|Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; heaven being copied after Mauritius.|
16-Jan-2006 Seychelles to Mauritius
So, the idea is to leave as much as we can behind in Mauritius and travel more lightly to Réunion and Madagascar. We are staying one night in Mauritius and returning again after the other two islands. The question is what and how much. If we don't take diving or kite gear, we should be able to just take one big, heavy bag, which will no doubt cause airline consternation. So, we had a last Fairlyland breakfast, finished up the packing. One, big, heavy bag and three surprisingly light ones.
The flight to Mauritius was uneventful. It started with cabin staff parading through the cabin with bug spray, following by a slight burning in the nose, and finally, a fly flying merrily through. We had a great view of most of the island (larger than we expected and probably enlarged by a wide sweeping turn of the airplane over land) as we approached and landed. There are central mountains skirted by lots of farmland (mostly sugarcane) and city.
|Some difficult to identify airplane food on Air Seychelles||Lion Mountain above Mahébourg from the airport|
Chantemer is a small guesthouse relatively close to the airport, run by a delightful woman, Indra, and her little daschund, Cocign. She mistook Scott for being Dutch, and was surprised to hear that he was American; she is afraid of Americans. It seems that her last Americans were an obese couple who did not like anything and told her how she should do things. (Imagine that!) She also did not remember that she had agreed to hold luggage for us, but after a bit of worry, we found a place in her kitchen which would not be too much in the way. (OK, they ARE big bags, even if they are light.) Her house is right on the beach, so we took a short dip before dinner. The water was warm and relatively shallow.
For dinner, Indra had arranged reservations at the nearby Jardin de Beau Vallon (firstname.lastname@example.org, tel (230) 631 2805/50), an old colonial residence. We enjoyed a salad with chicken livers, the daily special (venison curry - imagine that), Sautéed duck breast, a chocolate soufflé with pineapple mint sauce, and bananas flambé. It was all delicious, and a welcome change after la cuisine Seychelloise, both in the selection and price.
|Little starters - compliments of the house||Salad with chicken livers|
|Venison Curry and sautéed duck breast||Banana flambé with LOTs of rum|
17-Jan-2006 Mauritius to Réunion
The flight leaves early, so we had to arrange a taxi to come at 3:30 AM. The guest house is not really set up for that, so Indra showed us how to work her locking contraptions and relock them so that we could slip out without waking her or Cocign. We had arranged with our arrival taxi driver for the pick-up, and, since he had not taken payment earlier, we were pretty sure he'd show up. We awoke to rain, but we were ready just as he pulled up. It worked so well, in fact, that the airport was not even open when we got there. Once we did get in (odd, Air Mauritius does not do mileage programs with any of our airlines), we were among the first customers to get coffee.
|Very early breakfast at the airport|
17-Jan-2006 to 01-Feb-2006 We traveled in Réunion and Madagascar and then returned to Mauritius for another week.
1-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Second Arrival
Faisal the taxi driver met us at the airport and took us to Chantemer. He clearly knows his way around Chantemer, because he took us up to our room and showed us where everything was and which keys did what.
We hunted high and low, but could not find the remote for the air conditioner, so we turned the fan on high and went to sleep. We're still worried about mosquitoes, but now for general bites and chikungunia (at least no more malaria).
2-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Settling in
Breakfast is served out on the front patio, and this is where we get a chance to meet the other guests and hold court with Madame. (Actually, she is a lot more informal and fun than that, but it feels a bit that way.) This morning there is a French woman who is well traveled and has lived in Madagascar, and a Norwegian couple (also well traveled - he works for SAS) on their second visit to Mauritius. They are all great sources of information, and fun folks. There are also numerous resident geckoes, many of which live behind the framed pictures on the wall.
We found out from Indra that she charges extra for use of the air conditioner, so we paid that and got the remote. Chantemer is a private house with five rooms for rent. We are upstairs in the terrace room, which has a terrace that looks out on the beach. The house's backyard opens literally onto a good sand beach, and you can wade into the knee-deep water. Because of the island's surrounding reef, it does not get very deep until rather far out. And, because it is so shallow, the water is a clear aqua-marine.
|Entertainment at breakfast||Our room||View from the terrace|
|The terrace from our room||One of many visitors to our terrace|
|House seen from the water||Le Preskîl - 5 star resort just up the streetScroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys, [shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out|
Around lunchtime, the Norwegians, Arne Habostad and Kristin Strand, mentioned that they were going to the market near Mahébourg, and we tagged along. There is a take-out counter, so we got a beouf pastry, a poisson pastry, a sweet lemon pastry, and fried rice. We then adjourned to the internet café, which was fast and had English (plus Chinese) keyboards. We did a bit of shopping, and then taxied back to Chantemer. Sick of water, we got some Sun Tea brewing in the bottles.
|Our lunch||Mosquito coils|
Roswitha tried to fly her kiteboarding kite, and everyone stood around and gave her advice. She did manage to smooth the beach.
For dinner, we headed into Mahébourg with Arne and Kristin to a restaurant that they had already been to. It was quite tasty; Roswitha had a heart of palm salad and a lobster, and Scott had a salad and chicken curry. The only disappointment was the ice cream dessert - it had freezer burn.
|Salad and palm heart salad||Chicken curry and lobster|
3-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Ile aux Cerfs
Indra arranged with her neighbor the all-around water sports guy, Jean-Claude (or Eric, depending on your language) to take us to Ile aux Cerfs, (Stag Island) a tourist island off the east coast. Most of the guests went, Annique the French woman, Ashentha and Raven (pronounced Raveen) Mahabeer (a couple from South Africa that had arrived the previous day), and Sabrina and Nathanaël Juricic from Marseille with their 18-month old son Enzo, who loves water and boats.
As we drove, we could see the depth changes by the dramatic changes in the color of the sea. Shallows (courtesy of the surrounding reef) were aqua marine, and the deep areas were a deep blue. We stopped in an area with numerous coral heads for a snorkel. There were numerous types of coral, including lots of cabbage and staghorn, peppered with other, smaller ones. Most of it was healthy, although there were signs of bleaching, boat damage, and a fair amount of algae. There was not much exciting, but Eric, definitely a touch-stuff guy, broke a sea urchin to feed fish, picked up a sea cucumber (wow, how exciting), and captured a tiny clownfish from an anemone (which he did put back).
|Little blue fish||Finding Nemo (photo by Eric)|
From there, we sped up the little river to the waterfall, which was writhing with tourists in boats and on shore. Then we went to a small island which is set up for lunch. Under a shade structure (one of many surrounding the grill), we had grilled fish, lobster, and boring chicken, plus some coleslaw. They were liberal with drinks, including sodas, beer, and rum. For dessert we had fresh pineapple and already-flambéed bananas. They were selling rhum arrangé, and several from our group tried and bought.
|Fisherman happy to show his catch||Waterfall, piloting the boat through rocks was exciting|
|Where is lunch? says Scott in front of the WC|
|Here it is!|
|Chicken and Fish (lobster came later)||Braces, anyone?|
|Grilled banana for desert||And songs by Annique||and her friend|
|Off to get some rhum (hands full of cash)||Which one do you want to get?Vanilla? Spicy? Orange? Coconut?|
Finally, we headed to the teeming tourist beach (part of the Touessrok Hotel), with a very shallow area cordoned off for swimming, but actually went ashore just across from it on a quieter beach.
|We chose the other side of the island across a small inlet from the huge resort||Strong current signs everywhere|
|Sunburns waiting to happen as people lounge with drinks||Some venture out of the "safety" zone, where the biggest hazard is getting hit by a boat|
|"Praying nun" mountain on the way home||Edge of Ile aux Aigrettes|
The road to dinner found us riding in the back of a pickup truck to the restaurant across from the Blue Bay Resort, Le Bougainville. Most of the house ended up there, and it was a fun time. We had Salade de Maison and Salade de Bougainville, followed by porque aux piment de Rodrigues (Pork sautéed with Rodrigues chiles - it used soy sauce and was a bit on the salty side, but rather good), and Mauritian style fish. We had it with an interesting but overpriced Syrah Rosé, and Malarone.
|Mauritian fish and pork||Raven, Ashentha, Kristin, Scott, Roswitha, Arne, Annique|
4-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Diving
Kristin had just gotten her certification (in Norway, in a frigid fjord!), but had not yet done warm water diving. So Scott suggested that they go together before she flew out; she was pretty excited about the idea. Roswitha decided to go as well, and went to Le Preskîl Resort to arrange it, along with a trip to Ile aux Aigrettes, a nature reserve island just across a bit of water from us.
The dive shop is part of Le Preskîl (which seems to be favored by Germans and Austrians), and it is a bit loosely organized. Although there is actually a boat dock, we still had to carry our gear out. The boat was quite full heading over to the marine park in Blue Bay. They did not review any dive plan except that it would be no more than 7 meters for 39 minutes. They did not review any safety items or hand signals. With a giant step, we were in the water with lots of coral. Christine did fine for a newbie, but we found the dive to be on the boring side. There was lots of live coral of many types, but very few fish. Yellow algae covered a lot of the coral. We found a barracuda which was hooked on a line with a float; it was dead and slightly ripped up, but it was surprising that there was anything left and that no fish were ripping away at it. At one point we had to almost crawl over some coral near the surface, and then go back down. While we did reach 7 meters, most of the dive was at around 4 meters, which is almost like snorkeling. We were not impressed with the whole thing, although the price was certainly not bad (900 MR, or about US$30). Kristin really enjoyed the freedom of warm water diving.
|Kristin and Roswitha ready to go||Kristin having fun||One of the few schools of fish|
|Trumpetfish, sea urchins and coral||Grouper and yellow algae|
|Little black and white fish and white hard coral||Parrotfish and hard coral|
|Huge white plate coral||Many shelves of coral||Black and white coral|
|Cauliflower coral||Staghorn coral||Corals and yellow algea|
|Brain coral||Black and blue coral|
We (the whole house) convinced Indra to join us for dinner at one of her preferred places; she protested that she normally did not go out with her guests, but she finally relented. We piled into a van, and drove north of Mahébourg, along the eastern coast, and into the hills to Domaine du Chasseur (the hunters' grounds), an old sugar plantation. The place had a commanding view down to the coast, and we could see fruitbats heading to work and a deer grazing just below us. The place is a bit of a game reserve, with hunting. People can hunt deer (imported long ago from Java) and wild boars. There were quite a few heads mounted about the place, two stuffed fruitbats, and photos of hunters with their bag.
|Off we go in a minivan||Changing into a 4x4 for the last bit up the hill|
|View from the helicopter pad just above the restaurant|
|Restaurant||View from the restaurant|
|Fruit bats (flying foxes) alive and stuffed|
|Java deer stuffed||and alive|
We started with cocktails and Creole-style calamari. After hearing tales of Scott's adventurous eating, everyone goaded him into ordering the fried deer brains with hearts of palm (and several others tried it, too); it was good - a bit eggy and greasy, and the palm salad was a good counterpoint. Roswitha shared the venison curry with Indra as a starter, and we shared a green salad. For the main course, Roswitha again shared with Indra; they had wild boar curry with parathas, and Scott had wild boar ribs. The curries were well spiced, but not too hot. The ribs were a bit overdone, but delicious. With some confusion and scolding, they did separate checks, although the waters got distributed randomly, so we had to figure out how to share those. The wine (an ordinary rose and a too oakey Bordeaux) was more straight forward. Annique did some higher math on the bill for a long time, and we're not exactly sure what came of that. Overall, it was a fine meal for a very acceptable price.
|Kristin and Arne||Raven as cocktail waiter|
|Green salad||Wild boar ribs and curry||Deer curry (with Malarone)|
|Raven, Ashentha, Arne, Kristin||Ashentha||Annique|
|Scott tasting deer brain||Deer brain||Indra and Roswitha|
|Sabrina, Enzo and Nathanaël|
5-Feb-2006 Mauritius - The South
Faisal is the primary taxi driver for Indra, so we arranged with him for a day's outing to the south of the island. It being Sunday, the tea plantation was closed, so we headed to Grand Bassin, a lake with is the main holy site for the island's majority Hindu population. As we got there, many people were praying and making offerings at the edge of the lake. Suddenly, an older gentleman started yelling at us. He wanted us to come into the temple to photograph whatever was going on. Three men were washing a slightly phallic statue with what appeared to be rice pudding, while chanting. (I'm sure that there is some meaning which escaped us.) They, or the onlookers, did not seem to mind us shooting photos. Once we were done, the guy gestured with one of the international symbols for money that we should give him something. We put on our shoes and ignored him (although we did give something in a donation box). We continued to watch the families making offerings at the lake, and Scott concluded that the lord Shiva prefers Sprite over Coke 3:1.
|Road through sugar cane and tea fields||Tea field|
|One temple at Grand Bassin||The water for this lake supposedly is part of the Ganges River (which spilled when Shiva flew over here)Scroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys, [shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out|
|Cleaning with rice pudding?||While chanting||Families at Sunday prayers|
A huge statue of Shiva is being completed on a hill overlooking the lake, likely in time for Cavadee, which is coming up in two weeks. It is an impressive statue, with fine detail.
|Details||Belly button above, and furry wrap below|
The next stop was Alexandra Falls, a small cascade which also gave a nice view of the south coast. Then we moved on to the Black River Gorge, which has a steep view down to the west coast. A macaque monkey watched us from the edge of the trees.
|View from the mountains and waterfalls|
The final target of the morning was the Seven Colored Earths, a private park on another old plantation. With a quick stop at the somewhat more impressive Chamaral Cascade, we came up to the colored earths. There are some exposed hillocks which have bands of - pay attention now - seven colors. A fence surrounds the patch on all sides, giving good access for photos. Like most parks, it also has the requisite group of Aldabra tortoises, but unlike all we'd visited, this one had some having sex.
|Seven colored earths||A streak runs through it||What a noise!|
We took lunch at Chez Rueben in Chamaral. Scott watched Roswitha eat her palm cocktail, crab croquettes, and crab soup, and then she watched him eat Civet de Agneau (lamb), Mauritian style.
|Baguette and smears||Lamb stew|
|Crab flesh soup||Crab croquettes and palm cocktail|
We then drove down to the coast, along the rocky southwest, and through the south coast. Faisal showed us the view from a bridge over the Eel River. The big afternoon stop was La Vanille Crocodile Farm. Besides crocs, they also have many other animals and plants, including the largest population of Aldabra tortoises. While we did not get to see any more having sex, we did see the oldest (and largest), Domino, who is 90 years old, and also many of the youngest. They plan to introduce 1000 of them to Rodrigues over the next 4 years; the endemic Rodrigues tortoises went extinct over 150 years ago. We saw some other types of land and water turtles and tortoises, plus geckoes, lizards, and a 2-meter iguana. They have American bullfrogs, local and koi carp, and macaques, to which we fed peanuts. Two cages held endangered Rodrigues fruitbats and non-endangered Mauritian fruitbats. Their insectarium is a very impressive collection of preserved insects from all over the world. Most of all, however, the place is a crocodile farm. They breed African crocs for their skin and meat. They snatch the eggs from the females after she buries them, and then raise them for three to five years, or until they are 1.5 m long. Then they are slaughtered, and salted skins are sent to Senegal to be tanned. La Vanille has a restaurant where you can eat them, and a shop where you can buy their skins. I was unable to convince Roswitha that we needed a full-sized skin to hang on the ceiling above our stairs.
|Road along the South coast with blind cornerScroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys [shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out|
|So much nicer than handbags||Big daddy or mommy|
|Baby star turtles|
|Bullfrog||Americaln bull frog|
|Angling for peanuts||Mmmh||Mommy|
|Fruit bat (flying fox)||Fingers and face||Hopefully not Croc food|
|Are you mommy?||Sure?||Sanglier||Mongoose|
|Madagascar Scarabae||Flying insects||Tarantulas|
Indra organized dinner at the house, something which she claims to no longer do. Cocktails were a rhum arrangé, which seemed to have banana and a little orange. The starter was crab (marinated (4 hours) with honey, white wine, green guava, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and spring onions, roasted at a very high temperature), and wonderful stuffed aubergines for Scott. For the main course we had coconut chicken, and ginger fish, with rice. Indra said that this is not what people eat at home, but it is better than restaurant fare. Salad followed, and then we had a coconut crème mold (done in the standard Tupperware mold). A very pleasant dinner. During dinner, we chatted about Indra's experiences running a guesthouse. She prefers westerners, especially Europeans. She said that she does not like hiving Indians from India: "They stand on my toilet seats!"
|Rhum arrange||Crabs for most of us||Stuffed aubergines for Scott|
|Ginger fish||Coconut chicken|
In talking with the group, we concluded that our hostess Indra looks a lot like Susan Sarandon, with an Indian twist. She is classy, and really knows how to run an interesting guest house; she's been doing it for 25 years. Sadly, she lost her husband a few years ago, and is looking for an interesting, intelligent, and classy guy. If he plays golf and tennis, and likes to travel, that's a bonus. (Plus, she's trying to scare up a fruitbat for curry for Scott. - - - not sure which one is harder)
6-Feb-2006 Mauritius - I love (r)egrets
Tiny Ile aux Aigrettes (the island of egrets) is just offshore from where we are staying. It is a nature preserve which is being returned to its original state, as much as possible. A 90-second boat ride took us to its dock. After a brief introduction and payment (it's not cheap, but all funds go to the restoration), we set off to tour the island with our guide. The unique feature of the reserve is the Mauritius Pink Pigeon, which was down to six individuals, but is now up to about 650, not just on the island but also on the Mauritian mainland.
Made from coral, the island is flat, and has very thin topsoil. As a result, most of the trees on it are not very high. Much of the vegetation is relatively new, as they are trying to remove all invasive non-native species. We saw many plants we'd seen elsewhere, but saw several we'd not seen before, including ebony and ratwood, which is very useful. It smells of rat, and if you put a leaf, say, between the pages of a friend's book, within a few days your friend will have a distinct smell of dead rat, but no idea of the source. (Don't worry - we did not take any leaves. Or did we?) The Mauritian ebony is very slow growing, and a protected species; they have planted a small forest of it on the island.
They also have twenty Aldabra tortoises which roam freely (sorry, no sex), and an enclosure with six Round Island Skinks, which are an endangered species. They do keep them in the enclosure, however, to prevent them from invading this island. (Round Island, we learned, is not round, and it does not have snakes. Snake Island has no snakes, but is round.) And we saw no egrets.
The island, in a strategic location for the Mahébourg harbor, used to serve as a British Naval base, and still has several buildings and gun placements. They had removed many of the buildings, and repurposed several others for the reserve.
|Egret isle sanctuary||It is the green flat island straight out on the horizon|
|Screw palms||everywhere||Giraffe turtle sculpture (extinct)||Some large guns|
|Endemic forest was ebony (only center of tree is used)||Acacia is main weed on the island|
|One area that has been restoredScroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys[shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out|
|Bird||Pigeon Rose (pink pigeon)||about the size of a small chicken|
The National History (Maritime) Museum was next on the list. The Mahébourg harbor was the scene of the only naval battle where the French beat the British, although the British came back six months later and retook Mauritius. (After the battle, the admirals from both sides were hospitalized in the house which now houses the museum.) The Maritime Museum in Mahébourg recounts that battle, as well as the wreck of a ship which contributed to Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's novel Paul and Virginie. Although the actual events are not the same as in the novel, there are references to it all over the island. The museum has a quirky collection of maritime artifacts, including many from the above-mentioned events. It also has many cultural artifacts, paintings, and photos of island life, including the island's ethnic history and slave trade.
We walked to Restaurant Patrick for lunch. The mixed salad was basically coleslaw, the mussel curry was greasy, the Creole steak had the same basic sauce as the mussels, but the prices were agreeable, and it had lots of tourists.
|Lunch at Patrick|
Biscuiterie Rault has been operating for about 135 years, and they still make manioc biscuits as they have for all that time. They take white manioc (cassava) roots (some grown by them, others purchased), wash them, grind them, press out the water, grind up the dried pulp, and sieve out the remaining fibers to make flour. The flour is combined with sugar and some flavoring (butter, milk powder, coconut, bran, chocolate, anise, or cinnamon), and put into square forms. The forms are cooked on hot plates over fires of dried sugar cane fronds until they are toasted brown. Once cooled, the biscuits are packaged and sold in Mauritius, Germany, France, Switzerland, and a few other places. Nine people (mostly women) do all the work by hand. We watched, marveled at the labor, and the fact that this place can survive in today's world, and then tasted the biscuits with some tea. They need some marketing and stronger flavors.
|130 years old (using original methods and recipes)||Manioc (= Cassava) tree||Root||Ground and dried|
|Mixing powder with sugar, butter and flavorings||Palm frond fired hot plates||Spreading mixture in forms|
|Working them down the hot plate (business is low, only one side is in use)||Forms are removed after the cookies set|
|Sorting||Packaging||Tasting with tea or coffee|
Indra has promised to make Scott some fruitbat curry if she can get a bat. Scott helped her to obtain a breadfruit and green mangoes from a neighbor's tree. We'll see how it works out.
Dinner already? We went to Chez Nous, and split a goat cheese salad (with honey) and beef lasagna. Desserts were guava and passion fruit ice cream, and a papaya tarte tartin. Although all was excellent, the papaya would have been better had the carmelization been done darker.
|Lasagna and goat cheese salad||Guava and passion fruit ice cream and papaya tarte tartin|
7-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Port Louis
Port Louis, Mauritius' capital, lies on the opposite side of the island, about 35 km away. The country's only dual carriageway runs across the island from the airport (near Mahébourg) to the city; it took almost an hour to get there.
|The highway (~40 miles, airport to Port Louis)||Piled stones to clear the fields (everywhere)|
|Roads through sugar cane|
Our first stop was the Photography Museum (2), which is the haphazard but loving collection of Tristan Bréville and his wife. He is mostly interested in the photos and negatives, but has also amassed an impressive camera and similar apparatus collection. He said that most people selling stuff put the value on the equipment, and usually throw in old photos and negatives. Only months after the Daguerreotype was invented and first displayed in Paris, a Mauritian photographer learned how to do it, and put out his shingle in 1840 in Port Louis. As a result, there are numerous old Daguerreotype on hand; Mauritius claims that it was doing them before any other British colony. Several of these were on display, along with other historical photos. They also had numerous cameras and projectors of various sorts, the first lens used for Daguerreotypes, and the very first enlarger for printing photos.
|Ferro-types||Photography museumScroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys, [shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out|
From there we went to the Natural History Museum, which has the only existing skeletons of the dodo, the bird for which Mauritius is most famous - it was made extinct by the Dutch in the 1700s, both through direct killing, and elimination by rats, monkeys, and reptiles that they introduced. There are many fanciful sketches of the dodo which have been made over the years, and no one knows what they really looked like, although they think that they have a good idea. It was the size of a turkey, flightless, and related to pigeons. Now, its visage is on all kinds of products. The museum also had examples of many other animals, fish, and birds, and all of them were preserved with the absolute worst taxidermy we've ever seen. The collection, apart from the dodo skeleton, is horrid.
|Dodo skeleton||Dodo model|
The next museum was the polar opposite; the Blue Penny Museum is modern, smart, and exceptionally well done. It houses two of the most valuable stamps in the world, unused red one penny and blue two pence stamp issued by Mauritius in 1847, with the words "Post Office" instead of "Post Paid." (They were also the first British Empire stamps to be issued outside of the BE.) The pair of them were bought for the museum in 1992 for US$2.2M, and are only illuminated for ten minutes each hour. Other similar stamps, most cancelled, are on display, along with the story. The museum also has great displays of old panoramic lithographs compared with present-day photos, each marked on a map. The ground floor has a display dedicated to the story of Paul & Virginie, including a famous sculpture of the couple.
|Blue Penny Museum||Stamp display||Paul and Virginie|
We had lunch at the nearby Namaste Indian restaurant, enjoying potatoes with cumin, chicken curry, garlic naan, and lassi.
|Lunch at Namaste|
The central market is rumored to have pickpockets, so we were on the lookout as we checked out the fruits and vegetables. The market also has a section of medicinal herbs, each indicated with the appropriate ailment. The dry goods market (including dry and smelly fish) is next door, so we went shopping for a volcano god. I was given a choice of two Mauritian gods (one for each volcano), and ended up going with the smaller Kanaka. At 25% of the opening price, I still think I paid too much. As we walked around, hawkers proposed shirts, spices, pashmina scarves, and dodo birds. I asked one guy if he had a dodo bird made from pashmina. Of course, he took me seriously until he figured it out. He then popped up a few minutes later and offered pants made from dodo.
|Entrance to Chinatown||Fresh herbs at Central Market||Veggies|
|Aubergines||Dried medicinal herbs to help with menopause, cellulite, ulcer, colic, etc.|
The Jummah Mosque, built in 1852, lies near the center of a rather boring Chinatown. Although we were not allowed into the mosque, we were welcomed into the foyer. A host answered questions and quizzed us on our ability to identify the tree in the courtyard and other points of Islam. (The tree is a 150-year-old Indian almond, and has nothing to do with Islam, although it is a very pleasant addition.) He was proud of the fact that the mosque is the only one in the pan-African region which has its own website.
|Jummah mosque||Entry way||Details|
|Minorets||Indian almond tree and carp pond|
Once we got back to Chantemer, Indra had sweetly prepared a small dinner of salad with feta, breadfruit gratineé (the one we'd picked yesterday), okra salad, and leftover curries with rice. She caramelized papaya to have with ice cream. We enjoyed this while chatting about a range of things, including her stint as a leg model and a Playboy bunny in England.
|Breadfruit gratineé, okra, salad with feta|
|Left over curries||Caramelized Papaya with ice cream|
8-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Chantemer
Today we hung out and prepacked. Roswitha managed to get her kite flying, and then somehow managed to pop the main chamber. Indra invited us for lunch; she made squash, lentils, a cabbage and potato salad, and a green vegetable that she could not explain, all with rice. She was surprised that Scott happily joined her with some tiny green chiles.
|Scott's plate of Indra's delicious food|
9-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Pamplemousses
We had to check out at 11:30 AM, but our flight was not until 11:20 PM. So, we got Faisal to drive us to the northern part of the island, starting with Pamplemousses. But first, we stopped off in Mahébourg for a Briyani (their local name for what we call a Biriyani) at the Pyramid Restaurant. The place makes a big vat of it with chicken every day, and, as Faisal says, it is better to make it for 200 than for four. It was quite tasty, especially with the chile sauce they provide. This place fits both rules to explain the crowd (cheap and good); three servings were only MRs 190, about US$6.
Rather than going on the highway again, we drove on some back roads which took us near a strange rock that the locals call the Milk Man. It seems that in the old days, angels used to dance on the mountain, but they did not want to be seen. The milk man looked and saw them, so they told him that he could tell no one. Instead, he went home and told his wife that he'd seen them. The next day when he went up onto the mountain, they turned him into stone, and he now sits there forever. The Europeans call it Peter Both peak, after an early Dutch governor. I like the local view better.
|The milk man||His head||Speed table with cross walk|
Pamplemousses (it means grapefruit, of which there are none, but it is also the name of a dead French guy) is most famous for the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens, a huge public park with a wonderful collection of tropical plants from around the world, including 150 different kinds of palm tree. They have spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, camphor, clove - which raises the question of why cloves don't come from clover - and many others), medicinal plants, and water plants, including lotus and giant water lilies, which have leaves over one meter across, and flowers that are yellow in the morning, and red when they die at night. The park has mangoes, sausage trees, dates, and a flowering tree called a golden shower. It is a very good example of early botanical espionage.
|One HUGE ficus||A large lotus flower pond||Centennial palms||Golden shower|
|Palm trunks: walking||knob||bowling pin||plumb|
|Elephant ears||HUGE||flower||seed pod|
|Chandelier||and flower buds on huge tree|
|Giant Victoria amazonica water lilies|
|Roswitha could take a nap in one of the leaves||How art deco!|
|Leaf unfurling||Flower bud||Flower|
Across the main road in Pamplemousses is the Sugar Adventure! (OK, so they don't put on an exclamation mark, but why not?) It is a defunct sugar mill that they've turned into a museum of Mauritius and the sugar industry. The place is huge, and after we had read many, many displays on the birth and development of Mauritius, and its life over time, including slavery, the indentured labor that came when slavery was abolished, what the houses were like, what happened with the pirates and corsairs, what was happening in European and world politics, we started to wonder when it would get to sugar. It eventually did, but it told us about the many methods of crushing the cane, including stone grinders, vertical grinders, human-powered horizontal grinders, ox-powered horizontal grinders, steam-powered crushers, wind-powered crushers, and the modern diesel-powered crushers. It made a pitch for using the fibrous by-products of crushing as an earth-friendly eco fuel, and how Mauritius is giving tax credits to the sugar plants which do. It talked about methods of weighing cane, and how they measured the juice, including at least six (or was it seven?) different patents for continuous measurement, plus how important it was to also measure the sucrose content of the juice before paying the growers. Then it got into boiling to reduce the water content until the solution was supersaturated; this was done over burning cane, with steam, with solar heat, with other fuels, and I forget what else. Oops, I also forgot about the flocculants used to separate out the microscopic fibers from the juice, making mud which was then filtered to get the rest of the juice. Not only that, but they tended to have repetitious displays. Through it all, there was never an especially clear display showing the steps in the process, which is actually rather simple, yet energy intensive, although they actually can supply all the energy needed by burning the cane and filtration byproducts. Oh, did I talk about the shipping industry for shipping sugar and the war with beet sugar producers? The best part of the tour was when we got to taste ten different types of sugar (we opted to not buy any, and luckily found some types cheaper in San Francisco).
|Very extensive museum, one could easily spend a day in there||One of the exhibit halls||Sugar temperature table|
|Different types of sugar (browns are steps in refining)||Different grains||Layered|
We drove along the north coast from Cap Malheureux on down through Grand Baie, Pereybère, and Trou aux Biches (the most developed tourist areas with discos, etc. and MANY tourists), then through Port Louis in rush hour until we got to Curepipe, where Faisal took us to the Chinese Wok restaurant. We had Vietnamese rolls, an egg noodle soup (that's with noodles and an egg), mixed vegetables, and fried rice. It was not a glorious meal.
|Refinery chimneys||were seen all over the island||Church on the way||Micro dove (not much larger than a sparrow)|
|Cap MalheureuxScroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys, [shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out|
|Egg noodle soup, against the sniffles||Mixed veggies and fried rice|
At the airport, we did the post card test, and decided that the post card display sucked. But, the duty free shop did pass the Toblerone test. (So far, only Madagascar has failed that one.) And we're off for 30+ hours of travel….
10-Feb-2006 Mauritius - Dubai - JFK - SFO
Except for the fact that the trip is long, the Emirates flights were fine, and the food was better than edible. (Sorry, no photos.) The Dubai to JFK flight (which this time went over Iran and Iraq) had comfortable seats, for sardines, and my kid magnetism worked fine. This was the scream express; there were eight kids within a few seats of us, and at least one, and usually more, were crying throughout the 13.5 hour flight. Roswitha said, "I'm never sitting next to you again." Thank goodness for the excellent entertainment system and earplugs. In the past, we had been able to transfer our baggage to an American counter right at the international terminal, but not this time. So, we had to schlep our big bags all across JFK to check them in.
As it turns out, JFK is cursed with these bags. They did not arrive with us in San Francisco. They showed up the next day. Lazy, lazy bags.
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