As soon as he appeared ahead of us, we realized that Dave's night had been longer than advised. That he had risen up with annoyance and effort.
The boy was from Mahé, the mother island of the Seychelles. He had moved to Praslin some years ago, allegedly because life was quieter. The justification was not in keeping with his rally driving, which was not long in coming, we had to stop.
Instead of taking what he suggested and immediately crossing the national park and the lush interior of the island to the north coast, we convinced him to go around the entire south and the jagged east, without any great hurry.
We wanted, with that much broader itinerary, to have a comprehensive idea of what we could expect from Praslin. We soon realized that we had landed in another of the lost paradises just below the equator, in the vastness of the great Indian Ocean.
From Anse to Anse through Praslin Island's Tropical Eden
Almost always between an emerald sea and a dense tropical forest, we cross the Grande Anse bay and reach the confluence with the neighboring Anse Citron. Between the two sands, the road forks. Proceed to the section Dave had suggested earlier.
The other branch becomes a coastal road at the foot of a slope, also winding and undulating, since then so narrow that in certain parts it prevents the passage of two vehicles simultaneously and threatens to follow the sea or into the jungle.
The appealing coves were repeated one after the other bathed by waters circumscribed by a barrier reef off the coast. A series of others followed "handles” (coves) suggestive.
St. Sauveur, Takamaka, is named after the colony of these almost crawling trees that lend it much more greenery and shade than mere coconut trees.
Anse Cimitière and Bois de Rose followed, then Consolation and Marie-Louise, all of them privileged beaches. Until we reach the urbanized area of Baie Sante Anne and, past the port and the adjoining village, we cut to the north.
We soon found Anse Volbert.
This is the island's main housing and bathing nucleus, facing long stretches of sand that are also caressed by an almost immobile sea, semi-dammed by reef barriers that are farther away from the coast than those to the south.
With Praslin's return already halfway past, we were convinced of its preserved beauty. At the same time, we knew there was better. Eager to get back to bathing on one of the stunning beaches of the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean, we convinced Dave to proceed to the far northwest of the island.
Anse Citron and the Pink Granite That Brings Out the Indian Ocean Turquoise
Twenty minutes on a dirt road later, we were facing a calm sea, festively translucent and in different shades of blue, cyan, turquoise, and an almost lapis lazuli.
In the vicinity of the leafy coast, the tide held high, dotted with a colony of granitic pebbles of a polished pink.
In view of this view, under the blazing sun of almost eleven in the morning, we took off for the coral sand, climbed two or three massive rocks and, from there, took some pictures. Shortly thereafter, we dived into the water and celebrated the moment with delicious swims and floats.
Before returning to Dave's company, we had a peek at two or three other small coves, increasingly sunk in dense vegetation, out of which coconut palms stretched out horizontally over the ocean.
Cocos of the Sea: a Mystery that Comes from the Confidence of Navigation
Today, only conventional coconut trees are found in Anse Lazio and along the coast of Praslin.
This was not always the case.
In the middle of the discoveries, the Asian peoples and, meanwhile, the European sailors and adventurers who made contact with them, had never seen palm trees that generated coconuts the size of some found in the sea and beaches of the Indian Ocean, which reached 60 cm in diameter and up to 42kg.
Some Malay sailors are said to have seen them “fall up” from the seabed.
The belief then spread that they were produced by trees that grew in the depths of the ocean.
From the Palms of the Deep Sea to the Seductive Hips of Women
In yours "colloquia”, Garcia de Orta went further. He assured that they were born from palm trees that had been submerged by a great flood when the Maldives archipelago broke away from Asia.
The Malay people believed that these trees provided shelter for Garuda, a species of giant bird that captured elephants and tigers. Garuda is, even today, the name of the national airline of the Indonesia.
African priests also believed that at times coconut trees rose above the ocean, that the swells they generated prevented vessels from proceeding, and that powerless sailors were devoured by the Garuda.
But the richness of the imaginaries created around coconuts did not end there.
The big walnuts that were found in the ocean and on the beaches had already lost their shell (that's the only way they float) and looked like the hips of women.
These floating hips and tails were being collected on ships and sold for fortunes in Arabia, Europe and elsewhere.
In the Maldives, any coconuts found were supposed to be handed over to the king. Keeping them carried the death penalty.
The Monetary, Therapeutic and Even Surreal Literary Value of Cocos from the Sea
In 1602, Dutch Admiral Wolfert Hermanssen received a coconut from the Sultan of Bantam (now Indonesia), for having helped defend the capital from the Portuguese sultanate of the same name.
It is also known that Rudolf II, an emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, tried in vain to acquire it for 4000 gold florins.
It is also believed, as described by João de Barros – one of the first Portuguese historians – that walnuts had other extraordinary powers.
They would serve as an antidote to poisons, poisons and illnesses. Probably due to the inhibiting action of the Inquisition, Garcia de Orta never dared to mention its famous and alleged aphrodisiac power.
As, for the same reasons, Camões never did Lusiads where Canto X is:
“On the islands of Maldiva, tears are born
In the depth of the sovereign agoas
Whose pommel against urgent poison
He was considered an excellent Antidote"
Camões portrays this power in Lírica, his work that most approaches the theme of love and passion. There, he resorts to abundant lexical artifices in order to avoid unpleasantness coming from the General Inquisitor (Cardinal D. Henrique) and the Inquisition's censors.
Passage Through Anse Volbert and a Church in Full Funeral Service
We had a feeling that Dave, too, would scold us if we stayed much longer at Anse Lazio.
So we went back to the van pointed to Anse Volbert, where we did some casual shopping at a Hindu-owned grocery, dark, stuffy and reeking of spice.
On another visit to Baie Sante Anne, we stop and examine the town and its life. We entered a small, pyramidal Protestant church of worn red wood.
Inside, we come across several native ladies, descendants of African slaves brought by the French to the Seychelles in the XNUMXth century.
We found them in a pleasant chatter sitting on the benches. The end of all the benches along the aisle is decorated with white and pink satin bows, so we are convinced that a christening is about to take place.
We get into conversation with the ladies who are willing to correct it. “No, it's not a christening. Before it was. It's a funeral for a friend of ours. The ties? We have a tradition of using them at funerals. Their color depends on what motivated the death. These that you see correspond to a cancerous disease.”
The surprise leaves us speechless but there we collect ourselves, apologize for the mistake and leave with the best English-speaking expression of regret we can remember.
Incursion into the Protected Tropical Forest of Cocos of the Sea
Leaving the church behind, we walked a few kilometers and penetrated into the forested heart of the island. Shortly thereafter, we entered the nature reserve reception area and UNESCO World Heritage Vallee de Mai.
The Vallée de Mai preserves a palm forest that once covered a large part of Praslin and other islands in the Seychelles, as in the case of the neighbor La Digue.
In fact, in times of the supercontinent Gondwana covered other vast areas of the Terra.
Praslin is, like the Seychelles in general, considered a micro-continent, as it does not have a volcanic or coral origin like almost all the other islands in the Indian Ocean, but rather granitic.
And prodigal in endemic fauna.
We managed to rescue Dave from his hook-up conversation with a native girl at the reception, we walked along the dark and damp paths of the park, fascinated by the leafy beauty of the vegetation, in particular the Loidocea Maldivicas, the endemic palm trees that produce coconuts.
We were also enchanted, like the sailors of the Age of Discovery, the dry specimens that the park administration displays along the tracks.
Now that we think about it, young Dave's courtship had something to do with a no less comic myth that Charles George Gordon, a British general, arrived at in 1881.
The Garden of Eden Theory and Sea Coconuts Instead of the Problematic Apple
Three hundred and seventy-eight years had passed since, already circumvented the Cape of Storms, Vasco da Gama became the first European to sight and sail off the current Seychelles archipelago – on his return from India – and dubbed him Admiral in his own honor.
Sixty-nine years passed after Great Britain conquered it from France.
According to the theory he arrived at through a Kabbalistic analysis of the Book of Genesis, the Vallée de Mai would be the Garden of Eden and its palm trees were the tree of wisdom.
They represented both Good and Evil while, due to the imagined aphrodisiac properties, the coconut-do-mar would correspond to the forbidden fruit. Gordon even pointed out Paradise's exact location on the island's map as the Coco-do-Mar Valley.
This exotic postulation of his was challenged by another writer, H. Watley Estridge, who confronted Gordon with the slim probability that Eva had managed to bite a coconut shell through its four-inch-thick shell.
Gordon never responded.