4th February 2016 Mauritius
The beautiful island of Mauritius and Linda´s birthday.
Thank yuo so much for all the many birthday wishes and the emails about my “Blog”.
We are really pleased that so many of you are following our trip and enjoying reading about our adventures. It is relatively easy for us to receive emails on the ship but terrible trying to send emails out. It takes so long on the ship´s server and is consequently very expensive. So any emails to be sent and updates to our blog, have to wait for our land excursions.
Today we took off on a private tour again. We have made friends with a couple from Munich, Wolfgang and Rose and they joined us.
Mauritus: We docked in Port Louis which is the capital of Muiritius. Mauritius is dominated by the moonscaped mountains (the Pitons) that dominate the island´s interior. surrounded by fields of sugar cane. Shaped like an oyster, volcanic in origin, and surrounded by coral roofs, Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean due east of Madagascar on what was a land bridge between Asia and Africa. The island covers an area of 720 square miles and has a population of just over one million people. Port Louis on the north west coast is the capital and main port. Mauritius remained an unhabited island until the late 16th century. In 1510 the Portugeese visited the island and called it Cisne (Swan), possibly after the legendary DODO (A bird which is now extinct). They soon moved on and it was not until the end of the century that the Dutch took possession and called the island Mauritius after King Maurice of Nassau. The Dutch left the island in 1710 leaving behind them two not such good memories. During their time on the island slaves had been introduced to work on the sugar cane fields and the legendary DODO was a bird of the past. In 1721 the French were fast to see the positive developments this island could undertake and moved in renaming the island “Ile de France”. Sugar plantations were re-established and the island was used as a naval base in the early 19th century against the <ritish.
The British were not putting up with this and took ownership of the island in 1814. They renamed the island back to Mauritius. Slavery was abolished in 1835 but the island still remained French at heart. In 1968 Mauritius became an independent country within the Commonweqlth of Nations and on March 12th 1992 it became a republic. Sugar is still and important money maker, as is tourism, but surprisingly Mauritius is the world´s third largest exporter of knitwear. English remains the official language, however French and Creole are widely spoken in everyday life. The Euro and US Dollar are accepted currency although it is adviseable to have some local currency (Mauritian dollars).
Our tour: Peter and I had read up on the island and made a plan of what we wanted to see. As Wolfgang and Rose had not done this they fit in with our suggestions.
Our taxis driver Kasmin spoke excellent English. The price was agreed upon before we departed, €130,- for the car for the day, to be divided between the 4 of us. (Tip: Never pay the driver until you return to where you need to get to!). This was a good deal considering most people were paying far more per person for tours inlduing less than what we had on our list. Kasmin´s car was new, large and comfortable.
We set off heading for a model ship maker´s factory and salesroom. Mauritius is well known for its model ship builders. It was very interesting and we were tempted to buy a small model ship but eventually decided against such.
After this we headed to the Volcano crater Trou aux Cerfs which is no longer active. We had a very good view back to the pitons and over the city.
Next on our list was an historical manor house Eureke Colonial House from the 19th century. This is now a sales centre for antiques and carpets. We did not stay too long as we were not interested in buying carpets!
Thereafter we headed to the important Hindu statue of Mahdaf (Sheba-Male and Torgama (female). I don´t know if I have spelt that correctly. This statue was most impressing. Extremely well built and nearby to several Hindu temples that we visited at Grand Bassin. This is considered a sacred lake for the Hindu community. It is said that the water in the lake communicates with the Ganges in India, making it a site for pilgrimage for Mauritian Hindus.
We spent time walking round the lake and admiring the Hindu statues.
I am afraid I cannot write much about this because neither Peter nor myself understand the Hundu religion.
On our way out we saw the workers coming out of the fields. They had to walk to the factory to eliver their tea pickings and it was really a long walk after working all day in the fields. We have been told that the workers earn approx.. $6 - $8 per day. They start early in the morning around 5 am before it gets too hot and were finishing at 1.30 p.m. when we left the area.
On the way to our next destination the Charmarel sand, we stopped at the beautiful Charmarel Waterfalls. This is one of the larger waterfalls on the island at Charmarel and is in a National Park.
We wanted to see the famous 7 sands. It is an area which contains 7 different types and coloured sands. The interesting thing is that if you mix the sands they fall apart again into the individual colours. Amazing. The soil´s colourful hues of red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow never erode in spite of torrential downpours and adverse climate conditions. The 7 coloured earth dunes which can reach up to 15 meters thick,
Contain ancient activitiy of geoclimatic events. This profound and ultimate decomposition has left on-site iron and aluminium oxides. Iron and aluminium repel each other and gather spontaneously in colourful stripes. The ferric oxide gives the land shades ranging from red to brown. The aluminium gives the land shades from blue to violet blue.
Wolfgang mentioned that he would love to drink some fresh coconut milk so on the return journey Kasin, our driver, saw some and we stopped to buy one and enjoy the milk and some pieces of coconut.
Our driver was very helpful and showed us another scenic view on the way back.
There was a monkey sitting on the wall being fed by tourists. Careful! These monkeys can get vicious. You should not get too near to them as one of the tourists experienced. He could have been badly injured.
The view was wonderful and in spite of the light mist we had a good view.
Time to get back to our ship. On our way back we saw some school children in uniforms. A reminder of the British influence on the island.
We had a great day touring and saw quite a lot of the island and learned a lot about the history and culture of Mauritius.
Peter and I had received a bottle of champagne from Cunard when joining the ship in Hamburg. We had saved this for my birthday. So when the ship sailed away from Mauritius in the dark we stood on the open deck watching the beautiful lights of Port Louis as we sailed out with a glass of champagne celebrating my birthday and the fact that we are fortunate to be here doing what we are. We love every minute of it all.
We raised our glasses to all of you, our family and friends back home who are so important to us. Thanks again for all your emails and greetings. Cheers everyone – thinking of you all!
Tip: April 1896 - Mark Twain wrote: Mauritius was created before paradise came into being and set an example for the later. Sorry Mark – we disagree. This island is said to be one of the most beautiful ever. Sorry, we did not think so. The North West coast is a beach area and said to be very beautiful. We did not have time to visit this area. So we cannot comment on it. We enjoyed our visit to the central part and south. It was very interesting learning about the island and its culture. Yes. It has a flavour and attraction of its own but opinions vary on what beautiful means. Thank goodness we all have different opinions, otherwise we would all be overcrowded in the same place and the same paradise!
The highlight of our tour – A visit to a “Tea plantation.”
As big tea drinkers, Peter and I wanted to visit a tea plantation and enjoy a tea tasting experience, which we did. Our driver drove us to a local plantation where we watched the workers in the fields and then visited a tea factory where the production was explained. Thereafter we visited a Tea House overlooking a most beautiful lake/park. What a wonderful atmosphere for a tea tasting experience. We sat for quite a while taken in by our beautiful surroundings. We sat overlooking a lake which had been carefully landscaped with beautifull flowering trees and palm trees with a small gap in the middle so that we were able to view the green lush forests in the far distance. It was easy to imagine the British in the 19th century sitting here enjoying afternoon tea!