered useless thanks to a broken antenna.
The morning and afternoon of November 9th went by without a hitch. From our vantage point on the top of a hill overlooking all of Praslin, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Before leaving the main island of Mahé, I’d had a look at the weather report for the final days of our stay – sunny, clear skies the whole way. But now, the evening before our departure, the skies opened up, unleashing furious shards of lightning and a raging wind that threatened to blow the little villa into the sea.
We weren’t the only ones caught off guard. Sitting on the toilet that night, the largest gecko I’d ever seen peered at me over the shower curtain. This wasn’t the kind of laxative I needed after the questionable mussels I’d had for lunch, but I wasn’t about to try and shoo it away, not when it looked like it could have had me for dinner.
The gecko wasn’t our only visitor. Pint-sized lizards the color of toxic green sludge skittered across the walls in the darkened villa. The electricity had cut out, but they lit up the bedroom and serenaded us with late-night mating calls. The only sound absent was that of the fruit bats, their bloody screeches drowned out by the howling storm.
The jungle had made its way inside, the oppressive humidity turning the sheets as damp as if they had been hanging on the balcony. But it was that lingering uncertainty about the election that made it hardest to sleep. What I wouldn’t have given for a working wi-fi connection …
At half past seven, I climbed out from beneath the mosquito net, making for the kitchen. Other than pulling on a pair of rubber flippers, I ignored the giant pool of water that had seeped in below the patio doors overnight and now engulfed the living room. Spreading a knife dipped in apricot jam over a slice of toast, I was suddenly quite happy that we were leaving that morning. But didn’t I love nature? The thought of getting away from it all? A trio of Godzilla-sized geckos watched as I deliberated. How had they managed to triple in number overnight? I dipped my toast into a glass of soy milk, leaving orange apricot bits floating on the surface. And I hadn’t even checked the bathroom yet …
Our boat was scheduled to depart at 10:00 from the jetty, and thankfully the rain abated right at 9:05. That left plenty of time to make the 20-minute drive to the south side of the island and snag prime seats on the deck of the schooner to La Digue, our final destination.
We loaded the bags into the teal Nissan and set off, navigating the curves leading down the mountain. I switched the car radio on, searching for a signal. Finally, around one bend, a voice came crackling over the speakers. “The world reacted to President-elect Trump’s victory-” it said, before fading back into white noise.
“What?!!” We looked at one another in disbelief. “He won?”
I turned the steering wheel left, away from the mountain, but the car didn’t react – apparently still in shock. The tires kicked up red mud, failing to gain traction. The side of the mountain loomed large through the windshield. The right tire slid into the wide storm drain, followed by a dull thud as the front of the car smacked into the towering wall of rock.
We sat there for a minute, not quite comprehending what had just happened. The Nissan now sat stretched across a small bend in the narrow mountainside road, the wavy rock wall obscuring us from the view of passing cars. There was no guard rail on the left side of the road, only a steep 200-foot plunge into the Indian Ocean.
I slowly edged back onto the muddy road – flinching at the thought of the damage the car must have sustained.
Five minutes later, and nearly at the jetty, a car came screaming up out of the distance towards us. The driver had his whole arm out the window, waving for us to stop. It took a moment to register that it was the car owner. Had he caught sight of the damage? I suddenly regretted the islanders nonchalant way of doing things, or in this case, not doing things … insurance coverage for example.
As he walked towards my door, his eyes drifted across the front of the car. Oh god, I thought, how bad is it?
He motioned for me to roll down the window and leaned his head in, rain running down his face.
“I forgot,” he started apologetically. “There is a ten euro fee for leaving your car at the jetty.”
“Uh, sure.” I said, opening my wallet. Our two cars were stopped in the middle of the road. As the rain came down, a small traffic jam formed.
I handed the ten euro equivalent in Seychellois Rupees to the man, who waved farewell.
Once at the jetty, I got out and circled to the front of the car. There was … nothing. The Nissan had survived a punch from a mountain and was none the worse for wear. Not visibly anyway, which is of course what counted.
As we walked down the jetty, the rain melted away, along with my stress. A sign with the words “Free Public Wi-Fi” came into view. I ignored it, catching sight of a rainbow stretching across the miles of ocean that lay to the east.
Once back home, we would remember Praslin as an island of pounding rain, near death experiences, mutant sized geckos, and President Trump. But today, we were in the islands.