Jake and I travel well together. We both eat everything, are unfussy about accommodation and transport and love new places and experiences. We also share an unreasonable love for anything deep-fried and making pig noses at each other on planes. You know, the important stuff.
However, there are moments that test even the most relaxed couple. These same moments also test me and Jake.
We were travelling by boat from Praslin to Mahé, the island where we would spend our final twenty-four hours in the Seychelles before boarding our flight back to London. The disaster of missing our ferry narrowly avoided by the ancient art of checking your departure time at some point before deciding when to leave for the harbour, we were feeling pretty chipper as the Cat Cocos ferry sped toward Mahé, if a little blue to be heading back to London only a day later.
After our boat docked in Mahé, we stumbled to the main bus station, backpacks leaving indelible sweat imprints on our backs, armed this time with both the name of our accommodation and detailed instructions from our host for how to find the apartment from the main road. Jake had been diligently researching bus timetables the evening prior but, with the all the planning in the world, there was no easy way to actually know which stop we were looking for. For all our evolutionary advancements, we are useless as soon as Google Maps goes offline. (Jake will take issue with this. FINE. I am useless as soon as Google Maps goes offline). Jake kept a vague eye on his offline map but ultimately had to make a call about when to get off. We hopped off the bus, halfway down a steep hill – that’s the problem with mountainous islands, everywhere is somewhere on a hill, except the beach. Nature is telling us something – and tried to follow the instructions. It is worth noting that we were carrying all our luggage across three backpacks and it was around thirty-five degrees.
“Walk downwards, and you should see another bus stop going toward Victoria.” We started walking down the hill. Jake looked puzzled. “I mean – there’s a bus stop over there?” He pointed at the small shelter before turning back to the instructions. “Next to the bus stop, you should see a secondary road.” We looked around the bus stop. There was clearly no secondary road, unless she was going meta and we were supposed to be visualising a potential road we could forge ourselves with nothing but a machete and a compass.
We should have stopped then, as soon as it was clear that we didn’t know where we were going. But we didn’t. We kept walking downhill. “Once you go down the road, you will see the Pascal Village Shop in front of you.” We looked around. There were numerous small shops. “From there, DO NOT take the road on the left or the right but keep going straight down.” We took this as a sign to keep walking down the hill, laden with bags and dripping sweat, unperturbed by the fact that there were no left or right roads for us to not take and the specific shop was nowhere in sight.
After continuing to walk downward, I started to get suspicious. This was a massively delayed reaction given that not a single marker had matched up with our surroundings. The humidity was clearly making its way into my brain. “This isn’t right. We need to stop and figure out where we’re going.”
We were both overheated and hungry at this point. I do a good job of keeping my Satanic side repressed most of the time, but burgeoning hunger is absolutely the time to make people I hold dear howl for their mothers. As I fought valiantly to stay relaxed and upbeat, Jake got snarky. “Of course it’s down here. It has to be down the hill. Where else is it going to be?”
The answer, of course? Up the hill. Way up the hill.
After more downhill walking and getting a helpful pharmacist’s input, it was made clear to us that we had walked almost half an hour down a steep hill with our bags at literally the peak of the sun. It was also made clear that we were going to have to walk all the way back.
Inclines are one of my least favourite things, on a par with fennel and people expecting me to not leave my wet towel on the floor. I was not thrilled. But then I remembered all the times I’ve been stubborn or misguided and it’s resulted in extra effort for us – most recently, when I didn’t know the name of our hotel on Praslin and we had to walk around, in the beating sun, with our bags, trying to find a building that matched the picture. BUT THE GROUND WAS FLAT – and decided to quietly start walking up the hill and force myself to not be irritated. I drew on every random Zen teaching I’ve picked up from my dad and just focused on each, arduous step that I was unnecessarily taking because someone-
ZEN. ZEN. I am being Zen.
It took twenty minutes of trudging uphill in a hot, irritable silence but we eventually returned to battling our common enemy together: the climb designed to render your kidneys non-functional because all moisture has been excreted through your skin before it could even flirt with the idea of reaching your urinary system.
It was many more humid minutes before we reached the apartment, including a lengthy stop lying in the shade by the side of the road. “Go on without me,” I think I said. “Or find a taxi if you really can’t bear to part with me.” This idea was only semi-scoffed at, but since we were off the main road at this point and truly getting close, we had no choice but to continue on foot.
As soon as we got inside, we put the air-con up to full blast until it felt like we were staying in a fridge and collapsed on the bed. We didn’t move or speak for half an hour.
This was our introduction to Mahé. Lost, sweaty and charging up and down a hill while the locals shouted encouragement. We eventually felt ready to shower, drink litres of water and head back out, down the offending hill, toward the beach. But for now, we lay on the bed in silence, before starting to make pig noses at each other. It’s the little things that get you through.