Amuse-bouches

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The view from the top of Le Morne Brabant

I have not posted a blog for two months now but I have been busy photographing and enjoying so many things that Mauritius has to offer. Here is a little selection of images to whet your appetite for the many blogs that will follow.

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Tamarind Falls
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Cane fields at Souillac
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Quatre Bornes Saturday Market
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Red whiskered bulbul in a coconut palm on the beach
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Pont Naturel
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Lord Shiva at Grand Bassin
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An offering at Grand Bassin
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Idols at Grand Bassin
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Kestrel Valley
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Crystal Rock
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Dolphins at Tamarin

It has been amazing!

Views and Blues

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Sugar cane covers almost all of the island and, as it is cooler, has just come into flower. It will stop growing, ripen and be harvested over the next six months.

Everyday I find myself looking at the sky and the sea and appreciating the various shades of blue. Blue is the colour, of course. The mountains and sugar cane seem to be in almost every view of the island and look stunning illuminated by the Indian Ocean sunshine.

I drove to Grand Baie in the North for an early meeting; the sea is a very special of shade of blue there, almost metallic, it always surprises me.

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The East side of Grand Bay, the early morning sun reflecting on the sea

The second photo was taken a few minutes later, having turned to the West.

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Just after sunrise in West side of Grand Baie

This is a fishing area and the hull of the one behind was being worked on by five men, it had been damaged by coral.

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It took a while to get the right angle to photograph this as the men kept standing up to see what I was doing!

The next morning I was up at dawn to go dolphin watching.

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Early morning winter sunlight is not so spectacular on the West coast.

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The dolphins were feeding deep in the water for a change
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Mother and child

Many more boats started to appear with tourists eager to go swimming and snorkelling among the dolphins.

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It was getting crowded and so we decided to head for home.

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Returning to Black River an hour after sunrise, I was stunned by the blue of the sky, the green of the vegetation and the reflection of both in the lagoon.

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It was like a mill pond; beautiful.

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

 

A whole new world down under

There are many challenges in moving to a new country, some you have no choice to face, others can be tremendous fun as I found out when I recently learnt how to dive. After all, crystal clear, turquoise lagoons, a coral reef that almost entirely circles the island and a sea temperature rarely below 25 degrees is quite appealing. So I signed up for the open water diver course and I discovered and experienced that Mauritius is a brilliant place to learn how to dive!

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Having parted with some rupees and filled in a few forms, signing away any personal liability, you get one of these manuals with  instructions to read and remember Section One (77 pages) and answer all the test questions at the end of each sub-section. The manual was a combination of physics, biology, fashion and plumbing.

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“Very important, don’t forget the rules!” I have never actually reached 50 bars let alone drunk in all of them.

The first lesson was in the pool at a nearby luxury hotel but I had to get kitted up first.

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I never imagined wearing rubber before, well unless it was shiny and red

You need a snug fit as the water seeps below the surface of the neoprene shortie wet suit and keeps you warm. Now the mask.

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Supersavers, Vision Express or Bailey Nelson it is not!

I had always had problems with leaking when diving before (from the face mask). The advice was that it should just stick on your face if you just put it there. I found one that did and did not have to strap it on as tight as I had put masks on before. Good tip!

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Hmm. Now have they got my size and favourite colour?

Size 43 blue fins now checked for size, time for that jacket thing. Good tip number 2, peel the heel of the fin back down, it is so much easier to put on.

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Waistcoats are in this year and black is the new black

The jacket, or BCD as they call it, was surprisingly comfortable. This is great, I thought, it will be easy to swim like this underwater. I had forgotten the most important part, the cylinder, the regulator (breathing system) and weight belt.

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Oh yes, this goes on the back

The golf ball is to make me stand out from the other qualified divers. That actually was not too difficult!

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This strap-on increased my weight by 3kg

And finally, the weight belt to counteract ‘positive buoyancy’!

I set off for the first dive in the luxury swimming pool to learn how to breathe and move underwater, get used to the equipment and manage some safety procedures in case of emergency. Walking the 100 metres to the pool, bent almost double with the weight of the cylinder and equipment was fun and I heard a few giggles from the tourists relaxing on their sun beds.

So, at last, into the pool and my first experience of scuba diving. Wonderful! Cleaning your mask underwater was a vital skill to learn. This involved letting some water in the mask, tilting your head backwards and breathing out through your nose being careful with my contact lenses. I repeated this manoeuvre several times as the two young bikini clad ladies swimming above me were totally unaware of the view they were affording me!

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After a dive, time to give it a thorough wash in clean water and let it dry

The next lesson was in the sea and really good fun where I felt the feeling of being almost weightless underwater, saw lots of colourful fish and coral and practised more emergency measures like running out of air and complete removal of my mask.

The third lesson had to be aborted at there was a terrific and persistent rainstorm. This is a tropical country and when it rains, it rains but it is not cold.

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You can’t go out when the visibility is poor and the sea is rough

Despite being ready and it not mattering that it was wet in the sea already, conditions were just too rough, too windy.

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Time for the first dive boat to come back … fast!
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It was too stormy
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Never mind, time for a nice expresso to warm your cockles

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Now some Mathematics to learn and to understand my ABT from my TBT!

..and after the training, the theory, the dives and the exam you get one of these!

..and finally, after the training, the theory, 244 pages of the manual, the dives and the exam, you finally get one of these! I am proud!

Thank you to everyone at EasyDive, Le Morne, especially the extremely patient Guillame, (..”Now this is very important..”) who helped me get this far.

I have signed up for the advanced course and underwater shots are promised for a future post!

Life in Mauritius has started!

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.

Mauritius unexpectedly mirrored

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.

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Fresh and tasty wraps, salads and smoothies
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A Walkway in the Caudan waterfront
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Caudan waterfront looking up at Port Louis

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?

Pereybere beach, near Grand Baie
Sunset on La Preneuse beach
Belle Mare beach in the afternoon

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.

Snorkelling in Blue Bay

This is a wonderful island with so much to explore, discover and enjoy.