We woke up at 7 and headed down to the Scuba Diving school to meet our instructor Norman, who looked like Morgan Freeman, my suit was pretty big for me as I’m only 5’3″ so water got into my suit when we first went into the pool (which was 10,00000x colder than the sea), but it didn’t matter because we were seeing fishes!!
The training in the pool was reassuring, breathing was easy, to get water out of the mask was easy, to stop ears from popping was easy, we just wanted to get out there! We got into the dingy which took us to the Pro Diving boast. On the boat we met a lovely retired British couple from Middlesbrough and they were halfway through making their Scuba Diving tour of the world, their previous stop being Thailand. Not to all: this is what retired life should be like!
The boat dropped them off at their site, then it was onto ours, Loums and I were the only two people that outing which made it incredibly special. It was amazing, the colour of the reef was breathtaking, Norman took a video while we were down there and it did not do the colours justice! To be amongst that many varieties of fish was amazing, as Norman grew up in Mauritius and became an instructor from quite a young age, he knew all the nooks and crannies to find different species that we would’ve missed otherwise.
The best part was when a turtle came past us! Apparently she was a she, and she was majestic and very big, and Norman held out my hand so I could touch her, although our lovely British couple told me off for doing so and I promised never to do it again. We were down there for about 45 minutes in total, which was perfect as we got to see so so much, so many fish from ‘Finding Nemo’ were there, it’s almost as if the filmmakers based it on real life… Also just to see the different behaviours of each species was so interesting, I felt like a spectator on their everyday life, and none of them seemed to mind. Neither of us had any problems with breathing, it was just an absolutely unforgettable experience and all the blog posts and photos in the world won’t do it justice, just do it!
After we came back up we had a cup of tea and a biscuit and talked with the other instructors while the boat took us back to shore. We then decided to continue the peacefulness of the day and not do anything too strenuous so we found our spot on Trou Aux Biches again, sunbathed, ate smoked marlin with red chili and lime baguettes (the best, we became frequent visitors of this place) and I bought spices and presents for my sisters. We stayed there until about 3, went back to the hotel to change for a v-e-r-y fancy meal at Tree Tops Restaurant which was absolutely incredible.
A lovely Mauritian band was playing nearby so we went down and danced, the band played ‘Grease’ – You’re The One That I Want, which we danced to and owned (or at least we thought we did). We then had a cocktail, walked around for a bit in a bubble of happy feels, talked about Scuba Diving, a lot, and went to bed.
It was a feat of human achievement when it came to the amount we did that day, and it was all down to our faithful friend who knows the island like the back of his hand.
Willy had mentioned when we saw him during our road trip to Old Mauritius, that the next time he saw us, he would take us to the south-west of the island which was perfect because we were getting worried that we wouldn’t be able to go there without having to stay the night. So, our friend picked us up at 8 and we drove to Trou Aux Cerfs which is a dormant volcano and is pretty much slab-dab in the middle of the island. The road up there was so steep I wasn’t sure if the car would make it, but then I felt like an idiot because when we got the top there were about half a dozen mini-buses. The crater itself was coated in tightly-packed trees which petered off toward the bottom which looked like a very mossy lake. The air was so thick up there that there were clouds in the crater, science is cool, also, as we were so high up, we were almost directly in the middle of the mountains so it was almost a crime not take many, many, panoramic shots.
After we had walked around enough, regrouped to go to Grand Bassin which was by Mare Aux Vacoas, which is the largest fresh water lake in the island and nearly 2000 feet above sea level, it’s surrounded by pine trees and was very Group of Seven. After stopping to
take it all in, we continues to Grand Bassin where the Shivatree temple is. It’s guarded by Shiva and Ganesh (both of whom were still in construction), and they reminded us of ‘The Gates of Argonath’ on the border of Gondor in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, they were huge statues but much much more welcoming.
Following the road on still, we arrived at the temple which was on one side of the lake. We walked around the orange offering stools which ran around the perimeter of the lake which was huge and then we weren’t quite sure as to whether or not we could go into the temple, but the Pujari beckoned us in. We left our shoes outside and he told us about the temple and the grounds around it. Legend has it that Shiva took his wife Parvati on a trip to show her the most beautiful places on earth, and with him he took a vial from the river Ganges which he dropped onto Mauritius and that is how Grand Bassin came to be. He then told us about the different rituals and ceremonies which take place there and then took our head between his hands and painted a third eye in between our eyebrows and told us they would show us they would allow us to see the truth and beauty in nature, (considering where we were, this wasn’t a difficult thing to do).
After finding another and smaller tucked away temple, we then headed to Alexandra Falls which is a large but very trickily waterfall at one end of the Black River Gorges National Park. The whole park is completely covered in tress which made the waterfall itself look incredibly white and clear. After taking that in and listening to the sound of the water, we slowly made our way back, trying to find a monkey or two, as there were none at the temple which surprised us, as it is famous for drawing them in. Willy then drove us to the best place to see Black River Gorges, which covers a huge amount of the island, to get to this view we drove higher up still, to Black River Peak which is the highest point on the island and where you can see almost the entire park, as well as the edge of the island from almost all sides.
It was then onwards with our slightly whirlwind-y tour to Chamarel! We stopped on a side of a road to get some pineapple with chili’s to keep us going. The Cascade Chamarel is perfect, the earth under it was bright red and cavernous while the landscape around it was green from the trees with the white waterfall running through the two so we stood there gawking at it for a while… Also, you know the lock bridge in Paris? Where couples go with a padlock and key, lock it onto the bridge and throw it in to Seine? They sort of had the same thing here but with a fence which looked like it had been vandalised and stolen from somewhere else and plonked there, not quite the same thing.
We then carried onto Le Terre des Sept Couleurs, which is formed from volcanic soil and mineral oxidation and creates the earth to appear to be many different colours at one time, depending on the light and season. After walking around the natural wonder and stopping for coffee which grew there, we started our decent. Willy drove slowly in order for our heads to adjust to the change in pressure as we had spent pretty much the whole day at a very high altitude and also to give us the chance to take in the views, and after about 45 minutes of driving we arrived at Caesela.
Loums had wanted to go to Caesela from pretty much the moment we arrived in Mauritius, as it is an animal and nature reserve which is also a home to a heard of rescue lions! I was a little bit skeptical at first as I wasn’t sure about how well they were look after, but he were told that they are kept with the keepers from cubs to the age of 1 1/2, then from then to 4, they are introduced in very small doses, to little groups of people until they go into semi-retirement in the safari enclosure. We were in one of those of six, and we were introduced to Jimbo and Izza, Izza was a white lion and Jimbo was brown (we nick-named them Nala and Simba). Izza was the bigger of the two and Himbo was very sweet and playful, the keepers let them play and run around, occasionally feeding them pieces of meat, before we met them we were given wooden batons to keep with us at all times as a mark of respect. The keepers allowed
us to stroke them on the condition that each touch was firm and not light, otherwise we would risk making them feel nervous. The more we walked around with them we realised that they really are just big cats (well, duh), but you do forget it when you think of lions, but they climbed trees, play-fought with each other, played with the keepers, such an unforgettable thing to have done and I’m very glad we did it.
When our time with them came to an end, the sun was setting, we regrouped with our friend and drove back to the north into nightfall.
When Loums came to Mauritius with his family 10 years before, he spent half of his time staying at his grandmother’s in Goodlands, and the second half with his mother, brothers and sisters in an apartment opposite a beach called Pereybere near Grand Baie. So when we were talking after coming back from Port Louis the night before, we wanted to go somewhere the next day which felt slightly safer so we decided that Pereybere would be the perfect place. And also we wanted to buy rum. Lots and lots of rum.
We hopped on a Triolet bus to Grand Baie which is on the swanky side of Mauritian towns, full of surfer shops and Abercrombie and Fitch’s (urgh), and eeeeven a Faith, needless to say we didn’t go to any of these as that wasn’t really why we came all that way. Pereybere was a little further along from the main part of town, and when we arrived there was only a handful of people there. The burn on my back, bum and legs was easing off slightly by this point but I still barely let it touch the sun except when getting out of the sea. The beach itself was not as big as I expected, was shaped like a lagoon and the water there was even clearer and blue (if possible), than Trou Aux Biches, I thought that it was mainly due to being that bit more enclosed and not a particularly touristy beach. Loums was reading ‘Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov, I was reading ‘A Most Unimportant Woman’ by Oscar Wilde which is such a funny and deeply insightful play! My mum had given me a Kindle as an early birthday present before going on the trip so I promptly downloaded both Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain’s collection of novels and plays, as this holiday also gave the most valuable gift of reading time, if you have the chance to read it, please do because it’s so enjoyable, witty and not very long.
We swam and played lots in the perfect (no misuse of the word here) sea every now and again in intervals and after each dip I applied sun tan lotion almost a bit too diligently. Loums then went to get us lunch and returned with Poisson Vindaye for me – a fish dish typical of the island, most especially the north and is a derived form of a vindaloo curry, only it’s a lot tastier and not as spicy with a lot LOT more turmeric, and he got himself – yes you guessed it – Mines Frites, we then had a pineapple each which was cut in a way which made it very easy to eat. We spent the day there because it was just so quiet. There were locals going about their business, school children coming there on their lunch break and the odd tourist here which made the beach a very calming place to be. I think Loums liked it especially as very little had changed since he was 15 and as it was still so quiet and untouched, he felt more like a Mauritian than a tourist.
As the afternoon wore on, we decided to head back via SuperU, the supermarket in Grand Baie to seek out Labourdonnais rum, as it was cheaper there than at the Chateau de Labourdonnais, as predicted. Delighted by the change in price we each bought 2 bottles, I also found a wooden photo frame with very think leafy paper inside ready for when we returned. We then got the bus back to Casaurina, Loums took the rum back to the room and I found Vijay and booked our trip to the unvegetated Ilot Gabriel and Ile Pate (or ‘Flat Island) which are islands directly to the north of Mauritius, which, in the 19th century, was where the British would send those sick with Malaris and other contagious diseases to stop them from spreading. There are also two very pretty lighthouses there…
We then got dressed up to the nines to celebrate our first, indescribably wonderful week in Mauritius, we ate well (my love of Marlin fish was well and truly fixed by this stage), we then had many cocktails, danced, and headed to off to the land of nod.