It was July 2012 and my fiancé and I were counting down the hours until our trip to Mauritius. Having arrived 2 hours early (as is protocol for all International flights) we decided to pass time at a coffee shop in the airport and use the free wifi to check our mails one last time. I checked in on Facebook so that all my friends could enviously see that I was about to leave. A notification appeared informing me of a friend's birthday. It was someone that I hadn't seen or spoken to in over 2 years. His status update was that he would be offline for 4 months as he was trekking from Alaska, across Northern Canada to the Bering Sea with an his old hiking partner.
A flamboyant surgeon with an adventurous spirit, Dr G was always up to something interesting and always turning up in places that you'd least expect him. We had met 3 years prior at the hospital we worked in and had sparked up a brief yet memorable friendship until he emigrated to England in 2010. Tall, with curly brown locks and clear blue eyes, he was a warm and compassionate soul if I ever met one. Excited for my first romantic trip away with my fiancé I logged off Facebook and carried on chatting about our own adventure to come.
We flew directly out of Durban and landed at Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam International Airport on the Southeast of the island. Beaming with smiles, we boarded the coach that was to take us to our resort in Grand Baie in the far North. It was late afternoon, darkness fell quickly and it was a long drive through endless fields of sugarcane. Looking out the bus window my excitedness was quelled with an eerie feeling.
Mauritius far exceeded our expectations. The resort in Grand Baie was exquisite. A french style white washed building, it had perhaps only 5 floors, each flat with its own balcony overlooking the beach. A thatched roof bar and dining area encircled the swimming pool, studded with white potted love palms and wooden lie-lows.
Our first couple of days revolved around the resort (most importantly the buffet table), swimming, sailing and snorkeling. In the afternoons we would walk into the town of Grand Baie along the narrow main street ridden by noisy buses and breathing in exhaust fumes, to arrive at the beautiful waterfront, the bay scattered with luxury yachts and jet skis in contrast to the golden beach littered with stray dogs and beggars. We were curious about one or two grand old manor houses that stood empty in the prime location of such an overpopulated island, wondering what could have happened for the locals to abandon them.
About midway through the week we booked an excursion to spend a day on a smaller island named Ille des deux Cocos, a marine sanctuary in the Southeast. Being avid scuba divers and marine enthusiasts, we were really looking forward to it.
Strangely, I didn't sleep well that night, waking up around 1am and not being able to return to slumber. Nothing was bothering me and I was tired but after an hour or so still wide awake. So as not to disturb my fiancé, I opened the glass sliding door and went out onto the balcony to listen to some music with my earphones in. Settling down into a padded wicker chair I put my feet up on a cane footstool. The evening was picturesque. The sky was clear and starlit. The air was still and cool. My mind drifted to my friend and I wondered if he was enjoying sleeping out under the stars in the wilderness every night. Singing along to the lyrics of American Pie by Don McLean and squinting my eyes to find the Southern Cross, I was suddenly enveloped with a terrible icy feeling. It felt as though I was falling off the balcony, I even got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, such as when one drives down a steep hill too fast.
The feeling of impending doom disappeared as quickly as it had come. I was left startled and terrified. Just then my fiancé came out onto the balcony and asked me what was the matter. I told him my experience and he himself didn't know why he woke up exactly then.
The following day was incredible on the little island. We snorkeled between the shallow coral, saw a pair of cuttlefish and were even bitten on the arms by a territorial blue triggerfish, much to our amusement. After the lunch buffet we walked around the island and ventured to the old Governor's Moroccan-style holiday house. One of the country's oldest and most historic buildings, which the locals believe to be haunted. Apart from its isolated location and proximity to the rough sea, we only felt peace and tranquility there. Still the feeling from the night before lingered with me.
The days passed smoothly and we were very sad to leave the following Sunday. The flight back to Durban was uneventful.
The next day, Monday, I was back at work at the hospital when the Theatre Matron broke the sad news to me that our marvelous friend Dr G had died a few days before. He had lost his balance and slipped off a cliff in the Canadian wilderness. The time he fell coincided with the time I experienced that terrible feeling, even though we were practically on opposite sides of the world. I verified this online as it had even made the news in Alaska, Canada and South Africa. It took the US coastguard 2 days to locate and retrieve his body a few kilometers from where he fell.
A week later I woke up, having fallen asleep on the couch watching TV when I felt a presence in the lounge. As I opened my eyes I saw him as clear as day standing in front of me. He said that he understood everything and then disappeared.
A truly humbling experience.