PORLWI by nature – the city lit up at night

For the 3rd year, Mauritians and visitors to the island were invited to come to the capital, Port Louis, for a festival emphasising urban regeneration and cultural reconnection.

Wooden pallets were used to make a stage and seats for a giant screen in the harbour. Even some of the lampposts were clad in wood!

As the sun started to set and dusk approached,  a live draw for the Lotto was enthusiastically being performed on another stage.

Porlwi by Nature took place in and around some of the historic streets and buildings of Port Louis. It was an opportunity to to explore how to bring nature into the daily life of Mauritius.

There were three distinct areas to visit joined by streets pedestrianised just for the festival.

Street Art, Street Light, Street Music, Street Performances and of course Street Food were on display for all to enjoy, see and connect to in the unique style of Mauritius.

An excellent example of Wall Art, even the staircase was completely painted.

Japanese music being played at the entrance to the Granary but no sushi for sale.

Now a chance to reconnect with nature within the cool, stone walls of the Granary on a hot, humid December evening.

Who could resist a walk amongst  tropical plants swaying from the warehouse ceiling, bathed in green light?

There were varied exhibits from sculpture, to paintings and illustrations, some of them horticulturally displayed also this figure should have had green fingers.

One of the art exhibits on display, slides lit from behind looking similar to golden brown sugar crystals.

A wedding dress suspended from the ceiling, bathed in spotlights and confetti.

You can store plants and display them in many ways indoors but you always need a watering can nearby!

Walking over to the superb Aapravisi Ghat museum (a blog on this is coming soon) in the Dock and the surrounding buildings, there were more exhibits.

A film was projected on to this building. You just had to stop and look at the moving images and how it completely changed the shape and style of the building. Two separate displays are just visible through the two rectangular openings.

Looking through the window on the left of the previous building, this display showed images of flowers that bloomed whilst changing colour and shape. Technically difficult to photograph!

And through the window on the right, a technicolour collage of images of Mauritius.

Another building had displays about sealife. This was all about humpback whales and explained why they jump out of the water.

Inside one of the large warehouse buildings in the dock. This projection of a light show filmed amongst trees gave an interesting back drop for visitors to mingle with.

Green was a ‘natural’ choice to highlight some of the new buildings.

Surely this old bank building should be lit in black and red? Who has heard of going into the white? (Maybe a billiard player?)

A chance to reflect on the usual view of the port and Caudan Waterfront. Even a cruise liner had moved forward for a better look at the city.

The passengers would have seen the Waterfront and palm trees colourfully lit in front of Place d’Armes.

At Caudan, this dancer in striped trousers with a Zebra head on was entertaining the crowd as they crossed by. Why a zebra head? Because it was a crossing point.

Porlwi by Nature, at night, showed some of the old and new buildings as well as the streets bathed in light with many interesting displays and performances. It certainly gave visitors a chance to think about the history of the city, its culture and, perhaps, the future.

Water colour painting ‘Plein Air’ session

I had read that a group of local water colour artists were going to be by the windmill in Port Louis harbour and you could observe what and how they were painting.

Being a supporter of the arts, I was keen to go. About ten artists were there, quietly going about their work.

The old windmill is not often seen by people who visit the docks as it is on the other side of the main harbour, the working side. The mill and surrounding buildings were good subjects to paint.

The brushes, paints and accessories seemed very similar to those that I have seen before, maybe the sun tans on the artists were a little bit deeper! No cheese or wine to be seen anywhere, only bottles of water.

All the artists were very approachable and happy to discuss their subject and painting methods.

I talked to Riaz Auladin and discovered he is the President of the International Watercolour Society in Mauritius.

He told me that the Society often has days painting outdoors in the ‘open air’.

It was not the sunniest of days but still a warm one. Difficult to flood the paper with water before painting.

Riaz was interested to hear about the Savages, a Bristol, England, based society of members interested in painting, drawing, music and performing arts as well as supporting and enjoying the exceptional talents of their fellow members.

The old buildings at the back of the windmill were a popular subject.

The painting finished, it was now time to dry the brushes.

Only two artists were at the dockside, sheltered from the sun under the watchful eye of customs officers and the occasional passers-by.

Tyre-ink work?

A tug that manoeuvres some of the freight ships in the busy port.

Some detail being applied to the image of the multiple flour mills on the other side of the harbour.

Perhaps this was the view that would have been taken by Frank Shipsides, a famous maritime painter.

I think this painter forgot to pack his things up before leaving for home!

Thank you to all the artists for their conversation and for displaying their work. Everyone who stopped to chat were really interested.

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Salt Pans at ‘Les Salines de Yemen’ at Tamarin

This is sadly the last place in Mauritius that salt is produced using traditional methods that have not changed in over 200 years.

The gates are often locked but if you go early in summer you can ask to go in and look around, children seem especially curious about how salt is made.

Sea water is pumped directly from the lagoon into large black cobblestone ‘pans’ and simply left to evaporate.

Collection of the salt mainly happens in the hot, dry summer periods as when it rains, well, it is back to square one or pan one!

It takes a couple of days for the water to evaporate and crystals to form.

It could be like walking on ice, frost or frozen snow.

The more delicate ‘Fleur de sel’ (rich in magnesium) is gathered from the surface water in a ‘lousse’ and larger crystals of rock salt from the bottom of the pans.

Salt used to be put into wicker baskets and left out to dry but these have now been replaced by plastic ones with drainage holes.

These ladies must be the fittest in Tamarin.

Harvested salt is now left to dry indoors in the rock building prior to bagging and despatch.

Natural as well as flavoured salts are available to buy in selected stores around the island.

The salt pans are an important part of the history and culture of Mauritius, it is sad to see them gradually being replaced by luxury property development and cheaper imports of salt. It is of great interest to visitors on the island as is obvious by the number of people stopping to photograph and discover how salt used to be harvested.

Hans Nayna launches his second album, ‘Time Flies’, and it does!

 

Eighteen months ago I was recommended to go and see Hans and his band in concert. Its a mixture of blues, soul and bit of rock and refreshingly memorable. I have been to a few of his concerts since then and have really enjoyed his music whilst sharing it with others.

I regularly play the first album, ‘Music For The Soul’;  it’s warm, soulful and has a real feel-good factor. It is music from Mauritius but it is not Mauritian music, it is music created and played by super talented musicians.

The concert was easy to get to at l’Espace Culturel Malcom de Chazal, a new venue in Moka with a large and free car park (almost unheard of in Europe). Copies of the new CD, recorded and mixed on the island by Richard Hein, were on sale outside.

This was Hans on ‘top’ form with his seven piece band excellently supporting him and they looked like they were having real fun playing their new music to the audience. The music is not too different from the first album just a bit tighter and maybe highlighting his fabulous voice.

Time Flies, the signature track and first on the album, starts in reflective mood on the past, gentle piano and mournful strings gradually building pace and becoming more upbeat as the lyrics are repeated and the drums and pace lift the song into an easily repeated chorus which the audience soon joined in with.

Masquerade is all about being yourself, no faking, who you want to be and goes from deeply thoughtful to an uplifting song which has you dancing away and to uncontrollably sing the African style chant along with. “..it’s a show”, he sang. No, it’s a concert!! A great song to wake up to with sleepy eyes.

He has given us Music for the Soul and now a Lullaby for Saul. Hans became a father earlier in the year and life has changed for ever for him based on the lyrics of this song as Mummy and Daddy are now stealing the moon and the clouds for their baby. What good parent would not?

Water was my favourite on the night. An un-keep-still-able song paying homage to a brown eyed woman with a blue dress, red lips dancing away, with soul catching moves. A fabulously tight song, great bass, wind and drums, which had everyone in the room smiling and lifted. This one did not slip through my hands.

I had heard one song before, Plastic World, as this was on his last tour, and the lyrics probably explained why the CD was packaged in an innovative cardboard folder that presented the disc to you on opening.

The lyrics of his songs always come across as very meaningful and serious, telling a story amongst best friends or lovers.

A surprise was in store with an interruption from Myckee, a popular local rap artist. Hans was enraptured performing  with him on ‘What we need’, well what Myckee needs is spelling lessons perhaps?

Oh No! The concert is over! That went quickly. Time flies. Time to go home. Wait, they are back on stage.

All the songs were in English except for ‘Mo Lam’ from the first album, which was a very, very popular encore.

It was terrific. Hans gave it everything as usual, his voice is special and he belts out the lyrics at times holding nothing back.

Thanks to Hans, his band and all the support team who put on a truly memorable concert.  Let’s hope time flies before the next album.

Photography exhibition at Caudan

Caudan waterfront in Port Louis has an outdoor exhibition of some wonderful photographs from around the island to celebrate 50 years of independence for Mauritius in 2018.

This is a selection of photographs I have taken of the excellent ones taken by talented local photographers.

Watching a sunset after a day on the beach is what many people do at the weekend and sunsets here are spectacular.

Sometimes, the sea just looks like it is on fire.

I am learning how to take better photographs in different lighting conditions; this is a tremendous one.

Some local “Sega” dancers performing on the beach.

The different colour sands at Chamarel can be seen clearly here.

Many of the public beaches are busy with local families at the weekend, most preferring to enjoy their time protected from the sun by the shade from the trees whilst mad dogs (of which there are many) and Englishmen (of which there are few) lay out in the midday sun … and get burnt!

The lagoon is teeming with fish and all you need is a hook, some nylon thread, a stick and a little patience to catch your supper.

Only one black and white photo and it is a great one.

Local ice cream vans are busy at public beaches especially during public holidays and weekends. There are only two songs they play though, “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” or “Greensleeves”. It just seems out of place!

Kite surfing at Le Morne, one of the best places in the world to do this.

An extraordinary photo of Pieter Both mountain, easily identified by the boulder seemingly perched precariously on the top…. but I can see an elephant ….

The deer are on red alert when anyone comes close … especially in the hunting season.

Some of the photographs show the wonderful life under the turquoise lagoon and on the reef that surrounds the island.

A very clever photo of a diver under Crystal Rock, close to the beach at Le Morne.

Just look at the colours of these ‘Blotcheye Soldier’ fish!

An ‘Indian Lion’ fish seen during a diving session at Flic en Flac.

Exploring at the “Cathedral” dive site, also at Flic en Flac.

A local bus hurrying through the cane fields, recently cut in the foreground, waiting to be cut in the background.

A view of Gunners’ Point at Grand Baie with a flamboyant tree in the foreground.

One of the many colourful birds at Casela Park on the West Coast.

The turtles at Casela move surprisingly fast especially if you offer them something to eat.

And finally, Pieter Both mountain in the background seen from fields of sugar cane with their beautiful flowers bending in the breeze like snow laden Christmas trees.

I go to this outdoor exhibition every time I visit Caudan and enjoy the inspirational photographs.

There will be more of my photographs soon!

Divali – The Hindu Festival of Light

For Hindus across Mauritius, and the world, Divali, the most popular religious festival. The name comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, meaning “rows of lamps that are lit”.

To celebrate Divali, people set off fireworks and light small, clay lamps called divas. This is the traditional way.

It is called The Festival of Light because because Divali marks the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.

People take time to decorate their homes, doorways and courtyards with lights and candles, make sweets and savouries.

Extra supplies of candles and especially firecrackers were on sale on the streets.

Electric lights have added a new dimension.

This building was very tastefully lit.

Restaurants, offices and even some small factories were decorated and spectacular from a distance.

This restaurant only serves light meals.

Moving my camera around whilst taking some photos of the lights gave way to some creative and colourful images.

Colleagues were very kind and thoughtful to me, giving me some tasty treats to eat.

This is one of many friendly, happy, enjoyable and well supported religious festivals on the island of Mauritius.

Le Morne Brabant

Mauritius is a beautiful island filled with many things to discover and enjoy but nothing could have prepared me for two mornings hiking on the West of the island. The first trip was to climb up Le Morne Brabant and the second, to hike up the Tamarin Falls and swim in some of the seven cascades. Nothing could have prepared me for two of the most enjoyable days I have spent on the island in the last ten months.

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Le Morne from the sea on the West coast. The hike was from the left to right and the summit

This blog will deal with Le Morne Brabant. It forms an important part of the history of the island and is a now world heritage site.

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The entrance to the heritage site, opposite the beach and car park, showing the terrifyingly steep cliffs from the top

In the early 19th century, slaves would escape to Le Morne and hide in the many caves on the mountain. When slavery was abolished in February 1835, the police went to mountain to tell the slaves they were now free. They were not believed and many tragically jumped to their death, fearing the consequences of recapture.

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The view half way up Le Morne Brabant with the West and South coasts in full view.

Le Morne beach is one of the island’s most beautiful and is a peninsula on the South Western tip of the island. There is an aerial view often used in travel brochures of the lagoon looking a little like a waterfall and an opportunity to see both the South and West coasts from the top of the mountain. Public access to the mountain had only recently been granted and a new road had been laid for access.

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I wanted to learn more about Le Morne and its role in the history of Mauritius so I chose a guided tour with Yan, the founder of Yanature. His company has permission from the Gambier family, the owners of Le Morne, to take visitors across their land and on the mountain. This was an excellent decision.

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Having met opposite the Paradis hotel, we drove a short distance from Le Morne to the main coastal road and then through a private access gate across some fields and up a rocky unmade road suitable for 4 wheel drive only. The weather was perfect. Around 15 of us, all ages and build, listened as Yan and his colleague Zack gave us a brief introduction to the walk which was expected to last around 3 to 4 hours.

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The first part was a walk up a gentle slope in the early morning
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Some pretty wild flowers to spot on the way up

The sun was making it difficult to photograph the West coast view but the South coast was looking amazing.

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A stunning view which has to be seen to be truly appreciated

Yan gave us a short talk on the what we might see on the way up the mountain, some safety advice and some tips on how to manoeuvre the tricky parts of the climb.

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Time for a water break and words of wisdom!

The weather was improving by the minute, sunny, warm and acres of blue sky. Beautiful.

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Some of the hike was like taking a walk along a country lane

You need to be reasonably fit to do this hike and walking boots or shoes are very useful! On the steeper parts of the climb you have to go slow and work out where to put your hands and feet. There is are ropes in places to help as well.

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This hiker has just passed the national flower of Mauritius on his right

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The view up can be daunting. Staying close to the rock and spreading your hands and feet gives good anchor points. Believe me!

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The views of the South coast as you climb are superb
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Sometimes you have to stop to let people go the other way
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Trochetia Boutoniana (Boucle d’Oreille)

This is the only place you can see the National Flower of Mauritius in the wild. It flowers from June to October.

It had taken us about 90 minutes to get to this viewpoint over looking Le Morne and the coastline used by hundreds of kitesurfers each week.

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The bottom left hand quarter of the photo usually is filled with kite surfers. Either having breakfast or not enough wind! This is the view of the illusion of waterfall as seen from the air

The last steep climb seemed to take an age and it was frustrating to see people already there.

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Nearly there. “It is easier coming down!”

And so, two hours after starting the climb, we are at the top, 1825 feet above sea level.

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No sign of Julie Andrews anywhere
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Time to take a rest on the edge … if you are not frightened of heights
It had to be done
It had to be done

So after 15 minutes admiring the views and getting our breath back, we started to descend. It really was easier going down with your back to mountain rather than facing it going up.

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It does look a bit steep going down!

It only took 80 minutes to get to the base of the mountain and it was much easier with the rope.

This is definitely a hike to do with a guide and I could not recommend Yan and Zack from Yanature enough. They were great company and great fun to have an unforgettable morning with.

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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.

Dragon boat racing

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Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis harbour is often used for displays and exhibitions as it is usually well supported. The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival was no exception.

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The Waterfront was looking splendid in the Winter sunshine (yes, it is really Winter). The coastguards had to move their boats to clear the racing area.

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New shiny flags have appeared in Place d’Armes overlooking the harbour
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The latest Bollywood film was a big distraction to many
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A crowd gathered in the sunshine around the Caudan arena to watch Chinese Lion dancing and other displays. It was not raining.
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The Yoo Sin Boat dance
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Horse tail swishing
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Not now Kato!

The first race!

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A clear winner and three tying for second place.
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They all had to turn around, not easy, and bring the boats back for the next teams to race.
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The drummer is vitally important for the rhythm and the dragon for good luck.
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Multi national crowd waiting for the second race
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The four dragon boats are in position … or are they?
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No, not quite. Back a bit.

Yes they were but no sooner than three boats were touching the wall, the fourth would drift away!

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Ready with a starting pistol and a fan

Seconds after this, the Officials’ boat had to be moved away from the wall delaying the start by another twenty minutes.

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And finally they are off!
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Fuelled by desire, spirit, dim sum and chow mein they sprinted to the harbour entrance
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Next stop, Hong Kong!