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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Road Trip Vol. 2: Volcanoes, temples, waterfalls, and LIONS!

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.

Trou-aux-Cerfs
Trou-aux-Cerfs

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.

Mare-aux-Vacoas
Mare-aux-Vacoas

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

Shiva
Shiva

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.

Shivatree Temple
Shivatree Temple

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).

Alexandra Falls
Alexandra Falls

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.

Cascade de Chamarel!
Cascade de Chamarel!

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.

The, lock gate of love?
The, lock gate of love?

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.

Le terre des sept couleurs
Le terre des sept couleurs

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

Izzy (Nala)
Izzy (Nala)

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.