Earlier that week we made an appointment with Vijay to go to Ile Au Plat, however during our visit to Ile Aux Cerfs, the French couple we met told us that the sea is very unpredictable and their trip got cancelled at the last moment. As we had a very short amount of time left in Mauritius, we decided to not take the risk (after all, we would come back), so first thing in the morning before breakfast, I found Vijay and he was very understanding and in fact the sea was very choppy for the catamaran, so he gave us back our money because he was an utter babe.
We went to the spa and asked to get ‘Shanti’ massages because they looked awesome and also I thought it would be good cos that’s a name of a song of Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ album, and that it one amazing album, luckily the word continued to sit up on its pedestal because this was 60 minutes of one very relaxing massage – I think I also dosed off at one point.
After we slowly drifted out of dream mode, we decided we wanted to go to Grand Baie again, because it’s a lovely part of the North-West of the island, and also Loums’ mother told us about a restaurant she used to go to when she lived there called Ocean Restaurant and we were on orders to go there. After walking around the area, we stumbled across a film crew and realised we were walking through a set, very random but also pretty cool to see it on the island. We walked down a couple of back routes and found the restaurant and I have to say, Josiane was right. Loums had mine frites and declared it probably the best version of the dish he’d ever tried and I had Beef Samuta (I’d never heard of it before and haven’t since) it was very very ginger-y and even though it was beef it was still very light, with a side of dumplings. This meal was of course drunk with Pheonix.
We talked for a while after we finished the meal because it was just so good, and then we went to SuperU to get wine for dinner for heading back, as Loums’ aunt and uncle Leticia and Jean-Noel (remember them?) were picking us up that evening to go to theirs in Pamplemousses for a family meal. When we were there Loums’ grandmother was also there, it was lovely to see her again. We had more Pheonix and Jean-Noel put on Sega music in the background, Melissa and Gladys then arrived and Jean-Noel turned up the music so we could dance which we did. Dinner of chicken with lots of salad was then served, we talked and listened to more music, had a bit of rum as an after-dinner cleanser and eventually we were driven home through the sugar cane fields and the crop dusters back to Trou Aux Biches.
Despite what the name suggests, there were no deers on Ile-aux-Cerfs, however there were many sea urchins, sarongs and views.
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.
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.
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 the 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.
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.
After a slow morning and taking time over a light breakfast, Gladys, Claude and Melissa (Loums’ aunt, uncle and cousin, you may remember them from a few posts ago), picked us up and we drove across the sugar cane fields and through the mountains to Goodlands, where the base of the family lies at his grandmother’s home. She lives almost in the centre of Goodlands, the main street of which was a very long main road filled with grocery stores, clothes shops, mobile food stands, so the smell of the place was filled with fried breadcrumbs and nuts. One of his mother’s younger brother’s Jean-Noel and his wife Leticia, built their home adjoining to Loums’ grandmother to expand the hub of family life.
We stayed at theirs for a while, talking over a cool bottle of Pheonix and little samosas. His grandmother then entered the room to announce that it was time for lunch. She had pickled mangos and made Cari au Poulet, very similar to the one we ate at Eureka the week before, salade de tomates with rotis and rice. As grandmothers do, she insisted that we had eaten too little after we took time to pause, so we ended up eating far too much. When she saw that we were fading slightly, we chuckled and cleared our plates, had a little walk around and started to play many rounds of dominoes.
Her brother Lewis, who Loums was very anxious to see again arrived, he was a wonderful man who insisted that she fix the holes in her ceilings as during monsoon season it lets all the water in, to which his grandmother said that due to the heat, when the water evaporates it creates a lovely atmosphere in the house! We looked onto this debate (I tried to understand as much as possible) which ended with a big hug and kisses all round and words of “you’ll never change”. Florence, Loums’ aunt then arrived before she went to church, while she and Loums caught up, I carried on playing dominoes with Melissa and granny, who were very patient with me whilst I learnt the rules.
Gladys arrived at around to pick us up to take us on a slow drive home so we could take in all the views. It was wonderful to be welcomed into their family without hesitation, and it reminded me of how my own family are when we reunite in Cornwall. When we arrived back, we went for a walk along the beach which we definitely needed after that lunch! The walk seemed to do the trick, and along the way I found some spices and little souvenirs for my sisters.
We then had an appéro by the sea, had a light yet very tasty dinner which is very easy with Mauritian food! The moon was especially huge that evening so we went back down to the sea before going up to bed. Another end to a day full of laughter and with Loums’ family.
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.
Loums’ aunt Gladys has a friend called Willy who owns a taxi, and she recommended we give him a call when we saw her on Saturday. So after our what shall now be known as our ‘fail day’, we decided to give Willy a call, he was lovely and appreciative that we really wanted to see the island and learn more about it than chill at the beach the whole time (my skin from the back of my neck to my heels now peeling like strips of wallpaper, chilling at any beach of any kind remained very much out of the question).
He picked us up at 9 and told us he was going to take us to the Glass Factory in Pheonix which is where they also brewed the island’s beer of the same name. The Glass Factory was weird. When you got past the foyer there was a more-tacky, less accurate (if you believe it), version of the Hollywood Boulevard walk of fame, of ‘celebrities’ of all walks of life who had put their hands into sand and then glass mould were made of it. Some of them were pretty legit for example, Richard Branson, Michael Palin, but there were also less likely candidates, for example Christopher Biggins whose hand mould had the caption of “well recognised TV personality” which I guess is kind of true, he has personality by the shed-load, but then, travesty upon travesty, they had a picture of Dame Judi Dench with the caption “older British actress”, which again, not untrue but for goodness sake she is a dame and one of the shining lights of the entire acting profession in the 20th and 21 century! It is not right that Christopher Biggins has a kinder description than her. We also saw glass being made in the workshop, lots of glass makers keeping to the fire, sanding, moulding etc. which was pretty interesting, also there was lots of information about how much recycling goes into the making of Mauritian glass and then a HUGE gift shop in which there were ornaments, wine glasses, Christmas decorations, jewellery, you name it, Loums and I bought matching Pheonix beer mugs and I bought a blue and white-vined dodo for my mum.
Willy then took us past the capital of Port Louis to an old Créole house called Eureka, we decided to get lunch there and we made our food order before we began looking around the house. I chose marlin cari (cari being a very small dish with sauce with lots of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and stock with either meat or fish, I chose fish), the rest of the meal was all set so off we went! The house was very colonial, thick mahogany floors, high ceilings with lots of moulding, portraits, marble baths, a long oak dining table, French doors and windows, but also there was a lot of Chinese influence dotted around in the form of privacy screens for either decorative or practical use, as well as writing desks, both of which were proudly decorated with Cranes. There was a veranda behind the house which formed a beautiful frame around it, and in the centre of it before going down the steps to the back garden were wicker chairs and sofas, you could definitely imagine 19th century inhabitants of the house reading there before taking a turn around the vast garden.
We started to walk around it and at the back we found uneven stone steps which we started to venture down, and down, and around, and down, before reaching the bottom where there was a cascade of waterfalls leading to a pool at the bottom and then forming a steady stream through the mountains. Nature is wonderful. After taking it all in for a long while, we were starting to get hungry to up we climbed, explored more of the green garden and then lunch was served! Rice is used mainly as an absorber so very little was served with our meal, but what accompanied it were little dishes for example, the marlin cari, pumpkin purée, mint and coconut paste, sun dried olives, tomato and pistachio purée (which was unreal) and larger lentil dish for if you have any room left. The meal ended with a small helping of vanilla ice-cream garnished with grilled coconut flakes.
After chatting and letting the food go down, we then met back up with Willy who then drove us to Labourdonnais! I was so so happy we were getting to do it after the disappointment of the day before. After reading about its restoration it was amazing to see how much it still looked like it belonged in 1850 Louisiana. It was just beautiful, marble verandas on both levels, embroidered walls, fountains, the works, we weren’t allowed to take pictures so I’ve only got the one form the front, but that is the most important bit! We then walked around the orchard and found giant tortoises, after looking at them for a while and doing impressions of them eating we then walked round to the distillery where they make the Labourdonnais rum. We got to talking to the woman who was running it, and we found out that she was a good friend of Gladys so bless her, she recommended that if we liked the rum we buy it in SuperU as it is much cheaper there! And like it we did. We tried the white, ambré and brun rum, we both loved the brun, I’m not really a rum drinker, probably because the only rum I’ve had before had been piss-water, and this rum was delicious, no burning sensation, warming, and sweet. So making a note of the bottle we decided to go purchase it the next day. Willy then drove us the long way back through the mountains, telling us stories about each one of them most of the way back to Trou Aux Biches, but most importantly through pineapple plantations. Get this: pineapples do NOT grow on trees. WHO KNEW?! We also discovered during the day that he used to work with Loums’ grandfather and was also a good friend of his brother. We then arrived back at home and asked to see him again on the Friday when he promised to show us the South of the island. We then had dinner, cocktails and again, tried to come to terms with the beauty of the island and how lucky we were to see it.
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.
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.
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).
This was Saturday, I realise I haven’t marked the dates or days since I started writing this blog, however dates or days didn’t really exist while we were there, it was more ‘Shall we do this tomorrow?’ way of planning things with the exception of our road trips, but for the basis of making it all fit together in your mind, I shall now keep track of the days as I write.
After breakfast, Loums’ aunt and uncle Gladys and Claude picked us up at around 10am, and we drove to the local supermarket SuperU in Grand Baie, which is a French supermarket chain, to get chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms and a baguette for our lunch.
This was the first time that Loums had seen them for 10 years so they had a lot to talk about so while they slowly made the rounds of the aisle’s in the store, I was taking pictures of vegetables which I’d never seen before to send to my mum with the caption ‘LOOK, LOOK AT THESE, IT’S A WHITE CUCUMBER!’, I felt I needed to remind Gladys that I’d never been south of the equator before and this isn’t just what I do every time I go into a supermarket in another country, to which she pointed out other Mauritian produce for me to take pictures of.
Afterwards they drove us to Cap Malheureux, which is so named because of either the amount of ships which ran aground there, or due to the nearby French defeat by the English, who then advanced on Port Louis (the capital). Across the water you see the island Coin de Mire, or Gunners Coin, which looks like Pride Rock from
‘The Lion King’ and got its name after years of ship hiding their silver and gold there before docking in Port Louis. When looking back to land you see the Eglise de Cap Malhereux which has an incredibly bright pinky-red roof.
After walking around and being very tourist-y with our cameras, we then drove on to another one of Loums’ aunts, Lynda where there was also, the famed Grandmother Cyrus! She was the quintessential matriarch of the Cyrus family, who was like a village elder to the family, great force of nature who was also very sweet. Lynda brought us drinks and we were all sat around talking for a while, Loums bringing them up to speed with news from his mother and siblings, and the aunts doing the same for his cousins, aunts and uncles some of whom are in Nigeria, Australia and Belgium. As we were leaving to have lunch at Gladys’, Loums’ cousin Stephan came in who was on holiday from work in the Caribbean and we made plans to meet up later that day.
While we were getting food ready at Gladys’, Loums got 4 coconut’s down from the palm in their garden, Claude cut them open, poured the water into a jug and that’s what we ate with our lunch! From the soil in the ground to food at the table, without any extractions of ingredients or sanitisation; a luxury which you have to pay more to get unless grown yourself in England, without ‘yaaa these are like, totally organic from my garden, yaaaa’ pretentiousness about it which was very refreshing and natural. After we ate and, got to know each other better and talked about life in Mauritius, England and France. Claude went to get Loums’ cousin, Melissa from work. The three of us talked some more and when they returned, Melissa took Loums and I to Goodlands, the town where him mother lived with his grandmother and where he and his brothers often went when they were here 10 years ago. It was very busy as it was a Saturday very loud, and smelled a lot of fried Samosas. We then went to his grandmother’s house which was next to his uncle, Jean-Noel’s. We had an apperetif of rum and Pheonix beer with him and his wife Leticia and Loums brought them up to speed with tales from France, how we met etc. It was very special and so important to spend such a long amount of time with as many family members as possible and we seemed to have been stuck in a time warp, until Stephan arrived to take us back to Trou aux Biches.
I loved driving through Mauritius so much and have so many great memories of this drive which was about 45 minutes, of the sun setting over the sugar cane fields which lined either side of the road, the quietness of the roads, people chatting outside of the quincailleries (which Loums translated as shops ‘which stocked everything but the kitchen sink’), houses which were clumped together, some in the middle of construction some standing alone in amongst crops, all of which had the mountains of
Mauritius in the background. We stopped off at a hotel where Stephan used to work before he moved to the Caribbean where he introduced us to his old colleagues, one of whom was from Yorkshire and had lived in Mauritius for about 6 years. Then we went on to Casuarina to have dinner and then we had our favourite cocktail (mojito), and then went down to the beach to have a walk before bed.