Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Following the coast

Getting lost twice is not my idea of a great vacation. But that is precisely what happened when I was in Mauritius, trying unsuccessfully to experience the place by bus and scooter – which I found was quite impossible in a country that closes down by early evening. And after the getting-lost-on-the-scooter fracas, my husband and I decided to hire one of those little jeeps everyone seemed to be driving around. Monetarily, it did set us back a bit, but given a choice between getting lost or not, this was way better! The day was balmy and the jeep topless and I discovered to my pleasure that sometimes it does feel good to move away from the only-local-conveyance policy that I stuck to on every trip. Anyone going there should experience a good ride around the coast.
If starting from the north, the drive can easily be completed in two days, at the most three, taking in everything that has to be seenAfter plotting a drive plan on a map of the island, start at the northern most point of Cap Malheareaux, a sleepy little village, full of charming, hedged off vacation homes. After parking at the little red roofed church built in the 18th century, idle at the beach with a view of the impressive Gunner’s Conner; later follow the shoreline for a little while to check out the cool backyards of the houses, each complete with verandas, back gardens, a private jetty and boat. And a bit of beach. Local fishermen offering to take visitors out to sea abound here, and though tempting, you may have to decline because of their high, touristy rates. Apparently this was the first settled fishing village of the island and is thoroughly quiet and calm. The nearby town of Grand Baie is where all the action lies, unlike the rest of the towns - pubs, continental restaurants and Sunset Boulevard, a designer shopping center set very prettily on the beach. The beach front is lined with push carts where you can buy your lunch if you are cutting costs. Fried rice, biryani, stuffed rotis, soup; it was delicious for a great rate. This is where you want to be if you are planning to try water sport too. Parasailing, paragliding, underwater walks, scuba diving, glass bottomed boat rides and so on. None of the activities are too pricey and a go at each one, for as less as Rs 100, is a definite must, especially for watching sea life – colorful fish and lobsters. This is a good place for picking up beach or swim wear too - bikinis, sarongs, beach towels are abundant and incredibly cheap. For souvenirs head to the Grand Baie Souvenir Shop which sells masks, handmade paper, and the ever present dodo in various forms. For more traditional crafts, you can go further down the road where craft shops sell vibrant hand-woven baskets and jewelry. We were also lucky enough to witness the traditional “cavadee” celebrations of the resident Tamil community at the nearby Murugan temple.The capital city, Port Louis, locked in by the sea on one side and craggy mountains on the other, was the next stop. Small and with a kind of old world charm to it, statues of 18th century French Governor Mahé de Labourdonnais and Father of the Nation Ramgoolam Seersowagur, dominate the main street. No trip to a capital city can be complete without a sampling of its history so visit the Blue Penny Museum run by Mauritius Post (Mauritius, remarkably, was among the first countries in the world to issue the first postage stamps); and the relatively unknown Lé Museé de la Photographic on Churchill Street which has a huge display of photographs taken over the last 160 years, with as many old negatives. The owners of this private museum are very passionate about preserving the island’s history and they’ve succeeded to a great extent. The afternoon is best spent relaxing at the Le Caudon Waterfront, built along the harbor with countless number of pubs and restaurants set along the water’s edge. The craft shops inside have an amazing range. Don’t forget to pick up a glass or ceramic dodo, the dumb bird which is the ubiquitous symbol of the island, which became extinct 300 years ago.


  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP