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Salt used to be put into wicker baskets and left out to dry but these have now been replaced by plastic ones with drainage holes.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

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!

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.

img_0908
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.

img_0170
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.

img_0426-1
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.

img_0919

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.

img_1129

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.

img_0334
The first part was a walk up a gentle slope in the early morning
untitled
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.

img_0353
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.

img_0354
Time for a water break and words of wisdom!

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

img_0386
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.

img_0429
This hiker has just passed the national flower of Mauritius on his right

img_0400

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

img_0427
The views of the South coast as you climb are superb
img_0416
Sometimes you have to stop to let people go the other way
img_0434
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.

img_0443-1
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.

img_0482
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.

img_0494
No sign of Julie Andrews anywhere
img_0513
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.

img_0538
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.

http://www.facebook.com/yanaturemauritius

http://www.trekkingmauritius.com

 

Amuse-bouches

img_0443
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.

IMG_1232 (1)
Tamarind Falls
img_9246
Cane fields at Souillac
img_1611
Quatre Bornes Saturday Market
img_0152
Red whiskered bulbul in a coconut palm on the beach
img_9317
Pont Naturel
img_8095
Lord Shiva at Grand Bassin
img_8104
An offering at Grand Bassin
img_0936
Idols at Grand Bassin
img_8441
Kestrel Valley
img_1890
Crystal Rock
img_0865
Dolphins at Tamarin

It has been amazing!

Domaine des Aubineaux

IMG_8067
Pooches on the porch

This colonial house was built in 1872 and is now a museum at the start of the Tea Route in Forest Side, near Curepipe. Yes, there is tea produced on the island.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 10.23.05

The house was the home of the Aubineaux family and originally built in wood.

The guide sends you into the attic via a circular staircase. There is a very casual display of, well, things you would find in an attic in the 1950’s including camera equipment and wind-up gramophone.

Attic
State of the Ark photography and The Joe Loss Orchestra on 78rpm

On the ground floor, you can explore the main parts of the house.

IMG_8054
The house is filled with original period furniture, paintings and photographs.

It was extended and refurbished years ago adding, amongst other things, a wide central corridor by taking space away from the main rooms; this was very unusual at the time. The house was also the first in Mauritius to have electricity installed which must have been a shock.

IMG_8059
The bed was harder than the floor but the room light and airy
walls
Original wallpaper and some lovely rosewood furniture

The house and its contents give you a very good idea of what life was like in those times on the island.

IMG_8055
They knew how to entertain in those days as this extending table displays

Some of the wood used in the decoration and construction of the house came from shipwrecks.

It has been a long time since these ivories were tinkled
It has been a long time since these ivories were tinkled
IMG_8051
The local Philharmonic Society would play music at the house. (Gramophone was clearly not loud enough).
Plenty of rum from St Aubin distillery to choose from
A great selection of aged and flavoured rums from St Aubin distillery

The stables have been transformed and include an essential oil distillery.

Nice to have a small distillery in the back garden
Nice to have a small distillery in the back garden, this one produces flavours
IMG_8070
South facing side of the house over looking the stables and the stunning garden
The shop has tea and gifts on sale
The shop has tea, rum and other gifts on sale

The Floral Park has many trees endemic to the island and some exotic plants too; well worth a stroll around.  These palms looked amazing, the trunks so neat and tidy.

IMG_8078 (1)
Palmier Royal or Roystonia Regia

I will continue the Tea Route at a later date: it may be a bit of a rum do.

http://www.saintaubin.mu/larouteduthe/

Casela Nature and Leisure Park

IMG_8398

This was originally a bird sanctuary and has gradually developed to become a major tourist attraction on the West Coast between Cascavelles and Tamarin.

With over 250 hectares, Casela is home to 1,500 birds as well as white lions, Bengal tigers, cheetahs, hyenas, camels, pygmy hippos, white rhinos and giant tortoises amongst others. There are also zip wires, mud karting and other activities.

Having enjoyed African safaris I was only really interested in the giant tortoises and the birds.

IMG_6969
Loose ruck practice
IMG_6978
Time for a nap after eating a leaf

It is amazing how fast these tortoises move when there is food around.

The birds have so much colour, it  comes from the most unbelievable paintbox.

IMG_6885
Latino Lovebird
IMG_6890
An impressive display
IMG_6935
Scarlet Ibis
IMG_6903
Fischer’sLovebird. Just impossible colours!
IMG_7027
Not a Norwegian Blue but wonderful plumage
IMG_6936
Blue Indian ring-necked Parakeet
IMG_7921
A very large canary
IMG_7061
A pair of ducks going for a swim
IMG_7085
Mother hen preventing chicks from getting too clucking close
IMG_7148
Guard duty

It was enjoyable to see the birds at close quarters with such amazing colours.

A very successful enterprise but give me a game park, everytime.

Casela Nature and Leisure Park

Views and Blues

IMG_7920
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.

IMG_7466
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.

IMG_7472
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.

IMG_7471
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.

IMG_6788

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

IMG_6816
The dolphins were feeding deep in the water for a change
IMG_6822
Mother and child

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

IMG_6874

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

IMG_6859

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.

IMG_6871

It was like a mill pond; beautiful.

Dragon boat racing

IMG_5644

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.

IMG_6320

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.

IMG_6358
New shiny flags have appeared in Place d’Armes overlooking the harbour
IMG_6366
The latest Bollywood film was a big distraction to many
IMG_6447
A crowd gathered in the sunshine around the Caudan arena to watch Chinese Lion dancing and other displays. It was not raining.
IMG_6452
The Yoo Sin Boat dance
IMG_6463
Horse tail swishing
IMG_6471
Not now Kato!

The first race!

IMG_6420
A clear winner and three tying for second place.
IMG_6439
They all had to turn around, not easy, and bring the boats back for the next teams to race.
IMG_6442
The drummer is vitally important for the rhythm and the dragon for good luck.
IMG_6404
Multi national crowd waiting for the second race
IMG_6406
The four dragon boats are in position … or are they?
IMG_6526
No, not quite. Back a bit.

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

IMG_6545
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.

IMG_6560 (1)
And finally they are off!
IMG_6562
Fuelled by desire, spirit, dim sum and chow mein they sprinted to the harbour entrance
IMG_6574
Next stop, Hong Kong!

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.

IMG_3568

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.

IMG_4087
I wonder if he does drive a Porsche; the paintings aren’t cheap!

IMG_4086

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

IMG_3569
First the nugget paste
IMG_3576
‘No polish, no shine. No polish, no shine’
IMG_3578
Then the brush. (Note to self: Don’t wash trousers and towels together).
IMG_3574
Strong fingers needed to stitch and repair
IMG_3573
All the tools necessary to repair shoes and sandals
IMG_3579
My foot was hot after a minute with the duster!

IMG_3582

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

Mo pe aprann koz Kreol Morisien

Well that was for my Mauritian readers!

So what do you do in Mauritius when it rains? Stay indoors is probably the ‘korek’ answer and you can do that at a shopping mall and on the way back from ‘laplaz’, the beach …

dasd
Brief respite from the rain but not the wind

There was a big ‘Super U’ supermarket at Flacq on the East coast with some 50 or so smaller shops around it and dry inside.

On the mezzanine floor there were some small independent shops and, surprisingly, the simplest of museums.

sdks
Early rulers did not have a hair problem with humidity it seems

It highlighted the early colonisation of the island and how it developed.

IMG_2410
Specialist shops on the island sell model ships like this, some much bigger, which get exported all over the world.

http://www.bobatoshipmodels.com/en/home.php

Dutch, French and English ships would have dropped anchor off the island  .. but their ships would have been a bit larger.

IMG_2407

Early settlers had well ventilated homes, essential due to the primitive cooking utensils.

IMG_2408

A farmer might have used an ox like this, hopefully not as thin, or sought an alternative job as a model for Abercrombie and Fitch.

sdks
Well illustrated and written boards were educational, thoughtful and revealing
IMG_2412
Willian lookalike demonstrates that family life was pretty simple too

Un-leased shop space has been put to excellent use in the shopping centre, the Mauritius Museums Council should be congratulated for putting this exhibition in the heart of the community with free and east access so visitors can imagine what life was like for the early inhabitants of the island.

http://www.mauritiusmuseums.mu

Now back to my Creole lesson,

Mo Angle, mo sort Langleter’