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!

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

Expat.com © 2016

http://www.expat.com

Music for the soul with Hans Nayna

Hans Nayna is a talented local musician from Mahebourg, 27 years old, who is on tour promoting his first album, a crowd funded CD recorded in Mauritius. Last night, he and his excellent eight-piece band, thoroughly entertained an exhuberant crowd of around 300 at the Institute Francais in Rose Hill.

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Not many concert halls are built around a tree

The local press is a good source of what is happening and I jumped at the chance to go. This was my first visit to this venue, I was there on time, surprised to find yet another free car park in Mauritius! I paid 300 rupees (£6) for a ticket and joined a very relaxed crowd at the bar; speedy service with a smile too! Excellent. I was asked if I had practised my “La … la-la laa’s”. What?

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It started at 8pm … Mauritian time!

With the minimum of fuss, Hans and his band almost apologetically crept around the black curtain to great applause and started their show.

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Hans has a strong singing voice with soul, blues and bags of emotion. He has been compared with Paulo Nutini, a bit of jazz, soul and blues. Let’s see, or rather, hear.

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Talented, unpretentious and likeable

He had been a finalist on RunStar, a version of The Voice, on nearby French island, La Reunion. It must be nerve wracking to perform your own words and music, have your first CD on sale, be up there on stage in front of your family, friends, loyal supporters and others who had heard about you. He went through all the tracks and a few others, the performance growing in confidence as he and the band felt the audience participation, appreciation and pleasure.

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Emanuelle’s violin led many of the songs

There was a lovely rich sound from the brass section especially on “Le King” and “Welcome to Paradise”; Fabien Thomas on trumpet and Bryan Armoogam on trombone. Emmanuelle Ghem was elegance personified with her violin, delicate left hand fingers getting just the right vibrato; Josian Long was, of course, as cool as a Mauritian cucumber on the bass as tradition dictates.

Jann Payet played electric piano and keyboards with sensitivity and distinction especially at the start of “Music for the Soul”, a song which builds slowly The backing vocals supplied with gusto, especially on “Liv” by Christabelle André and Anne-Sophie Paul (her name would be so confusing if it was Sophie-Anne Paul).

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I thought Hans was similar to George Ezra just with a voice not so low, especially on “Liv” and “Music for the Soul”. “Pieces of the World” reminded me a bit of George Benson in the early days. “Welcome to Paradise” had lots of audience participation with more La La’s than in the Teletubbies! (I am la la-la la-ing now as I am writing this). “With You”; impossible to not tap your feet and dance to that one.

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He had to sell all his footwear to pay for the CD

Christophe Bertin showed a great range on the drums through the concert especially in “Feelings”,  (no, not that one!) and “Music for the Soul” .

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Maybe all Mauritian drum kits are fitted with flower holders

At the end, a spontaneous standing ovation was humbly taken and “Mo lam”,  a haunting violin rising above the chorus,  was the standout choice for the popular encore.

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I think it was Hans’ Mum who came on stage to give flowers to him and the ladies

Thank you to Lauryn who told me he was a pretty cool guy and introduced me to his music. She was right; Hans and his band were terrific. The lyrics were sensitive, soulful and uplifting.  The music sort of blues, jazz and a bit of rock, it was just great!

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I left the concert with a big smile on my face,  my soul warmed by the music and looking forward to playing the CD in the car on the way home.

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“La la-la la, La la-la la”.

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Hans Nayna – super connected with a happy audience

Now, here is a real treat for you….

The whole concert is on:

“Gimme love”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijBlbHX3p0A

“Music for the soul”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5mmy9zBvmo&list=PLEpthTfasd_sHTBucKVLFCMCnwa2F8Lm8

Natural history of Mauritius

 

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This splendid building houses the Natural History Museum in the centre of Port Louis and, having walked past it at least ten times a week, it was time to pay a visit … although entrance is free. It is open Monday – Friday 0900 -1600 and 0900 – 1200 on Saturday.

This is the oldest museum in Mauritius and contains many animals, birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, fish and of course, the world famous dodo of which there are several models in the garden.

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There are several uniquely decorated life-sized dodos outside

The first exhibits portray what Mauritius was like when it was discovered by the Dutch in 1598. There were hardly any predatory mammals, reptiles or even large insects then. The early human inhabitants brought animals to farm and plants to grow food. This upset the natural balance on the island but made it easier for man to live and develop the land which was almost completely covered with trees.

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The island still has so many beautiful and colourful birds.

Deer thrived in the forests and still do. There are over 10,000 in Mauritius now.

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They giant turtle in the background is one of the survivors of man colonising the island

The fruit bat is not so popular as it, well, eats fruit. It’s population has grown too much recently and as a result increased locally produced fruit market prices! It is why the lychee crop was so poor last December and a cull was introduced to reduce the bat population. Not fair on ants as they are the only native mammal of Mauritius. Deer, pigs, rats and other were introduced by humans settling on the island.

Bats famously hang upside down but baby bats feed upwards.

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Bats fear old age and incontinence

The dodo is well known and forever associated with Mauritius but I had not heard of the Great Elephant Bird which had originated in nearby Madagascar. It stood 3 metres high, weighed just under half a metric tonne and it’s egg was bigger than even a dinosaur egg, measuring 30cm wide.

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Equivalent in volume to 180 chicken eggs

The dodo is the national emblem of Mauritius and appears on bank notes, stamps and coins as well as many other items. It was just under a metre tall and weighed 20kg. It was a friendly, flightless bird and had no predators until humans arrived in Mauritius.  Many dodo bones have been discovered  during excavation work in the last 15 years.

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Almost as soon as the dodo was discovered, it became extinct, its eggs eaten by new predators like imported Macaque monkeys and the dodos themselves eaten by hungry sailors. The fact that the female only laid one egg at a time may have been a physically comforting thought for her but this was not good for future survival of the species. The last sighting of a dodo was sadly in 1662.

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The Dodo. Never to be forgotten in Mauritius.

Now, what was under the sea and in the turquoise lagoons? Let’s start with shellfish. This giant clam shell was a whopper.

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Imagine a dish of Spaghetti Vongole with a few of these in it!

Diving would not be so much fun without a few of these cuddly fish swimming around you.

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Have a whale of a time with these lone sharks

I have not seen too many butterflies in Mauritius, the ones that I have found have all been quite small. This display excited me and I was looking forward to photographing some like this on the island until I read the display was of butterflies only found in the Amazon!

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I look forward to snapping the Brilliant Blue and the Bush Brown on my travels now I have found that they are part of the 39 endemic butterflies in Mauritius.

This was a really interesting and unpretentious museum with free entrance to all.

 

http://www.mauritiusmuseums.mu

Uninvited guests

I have welcomed many visitors to my new home and also met some that have come in on their own!

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Gekkos are our friends; they eat mosquitoes

Most of the ones I have seen are light brown or bright green. They make strange noises at night, chirping like a cricket or even barking like a dog. Yes, really! The can walk easily up and down a smooth wall and have amazing pads on their feet that just stick. Strange fact. They have no eyelids, unlike lizards, and have to lick their eyes clean.

I saw a big sign for Rotring pens in Chinatown recently and went back to the shop to buy one. They were brilliant for drawing in A level Biology and drawing cartoons in letters as I was recently reminded. Unfortunately they stopped selling them in 1998 but the sign was covering a large hole above the shop door so they had not moved it. I must do some drawing one night.

Undeterred, one night I put some black ink in my fountain pen and looked at a pen and ink Christmas card for inspiration just as cockroach scampered across the floor. If you spray a cockroach with insecticide such as the appropriately named “Doom” you may be surprised by the cockroach indignantly sniffing it all in, turning round and flying towards you squeaking, “is that all you have got?” A flip-flop or sandal is more effective I have found and better value.

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Cockroaches can survive a nuclear explosion and may well inherit the world if things go bad

They tend to be the size of an adult male thumb, slightly brown on the back and pretty fast movers. You don’t see many during the day, but they are more active at night and can be disturbed wandering across the floor just as you turn a light on. Somehow they can survive without food or water for a month which in this climate seems amazing. They make a quiet sort of hissing sound but stop when flattened by a flip flop… like thisssssssss one.

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Next, something silent but stingy…

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The Yellow Indian Wasp hovers like a silent hang-glider

Now these little blighters are quite scary. Firstly, they are almost completely yellow, secondly they are silent and thirdly, they are bigger than the average wasp and the sting is severe to mind numbingly super painful. You can be relaxing quietly when you are suddenly aware of one hovering, ready to swoop silently on you. Beware.

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Not sure if it is a male or female mosquito

So I started with the Gekko which is our friend, can be slightly alarming at first, the barking chirp is mildly annoying after a couple of hours trying to sleep but they eat the evil enemy known as the mosquito, the deadliest animal family in the world. This drawing actually is the most scary of the three I have attempted and seems to have some of the menace they give out. It is the female that bites, the male doesn’t. I have also heard that the male makes a whiny noise, the female doesn’t.  So the next time you are falling asleep and you hear a mosquito close to your right ear, don’t worry, relax … but if you hear nothing, there could be a female just about to bite you! Useful? I hope so.

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!

Chinatown Food & Cultural Festival

The 12th annual festival in the Chinatown sector of Port Louis was held for two days and it was well worth attending. I had been promised that several live Chinese Lions would be attending. Pictures say 1,000 words and here they are!

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The crowds were huge, enticed by the street food, chinese lanterns, live entertainment and music. Now where is that lion? In the Mane Road perhaps?

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I thought you said “Lion Dancing”….

This Line Dancing group had come over with their cowboy hats from Reunion Island, 40 miles away. Quite bizarre to see them dancing to authentic Chinese music rather than Achy Breaky Heart! Now where is the Lion Dancing!

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The troupe may look bored but they had been playing for a few hours and had two more to go…the lion was enjoying it though but where is he?

Here he is!

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This was the first Chinese lion I saw, definitely the most animated, a sort of cross between Rod Hull’s Emu and Animal from the Muppets but bigger and yes, my head did fit in his mouth.

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These guys drummed and clashed cymbals for hours

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Not all the entertainment on offer drew the crowds. This band was really good too!

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The crowd were enthralled by the Magician and his card tricks ably assisted by his two young volunteers: translations supplied by the cheeky female clown below.

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She had been encouraging the crowd to go and watch the 7:00pm magic show,

“Hey, you’re English! Will you come and watch?” she shouted over the crowd at me.

“Yes, of course,” I promised!

“A man keeping to a promise; I will believe it when I see it!”

“It will be magic if I do,” I replied.

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Three princesses selling china. Royal Doulton, perhaps?

Anything and everything was being sold on the streets. No opportunity missed to sell to a packed crowd!

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It was so busy in places you just could not move. That was not bad at all because you could soak in the atmosphere and smell the food too!

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Those crispy things are very filling
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Lai Min restaurant offering their signature dishes for very reasonable prices

The aroma of barbecued pork and duck made me feel ravenous.

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Not sure what any of the snacks are called but they were delicious and I could only get four in my mouth without choking
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No time to haggle over the price, he has the tongs and is going to fill his bag. (A Chinese Tong?)
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Yeo! Naturally I chose to taste several of their excellent products!
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Tamarind is a sour and sweet fruit and a distant relative of the string bean. Surprised that Yeo do not sell milk.

Including this one as all the food had made me thirsty.

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Every home should have one! A painted chicken. I wanted a crispy fried one.

He had another 800 chickens in his checked bag but the Father Christmas dolls in his black bag were not selling well.

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“Anyone seen Chi Chi or the bamboo stall?”

It was so crowded, you couldn’t move at times in the main street.  You never knew who you would bump into, even a panda with a balloon.

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It would not be a Chinese festival without an inflatable dragon, now would it? This one was safely inflated in a quiet side street and reminded more of a Welsh dragon than a Chinese one.

Even mice were on sale! (You just have to go to a field to get one for free!)

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Mice to see you, to see you, mice

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No Norwegian Blues on sale, they are too rare, of course, beautiful plumage.  These colourful birds are also being advertised on Twitter

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Mutant Ninja Turtles taking it easy and waxing lyrical about life.

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No they are not slices of carrot!

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Also extraordinary how a shop that can sell general groceries can also suddenly sell handbags when there is late night shopping going on.

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A relief to get in to a quiet side street
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These balloons were on sale at inflated prices.
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Impossible to predict what you might find for sale on the street.
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If you can’t move, just look up at the lanterns
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Not all the side streets were quiet! Family gatherings and a place for a chat
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Great friendliness and good humour in a lovely atmosphere
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Several places to grab and ice cream or a sorbet; better than the ice cream van outside Chinatown still playing “Three Blind Mice”

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This ice cream vendor on a bicycle took the torch off his forehead so I could take a photograph!

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Every table taken for dinner in one of the many Chinese restaurants open. Fortunately, there was a free table in this one!

Having really enjoyed the evening, I set off home and just outside Chinatown I almost fell over all the street traders selling all sorts of things to passers by.

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T shirts for sale. Any size you can find!

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Another street trader outside the Chinatown festival not missing an opportunity

This was a really happy festival, lots of fun, food and festivities celebrating Chinatown, the local community and its heritage. “Zhùhè!”

I look forward to next year.

A walk, a wrap and a shine

You never know who or what you are going to come across, even on a short walk at lunchtime. I had gone out for a chicken wrap, a juice and a shoe shine and came across a blast from the past. People wear replica football shirts across the world, predominantly Liverpool and Arsenal ones here, but I was surprised to see this well worn one at lunchtime.

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Also, the fabulous PEM, a local artist, was looking splendid as usual. He paints and also carves wood sculptures. He laughed out loud when I showed him a photo of Roy Wood, “Is that your Dad?” I asked.

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I wonder if he does drive a Porsche; the paintings aren’t cheap!

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The cobblers in the street today were busy but they had time to give me a good old fashioned shoe shine.

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First the nugget paste
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‘No polish, no shine. No polish, no shine’
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Then the brush. (Note to self: Don’t wash trousers and towels together).
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Strong fingers needed to stitch and repair
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All the tools necessary to repair shoes and sandals
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My foot was hot after a minute with the duster!

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Good job I brought my sunglasses, my shoes are super shiny now!