Last weekend my plans changed from a typical holidaymaker’s view at the beach to what the residents actually see. Some interesting things and some images that struck me. It is not all sandy beaches, luxury hotels and turquoise lagoons!
The Mauritian flag is made up of four bands ; red for bloodshed, blue for the Indian Ocean, green for the lush, tropical vegetation and yellow for independence and golden sunshine. It proudly flies everywhere on the island. I bought a tie with these colours, unwittingly, many years ago. It has come with me.
There are a lot of statues in public and historical places, one of the most famous is of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, (SSR), ‘The Father of the Nation’, the first Prime Minister of Mauritius, who led the island to independence in 1968. Many Mauritians on their way to work pass through the road SSR is looking up at.
In the centre there are many offices, banks, local businesses and skyscrapers. Having walked for five minutes or so, the heat and humidity warms your body so much that it can be both a shock and a relief to go into an air conditioned building and see Christmas decorations accompanied by traditional songs referring to snow and winter wonderlands! (I haven’t found any Christmas cards yet but I am looking; six days until the last day to post!)
The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) Head Office is a stunning 10 storey, 10,000 square metre building, at a business area in the centre of the island. It uses recycled products in its furniture, harvests rainwater, has low energy lighting and is strategically placed between North and South to virtually remove all direct solar gains. It may remind you of the media centre at the MCC at Lords cricket ground.
In contrast, the local market in Curepipe has a brightly coloured set of chimneys above which advertise one of the best known local brands, a paint producer.
This is an historic fruit and vegetable market right in the centre of the city, bustling with activity and character whilst offering the freshest of produce. The first things that hits you as you enter are the colours lit up by shafts of brilliant sunshine from vents in the roof. These photographs show this so much better than I can describe.
There are many stalls selling similar merchandise, everyone calling for customers in a very friendly way. Not many tourists are inside, they are outside the market seeking souvenirs in the adjoining street (unlikely to have been made on the island though). One enterprising trader was even offering sliced vegetables ready to put straight into a soup.
A few stalls are offering herbs and spices, milled ones are the only thing you will find wrapped in cling film in this market. Some are offering herbs to cure any illness or impediment from asthma to gout, PMT to cellulite, even an aphrodisiac root is available for those who need it!
It was lunchtime during the visit and I was now feeling hungry. The street food on offer is exceptional, not only in taste but also in value. A Dholl Puri, probably the most popular Mauritian dish on offer, and a Farata cost 12 Mauritian rupees each (£0.22) and a glass of Alouda to drink it with, 20 rupees (£0.36). Delicious. It was a good recommendation to queue at Mr Maraz’s stall, his was the most popular too.
Cakes in various shapes and sizes looked very tempting but too filling for today; maybe next time.
After a few hectic weeks of packing, clearing, goodbyes and mild panic, Mauritian immigration greeted me warmly on my arrival at Plaisance airport. I am finally here, I thought. During my first few days on the island it has been a pleasure to meet so many friendly people who could not have done more to make me feel so welcome.
I have only had one real challenge so far that vexed me a little! I brought two suitcases with me and having opened the first at my temporary address (I move to Tamarin on the West Coast in December) I tried to open the second. The combination lock had jammed! Rather than resort to brute force I decided to leave it for the moment and manage with the clothes I had. I tried again a few days later and voila it opened as if by magic.
The weather has been splendid, the food delicious and the views amazing. You know you are in Mauritius when you see a view like I did in the wing mirror of my car on the first day I drove it from the dealer’s showroom.
Caudan waterfront was not too busy when I went for a walk and a cool drink in the afternoon. The shops were diverse and interesting and one walkway showed that umbrellas are not just there to keep the rain off! I am also looking forward to the freshly prepared vegetarian wraps at the Kauai restaurant.
I have had walks on the beach in Grand Baie, Pereybere, La Preneuse and Belle Mare and obviously had to enjoy the sea; is the water really 25 degrees all year around?
I managed to have an hour’s snorkelling in Blue Bay where I was amazed to see so many colourful fish so close to the beach.
This is a wonderful island with so much to explore, discover and enjoy.