I Step into Robinson Crusoe's Shoes

January 24-27, 2007
Day 483-486

Picture of boat.

A small fishing boat on St. Joseph's Island.

Ye Olde Food Rations

Coconut and mango porrige with coconut milk.

Raw coconut meat with a bit of bread.

Coconut soufflé with coconut milk rice and a mango for dessert.

OK, it wasn't actually that bad, but the breakfast menu is accurate. For four days, I lived in my bower on St. Joseph's Island. The daily routine consisted of looking for firewood, reading Robinson Crusoe appropriately enough, monitoring the tides, thinking of new ways to cook coconuts, and talking with the trickle of tourists that visited the island every day, vis. I enjoyed my visit, as I will presently explain.

Every morning, a catamaran would bring a handful of tourists to St. Joseph's. Most would walk around and swim for a bit at the small beach, but a few stayed to camp. In the afternoon, the other catamaran would bring in another group who would do the same. The only other person on the island was the legionnaire, who I couldn't talk to, but did share a smile with as he was kind enough to give Craig and I some water so we wouldn't have to survive on coconut milk.

Picture of gate.

I open the gate and walk into the prison.

Walking around the island took twenty minutes, and most days, I also ventured to the top, where the ruins of the Prison were located. It looked basically the same as the prison on Royale, but it was a lot spookier because nobody else was around. Most of the cells were for solitary confinement, and they even had bars on the roofs, so the guards could walk around and make sure the prisoners weren't misbehaving. Near the beach was the graveyard, which was only used to bury guards because of a lack of space. Prisoners who died on the island were thrown in the water for the sharks. It was a bizarre contrast walking from my campsite in a tropical paradise to a horrible prison in about thirty seconds.

We sat around a campfire most nights with the other campers for entertainment. Sometimes the legionnaire came by with his dogs to join in the discussion. I found out that he has been on the island for five months, and still has nineteen more to go as king of the island.

The biggest issue being discussed on the island was the problem of the rat infestation. A few times, I woke up in the middle of the night and a rat was directly above me on my tent. The little bastards apparently didn't have any natural predators, so they wouldn't run away even when I hit them. The only thing that scared them was my flashlight, so I came up with the genius solution of leaving it on all night, which seemed to do the trick. I, however, was lucky enough to have a tent to sleep in. One girl, who was sleeping in a hammock, had a rat jump right in with her one night. Not surprisingly, she had trouble falling asleep again after that.

Craig went fishing every day, and every day he had lots of fish stories. They seemed to be going crazy after his lures, but he just couldn't manage to pull any of the behemoths in with his freshwater rod and lightweight line. I joined him one day in using a rope, a piece of Styrofoam, and a huge hook with a piece of chicken I got from some of the other campers to try and pull in a shark, but nothing was biting. This aspect of the island stay was frustrating, but Craig always seemed to have fun hooking the big ones.

Picture of palm leaves.

A palm tree.

On my last night on the island, I was joined by five Americans, four of whom were teaching English in Cayenne. We had a great time talking about our travels around the fire, and they invited Craig and I to join them when we leave Kourou. I wasn't on the island quite as long as Robinson Crusoe was on his, but it was still a good time. Craig even enjoyed his stay so much, he decided to stay one more night and meet up with me again tomorrow.

The photo album for this entry is here.

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