Wish you were here

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The local newspaper, Le Mauricien, and some free magazines like Kozé are a good source of what is happening on the island. As I am not on Facebook, I was not aware of the local advert for a Pink Floyd tribute band playing at Le Morne Fishing Club until the night before the concert.  I had high hopes of getting a ticket. The venue is only a mile from my home and not surprisingly next to the beach. I never knew it was there and thought the best way to get a ticket is to go down and buy one; “Allons-y!”

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Security was tight!

It was surprisingly well hidden behind the Black River Police Station and I had to work hard at persuading the “Jobsworth” gatekeeper to let me in without a members’ car park pass. “Hey you, over here!” he barked at me with paranoid eyes. Having been guided to park, surely moor, in between two large boats, I walked into the spacious clubhouse bar and enquired about a ticket.

“Sold out completely two days ago, 450 tickets,” I was told firmly by Seamus the barman, “No chance of a ticket for love nor money; the guitarist is as good as Gilmour.”

Seeing my obvious disappointment, a member came over and said I could stop, stay for a drink and watch the rehearsal. I said thanks and I did. If only I had been on Facebook!

The band’s crew were erecting an impressive stage, video and lighting set and the band were getting ready to rehearse. I was really surprised at how professional the whole setup was and felt more than a little sorrow that I was not going to see the show.

I chatted to the member about the fishing club, it’s history and stayed for about half an hour by which time I had not heard a single note of music, only a few dogs barking on the beach. I had watched enviously as the set was built for the next evening’s concert by the sea under a clear night sky not obscured by clouds, a fat old sun or an eclipse.

“Well, you have stayed for half an hour so, well, I know Frederick has a spare ticket, would you like it?”

Agreeing with this obvious logic, I replied “Yes!” Frederick came over and said, “Do you want to speak to me?” “Yes” I replied, “what’s, uh the deal?” I bought the ticket grinning broadly for the princely sum of 450 rupees (£8.33 at a pre-Brexit exchange rate).

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I arrived at the club, parking outside the wall, not quite sure to expect; I was in for a real treat. You had to buy tickets for drinks and food. A few hundred people were already outside in front of the stage having a good time chatting and catching up. Some familiar faces said hello, the ones who could remember me, and introduced me to their friends, even someone’s Mother, but I felt a bit of a lost sheep, one of the few expats there. The bar area was pretty full too resonating to the sound of laughter and the clink of wine glasses.

Clouds of smoke were coming from the food area, I don’t know how the chef could breathe. Chicken, burgers and Boerwors (but no pigs) were being expertly cooked on a flaming BBQ a.k.a. braai. I must do a braai one of these days.

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Fed and watered, there were no empty spaces in the arena in front of the stage.

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Stage lights on, cheers from the crowd, the band walk on, here we go!

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The show was superb, it was just like seeing them in the flesh.

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I was lost for words but not for the songs I knew.

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He is over there on the left, in front of the two backing singers

The lead guitarist was brilliant, fearless, modest and note perfect.

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The sound quality was clear and loud but not so loud to get brain damage and no echoes. The audience loved it, some comfortably numb probably due to the Johnny Walker Red Label on special offer!

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Watching groups of friends, arms around each other, having a great time singing along with the band to songs I know inside out, 7,000 miles from home and where most of Pink Floyd’s music was composed.

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‘Hey Teacher….!’

It was strange I was loving the music but I could not remember a day when I felt more homesick than this. The stage in front of me, the ebb and flow of the sea lapping at the shore to my right, the gentle breeze a pillow of winds, marooned in a sea of happy people to my left and I felt strangely alone in the surreal atmosphere, almost poles apart from the locals.

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The stage was lit with paint box colours, any one you like, competing with the night light, some of the original Pink Floyd videos playing at the back of the stage and the audience rocking along with the band.

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I walked back to my car wishing that one of these days I will get a bike, drove the short distance home, nobody home or signs of life except the odd mosquito but Pink Floyd joined me instantly as I put the ipod on and blasted those so familiar songs again looking out over my balcony at the dark sea. Black River is no Saint Tropez, it is so much better than that and has a saucerful of secrets just like the fishing club.

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Question. How many Pink Floyd song titles did you recognise in the blog?

Answer. 46.

Tropica Dingue at Mon Tresor

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There are so many things to do outdoors at the weekend in Mauritius but the first Tropica Dingue to be held on the island grabbed my attention. It was at Mon Tresor so I went along to see what it was all about.

But where is Mon Tresor? It is on the southernmost coastal plain of Mauritius, a natural landscape in the South East, close to the airport and earmarked for a sustainable urban development project. A combination of countryside and seaside against a backdrop of undulating sugar cane fields, the Christiane Vallet forest and century old trees near Mare aux Songes, where bones of the dodo have been found.

Tropica Dingue, or Tropical Madness as it translates, is a mix of trail running/walking/climbing  with obstacles to get over, under or around, for teams in fancy dress who are prepared to accept the challenge against a backdrop of sun, palm trees, beach and a lagoon.

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‘Are you Rrrrrreddddddeeeee Mow-rish-us?’

I headed for the excellent Holiday Inn, drove past and turned right towards the old Mon Tresor sugar factory. It was easy to find as most of the competitors had arrived early and were getting warmed up by the enthusiastic, cheerleading trio on stage.

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‘Put your hands in the air, crouch down, say Aaah!’ It was like being being arrested by a dwarf doctor (think about it!).

Muscles were stretched and warmed as the competitors followed the keep fit/dance routines as jubilant and frenzied tunes pumped from the DJ tower overlooking coconut lawn as much as the adrenaline.

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One last chance for a photo and more encouragement from the excellent DJs who wanted to get in on the act

The starts were staggered as this was all about participation and not a race. The sun came out just as the first teams left the start.

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‘3,  2,  1, GO!!!’ Armed only with smiles, the assault course awaits!

First, the tyre obstacle challenge.

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These excellent convicts showed their skills at escaping

There were some fantastic costumes ranging from Superheroes to Neon Pink keep fit outfits.

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Two of the braver outfits to tackle the course in. They were wise to bring orange scented nappy rash cream with them.
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The ‘Panama Papers’ costume was a very clever idea
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You could not miss this team!

The promised backdrop of sugar cane fields was truly stunning, the cane flowers blowing in the breeze coming from the sea.

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The sugar cane harvest starts in June and lasts for nearly six months

The coastline was looking particularly blue with frothy, snow white surf soaking the black rocks on the shoreline. Perfect for a bit of fishing.

Stunningly captivating coast line

What a beautiful sandy beach to walk along, just as nature intended it.

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Half way along the beach, the competitors had an obstacle to get under. Can you see them in the distance?

The sand was warm and soft as competitors scrambled under the nets no doubt tempted by the sea lapping at the shore.

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Hey! No time to build sandcastles

Plenty of photo-opportunities for Enrico, the official photographer.

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…and he took lots!

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Hot work to do this in wigs, madness actually. Tropical Madness.

For some the sea was just too tempting and the opportunity to cool off for a bit and enjoy the view.

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Escape from Mon Tresor!

Having had a drinks break, there was a nice walk/run before a big challenge loomed up ahead. Most stopped running when they saw it!

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You had to pull yourself up and over, sliding down the other side. For some this was easy but for the more gravitationally challenged, they needed a lot of assistance, slings or a JCB.

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‘Pull the rope!’ ‘Push my feet!’

Gloves, dry trainers and a hefty shove definitely helped.

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A fantastic team of volunteers assisted on all the obstacles and could not do enough to make the day enjoyable for all the competitors.

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‘Put the soles of your feet on the slide, bend your knees and LET GO!’

Not wishing to pull the obstacle over, some chose to walk around it. Wise.

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Feeling tyred

Dragging a tyre by a rope along the dusty ground around an obstacle took some determination.

The final obstacle was a water slide, not for those scared of heights or muddy water.

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‘Come on it, the water is lovely’
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The slippery slope to success
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A bigger splash

The end now in sight, competitors pulled themselves out of the pool and headed for the finish.

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The Finish!

Clutching a few sugar cane flowers, another team finishes the First Mauritius Tropica Dingue, happy have discovered where Mon Tresor is, enjoyed a fun couple of hours and looking forward to some dry, clean clothes and lunch!

Many congratulations to the organisers (especially Marvellous Melanie de L’Estrac), all the sponsors and the team from La Reunion who put on the event. It certainly showed that the 1,400 Mauritians who took part not only have a great sense of humour but also tremendous spirit as they wholeheartedly threw themselves, literally, into Tropica Dingue.

I would like to sign up for next year before it is sold out.

 

Official movie

http://www.montresor.mu

http://tropicadingue.mu

 

Surprising news!

 

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Man in Mauritius is the expat.com blog of the month! To celebrate this, there was an interview and here it is!

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Bristol, in the West of England. A great city, famous for Concorde having been built there and the birthplace of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the railway, bridge and ship engineer.

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Clifton Suspension Bridge built by Brunel. It links Clifton village with Leigh Woods and is an iconic view of Bristol and the River Avon

Aardman Animations design and produce Shaun the Sheep and Wallace & Gromit films there too.

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Shaun the Sheep

When and how did you decide to move to Mauritius? Is it complicated to settle down there?

I had an offer to live and work in Mauritius and it seemed an opportunity too good to miss. It is a big challenge to pack up and move home, no matter how small the distance. So, having stored, sold or given to charity all my furniture and other possessions, I packed my remaining  belongings into two suitcases, a rucksack and ten cardboard packing cases, caught the plane and moved 7,000 miles away!

It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to be moving home, country and changing jobs at the same time but, if you do this on your own as I have, you just have to get on with it and be positive! It can be fun to find out where things are, where to shop, park and eat for example but at times you would like it to be a bit easier! My new work colleagues went out of their way to make me welcome and help me when I needed advice or support especially in the first few weeks. The expat.com website was very useful to introduce myself, get some real time advice and to find out some of the basics.

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

I have never lived abroad before but I am absolutely loving it and wish I had done it earlier. It is a good question to ask how many countries I have visited! I wrote down a list quite quickly but kept remembering places that I had been to but forgotten about. It is just over forty countries mainly in Europe, Africa and Central and North America.

What do you like the most about Mauritius?

That is a difficult one, there are so many things!  Here is a list, in no particular order.

  1. The people and the many cultures on the island. Everyone has been genuinely friendly and kind to me here; as a visitor it is really appreciated to be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly introduction. I like the way people greet you everyday with a handshake and real interest in how you are and what you have done since you last saw them.
  1. The climate and the natural beauty of the island – I am stunned by the microclimates here, you can drive for a five minutes and the weather can be completely different! The rainbows, often two together, are wide and the colours strong. The sunsets and sunrises are breathtaking. The views of the mountains, lit up in warm sunshine or silhouetted dark against the sky. The turquoise lagoons, the blue, blue sky. Who can beat what nature provides for you and on Mauritius; it is spectacular.
  1. The food. The spices are amazing and the cooking, a mixture of French, Indian and Chinese, I absolutely love it, the spicier the better. The fish is fresh and fantastic, especially the tuna, which is without doubt the best I have ever tasted. The street food is also delicious and simple, who can resist a fresh dholl puri, farata or some gateaux piments?

How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?

There are obviously many things that are different here to England, that is obvious. I don’t wear a suit and tie to work, I would die of heat exhaustion if I did! There are less choices for things to do in the evening. There are hardly any coffee bars here, there only seem to be bars in the tourist areas near the beach. Public transport is limited, there are no trains or metro/underground, I am very surprised how many miles I have driven in the seven months I have been here.

There is a huge difference in the cost and choice of food, drink, clothes and entertainment. I absolutely love the fact that all the car parks I have used, except at Caudan Waterfront (before 4:00pm) and the airport, have been free. In the UK this is very expensive (and painful if you overstay and get a penalty!)

Many of the brands in the food shops I do not know and choosing can be difficult but with experience it is fine when they become more familiar. The pace of life here is slower, this takes a while to get accustomed to (like the driving!) but it is actually so much better.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

I miss my family and my friends the most, also comfort food like ‘Twiglets’, my favourite snack!

Any ‘memories of an expat’ you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

I have so many good memories already from the time that I have been here from the actual excitement of arriving at the airport, to receiving my ten packing cases, occupation permit and going to the office for my first day at work, first night in my apartment, my new home. Some of the sunsets I have seen, my first day at Champs de Mars watching the horse racing, learning how do dive in the warm waters at Le Morne, a Muslim wedding, exploring the island, making smoothies in the morning from locally produced fruit, walking in the forests in the South. Lots of really good memories and many of them are on the blog but if I had to pick one it would be the sunset on the 19th of January.

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The beach at Tamarin

Getting food poisoning just before a week of travelling in Southern Africa is by far the worst experience!

What does your typical day as an expat in Mauritius look like?

Waking up to sunshine and the occasional dog barking! Getting my Italian expresso pot on the stove to make my morning coffee before taking a shower. Ignoring the 16 suits, 9 jackets and 17 sweaters I have brought to Mauritius and choosing a shirt and light trousers to wear. Making a fruit smoothie with nuts and oats for the best start to the day. Driving to work and listening to news and sport podcasts. Setting a good example to other road users on how to drive well! Then making calls, dealing with emails and attending meetings. Having lunch with colleagues and finding out what they have been doing followed by more meetings or perhaps travelling to the factory.

Then after work, going to the gym or food shopping, perhaps home in time to watch the sunset from the balcony or a swim. After that, as shower, prepare dinner or go out with friends for a meal. Last of all, catch up with friends and family on WhatsApp or Skype, read for a little bit then bed. The weekends are usually filled with lots of outdoor activities; it is great to be out in the sunshine.

When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

In October 2015. The blog is a photo diary of what I have been doing and easy to share. It has also been a nice new hobby and surprised me how much I have enjoyed the writing and photography for it. The feedback has been really great so far.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

I have made no new friends with the blog as yet, but it has certainly kept me in touch with those who are already friends. So, to those who are reading this, get in touch!

Why did you register on Expat.com and what do you think of the website?

I registered for advice, support, local knowledge and the opportunity to meet people on the island who had or were experiencing the same issues as me. The website is so useful, gives instant up-to-date answers from people there and really helps with settling in fast. It’s been invaluable so far.

Which advice would you give to the other Expat.com members who would like to settle in Mauritius?

Find out what you cannot get in Mauritius and do not assume it is going to be the same as the country you currently live in.

Embrace the local culture.

Learn to speak French/Creole.

Keep your eyes open and explore! Mauritius is so much more than the image you see from abroad, the one of 5 star hotels, deserted, white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons under a beautiful blue sky.

Never turn down an invitation, you never know what you might enjoy, who you might meet and what you might learn, so much better than watching TV!

Explore, dream and discover!

Man in Mauritius

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