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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together


UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 15 October 2007 | Views [2121]

Mon 8th Oct - Arrived at Sir Seewoosagur airport (orig known as Plaisance) on time. The Air Madagascar service is really good, the food, staff etc are super. Normal landing stuff - first off, the entry visa. Free in this case and a health registration check. Couldn't belive it, but waltzed through the admin stuff and ass soon as I walked out into baggage reclaim my backpack was coming around on the carousel. Picked it up, straight to the bureau de change followed by the ATM and hey presto, my driver was waiting for me. About the slickest arrival I have ever had I think!

Dark, 28 degrees and starting to rain - apparently, this part of the island is regularly like this. Mr Anwar, the driver I had booked was great and we covered a lot of stuff on the journey across the island to Port Louis. Will be using his services again I'm sure. Some quick factoids (sound like Steve Davies off radio) - the main language is creole french although english is widely used. They have a look that resembles a mix of indian and sri lankan. They drive on the left - a legacy from the earlier british days, they use the british 13A plug! The currency is the Mauritius Rupee. Currently about 60 to the brit pound.

My home whilst I'm here is the superb Villa Jorico, run by the terrific Mary and Eric. A colonial style place with swimming pool facing the Indian ocean - simply a brilliant place to stay, away from the rat race and time to reflect on stuff to date. Free broadband internet too! If you ever come to Mauritius, I highly recommend it.

Apart from chilling for a bit, the main objective of my time here is to get my visa for India. First thing in the morning off to the embassy in town to face the beaurocracy.

Tue 9th Oct - Visa day! Up early to get a taxi to the Indian embassy. More forms to fill in than the one I had downloaded and the cost was higher at 1500 rupees. Also it will take 5 days to process so had to change my flight to Mumbai to a later date. That gives me over a week in Mauritius which is fine - I expected it. So went straight to the air mauritius building further along the same road and got my flight changed. All sorted so then headed off to the Port Louis waterfront. This is really attractive and will be even better when they have finished the building work. It has some great shopping malls and a craft centre, where you can buy every form of dodo you can think of - wood, glass, cloth, raffia, etc. In case you didn't know, the flightless dodo used to hang out here until it was hunted to extinction because the poor bugger couldn't run fast enough or fly. So now they celebrate the fact that they killed it off by selling memorabilia to its demise!

It is actually a cheap place to buy stuff as well as eat. Spent quite a bit of time looking around and chilling over a coffee talking to a family from cheshire. Saw some cardinal birds flying around - bright orange version.

Like Capetown in South Africa, Port Louis is overlooked by a mountain. Although not on the same scale, the 'Pieter Both' mountain is unusual in that it has a big boulder precariously balanced on top of it that looks ready to topple. By the way, Port Louis was named after France's 18th century king Louis the XV. He was disliked for a while and the port was temporarily renamed Port Napoleon but went back to Louis when it was back under british control - thought I would throw that little snippet in to broaden your worldly knowledge - I digress! Then headed off to the older part of town past the coastguard harbour and a windmill that's there. Not a flippin clue why as a snotty official moved me on before I had chance to ask about it. The git - got my own back and flicked a fake bogey at him when he turned his back...ha! It's been one of those days so forgive me..The old part is very different, especially the markets. These are sectioned off into fruit&veg, spices, fish, beef, pork, and goat! The fruit & veg was like a rainbow of colour and every variation you could imagine. As there is a very heavy indian influence here, it was a riot of colour throughout, with a lot of the local women out shopping for their daily food dressed in saris of every colour. The fish section was full of many tropical species including massive Angel fish and stunning multicoloured fish that really should have been released back to swim again. A photography paradise! Out on the streets you can buy a whole range of produce that you won't see anywhere else in the world, from fruits tbrough to snacks and medicines. You can get a spice for treating over-heating even. I had a fresh pineapple which did the same thing and more healthy.

Further on into town up the palm tree lined place d'armes (officially renamed 'Place Sookdeo Bissoondoyal' but not suprisingly still called by its old name) with its many noteable statues to people who have made their contribution and into the tranquil 'company gardens'. Many years ago this was a swampy burial ground which was later changed to vegatable gardens for the passing ships. It was later drained and became the present gardens and part of it the old market. It is also home to the 'ladies of the night' but here they also come out during the day. I sat down on a bench to admire the incredible banyan trees, bottle palm trees and baobab trees, and within minutes was approached by two of them touting for business! Now that's why it's called 'company' gardens! Just not the sort of company I was thinking of!

The struggle for freedom seems to play a big part in local history as there are monuments everywhere celebrating it as well as museums.

Decided to head off to the bus station to try out the local buses for size. Not to mind bending to work out which one of the grubby objects to get on although the numbering system is completely random. Was pleased to hear that it was only going to cost 16 rupees to get back - considering it cost me 300 to get the taxi in and that was a shorter distance! There was a catch....showed him where I needed to get off...the sod told me to get off at the wrong place, so I was a couple of miles or so from where I needed to be. Oh the joyous thoughts I had. Someone else I would have liked to kill today! Anyway, It gave me the opportunity to fathom out where the hell I was and get back with not an english speaking person in sight. Very useful opportunity as a traveller. Made it by navigating by luck and good judgement and threw myself in the swimming pool within seconds of getting there, then pulled up a sun lounger by the beach and gazed into the Indian ocean to obsorb the day's events and watch their pet dog sniffing its arse. Well something had to spoil the idyllic sounding setting didn't it?

Ordered a takeaway dinner from a local restaurant washed down wish some bubbly that Eric and the lovely Maria provided and chatted about stuff with the other inmates Olivier from Madrid and Andrew from China.

Eric is well into fishing and you couldn't pick a nicer place for it. Maria teaches English as a second language at local french schools. They used to live in Belgium until they wanted to have kids. They both wanted their kids to play on a beach in a sunny climate so sold up and moved here. I understand what a tough decision that must have been!

Wed 10th Oct - Can now settle down and chill for a bit as loads of time to do the sightseeing. Booked some digs for Goa - got a friend coming out for a couple of weeks so looking forward to that. Went walkabout and got a haircut at 100 MRs which is cheap. One of the inmates here is from China so looked into my plan for there - he might even be able to sort me out my own guide who is doing a qualification in tourism so I could be just right up her street!

Thu 11th Oct - Have hired a car for a few days to go exploring. It was delivered to the villa at 9am with almost no petrol in it and a bit beaten up. No form filling, asking for licence etc, just gave me the key and ran out the door! First job..find petrol. That wasted half an hour as the directions I was given were garbage. Got it eventually though..10 litres for 450 MRs (I'll let you do the maths). Headed off north as I had worked out a few loops that I can manage which would take in some interesting stuff.

First stop the wonderfully named 'Pamplemouses' and the 'Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam botanical gardens'. 300 MRs entrance and well worth it. The 24 acre site was originally the estate of Bernard Mahe de Labordonnais 'Chateau de mon Plaisir'. However, the estate was more famous when it was taken over by the keen botanist 'Pierre Poivre' who landscaped them to their present form. Mr Poivre would be better known to westerners as 'Peter Piper'...the guy who 'picked a peck of pickled pepper, and if peter piper picked a peck of pickled pepper, then which was the peck of pickled pepper that Peter Piper picked!' I think he should stick to planting shrubs rather than pickling anything?

The gardens are wonderful and full of exotics. Two of the many features are a large lotus lily pond and a massive pond full of Victoria Amazonica  water lilies. I was lucky to see loads of these in flower and with lily trotter birds on them. Loads of fruit to see as well as 24 species of palms and loads of birdlife.

After lunch went to the 'l'aventure du sucre' about a kilometer away. This former sugar factory on the Beau plan estate is now a museum but there are still large areas of sugar cane surounding it. Sugar cane was introduced to the island by the dutch in 1710 (dutch east india company). Sugar was an expensive commodity in those days, so very much an item for the rich, but its properties for preserving fruit had been recognised and utilised by the very talented navys of the day.... A quick lesson on how sugar is made....The raw cane is weighed and shredded to make disintegration easier. Then it is limed with a milky fluid to reduce the acidity to PH 7.0 to 7.2. A 'flocculent' is then added which combines the particles together into flakes in suspension. Next, the juice is heated to 105degrees and then sieved to remove the fibrous particles. Excess liquid is evaporated to produce a syrup which is then clarified. The 'mud' that is removed is used as fertilizer. The syrup is then boiled in up to 3 stages to crystallise the sugars. These stages are called massecute stages A to C, making it purer each time. The 'mother liquor' is then removed in a centrifuge to leave the sugar crystals which are in the form of crusts. These are granulated or ground to form the finished product. The different types of sugars from mollasses through to brown and white sugars and caster sugars are just formed from the different stages that centrifuging is done and subsequent treatment. Lesson over folks.

Hit the A5 road north up to the beautiful indian ocean, and stopped at Grand Gaube to paddle in the turquoise sea eating fresh coconut that I prepared myself from one that had fallen from a palm tree.

Life is tough! Next stop 'Cap Malheureux' with its pretty red roofed catholic church. This looks stunning against the ocean and the multi-coloured boats. The main stop on this stretch of coast was to be at 'Grand Baie'. The main tourist centre for diving and sailing. Spent some time walking along the beach and met a couple of ladies from NW Australia so joined them for a walk and some fact finding for the future. Headed back to the villa whilst it was light, via Mount Ory and some local villages and supermarket to get some local wine to try...very nice indeed....light to quaff in vast amounts. Should help me sleep tonight!

Fri 12th Oct - This time heading south on the A3 via Bambous to the wonderfully named 'Flic en Flac'. After a nice walk along the beach, went for a swim in the ocean. Decided to find somewhere to go diving, so headed south to check out the options. The coast road passed some very opulent resorts such as La Pirogue, Sugar beach, the Hilton, Sofitel Imperial and finally The Sands. All have security entrances to keep out the riffraff. Decided to gatecrash the Hilton to see what was on offer. My lucky day as I was in time to get on a dive that was leaving from La Pirogue in under an hours time with only 1 space left. Got them to call ahead so that I didn't have any security issues. Superb resort with manicured staff as well as manicured lawns and beautiful gardens. The staff were excellent so I made the most of it.

The dive was really nice and great value at 32 euros including the kit hire for an hour's dive. Went to an area called the Aquarium. Many species of fish including some spectacular moray eels, emporer, scorpion fish and many more.

Having quenched my thirst for diving, had a bite to eat at Katy's indian fast food stall on the beach (I am in Mauritius after all!), then headed off to 'Casela Bird Park'. Whilst most of the birds are in cages, there are some superb species here, and there is an open area too where one can sit and watch the birds doing unmentionable things to each other. Some nice italian ones too! For a full list of birds send a stamped addressed envelope!

Onwards and southwards again, via the Grande Rivière Noir, to the Chamarel 7 coloured earths and the Chamarel cascades. Both within a couple of kilometres of each other in the same park. First the cascades/waterfall. Compared to some I have seen, not very exciting but nice all the same. The 7 coloured earths was more interesting. Due to the hot & humid climate the basalt has decomposed into clay to form a range of colours varying due to the breakdown of the minerals leaving iron sesquioxydes (red and brown colours) and aluminium sesquioxydes (blue and purple colours). The main problem was sharing the experience with so many other coach loads of tourists. Spoiled the ambience a bit.

It's getting late now and thoughts of not getting back north in time started to surface, so headed back. Got lost for a while as road signs are next to useless and non-existent when you get off the main roads. The internal lights weren't working in the car which made map reading a bit tricky. Got back to the villa late, so missed dinner. Shot out rapidly to the supermarket as it was to close in 20mins. Like to cook when I get the chance and got full run of the kitchen at the villa. Ended up cooking myself a really nice malaysian style dinner washed down with some nice wine. Impressive bit of ready steady cook!

Sat 13th Oct - Today is an important day in the asian calendar called 'Eid-ul-Fitr' or simply 'Eid' (pronounced eed), which marks the end of Ramadan. Literally translated, it means 'Celebration of the breaking of fasting'. As so many of the people of Mauritius are of asian desent, most shops are closed and there are lots of family gatherings going on. The women don their Churidar (chemise and trousers) and the men their Kurta (long robe and trousers). I do like the way they dress as it is great to see them together in groups...like a rainbow!

Decided to keep the car on for another day and go east. Set off on the A7 towards belle Mare.amongst many places, this road goes through 'Alma'. My mum's called Alma, so had to photograph the sign that says 'Welcome to Alma'. Nice one. Hello mum - missing you a lot and love you to bits - hope you're ok?

A majority of this country seems to be covered in sugar plantations. As a result there is a regular sweet aroma from the many sugar factories. When they aren't growing sugar cane, they grow pineapple, banana, mango, papaya, coconut and so much other stuff. Buying freshly made fruit juice at the roadside is the norm and so cheap too.

The Belle Mare area is very exclusive with some stunning resorts such as 'Le St Geran' run by the one & only hotel group, and the superb 'Le Coco Beach'. This area is where golf fanatics come to die of pleasure from overdosing on the manicured golf courses and attended on by the manicured servants, whilst sipping cocktails overlooking the postcard perfect beaches and seas. If I had the money, would spend a night just for the hell of it - but, to be honest, sad git that I am, I want to save that occasion for when i'm with someone special, not by myself! It's one of those entries in my list of places to return to one day, when I have someone to spoil.

The weather isn't that great today with a strong sea breeze and current to go with it. Stopped a few times for a paddle and to collect shells. Given up taking sea shots now as there is another superb view around every bend! Carried on south on the B59 coast road all the way to Mahébourg. Mahébourg isn't particularly interesting although it has a nice frontage. There is an odd statue of a buddah type character with an inane smile that amused me. Easy to please these days! A very pretty pier with a viewout to the île de Hangard and the nature reserve of île Aux Aigrettes. Back north along the A10 through Rose Belle, Curepipe and Rose Hill, all places that sound better than they look unfortunately. Stop for provisions at a supermarket on the way to get some provisions. Tonights meal cost the princely sum of 89 rupees!

Another long day but had to make use of the car whilst I had it. Tommorow is sunday, so will rest. This travelling lark is tiring so need a break every now and then.

Sun 14th Oct - As it's sunday, an actual day of rest. First in ages - it's amazing how tiring travelling gets - So much to do, so little time!

Managed to get onto skype and talk to folks back home. Learnt that one of my oldest aunties had passed away, which was sad news. Skype is the best thing that has happened to the net in years, especially for travellers.

The local beach had a band playing with some dancers. Bad timing though as I only heard about it at 14:50 and they stopped at 15:00. Ah well, such is life! A few chinese people arrived yesterday. One of them kept coming upto me to ask for things with gestures. It was like playing charades as she couldn't speak any english and I definitely cannot speak chinese.....funny how I can play charades with a chinese accent though...velly rubbery jubbery!

Have to contend with yet another change to my india plans. I have got to the point of realisation that planning travel is a waste of time. There isn't much of what I planned in the UK that hasn't changed in some respect. From now on the most I should attempt to plan is maybe 1 month in advance, unless there is a time constraint on a closing date for a specific tour I want to do. Generally flights in Asia are easy to sort locally and in many cases cheaper than doing it from the UK. Planning also makes it inflexible. The opposite side of the coin is that I do like to be with people, and that means being on group tours generally, and the popular ones book up quick. So, catch 22 really.

Mon 15th Oct - Important day today as going to get my Indian visa this afternoon. With the hassles I have had, I must admit to being nervous.

More research in the morning, trying to keep up to date on what the travel companies are upto. The world is growing and more exotic tours are being offered and with competition growing, the prices are reasonable. In most cases I think there is little merit in going independent from a price point of view. The main reason for independence is that you only have yourself to sort out, and if you want to change your mind you can. The downside is being alone.

Bus into town after lunch - I love the way you think the bus is going past your stop, oh no, they use their breaks to maximum effect, hurtling along at breakneck speed and then grinding to a halt in what seems zero time. It's like being on a funfare ride!

Checked arrangements for collection at the embassy then went walkabout in town. Decided to visit the 'Blue Penny' museum. Back in 1847 the governor decided to produce the first real postage stamps after the usual handwritten ones. Two denominations were manufactured by an engraver - the 1 penny red and the 2 penny blue. Two particular stamps left the country on love letters that ended up becoming famous in the philately world. They have changed hands many times ans travelled through many countries. Hiroyuki Kanai paid 680GBP for the red in 1893 and 8500GBP for the blue. In 1986 the red went for $850,000 and the blue for $750,000. They were later sold for an undisclosed sum! Not bad for a stamp eh! There are 4 unused blue stamps in existence and the queen has one of them. That's her pension sorted then!

A funny thing....the original printing plates only printed 9 stamps per plate and deteriorated with use, such that older stamps look different than the early ones. They later employed a new engraver to make new plates....he was an engraver by day and an actor by night, with no rel artistic ability. Now, the originals had a picture of queen victoria on them, the later ones were so bad they were nicknamed the dogs head stamps. What's even more funny is that they had spelling mistakes and went into circulation like that! This of course has made them very collectible. The same museum also houses a collection of early marinr maps and navigation instruments which were interesting.

Off to the embassy and....wheyhey....got my visa through. Now considering that my previous attempts at getting my indian visa met with problems, and they all wanted triplicate photos, copies of flight tickets, hotel booking forms, proof of financial status etc and then they would only give my a 3mth visa and take 10days or more to do it....here, they wanted none of that stuff and gave me a 6mth visa when I now only needed a 3mth one. Was excited so went for a beer on the water front and treated myself to a curry. The relief!!

Bus back to the digs and farewells to some folks as I will be leaving tomorrow. These people have been absolutely lovely to be with - I will definitely stay in touch. Another sad parting :-(

Tags: Sightseeing


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