French-Mauritian novelist and Nobel prize winner, J.M.G Le Clézio, set his novel “Le Chercheur d’Or” in Rodrigues, a small, autonomous island 500 kilometres off the coast of Mauritius. At low tide a piqueuse d’ourite trudges through the warm waters, spear in hand, attentive to the slightest movement in the coral cavities. She is hunting ourite, octopus - a national delicacy - that is left to dry in the sun or prepared as a curry, vindaye or daube. The hilly landscape, a grazing ground for cows and goats, is sparsely populated save for a few villages and dwellings. Small winding roads cross the island fringed with secluded creeks, beaches, and rocky cliffs. Low-key, eco-chic guest houses and small family-run restaurants are flourishing but the locals’ concern for preserving the wildlife and their culture prevails. Rodrigues practices a certain localism by crafting straw hats and woven baskets, jars of pickled limes, achards, tiny green chillies, salted fish, and honey, sold at the marketplace in Port-Mathurin, the capital. The volcanic rock island, with its limestone caves, is surrounded by shallows and lures kite surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers. Above all, the island is an escape from first-world civilization and a return to basics, to life’s simple pleasures. The locals’ happy mood is contagious. Once you set foot on the tiny rock you will disconnect and ease into a slow-paced island life, which is somewhat hard to leave.