Return to the country

It is a lot warmer on the West coast than in the centre of the island, maybe 5 degrees difference, and strangely less wind.  Feeling extremely hot, I jumped at the opportunity to go for a drive and a walk in the forest close to Grande Bassin.

This time the deer were not hiding.

Deer
They kept a watchful eye on us
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The trees are mirrored beautifully in the still pond, no wind here either

 

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This herd quickly got up to hide in the trees and bushes

There are thousands of deer in the forests, wild boars and hare as well. You need to keep your eyes open at all times, you never know what you might see.

This frog could jump the length of my size 10 shoe
This frog could jump the length of my size 10 shoe

I was lucky to have chosen the right clothes today as I had checked the excellent weather forecast…for once!

http://metservice.intnet.mu/probabilistic-forecast.php

 

 

A walk in the country

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Is this the real Mauritius, I thought as I walked through glades of fir trees, stepped over cones and pine needles forming a soft, spongy mattress and out into a brilliantly sunlit clearing?

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I had come to walk in the South on a baking hot day (or should that be a barking hot day?)

The wide open spaces gave no refuge from the unforgiving sun beating down. After climbing this hill it was back amongst the trees again.

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It was so cool and refreshing to walk here, picking our way carefully downhill.

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Cool streams of water tumbled over rocks reflecting the green canopy above.

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Mushrooms occasionally sprouted from the undergrowth.

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Now this actually did look like a real Christmas display at last!

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The water was crystal clear and the air so fresh.

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A few geese were getting disturbed on the walk

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Each of these seeds will grow a palm tree

Near the exit, there was a simple house with a small garden and …

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… a redundant tank for prawn cultivation! They kept climbing out and going for a walk in the night, allegedly!

You never know what you will find exploring Mauritius!

 

Racing at Champ de Mars

 

Champ de Mars and Signal mountain in the background
Champ de Mars with Signal mountain in the background and Port Louis city centre to the right

It was a real surprise to discover that one of the oldest horse race courses in the world is in Mauritius; who would have bet on that? Just on the edge of the city, the Mauritius Turf club was founded by the British in 1812. I was delighted to attend the last meeting of the year.

www.mauritiusturfclub.com

The Grandstand was packed well before the first race
The Grandstand was packed well before the first race

I got there early, was allocated a parking space next to the grandstand by two nice policemen who even asked me for betting tips. ‘Don’t bet on what I bet on’ was my advice. Then I realised that my ticket and members lounge access I had left at home.

Not much use on the table back at the house
Not much use on the table back at the house

‘They will let me in without that, ‘ I reassured myself, ‘Oops!’ I am sure Colonel Draper never had to show a pass.

Colonel Draper promoted thoroughbred horse racing on the course, even riding on some of his own horses!
Colonel Draper promoted thoroughbred horse racing on the course, even riding on some of his own horses!
The cleverly planted trees have grown well to keep everyone cool

You can bet down here, buy refreshments and watch the races on tv but if you go up one flight of stairs you can watch in style from here…

A grandstand view of the course on the left, drinks and food served from the back of the lounge and betting on the right. Perfect!

Yes, they did let me in. The staff could not have been more helpful and gave me a replacement badge.

Rules and traditions were well respected and fortunately I had not forgotten to wear a suit and tie because then I would definitely have had to watch from the stands!

Whilst studying the form and trying to look knowledgeable, I heard the Mauritius Police Band marching on to the course. I went for a look and listen.

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The excellent band played some highly unusual selections including ‘Mama Mia’, the theme from the film ‘Rocky’ and ‘Sex Bomb’

I returned, due to the heat and the need for liquid refreshment wondering what Mousse T and Tom Jones would have thought of the last song played.

Time to go and place my bet but it was slightly confusing, maybe it was the heat?

What on earth is a 'swinger'?
What on earth is a ‘swinger’?
The winning ticket? ‘Non!’ My horse was placed 6th
I would have understood this more if it had been upside down!

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Several more lost bets later, it was now time to go to the paddock and study up-to-the-minute form…and not just the fillies!

This stand was in front of the paddock where the horses were paraded before each race and it was absolutely packed!
This stand was in front of the paddock where the horses were paraded before each race and it was absolutely packed!

You could also look from here for the next winner.

Everyone was hot but the horses looked strangely cool ... even after their race
Everyone was hot but the horses looked strangely cool … even after their race
'Its behind you!' This jockey seems to have lost his horse.
‘Its behind you!’ This jockey seems to have lost his horse.

So I backed this one ‘Evergreen’.

sdsds
‘Come on, Number 7!’

It was a thrilling race…

In the Members' Lounge, the men were more interested in the racing than the ladies ... unless they won, of course.
In the Members’ Lounge, the men were more interested in the racing than the ladies … unless they won, of course.

…And Evergreen won! I didn’t do quite so well in the next race.

The one I backed is just out of the photograph ..  about half a kilometre to the right
The one I backed is just out of the photograph ..  about half a kilometre to the right

The sounds of music from a Bollywood film echoed loudly across the course so I went for a look.

You don't get this at Royal Ascot!
You don’t get this at Royal Ascot!

I wasn’t the only one looking for a tip.

The form and odds offered were keenly studied in all parts of the course
The form and odds offered were keenly studied in all parts of the course

I got back just in time for the next race and my second winner!

The one I backed is out of the photograph .. to the right
All the races were keenly contested

It was a great day, faultlessly put on by the Turf Club and I am thoroughly looking forward to next year already.

Porlwi by Light

Space ship landing?

For three nights in early December, from 7:00pm to midnight, the main streets of Porlwi (Port Louis in creole) were traffic free and the city illuminated with colourful displays.

The streets and roads were jammed with people and it was difficult to move. The more patient and polite amongst being forcibly barged onwards by some of the chubbier locals!

Not easy to move to the beat … or Give Way!

Pedestrians could wander amongst street entertainers, market traders, shops and cafes whilst admiring buildings, trees, statues bathed in light and shaking to music.

Sax and tugs and rock n' roll
Sax and tugs and rock n’ roll

Even the yachts, catamarans and ships joined in; the cruise liner in the background just had all its white lights on.

Small boats, seemingly unmanned, circled noiselessly in the port
Small boats, seemingly unmanned, circled noiselessly in the port

Old buildings were given a new lease of life in technicolour as their foundations shook to a heavy, loud disco beat. (Does anyone say ‘disco’ anymore?)

 

not sure

Going home by car was a challenge with most of the streets still closed until midnight.

Getting away was very slow (but lovely to sit in air conditioned comfort)
Getting away was very slow (but lovely to sit in air conditioned comfort)

A great way to showcase the city with a free exhibition with much to see and enjoy.

Mountain bike challenge

 

'You need to go that way!'
‘You need to go that way!’

144 mountain bikers from Mauritius, Reunion, France, Germany, New Zealand, Namibia and Australia, cycled 200 kilometres around the southern part of the island during three early morning stages at the end of November.

72 teams entered the race held over three days
72 teams entered the race held over three days

This was the seventh year that the race had been held allowing riders to access private lands and experience amazing views as they climbed and descended the slopes of the wild and open countryside of the south. It was exhausting and hot just watching them!

Riders had to cope with all kinds of terrain
Riders had to cope with all kinds of terrain

One of the rules is that competitors must race in teams of two and stay together at all times. Teams can be entered for Mens, Ladies, Mixed, Over 40s and Juniors.

Delighted to finish
Just about to finish stage 2
Close to the finish line
Racing with 200 metres to go on stage 2

Accommodation was at the 4* Tamassa at Bel Ombre, part of the LUX Group of hotels who made everyone very welcome, particular thanks should go to the restaurant and bar staff who were excellent. Some competitors decided to stay in the tented village; no air con though!

Just in time for supper
Just in time for lunch

Although this was a competition and everyone wanted to do their best, you could not fail to see the camaraderie between all the participants after the race and during the rest time. One overseas rider thought his race weekend was over after the second day when he broke a wheel on the course. A local Mauritian competitor immediately offered his spare when he found this out later that day. All the bikes needed a good wash and some TLC after the ride.

Time to get the bikes ready for the next day
Getting the bikes ready for the next day

Many riders brought their families as well and this added to the happy and friendly atmosphere around the start/finish and hotel.

Every night the leaders were given ‘jerseys’ (microfibre thin tops) and medals at prize giving. The team of Julien Absalon (Double Olympic Champion) and Yannick Lincoln were the winners of the Mens competition and completed the course in 8 hours, 31 minutes and 8 seconds at an average speed of 21.1km/hour. They were very fit!

The Mens elite winners!

Congratulations to everyone who took part and finished the course and specials thanks to the sponsors and volunteers who made it all happen.

The winners of the categories
The winners of the the four categories with Albert D’Unienville from LUX hotels

Maybe next year…

http://www.luxresorts.com/en/mauritius/tamassa-an-all-inclusive-resort

http://www.mtb-mauritius.com/en

The last post before Christmas


Today is the last day that I can send my Christmas cards unless they are for delivery on the island. Its been a challenge to find any cards as I am told they usually don’t go on sale until much closer to 25 December. Postage varies substantially based on weight and size.

So, now armed with my thin, light and small cards, I strolled (its over 30 degrees, of course I strolled) along to the Post Office to queue in line to be weighed and measured.

There are several Dodos at the Natural History Museum
There are several Dodos at the Natural History Museum

As usual, I am surprised by things on the way. For example I did not expect to see these toddler swimming inflatables on sale whilst queuing at the traffic lights.

Swimming aids for the under threes!
Swimming aids for the under threes!

Or this unusual purpose for a boat.

Staying afloat
Staying afloat

The streets are busy with preparations for the PORLWI festival of light which starts tomorrow night. I will cover that in another post.

Hey! Those umbrella have changed colour!
Hey! Those umbrellas have changed colour!

The Post Office is next to the Blue Penny museum.

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Mauritius’ first two postage stamps were issued in 1847 and were the first stamps issued outside of Great Britain in any part of the British Empire. They were a red one penny and a blue two penny. Does this prove blues are superior to reds?

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This letter with two stamps was sold by auction in 1993 for 5.75m Swiss Francs

Having bought all the stamps necessary, they all needed to be licked and applied before posting. Having been used to self adhesive ones for a while now, it was strange to taste the glue which I can assure you was strong and sticky and got on my fingers too!

17 rupees stamp (£0.31)
17 rupees stamp (£0.31 or €0.45)

My total postage was the equivalent of £13.32 and seemed good value to me but will they arrive before Christmas?

http://www.bluepennymuseum.com