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.