Ile-aux-Cerfs, Deer Island

Despite what the name suggests, there were no deers on Ile-aux-Cerfs, however there were many sea urchins, sarongs and views.

Bloody awesome captain
Bloody awesome captain.

We awoke early enough to meet Vijay on the beach and from there he drove us to meet the rest of our party who were 2 couples, one German and one French, we had a feeling we were paired with them because we speak both French and English and the German couple’s English was amazing.

The journey to the port (or pontoon) was about an hour long down to the south-east of the island which gave us lots of the island to marvel at as it whizzed by. When we arrived at the pontoon, we were introduced to our captain who lumbered us onto his speed boat where he started pumping out Backstreet Boys and Sean Paul, and at that moment, I knew it was going to be a great, great day.

The two halves of the island.
The two halves of the island.

We arrived at Ile-aux-Cerfs when the tide was down, walked through a couple of stalls and then onto the island. It is split into two halved with a lagoon in the middle which you can walk across at low time, the bigger half has only one house on it which takes up a small proportion of land. There is also a small obstacle course, an inflatable raft point and a small bar, but really the whole place is very quiet and you can feel very at peace and alone very quickly and it’s just perfect.

While the tide was low we walked to the smaller part of the island which was full of wildlife and palm trees, and then back onto the bigger half where we explored some more, climbing over lots of coral and rocks and tripped over tree roots a lot. After a while we vegetated towards the vast lagoon, you could walk out into the sea for about 5 minutes and still the water wouldn’t be touching your knees, and at that distance you could take in the views of the mountains on the mainland. We came back to the beach where we had a beer/cocktail and gazed at our surroundings.

View of the mountains from the lagoon.
View of the mountains from the lagoon.

We then got back onto the speedboat where he took us to the most western point of the island which we couldn’t get to by foot for our lunch. We were directed towards a table and chairs on the beach next to a barbecue built on rocks. For our meal we had marlin steak (yay!), salad, pheonix, and for desert we had banane flambée au rhum (which was strangely refreshing). It was really nice sitting down to a meal with strangers, kind of like how the Narrator talked about single-serving friends in ‘Fight Club’, we swapped stories, broke bread, the German couple were in fact on their honeymoon and booked the trip 10 days before so we definitely toasted to that, there was also another party close by and one of them had a guitar and loved the Gipsy Kings. After taking a few pictures we then got back onto 20140616_142502the boat and went round back towards a quieter part of the mainland to the Grand River South East Waterfalls which marks the end of the longest river of Mauritius where we also saw monkeys! We were pretty disappointed not to have seen any during our visit to the Shivatree Temple so seeing them scrambling over branches of trees was awesome, and they were mega cute.

MONKEYS!
MONKEYS! They’re there I promise…

It started raining so we went back in between the rocky cliffs to the pontoon where our lovely French couple from Toulouse went back to the airport, as this was the last stop on their tour of the island, and we sleepily headed back to Trou Aux Biches.

When we got back we went for a walk, had dinner and this night for some reason we were served the most amazing rich and fresh salads so we went slightly overboard, had a Mojito served by Nitesh who was our favourite barman, danced, and headed back for an episode of GOT.

 

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Le Nord!

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.

Inside a Triolet bus!
Inside a Triolet bus!

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.

Easy-to-eat pineapple!

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.

Labourdonnais rum!
Labourdonnais rum!

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.

Pereybere
Pereybere.

Lazy Sizzling Sunday – Wear Suncreen.

Today was the day we decided to tackle Trou Aux Biches and its gleaming white beach. After breakfast (easing up on the papaya intake), we got our bags together and set off to find a good spot for reading and swimming.

Trou Aux Biches!
Trou Aux Biches!

We walked for about 15 minutes along the beach, passing many many sun loungers and we came across a really lovely and quiet area in between the sea and palm trees *sigh*. We swam lots, I started writing postcards and reading (I’ve started reading Sherlock Holmes from the beginning), all of which on my front and then I realised I hadn’t put any sun cream on! By which time I had been in the sun for over an hour, in Mauritius, in the middle of the day, bloody moron. After drowning my skin in factor lotion, going in the sea to cool off, applying more sun tan lotion, moving under the shade of the palm trees, more factor 30, starting a letter to Baz Luhrmann telling him he was right, Loums decided that what we really needed was food.

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This boat was pun-derful.

He went for a walk to seek out food and drink and returned with fresh mint and lime water and Marlin Fumé baguettes with chili. One thing I really love about Mauritian food is that lemon is used in the same way we use salt, and therefore all of their food always tastes so fresh! As the day went on, more people arrived on the beach and more vendors shouting ‘Ananas! Coco! Passion Fruit!’ or selling sarongs, bags and bracelets, would walk past. It sounds a bit too busy but it wasn’t loud or invasive, as everyone was there for the same reason and the vendors would never hassle you if no interest was shown (did you hear that, Paris?). We swam some more, the sea water is incredible, you can be up to your chest in the water and still see your toes, there were no rocks, only bits of coral here and there, and it was so warm (the only time we ever went in the pool in our hotel was to do the scuba diving training)!

Eventually and slowly, we started winding out way back to our room, stopping off at the shop to buy Biafine, a cream which Loums knows of, apparently every good French household had it and is used for first and second degree burns. I duly drowned myself in that, also started to look like Ross from ‘Friends’ in the episode where he has no clue how to fake tan and ends up looking like a one man performer of ‘Ebony and Ivory’, but in my case it was half lobster half idiot. After a small dinner as I was feeling a bit woozy, we took a walk down to the beach for a walk as there was a nice cool breeze, we wound our back to the room and watched ‘The Lego Movie’ (which is an uh-mazing film).

The moral of the story.
The moral of the story.

Touchdown!

This blog is adapted from handwritten entries I wrote in a notepad over the course of the two unforgettable weeks I spent in Mauritius. This blog has been created because the remarkable landscapes of the island, its people and its culture, really ought to be shared.

Day 1: 

Our ride.
Our ride.

I woke up in my plane seat at about half past 6 in the morning, (I’m not sure whose half past 6 it belonged to, I think France’ s because that is where we flew from), which was situated in the nose of the ginormous plane which is part of the company Corsair. The flight was very smooth, I watched the very sweet and touching ‘Philomena’, with the total babes that are Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Dinner was white fish served with green beans and cumin (yes, cumin) potatoes, bread and camembert with a tiramisu for dessert. Breakfast was apricot compote with Greek yoghurt, orange juice, black tea, and brioche. 

The plane landed at La Reunion, Mauritius’ next-door neighbour, its runway was right next to the gloriously blue sea and on the other side were a lush green mountains with houses trickling down them into towns. When the walkway was attached, about about 3/4s of the plane’s passengers left, which I was quite surprised about because I was thinking ‘um guys, sit down, we’re not there yet!’, but also quite excited, as it felt like Mauritius was a special secret no-one but the few left on the plane knew about. (Unless of course, you know, they were getting off the plane for families, jobs and stuff in which case I completely understand.)

When we were coming over Mauritius to land I looked out of the window, and all you could see for miles were sugar cane fields with hamlets dotted around them. The airport is situated on the south-east of the island, we were staying in the north-west in Trou Aux Biches, and so after we had collected our suitcases from the carousel, a car from the company ‘Summertimes’ picked us up to take us to the Hotel Casuarina where we were staying. Our driver was called Raj, and immediately he started telling us facts about the island, what everything was as we drove past it, the reason for all of the construction (and there was a lot due to mainly either tourists building holiday homes or very cheap yet safer homes for those living in areas where cyclones mainly hit), all of which was very interesting to both myself and Loums, who is half Mauritian on his mother’s side, but had not had the opportunity to visit the island for 10 years.

View from 142.
View from 142.

We finally went down a very narrow road lined with colourful houses of pinks, oranges and pastel blues, and then after a little while we arrived at Casuarina. After checking in and unpacking there was only thing to do, go to the beach! So we headed down after mooching around the grounds, which were very green and the buildings were white and winding and they reminded us a lot of a village on a Greek island. 

There were beach loungers which belonged to Casuarina, we chose one at the end and out of the way and went for a swim and water was unbelieeeeevably warm and clear! Now, this was my first holiday abroad where I had properly been to a beach, beforehand the holidays which I’ve been on have been city breaks for example Paris, Rome, Barcelona (yes there’s a beach there but the city is the reason you go!) etc. because a) Europe’s amazing with SO much history behind it and history is great, and b) It was always cheaper to go on city breaks then further afield. So, to go from never going to a place like this to then swimming in the sea next to the clean, vast, quiet and pure beaches of Trou Aux Biches in Mauritius, and to have Loums be there as well, who I think was just as in awe as I was, was pretty extraordinary. 

At around 6 we got ready for dinner which was all very traditional Mauritian food, to name a few things: Marlin (the most commonly eaten fish on the island), lentils and beans cooked in various sauces, braised aubergines, raita, saffron potatoes, pumpkin purée, white cucumbers cooked in every way you can think of; the list goes on, needless to say we had eyes bigger than our stomachs and we finished our meal with a bowl of fruit salad each and mango mousse. One thing I did notice was the service, because no sooner after setting own your knife and fork was your plate whisked away by a waiter or waitress, after a while we began to play a game that if it wasn’t taken away within 5 seconds then we’d start to worry that something was terribly wrong.

We then went down to the beach to see the moon and start (the beauty of there being virtually no pollution meant that you could see every star in the sky so clearly), after a short walk we then went to the bar for a drink, a jazz band had just started their set 
so we decided to stay there for a while, talking about our day and trying to come to terms with how truly content and happy we were in that little piece of heaven in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Trou Aux Biches
Trou Aux Biches