Stunning sunset in Tamarin

Sometimes a view can stop you right in your tracks and you can only wonder at the true beauty of the world we live in. Stunning is a word often over used yet it is only one of many superlatives that shout out to describe the sunset witnessed this week. The photos have not been manipulated with software or photoshopped, only cropped, and do not do justice to the moving light show that those who were looking were privileged to experience.

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Tuesday 19th January at 18:54

It would have taken ten more minutes to drive home but I was impatient to stop and take in the beautiful sunset developing in front of me.

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Tuesday 19th January at 18:56

I had pulled over into a lay by, crossed the road to look down over the cane fields before the sea at Flic en Flac on the West Coast and spent a few minutes taking some photos.

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Tuesday 19th January at 19:00

The sky was changing colour fast so I decided to finish the drive home to continue taking photos from my balcony. I had to rapidly change my mind as the sky was suddenly going red or was it blue so I turned off the main road, went straight to Tamarin beach and ran from the car to the shore. It was spectacular.

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Tuesday 19th January at 19:08

No one was talking. It was very calm and peaceful, even the dogs had stopped barking and the birds tweeting. There were a handful of people watching the ever changing sky, some trying to capture the images on their phones, the only sound coming from the waves as they lapped on the beach.

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Tuesday 19th January at 19:09

I wondered if the solitary body boarder was enjoying the view as well.

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Tuesday 19th January at 19:11

A swimmer had been drinking in the view from the sea.

The colours suddenly were washed with light shades of grey, the vivid reds and blues quickly replaced with dusty pinks and oranges in the rapidly fading light. It went dark and then lighter again.

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Tuesday 19th January at 19:17

Finally the view from the balcony.

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..and then it was like this!

This was a staggeringly stunning sunset, indescribably beautiful and a natural phenomenon.  You just had to open your eyes to believe it.

Ten weeks as an Expat

When you actually agree to move abroad, the clock starts to tick and the countdown has started.

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This clock used to go ‘Tick Tock’ in England but it is now going ‘Tic Tac’ over here.  It does not smell minty.

You make your lists, tell your family and friends and a date goes in the diary.

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First thing to do? Book the removal company, even if you do not know where you are staying, you know when you are leaving! Order packing cases, parcel tape and bubble wrap. Now book your flight. Prepare for sleepless nights thinking about the things you have forgotten to do.

You are now moving house and country, there will be a different climate, culture, language and you have a new job to start. Advice comes thick and fast for ‘The Big Project, the task, actually picking up your life and moving it, in my case to the paradise island of Mauritius.

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‘You are going to Mauritius? Wow! Won’t you miss the rain and grey skies here?’

People know Mauritius as a fabulous holiday destination. Well, it is so much more than 5 star hotels and palm fringed, white sandy beaches surrounded by a turquoise lagoon under a fabulous blue sky!

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Mont Choisy public beach

You know where everything is where you currently live, this is what you will be leaving behind, local knowledge. There is support all around for you from friends, colleagues and especially family. You know where the shops are, where your doctor and dentist are, the supermarkets, shops, cinemas, theatres, the gym, how to travel, book things, pay for services and get things repaired. This is familiar and what you take for granted .. until you don’t have them!

Where do you get advice in the country you are going to and who do you listen to? I asked people who had been expats, family and friends, and their advice was excellent but not specific to where I was going.

“Don’t turn down any invitation, you never know what you may experience or who you may meet”

The internet was of course a source of information, some of the international removal companies were great but one website stood out not only for advice but also for support, both before and after moving.

http://www.expat.com

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I joined this website which has immediate access to expats living all around the world. Having registered as a potential expat specifically for Mauritius I now had access to people who had already done what I was going to do. This was invaluable, easy, free, immediate and totally up to date unlike many travel websites or blogs.

Information I needed concerned basic but essential things like:

  • How do I get a work and living permit?
  • Do I need a visa?
  • How long does it take?
  • How do I open a bank account?
  • What is the health care like?
  • Where is a good and safe place to live?
  • What is the public transport like?
  • Can someone recommend a Lawyer, Accountant, Doctor, Chiropractor?
  • How easy is it to buy a car?
  • Where do you sign up for a mobile phone, internet, tv?
  • What is the process for importing your belongings and tax implications?

The beauty of the expat website is that there is practical advice before arriving and after. This was a great help to me.

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I was lucky in that my new work colleagues went out of their way to help me too, not everyone is that fortunate. Moving on your own is a little bit more challenging than as a couple or a family but that is the same wherever you are relocating.

The day came for the boxes to be collected and there it was, my life condensed into nine cardboard boxes ready to be despatched, by Thompson Airlines I later discovered, 6,000 miles away to this beautiful tropical island.

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Boxes labelled, filled and sealed, ready to be collected and despatched

I flew to Mauritius two days after the boxes were collected. It was very exciting to see the boxes being delivered … having paid just under £3,000 import tax, all refunded after my work permit was issued by the BOI, 19 days after arriving.

Now which cardboard box has the Twiglets in?
Now which cardboard box has the Twiglets in?

It was a bit like Christmas opening the boxes, many things I had forgotten I had packed. Not one thing was broken, not even these New York Parade cows!

Even the cows enjoyed moo-ving to Moo-ritius
“We have moo-ved to Moo-ritius”

Every box had been opened by Customs, the contents checked against the itemised spreadsheet showing quantity and value, then repacked and resealed. I checked eight boxes and ‘I still hadn’t found what I had been looking for.’

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‘Ah ha! I have now’

Talking to other expats in your own language can be very rewarding, relaxing and supportive. http://www.expat.com offers forums and messaging to do this not only with people of your own nationality but also expats from other parts of the world. Organised events and meetings allow you to socialise with other families and people like yourself to share experiences as an expat and make friendships.

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“How, where, what, when?”

These are the questions that become more urgent when you are alone abroad, in a different country and you don’t know quite what to do. Colleagues, neighbours and other expats can help you, so can the locals who in my case have been truly exceptionally friendly. Their support and advice together with the opportunity to make friends with others like yourselves has been truly great.

Ten weeks have flown by.

I would like to thank all the people who have been so kind and helpful to me whilst I have been here. I am thoroughly enjoying the Mauritian culture and way of life … but their driving needs improving and the traffic jams are worse than I had expected … but it gives me time to listen to the odd podcast …

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.. and to think about what I am going to cook for dinner. I certainly miss the familiarity of the shops I used to frequent and the brands on sale, I have not recognised a single brand of chopped or peeled tomatoes in any supermarket yet. Only two types of potato are on sale, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Hang on, there are three varieties of this!

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When you last get ‘Smashed’ for 82p?

The weather has been very hot, even the locals say it is hotter than usual, well over 35 degrees and not below 20 degrees at night. Its essential to drink lots of water and the occasional ice lolly.

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I came out in red spots having licked one of these

There are so many brands that are unfamiliar, it is difficult to choose. You can always ask an expat but I prefer to buy a few different packs or tins with varying prices and see what they are like. Microwaveable rice, ‘cooked in two minutes in the microwave’ is not on sale anywhere. The amount of space given to rice is incredible. Here is a small selection of packs of rice and these are only the 5kg packs!

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Unfamiliar brands to many an expat!

And finally, my second goat story of the year. On the way to the supermarket on Saturday, three goats crossed the road in front of me.

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Yes, there were only three

Then, in the supermarket I noticed this …

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Was this a sign?

After ten weeks, which have flown by, I have learnt a lot, achieved so much, seen so many things I had not expected and met some really good people. It has not all been plain sailing, or snorkelling for that matter, but enormously rewarding. I impatiently look forward to the next adventure and experience; it cannot come quickly enough.

‘Banané!’

Happy New Year in Creole
Happy New Year in Creole

Warm Greetings, no, Very Hot Greetings to you all and thank you for the Christmas cards sent by friends and family. They truly had so much more meaning to me this year for many reasons.

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Christmas was very different as you can imagine this being my first in the beautiful tropical island of Mauritius. My son and his girlfriend came to visit for two weeks and it was extra special to spend it with them and explore some more of the beaches, scenery and restaurants on the island.

My festive decorations were minimal but effective and were taken down on 12th night. Christmas was not the major event it is in the UK for example, much more fuss was made of New Year.

Nice to have Santa Claus, purchased in Strasbourg, France, for 34 Francs many years ago, up on the balcony!
Nice to have Santa Claus, purchased in Strasbourg, France, for 34 Francs many years ago, up on the balcony!

Lots of places still have their Christmas decorations up, perhaps until Chinese New Year on 8 February when there will no doubt be more fireworks.

Anyway, who needs decorations when beach looks like this?

Sun, sea and sand at Le Morne
Sun, sea and sand at Le Morne
A lot of time was spent wondering if a coconut was going to fall
The decorations on this tree were just hanging there. A lot of time was spent wondering if one of them was going to fall … and how heavy it might be.

We enjoyed excellent lunches at the Lux hotel in Le Morne, La Pirogue in Flic en Flac (‘free and flat land’ in Dutch), Le Captaine in Grande Baie and Ile Des Deux Cocos near Blue Bay just to mention a few!

When you see the sea and it is this colour you can only gasp
Grand Baie. When you first catch sight of the sea and it is this colour you can only gasp. It is amazing.
The blue marlin weighed
Blue marlin caught on a day’s fishing trip with one of the excellent Sport Fisher boats from Grand Baie. The one on the left weighed in at 144lbs. Their noses weren’t stuck in the floorboards although it looks like it!

We had a long, lazy brunch one morning at Lacaz at Cap Tamarin and Le Moustache, Cozy, Medium Rare, Lazy Lizard and La Bonne Chute all served memorable dinners for us in Tamarin – five totally different places to eat, all recommended.

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Seafood curry with pickle, tomato, sweet cucumber, rice, lentils and accompanied by the essential mouth-awakening chilli paste, a sort of ‘alight bouche’
Delicious fresh fruit platter
Delicious fresh fruit platter to cool the flames from the chilli paste

One night, we had a long drive for dinner at Savinia in the Bagatelle shopping mall on one of the busiest shopping nights of the year. Not only did it take us ages just to get into the full and overflowing car park at the start of the evening and 15 minutes to get a space but the restaurant were adamant they did not have our reservation. Fortunately they squeezed us on to a table outside which was kind; most Mauritians are very kind. Imagine our surprise half an hour later when the restaurant we should have been at telephoned to ask if we were still coming. The 90 minute drive could have been avoided with a five minute walk. It also took us twenty minutes to find the car as I could not remember where I had parked it.

With temperatures regularly above 35 degrees and humidity between 75 – 90%, regular trips to the sea or dips in the pool were essential. The beach at Le Morne was particularly spectacular but most of the beaches here are… especially when you see the colour of the turquoise lagoons and blue sea.

Spectacular backdrop to the beach
Spectacular backdrop to the beach at LUX Le Morne

The holiday season is now over, most people are back at work and the schools have started again. This means the traffic is jammed and journeys are taking much longer! It gives you time to listen to a podcast, reflect on the holidays or contemplate the beauty of the Mauritian mountains; such iconic views of the island.

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There is no road rage here, much to the surprise of many a visitor, despite overtaking on the left (rather than the right) and pulling into gaps at high speed, with or without indicating, that a small mouse would struggle into. Give way is the only way!

New Year was celebrated feverishly by the local population who have more than a mild obsession with letting off fireworks, in particular firecrackers.

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It does not need to be dark to let these off nor does it need to be New Year’s Eve
A flamboyant tree in full bloom at Pamplemousse
‘Royal Poinciana’, a flamboyant tree in full bloom at Pamplemousses

There are many wild dogs on the island whose main activity is either to bark for hours on end when an ant walks past or if a leaf falls off a tree up to a mile away. Strangely, the fireworks don’t seem to bother them.

Even the wild dogs like to relax on the beach and take a swim after a long night barking
Even the wild dogs like to relax on the beach late afternoon and take a swim before a long night barking

Conclusion. All the dogs here are deaf….from fireworks.