Chole is a tiny island in the Mafia archipelago, so small that it takes about two hours to see it only by walking.
Moody, Filippo and I get on the dhow that will take us to visit it, an old dhow, marked by time, wear and salt. There are no seats, but wooden edges and you hang on where you can.
The island is there, in front of us. The crossing takes a few minutes. There is wind and splashes of water refresh us with each wave.
We are accompanied by a boy of about twenty years: he is our guide and we immediately discover that he was born and raised in Chole.
We disembark jumping into the water and begin our walk on the dirt paths that, like a spider web, form the backbone of the village. An ancient, calm village, which testifies the fixity of time, the cyclical rhythm of life in a place inhabited by no more than a thousand souls, all related between them.
At the entrance to the village there is a small house, one of those fairytale houses with a thatched roof and from which you expect an appropriate character to come out at any moment. There is a table under the veranda, a single table for patrons: it is a restaurant that reflects the size of everything else. We continue on the path and meet the first school. The students are wandering around inside the building and in the courtyard. They look at us, some smile. We are impressed by the order and care of the paths and ornamental plants. The houses are modest, often with the courtyards sprinkled with algae to be dried and hanged up washing. Another school, primary this time. Three cute children encourage us to take a photo. One of them wears huge shoes for him, perhaps from his father, with an incredible naturalness. We take the picture and, of course, we are asked for a reward: our packet of chocolate cookies attracts other students and empties within seconds.
In the center of the village there is a singular building that houses stands: some people are gathered and chatting. It is the meeting place for the men of the island.
We pass under huge baobabs and mango trees and the guide shows us how many bats are clinging to the highest branches: they are giant pteropus and there are thousands of them. I don’t know why, but I find them beautiful.
A few more paths and we arrive at the shipyard, a large porch under which a group of men is building, strictly by hand, a large dhow, and they are still building it in the traditional way, following the ancient rules that require that the pieces be stuck one into the other. Really fascinating.
We begin to return to the beach and pass in front of the hospital, tiny like everything else, in front of which a canopy shelters a motorcycle ambulance equipped with a bed for the transport of emergencies. I’ve never seen anything like this.
We return to Mafia satisfied. It is not easy for us to imagine such a simple life and in such a small and isolated community. It left me with a pleasant feeling of peace and serenity.