The Funkiest Food
MOFONGO sure doesn't sound like something you'd ask your mama for, except in PUERTO RICO, where it's a national dish (mashed plantains with chicharrones of pork). This is not to be confused with Hot Mofongo, a fine Puerto Rican jazz trio.
Access & Resources
LA DIGUE IS FOR LOVERS. Or so it seemed as I boarded a salty-looking schooner for the four-mile crossing from the neighboring island of Praslin. The benches around me were full of young, affluent, mostly European couples who, if they weren't snuggling, nuzzling, or fully making out, were videotaping each other for later delectation. And once we'd arrived on this smallest of the Seychelles' "major" islands, I had to agree: It's a pretty romantic place, with its turquoise lagoon, its two dozen white-sand beaches, and most of all its towering granite rock formations. I, alas, was solo, not en couple, something the locals could never quite accept. "Madame is not coming down this morning?" the woman who served breakfast at my hotel kept asking. No, Madame wasn't.
The Freudian term for my behavior during my first few days on the island is, I believe, sublimation. Each morning I set off on little bike ridesthey can hardly be otherwise on La Digue, where there's only one five-mile-long roadthat somehow morphed into epic, Conradian quests. One day I rode down the windward side of the island and then, at road's end, found myself scrambling off-trail to find a coastal route from Anse Caiman to Anse Cocos, two of the island's most remote and unspoiled beaches. The distance was negligibleperhaps half a milebut the terrain was fantastically rough, a jumble of pink granite monoliths the size of houses, and it took me several hours of tropical bouldering (flip-flops only) and full-contact bushwhacking to claw my way through the jungle.
Another day, after a heart-pounding dip in the breakers at Grand Anse, a favorite boogie-boarding and surf spot, I off-trailed it to the Nid d'Aigles, or Eagle's Nest, the spectacular lookout at the top of the island. Fleets of low, moist clouds, a result of the southeast monsoon, were streaming in off the Indian Ocean at a dizzying clip. At dusk, the flying foxes came outnot flitting like bats but gliding between the fruit treesand then the moon to light my ride home.
By day four, though, I was getting lonely. My hands were raw (from bouldering, you understand), and my legs looked like I'd been through some medieval rite of self-mortification. And then, just in time, I found her.
Access & Resources: La Digue
Private motor vehicles aren't allowed on three-mile-long La Digue. By special dispen-sation, the island priest bops around on a Vespa, but everyone else rides mountain bikes. Be prepared for sticker shock: from $5 cigarettes to $35 paperbacks, the Seychelles are pricey.
GETTING THERE: Air Seychelles (800-677-4277; www.airseychelles.net) flies to the main island of Mahé from major cities in Europe (round-trip from Paris costs about $800). There's no airport on La Digue, so unless you spring for Helicopter Seychelles' chopper from Mahé (about $120, 011-248-37-39-00; www.helico-seychelles.com), you'll need to take a ferry or an Air Seychelles Twin Otter to the neighboring island of Praslin, then head to La Digue via ferry (Inter-Island Ferry Service; 248-23-23-29). Mountain bikes are available for about $7 a day in La Passe, at Chez Michelin (248-23-43-04) and other places.
WHERE TO STAY: At La Digue Island Lodge (248-23-42-32; www.seychelles.net), aging bungalows go for $265$380 a night. Better deals are Chateau St. Cloud ($180; 248-23-43-46; or e-mail [email protected]), centered on a restored plantation house; and L'Ocean ($250; 248-23-41-80; or e-mail [email protected]) at Anse Patates; and Choppy's Beach Bungalows on Anse La Réunion ($150; 248-23-42-24; or e-mail [email protected]).
WILD LA DIGUE: The $2 entry fee to L'Union Estate includes passage to Anse Source d'Argent, the magnificent boulder-strewn beach featured in all those Bacardi ads. La Digue ranks high on the list of the Seychelles' top dive spots; check out the island's only dive center, at La Digue Island Lodge. Gerard Payet (look for him on the dock in La Passe) will set you up with snorkeling trips to Îe Coco, Grande Soeur, Petite Soeur, and Félicité(about $40, including lunch). For deep-sea fishing and multiday yacht cruises, call Mason's Travel (248- 23-42-27; www.masonstravel.com) or Travel Service Seychelles (248- 23-44-11; www.tss.sc).
ISLAND EATS: Most restaurants are attached to hotels. The two exceptions, Zerof and Loutier Coco, serve French-Creole dishes such as curry spiced with piment.
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