Probably the most creative festive decoration I have seen in recent weeks. It is made from empty champagne bottles and must have been fun putting together! Mine is going to come freshly cut from the forest on Christmas Eve.
144 mountain bikers from Mauritius, Reunion, France, Germany, New Zealand, Namibia and Australia, cycled 200 kilometres around the southern part of the island during three early morning stages at the end of November.
This was the seventh year that the race had been held allowing riders to access private lands and experience amazing views as they climbed and descended the slopes of the wild and open countryside of the south. It was exhausting and hot just watching them!
One of the rules is that competitors must race in teams of two and stay together at all times. Teams can be entered for Mens, Ladies, Mixed, Over 40s and Juniors.
Accommodation was at the 4* Tamassa at Bel Ombre, part of the LUX Group of hotels who made everyone very welcome, particular thanks should go to the restaurant and bar staff who were excellent. Some competitors decided to stay in the tented village; no air con though!
Although this was a competition and everyone wanted to do their best, you could not fail to see the camaraderie between all the participants after the race and during the rest time. One overseas rider thought his race weekend was over after the second day when he broke a wheel on the course. A local Mauritian competitor immediately offered his spare when he found this out later that day. All the bikes needed a good wash and some TLC after the ride.
Many riders brought their families as well and this added to the happy and friendly atmosphere around the start/finish and hotel.
Every night the leaders were given ‘jerseys’ (microfibre thin tops) and medals at prize giving. The team of Julien Absalon (Double Olympic Champion) and Yannick Lincoln were the winners of the Mens competition and completed the course in 8 hours, 31 minutes and 8 seconds at an average speed of 21.1km/hour. They were very fit!
Congratulations to everyone who took part and finished the course and specials thanks to the sponsors and volunteers who made it all happen.
Today is the last day that I can send my Christmas cards unless they are for delivery on the island. Its been a challenge to find any cards as I am told they usually don’t go on sale until much closer to 25 December. Postage varies substantially based on weight and size.
So, now armed with my thin, light and small cards, I strolled (its over 30 degrees, of course I strolled) along to the Post Office to queue in line to be weighed and measured.
As usual, I am surprised by things on the way. For example I did not expect to see these toddler swimming inflatables on sale whilst queuing at the traffic lights.
Or this unusual purpose for a boat.
The streets are busy with preparations for the PORLWI festival of light which starts tomorrow night. I will cover that in another post.
The Post Office is next to the Blue Penny museum.
Mauritius’ first two postage stamps were issued in 1847 and were the first stamps issued outside of Great Britain in any part of the British Empire. They were a red one penny and a blue two penny. Does this prove blues are superior to reds?
Having bought all the stamps necessary, they all needed to be licked and applied before posting. Having been used to self adhesive ones for a while now, it was strange to taste the glue which I can assure you was strong and sticky and got on my fingers too!
My total postage was the equivalent of £13.32 and seemed good value to me but will they arrive before Christmas?
Last weekend my plans changed from a typical holidaymaker’s view at the beach to what the residents actually see. Some interesting things and some images that struck me. It is not all sandy beaches, luxury hotels and turquoise lagoons!
The Mauritian flag is made up of four bands ; red for bloodshed, blue for the Indian Ocean, green for the lush, tropical vegetation and yellow for independence and golden sunshine. It proudly flies everywhere on the island. I bought a tie with these colours, unwittingly, many years ago. It has come with me.
There are a lot of statues in public and historical places, one of the most famous is of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, (SSR), ‘The Father of the Nation’, the first Prime Minister of Mauritius, who led the island to independence in 1968. Many Mauritians on their way to work pass through the road SSR is looking up at.
In the centre there are many offices, banks, local businesses and skyscrapers. Having walked for five minutes or so, the heat and humidity warms your body so much that it can be both a shock and a relief to go into an air conditioned building and see Christmas decorations accompanied by traditional songs referring to snow and winter wonderlands! (I haven’t found any Christmas cards yet but I am looking; six days until the last day to post!)
The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) Head Office is a stunning 10 storey, 10,000 square metre building, at a business area in the centre of the island. It uses recycled products in its furniture, harvests rainwater, has low energy lighting and is strategically placed between North and South to virtually remove all direct solar gains. It may remind you of the media centre at the MCC at Lords cricket ground.
In contrast, the local market in Curepipe has a brightly coloured set of chimneys above which advertise one of the best known local brands, a paint producer.
This is an historic fruit and vegetable market right in the centre of the city, bustling with activity and character whilst offering the freshest of produce. The first things that hits you as you enter are the colours lit up by shafts of brilliant sunshine from vents in the roof. These photographs show this so much better than I can describe.
There are many stalls selling similar merchandise, everyone calling for customers in a very friendly way. Not many tourists are inside, they are outside the market seeking souvenirs in the adjoining street (unlikely to have been made on the island though). One enterprising trader was even offering sliced vegetables ready to put straight into a soup.
A few stalls are offering herbs and spices, milled ones are the only thing you will find wrapped in cling film in this market. Some are offering herbs to cure any illness or impediment from asthma to gout, PMT to cellulite, even an aphrodisiac root is available for those who need it!
It was lunchtime during the visit and I was now feeling hungry. The street food on offer is exceptional, not only in taste but also in value. A Dholl Puri, probably the most popular Mauritian dish on offer, and a Farata cost 12 Mauritian rupees each (£0.22) and a glass of Alouda to drink it with, 20 rupees (£0.36). Delicious. It was a good recommendation to queue at Mr Maraz’s stall, his was the most popular too.
Cakes in various shapes and sizes looked very tempting but too filling for today; maybe next time.
After a few hectic weeks of packing, clearing, goodbyes and mild panic, Mauritian immigration greeted me warmly on my arrival at Plaisance airport. I am finally here, I thought. During my first few days on the island it has been a pleasure to meet so many friendly people who could not have done more to make me feel so welcome.
I have only had one real challenge so far that vexed me a little! I brought two suitcases with me and having opened the first at my temporary address (I move to Tamarin on the West Coast in December) I tried to open the second. The combination lock had jammed! Rather than resort to brute force I decided to leave it for the moment and manage with the clothes I had. I tried again a few days later and voila it opened as if by magic.
The weather has been splendid, the food delicious and the views amazing. You know you are in Mauritius when you see a view like I did in the wing mirror of my car on the first day I drove it from the dealer’s showroom.
Caudan waterfront was not too busy when I went for a walk and a cool drink in the afternoon. The shops were diverse and interesting and one walkway showed that umbrellas are not just there to keep the rain off! I am also looking forward to the freshly prepared vegetarian wraps at the Kauai restaurant.
I have had walks on the beach in Grand Baie, Pereybere, La Preneuse and Belle Mare and obviously had to enjoy the sea; is the water really 25 degrees all year around?
I managed to have an hour’s snorkelling in Blue Bay where I was amazed to see so many colourful fish so close to the beach.
This is a wonderful island with so much to explore, discover and enjoy.