Holiday by David Macfie
My wife and I settled into the cramped seats of the Air Seychelles plane. But our excitement couldn’t be stifled by such a small matter. We had a week of sun, sea and relaxation to look forward to, in Paradise. It was to be like a second honeymoon after thirty years of marriage. We were like two young lovers all over again. Our memories of other visits to this jewel of the Pacific Ocean, were undimmed by time and distance – the palm dotted scenery, the exquisitely prepared food and exotic drinks, the snorkeling and scuba diving, the lazy mornings and long walks, the balmy weather with warm rain and light breezes. All of it combined into our favorite place in the world.
The plane took to the air. With tightly clasped hands, we watched through the porthole window, as the land flashed past beneath us. It was a clear, bright day, with only a few wispy clouds, so we enjoyed trying to pick out familiar and recognizable places in the passing landscape. In an hour we had been served with drinks and snacks, and the holiday feeling completely took hold. Then we crossed the coastline and were over the sea. An entirely new landscape passed below. Just as interesting, in its own way, but different. We were lucky to spot a pod of dolphins gamboling far below and were sure they were performing just for us. The flight passed quickly and, before we were ready for it, we landed in Mahé.
We scrambled to collect our luggage and rushed to catch our connecting flight to Praslin. The difference between the arrival of the first plane and the departure of the second was just a little too close for comfort. Now sweating, in the muggy atmosphere, we arrived in a small lounge with images of the island on the walls. It wasn’t very salubrious, but we didn’t care. Just to look out the windows was to feel free and unencumbered. Our wait was short after we cleared our bags for the ongoing trip. Soon we walked outside. My heart fell into my shoes. The plane was small, no more than eight to ten seats. And it was what I would have described as a ‘puddle jumper’ – squat, with wings on top of the fuselage with two turbo-prop engines built in to the wings. As a sufferer from bad vertigo, I hate small planes and the thought of even a short flight, in this flying box, left me slightly nauseous and more than a little nervous. My wife clasped my arm in silent support. She knew exactly how I was feeling. We clambered aboard and dumped our luggage in the back of the aircraft, then found our seats. My wife, kindly took the seat at the window. In no time we were in the air, with me carefully reading and my better half thoroughly enjoying the view. I sighed with relief when we were safely on the ground at Praslin. Now we caught a taxi to take us to The Paradise Sun Hotel. The drive was scenic and interesting and the road wound its way through the Praslin National Park and, inside it, the Vallée De Mai palm forest, which is one of only two known habitats where the ‘coco de mer’ palms may be found.
Finally we reached the hotel. As we pulled into the car park, there was a small, local boy in tattered T shirt and shorts, watching the cars coming in. He had a cheeky grin and a very beautiful face. As we emerged from the car he ran over to us and spoke to us in passable English.
“Need a guide?” he asked. “Me, number one guide. Show you everything. All’e shops and eating places. Best prices.”
He couldn’t have been more than five or six and he was extremely cute. We gave him some small change and a chocolate bar. He flashed us a huge smile. “See you tomorrow,” he said. We thought that would be the last we would see of him, but we were wrong. Our chalet was not more than forty meters from the beach and we spent the rest of the day under a brolly, sipping cocktails, reading and watching the world go by. The weather was beautiful, the sea was azure blue and the sand a dazzling white. Palms were everywhere and the hotel gardens were full of frangipani, lilies, hibiscus and brightly patterned crotons. Paradise was a good name for the hotel. The following day, our little friend found us as we came out from breakfast. He gave us his biggest smile.
“You ready for snorkeling, scuba, para-sailing, shopping? You decide, I show. Best prices. Yes?”
We didn’t have the heart to chase him away so we asked him to show us to the snorkeling place and tipped him, when we’d got our gear. He grinned. “See you tomorrow,” were his parting words. We had a wonderful time, sunbathing, swimming in the sea and the pool, snorkeling, taking long walks to explore the island, shopping and eating and drinking heartily. We hired a car and drove back to the palm forest to have look around and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the rare black parrot. Every day we saw our little friend, who had quite won our hearts. He did little errands, showed us things we might not have found otherwise and always gifted us with his beautiful grin and his “See you tomorrow.”
On our last full day the weather turned bad and the sun disappeared. It started to rain heavily, and the wind picked up. The hotel issued a warning of a tropical storm and advised guests to stay inside. They arranged covered golf carts to ferry guests to mealtimes. All through the night, the storm battered to hotel, but in the early morning the wind died and the rain stopped. At dawn, the sun rose above the horizon. We ate our breakfast in the outside area and the world was warm again. The only thing missing was our little friend. We looked for him but there was no sign. We’d finished packing and the car to take us to the airport was due at eleven thirty. We decided on a last beach walk. We strolled about a kilometer along the beach, which was littered with debris from the night before. Already, there were people out clearing it away. As we turned into our return walk, I saw what looked like a bundle of rags bobbing and floating in the shallow waves. I moved closer to investigate.
When I got near enough to make it out, I quickly turned and ushered my wife away. It wasn’t a bundle, it was our little friend. He’d somehow drowned during the storm.