Ships, Planes, Trains and River boats taking us through Asia, Middle East, Africa, Baltic, England, Paris and Amsterdam through to Budapest...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

26 Mauritius Photos


26 Mauritius

Woke up very early this morning and opened the curtains to find that we were floating outside the break waiting for our pilot to come on board and take us into port... with these small islands being so close it has been nothing to wake up during the night and find us biding our time like this.

Our ship docked at Port Louis, our gateway to exploring the island of Mauritius. There were 24 on Brian’s tour today, but that was ok because we were to have 2 buses of 12 .... 2 drivers (naturally) and one guide to be shared...

Well someone decided to make a little money and turned up with a 30 seater, a driver/guide and a trainee driver to observe....  This was not kosher here, so Brian was on the phone to the company as he specifically paid to have the extra bus and we were not happy that our driver was trying to juggle the steering wheel and a microphone at the same time.... plus we had to use those damn jump seats again...  The upshot was we decided to stay with one bus as it would take an hour to get another, the trainee became our driver and our driver became our guide.  Though as a guide he made a good driver as trying to get information from him was like pulling teeth.... Being asked the basic questions we managed to get some information about the island, otherwise it was like he was along for the ride...  Even at each stop he was staying with the bus instead of taking us and explaining what we were seeing...

As we drove to our first destination we were amazed how sprawled-out the city was.  Unlike the Seychelles where you drive out of the port straight into the country areas, here we drove for some distance and we felt we were still in suburbia.  Our stop was at Floreal to a small factory where they make model wooden ships.  We were taken through the workshop where it was all explained and we could watch as they went on with their intricate work, then at the end shown how well they can be packed for you to take one home.  Of course at the end you are ushered into the showroom where ships of all types and sizes were on display.  On saying all that, I would have to say that some of the work just took your breath away.  There were scale models of the Batavia, Titanic and even the Sapphire Princess.

Our next stop was the Trou aux Cerfs.  This is a crater that is 85 m deep and 200 m wide. This was one of the unfortunate moments when an informative guide would have peaked your interest and explained exactly what you were looking at.  It was deep and lush with a small lake down in the middle, but what peaked everyone’s interest here was the man selling strawberries which to us looked like a mixture of a strawberry and raspberry.   The gentleman dipped them in sugar then let us all have a try..... Very nice.

At Grand Bassin we stopped at one of the tallest statues of Shiva also known as Mangal Mahadev.  Hinduism is one of the largest religions practiced in Mauritius and as you drive past this statue you end up at the Sacred Lake.  A natural lake that rests in the crater of a volcano with many small temples built around it.  Each year it is a place of pilgrimage where believers will walk to and then walk back home.  A few of us stopped to be blessed by a priest in the Jain temple - we had our third eye painted on for a small donation.  Not sure why the Jains are not a dying race as part of their beliefs are chastity and non-attachment.  This was a very interesting stop and one of the highlights.

We stopped in the Black River Gorges national park where a small market was also set up on the way to the lookout over the Gorge which included a waterfall. By this time we were ready for lunch, and as we were still up in the mountains the views were spectacular from our restaurant Le Chamarel, which is also the name of area that we were in....  Lunch here was delicious with a Heart palm salad.... yes I know, a palm tree had to die in order for us to try this.... but they do farm them for eating. Next course was Fish pan fried with white butter sauce flavoured with coconut cream, and dessert was a Banana spring roll served with coconut icecream and chocolate sauce.  This looked so delicious that I forgot to take a picture of it before  I finished it.

Another highlight of the day was visiting Chamarel Village - here it looked like a small plantation of Coffee beans, palm trees and banana trees.  First we stopped at a waterfall where the vantage point gave you a spectacular view. Then we moved on to the seven coloured earth of Chamarel ,an area of undulating mounds that have formed beautiful patterns with its various shades of red, brown, grey and purple. 

Completing our loop we started heading back to Port Louis with one last visit at the Casela Bird Park. A beautiful park, but just enough time to properly visit its many different species of Birds and many other types of wildlife.

Apart from our little hiccup in the morning it all ended up being a good and enjoyable day in Mauritius.


Friday, April 25, 2014

25 Mahe, Seychelles

As today was the 25th April we started our day with an ANZAC dawn service in the Tahitian Lounge.  The group of veterans onboard put together a program to commemorate our fallen. 
We have just had 5 days at sea so it was a pleasant sight to see Port Victoria looming up.  Your first thought is that it reminds you of a small Tahiti. Everyone has a view... houses are perched on the sides of the mountains.  Even the cemetery has a prime spot along with the jail that looks like it would command a spectacular view...
The centre of town was not far from where we docked and you could either take the 15 minute walk or catch the shuttle at $8 each way.
We had a tour booked that took us all around the island for a full day trip.  Our guide Alrick from  did a wonderful job, and yes, he was one of those guides who gives pop quizzes at the end.  We did a tour of Victoria town, first visiting a Hindu temple which I would have to say looked sparkly and new.  What drew us inside was the music being played by a couple of believers inside.  Across the road was the Victoria Markets. Lots of fresh fruit, crafts and spices. Here they are big on all types of spice that has been introduced to the island over the years.  Cinnamon is the most common spice found on the island.  The smell of freshly scraped cinnamon off a tree is just amazing... much sweeter than the stuff you get from the supermarket back home.
Victoria was a-buzz, as in the afternoon marked the start of their Carnivale.  The streets were decorated and the stalls were starting to be set up for the party. It is a shame the ship could not have stayed till late in the evening so we could have participated.... I mean we have 2 sea days to get to Mauritius and we are cruising so slowly at the moment that you would think we were going backwards.
Now the island is only 11 miles wide and 27 miles long so the only reason it might take you a little longer to get to places is that the roads going up and down the mountain are very windy.  Now speaking of mountains and windy roads, when we sailed in this morning we saw a huge set of buildings right on the peak of one of the mountains... We assumed it was a hotel... no, it is Sheik Khalifa of Abu Dhabi’s holiday home...
Anyway back to the matter at hand... After leaving Victoria we drove over to Beau Vallon, a beautiful stretch of beach where the water looked crystal clear and so inviting.  Just across the way you could see the little island that William and Kate rented out for their honeymoon.
We may joke about Pirates on our ship, but to the Seychelles it is a big problem.  Fishing is their second biggest commodity, but their fishermen are always at risk.... these Somali pirates have been spotted not far from these islands in front of us...  Thanks to the naval forces that patrol these areas, pirate activity has dropped considerably.
Next we were taken up into the Morne National Park to Mission Lodge.  Before we reached there, Alrick had a little surprise for us and we pulled over to the side of the road where we got to see the giant Tortoises. Dozens of them just as interested in us and we were with them, living together with goats... yes goats...
At the top of the mountain sits Mission Lodge, the site of a school built in the 1800’s to educate freed slave children.  There was a group of school children also there having a bit of clean up of the area. They had fun posing for our cameras.  From the remains of the lodge the views were just spectacular.
This tour reminded me of our day in Crete where our driver would jump out of his taxi every now and then, grab some herbs from the side of the road for us to smell... Alrick was doing the same thing, mints and lemongrass amongst the few.
Along the way Alrick would point out the public housing.  In the Seychelles if you have nowhere to live the government would give you a home which you would pay a small rent for.  If after a period of time you were a good tenant and paid on time they would sign the house over to you.
Teasing us a little more we were taken to another pristine beach at Grand Anse where we could see the beautiful blue waters of all different hues, and views of the most expensive resort on the island.
On the island they have just built a university with the main reason being to keeping their educated on the island... Previously children would travel to other countries to study and would not return finding more opportunities.
As we drove around the coastline hunger was starting to get the better of us, and at Anse Royale Bay we stopped at a restaurant called Kaz Kreole.  As we walked out the back into the dining area memories of Bloody Mary’s in Bora Bora came flooding back with the tables on sandy floors.  Well what do you know...  who also should be there having lunch but our new favourite Captain Riky...  Did I mention how he met us on the steps of the ship this morning and escorted us down the gangway.... What a man!!!!   He probably thought “oh no, here’s Princess” we thought “Oh Yeah Captain” .... So of course you can never go pass another photo opportunity...  ok so he may think that I am a stalker.... but hey, he always greets me by name now.....  yes and I do look into his eyes adoringly .... but Garry says that I seem to miss the fact that he rolls them LOL....
After that excitement we sat down to a lovely curry lunch and nice cold local beer.  If only we could go out for a swim at the beach we were overlooking, but time was escaping us once again.
We made a quick stop at the Takamaka rum distillery, then onto the Domaine de Val des Pres Craft Village where we walked through a plantation style home and visited several small craft shops also on the property. 
Then back to the ship after a full day’s trip right around the island... When we returned we realised how lucky we were as see to miss the rains... everyone spoke of the heavy downpours... how lucky were we, we only experienced a few spots every now and again...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

So frustrating

I can’t seem to send any pictures with my blog... Thankyou Princess for changing to a new internet satellite system!!
So you will have to use your imaginations while I tell you about our adventures.... I will add pictures when the internet improves....