Fun at Ile Maurice (Part I)

7th April: – On the way to the airport

It was in the year 2008, my first true holiday anywhere and I inaugurated it with a trip to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean. As my sister and I left for the airport I couldn’t stop grinning. Even as we were getting ready I was all cheerful and joking around. My folks too couldn’t help but notice the glee on my face. At the airport there was a lot of hustle bustle happening with people scurrying to join the security lines at the airport entrance. With the formalities completed all we had to do, was wait.

Our flight was around 4 A.M. so we couldn’t catch up on much sleep. Even the lounge looked uninteresting what with renovations going on. So we chit chatted to keep awake and whiled away time. Then we heard the familiar boarding call and thus the boarding began. As we got to our seats and sat down I looked out of the window and you could see the lights twinkling on the runway in the dark silent night. It was quite a pretty sight.  Soon, we took off.

The much awaited holiday had finally begun.

After twenty or thirty minutes they came around handing over the menu card on which were the following options: – vegetarian and non-vegetarian. That sure made it difficult to choose! Post dinner, I plugged the earphones in my ears and watched a bit of You’ve Got Mail and drifted off into slumber zone. Or at least I tried. What with the engine noise and people creating their own snoring music, it was hard to catch up on some good sleep.

We woke up to bright sunshine sauntering in and I gave a quick look see at the in-flight map. We were just a few minutes away. As we approached the airport the scene was breathtaking. We could see different shades of blue and green clear water. The beaches literally looked like they were screaming and welcoming us from below. But one thing that clearly stood in my mind was the greenery. It was amazing!

We touched down safely a little after noon (Mauritius time), completed all the required formalities and waited outside for our tour operator. He was a pleasant chatty guy and took us along to another spot where the wait for the remainder members of the group took place. We were a group of people (most of them were married couples, which I found very odd to be placed amongst them) living in different hotels but come down for the same tour. After everyone arrived we got into the van and were on our way to the hotel. Since our hotel (Le Palmiste) was the stop last, my sister and I tried to catch up on forty winks during the one hour journey. I did open my eyes at intervals and more than once was greeted by the sight of tons of sugar cane fields. Even if you nodded off for hours together you wouldn’t miss them. There were that many fields.

At about 3 P.M. we reached our hotel and waited at the reception feeling all drowsy and hungry. As we registered ourselves the receptionist gave us lovely refreshment drinks which tasted divine and some soft warm towels for us to freshen up. We were allotted our rooms and off we went.

Within a few minutes however, we were told our guide for the tour had arrived to discuss the week’s agenda. We trooped off to meet him and there again was a pleasant looking chap who asked us if we had any problems with the traffic! We were taken aback at that and just stared at him.

“What traffic? I didn’t see any traffic” I said. “Well, wait till tomorrow and then tell me if you weren’t disturbed by the traffic” he said. We smiled at him politely thinking ‘if he only knew what traffic is.’ After giving a review of the week’s schedule, he bid goodbye.

At last we were allowed to go to our rooms and crash. That’s probably the last thing you would hear from a holidaying person but we were famished and exhausted. So after a nice long shower and some food tucked neatly in our tummies, we spent the remaining few hours strolling nearby our hotel till it was dinner and sleep time.

8th April: – The South Tour, The Ship Factory, Trous Aux Cerf, Grand Basinn and Chamarel

At 7:30 A.M., my sister and I were breakfasting like a king. They had various loaves of bread, butter, eggs, baked beans, boiled potatoes, milk, juices… the list goes on. Since we weren’t sure what time we would have our lunch, we decided to fill up real nice.

I was pretty excited to zip off to the South of Mauritius. As soon as our guide came, we left and picked up the others at their respective hotels. Once done, our guide gave us a brief description of the places we would visit. As we hit the road, I remembered the guy from the previous day saying something about the traffic and so kept an eye out for it. Ten minutes later, I gave up. I barely saw two or three cars drive by or even traffic signals for that matter. People there follow rules and let others pass by; they don’t use the horn; AT ALL. Our first stop was the Ship Factory and not once did I hear a horn beep till we got there.

At the ship factory

A ship in a bottle

A huge ship in a glass case

At the Ship Factory we got to see model ships built from scratch. We got to know a lot of interesting facts too. For example:- to make the sail of a ship look like how they were during the olden times, they dip a white cloth in tea to give it that old rusty kind of look. The detailed work on the sails, the way they were stitched up to the ships was totally amazing. There were all kinds of gift replicas of major ships on sale along with the ‘ship in the bottle’ stuff. Unfortunately they were priced quite high so we skipped buying the bottle ones and instead opted for a non-bottled one.

Our next stop was a dormant volcano known as Trous Aux Cerf. Now, the roads of Mauritius are a bit winding which resulted in me feeling a little queasy. A little tip: – if you suffer from motion sickness, take your medication BEFORE you set out for the day. It helps far better than actually beginning your journey, feeling queasy and then taking it.

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Back to the volcano, it has been dormant for a really long time but there is nothing to say that it will never erupt again. At a height of 1,985 feet, it is only accessible via a steep embankment. Needless to say it is considered dangerous and hence you can’t get right up to it. But we did get a good view of it from the road. Standing there and taking pictures looked like a typical touristy thing but we really didn’t care. For those few minutes our attention was solely on the view.

Next stop was a waterfall nearby. But the queasiness that I earlier felt came full on which resulted in me shutting up and not saying a word every time we got into the van. Luckily the ride was a short one and then a few minutes climb up to the fall. I was more than glad to be out of that van. The minute we reached the fall, everything disappeared from my mind.

The waterfall was a gorgeous sight and we were lucky enough to see a rainbow streaking across it. Motion sickness be damned! We spent some time there and then headed off for lunch. That did me no good at all for I could barely eat a morsel of food. But, a distress call to a doctor friend, advice from her and a tablet gulped down… I was a little better to continue for the day.

Grand Basinn or Ganga Talao is a temple cum lake situated deep in the heart of Mauritius.

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Just outside the temple was this amazingly huge statue of Lord Shiva. At the entrance is a huge pond filled with joyously swimming fishes. The pond and the water were so clear that it was no surprise that we could actually see even the tiniest fish swim.  We were given sometime here and then we headed towards The Land of Seven Colours.

Chamarel or The Land of Seven Colours is just that. There are seven shades of sand dunes and none of them are man made. It is one of the most frequented places there. It is all natural and is fiercely protected by the Mauritian people. As a result no one is allowed near it. They have a large fence surrounding it and warning signs all over the place. We were given quite a bit of time there since it was the last visit for the day.

94  The Land of Seven Colours

96 View of  The Land of Seven Colours

91 Giant turtles

So my sister and I wandered around admiring the one of a kind nature, trying to figure out the various shades of the sand, counting the countless number of trees and getting a glimpse of large turtles slumbering away in peace.

Having swallowed a tablet for the queasiness, the hour and a half ride back to the hotel was a much better one. Of course, it did serve as reminder for the remainder of the holiday too! The drive back was eventful what with sugar cane fields and a warm fuzzy sunset as company.

Dinner by the pool with a gentle soothing cool breeze, soft music playing in the background… I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.

9th April: – La Belle Mare and Il Aux Cerf

Today was a day at the beaches. You could walk, you could build sandcastles, you could sit and read, you could choose from various adventure sports… my sister and I chose the less expensive option of walking on the beach, reading etc. The adventure stuff was just too expensive. So following the same ritual of picking up people from other hotels, off we went to our first beach, La Belle Mare.

122 View from the beach

129 View from the beach

144 The way we entered the beach

Almost everyone chose the five minute underwater walk so my sister and I used the time to go on long walks on the sandy beach and also in the clear blue/green water. Quite a few boats lolled about but nowhere on the sea. They were all on the beach except for the one that took the others for their underwater walk.

Before we knew it they were heading back. They barely had a couple of minutes to go under and feed the fishes. For the absurd amount they charged you’d think they would give them a little more time. It made me feel glad that my sister and I opted to spend that time walking on the beach instead. In fact, at none of the beaches did we opt for any adventure since almost all of them would put a whole through Gulliver’s pocket, forget my own!

The next activity being Para Sailing, not many chose to go. But we were allowed to watch the para sailors. It was a quick whip around the sea for them.

View from on board

192 The guide guiding the landing of a para sailing couple

198 On thw way

It was all going smoothly till the last couple strapped themselves up and started off. I’ve often heard people say ‘travel light’. But I’ve never heard anyone say carry your suitcase with you every day.

That is exactly what the last couple had done. Thankfully they did not take it para sailing with them. But the husband botched the ‘touchdown’ and instead splashed his wife and himself into the water for quick dip in the sea. I guess carrying that suitcase was a blessing for them after all! Unfortunately they couldn’t find a place to change and had to travel to the next beach wearing wet clothes. His wife sure didn’t enjoy the ‘dip in the sea’ what with the murderous look she gave him.

The next beach was called Il Aux Cerf, another of those beautiful breathtaking beaches. If someone asked me to choose amongst them, I’d probably choose all. But this being the largest beach, I voted for this one.

150  One sdie of Il Aux Cerf Beach

159 View from the speed boat tour of Il Aux Cerf

181 Turning  away from the waterfall

With a little over an hour speed boat trip around the beach, it was our first ‘adventure’ ride in Mauritius. After the joyride, we were dropped off at the other end of the beach, given a time frame to spend time on the beach for lunch and general idling around. At the end of the day, we headed back to our meeting spot, hopped in to the speed boat, reached the starting point of the beach, hopped into our van and we were done for the day. It was then back to the hotel, a nice shower and dinner and time for a good night’s sleep as we bid adieu to the Southern side of Mauritius.

©NJ

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