The site was to behold as the plane made its descension toward the beautiful greenery and scenic coastline of Maurtius, leaving the cold and snow of Canada behind.
Stepping off the plane after a surprisingly quick 12-hour flight from Paris, I could already feel the heat. And it was only seven in the morning!
Outside the airport terminal, I looked for my ride. He was nowhere in sight. I phoned my place of stay that I was going to take another taxi. I arrived at my destination about 20 minutes later.
Blue Bay in Mauritius
With the aid of Lonely Planet’s Mauritius, Reunion and Madagascar, I chose Chant au Vent. There is a Canadian connection at this guesthouse. Claire, the manager, is from Montreal and has lived here for ten years. Lucky her! She left the bitter cold winters behind.
Later that afternoon, Claire apologized. It was her husband, Salish, who was scheduled to pick me up. When he phoned the airport, he was told I was going to land at nine.
Unlike the crowds of touristy areas of Flic en Flac and Grand Baei, Blue Bay still remains it’s quiet charming self. The neighbourhood has beautiful, colourful but expensive homes
The next day thanks to the constant downpour my plans were foiled. There was a threat of a cyclone, which thankfully never happened. But at least I didn’t have wedding plans unlike the British couple whose friends were to marry that day. I found out later it got postponed until Friday.
For most of my dinners, I did patronize at La Bouganville, just steps from my guesthouse. Here I spend New Years Eve here with a couple Ruzanne and Andrew from South Africa having a wonderful dinner (it was a choice of set menu or order off the menu) and was entertained by the national Sega dance. Sega originated when African slaves gathered by the firelight on the beach after a hard days work, dancing to the rhythmic drumbeat. Now this dance is mixed with hip movements of a little Latin and the hand movements of Southwest Asian.
A five-minute walk is Reviva Spa. I was surprised that I could make an appointment on New Years Day. The hour massage got rid of the tension and knots in my back.
Not easily accessible by local bus, I hired Salish to give me a guided tour. It was worth it. Rather than being in a bus or van full of people, I could take my time.
Bois Cheri Tea factory’s museum taught me surprising facts of the history of tea. The museum has an old locomotive, glass cases displaying different cups and saucers, teapots.
After the museum, I got a tour of the factory. I was shown the process of different grinds and blends of tea and After, I went to sample some tea at the lodge and enjoyed the panoramic view.
Unfortunately rain started when we arrived at the sacred Hindu site of Grand Basin the largest pilgrimage outside India. The mist blocked my view of the Pink Temple on the other site of the Crater Lake. I took refuge for a while inside the colourful temple.
There is a 33m high statue of Shiva. Shiva is known to create the lake by spilling the water from Ganges that he carried on his head. Every February or March, depending on the lunar cycle, up to 500,000 of the island’s Hindu come each year to pay homage to Shiva during the Maha Shivaratri. That would be amazing to see.
Salish drove along the gorgeous Le Morne Peninsula. History has it here that slaves escaped and hid on top of these mountains. The story goes that not knowing slavery had been abolished the slaves saw soldiers heading toward them up the cliffs. They thought they would be captured therefore plunged to their deaths. This is how Le Morne (mournful one) got its name.
Two natural wonders are located in the southwest Mauritius. One of them is Charamel Falls is a long thin strand dropping 83m among the lush tropical vegetation.
The other is Chamarel Coloured Earths. Brilliant mixture colours of yellow, red, brown, purple mixed into each other is believed to happen as a result of uneven cooling of molten rock. Next to this is a big pen with three giant tortoises.
Mauritius, or as the French call it Ile Maurice, has its good share of beaches. I can see why Gris Gris is known as “black magic” with the rugged coastline, crashing waves. There are signs to warn the dangers of swimming.
Once the capital of Mauritius, Mahebourg is only 20 minutes by local bus from Blue Bay. It was difficult to figure out when the bus schedule. I read it left every half an hour but it was more like 20 minutes to get there with a 40-minute smoke break. Ah it doesn’t matter. It’s all in good fun!
After reading my emails at Cybersurf, the man who took my money pointed to the restaurant for my lunch. I gave the Le Vielle Rouge Restaurant just around the corner. After a plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine, I set off to explore this laid back town.
Mahebourg has no high-rise development. I strolled the side streets and found a couple of sites such as the National History Museum depicting the history of Mauritius. And not far is the buttered coloured Notre Dame des Anges (1849).
With the blistering sun beating down, I decided to hang around the waterfront. Across the Grand Bay is a small island. Lion Mountains in the background grace the area. I couldn’t think of a better way to cap off the day before I grabbed the bus back to Blue Bay.
In Port Louis, the capital, I sat outside a couple of warm nights to be entertained by the awesome fireworks display. The New Years celebration lasts one week in Mauritius.
Port Louis is a modern city with its skyline cradled by mountains. Caudran Waterfront, built in 1996, has sophisticated shops and cafes. But it’s the “old” side of any city I’d rather be.
I walked in the underground path from the waterfront toward the market. Anywhere I travel, I love going to the local markets. The Central Market, built 1884, is the heart and soul of the city. The vibrant market had everything such as colourful fresh fruits and vegetables, arts & crafts, clothes. But it’s the locals I love being a part of watching their day-to-day life and maybe strike up a conversation or two along the way.
Near Chinatown is Jummah Mosque, the largest and most important in Mauritius. The exquisite white mosque (1850) is a delightful blend of Indian, Creole and Islamic architecture.
Place S Bissoondoyal is a beautiful royal palm lined boulevard. Lined along the road are royal palm trees to grab a shade relief from the blaring sun. At the end of the road is an impressive French colonial Government House (1738) with a statue of Queen Victoria.
Back at the Caudan Waterfront, I used Zenith Internet to read and send emails. In the same building I stopped for a cold beer and some French fries at Caffea Caban. I sat back, watched the people and looked over at the other side of the waterfront. I closed my eyes for a moment. This is the life.
Mauritius is a land of many cultures, beaches and plenty to see and do. A week is not enough. I hope to one day visit this paradise again.