Monday, September 23, 2013

Mauritius 4 - last month

In a week we will be gone from Mauritius, taking with us some wonderful memories…
An old Dutch fort lies under these French military ruins at Old Grand Port, Mahebourg
The Dutch first landed here about 1638 (calling the island after Prins Maurits van Nassaueiland). But the Old Port at Mahebourg proved disastrous, being on the SE side of the island which is exposed to the worst weather and their time here was characterised by hardship and failure. 
And the extinction of the large, flightless one-egg-per-year endemic Dodo bird.
And the destruction of most of the Ebony forests.
Looking eastwards to sea: a bad location for the port, as this area suffers heavy weather
The Dutch cleared huge swathes of Ebony forests but made some positive contribution by bringing in sugar cane plants from Java before they abandoned the island, leaving also macaque monkeys, java deer and fugitive slaves.

They had found, on the other side of the island, “Rade des Tortues” - “Harbour of the Tortoises”. 
The endemic Mauritius Giant Saddle-Back Tortoise became extinct but numbers of other large tortoises are now nurtured in parks
The French colonised this abandoned island in 1715, naming it Isle de France, and used “Rade des Tortues” (now known as Port Louis) as the main port, using mainly slaves to develop the island. The French influence has remained dominant, despite the British ousting them about 1810 and governing the territory until its independence in 1968.

We visited Le Morne peninsular, which is dominated by 556m Brabant mountain (in the distance on the left, seen from a Black River Gorge area viewpoint) - a basalt rock peak and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Le Morne (“Mournful One”) Brabant mountain: site of slave tragedies
The craggy mountain is dotted with caves and overhangs and was a refuge for runaway slaves - and the site of tragedy. The British abolished slavery early in 1835 and a police expedition travelled there to inform the slaves that they had been freed; but the slaves misunderstood the reason for the policemen’s approach and leapt to their deaths rather than endure re-capture. The day is remembered by Mauritian Creoles in an Annual Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery.

On the other side of the mountain, Le Morne lagoon is a windy playground - a stunning kite boarding spot!
Brilliant colours of grounded kites waiting their turn
We saw about 30 kite-boarders out simultaneously in a small area: an amazing sight!
 Discovering these areas with friends and family was a treat. We also enjoyed sharing some lovely areas of Port Louis with them… even if they sometimes complained about long walks!
Their smiles lie - Rolf and Carmen growled at me all the way up to the top of the Citadel!
But the view from the top was superb
After slavery was abolished, the British had to satisfy their subsequent need for cheap labour; they began a system of bringing in indentured labourers (a form of debt-bondage) particularly from India but also from China, Malaysia, Africa and Madagascar. This (often brutal) system ended in 1920, and has resulted in a mosaic of cultures living on the island. 

There are attractive reminders of Mauritian history and culture around every corner….


1736 windmill alongside harbour

 Lovely street lights on Place Nelson Mandela circle, at Port Louis Theatre
 Welcome to Chinatown
Small shrine on the water’s edge
Office of the Prime Minister of Mauritius
Many of the old Mauritian walls are built of beautiful black volcanic rock, as in the Prime Minister’s Office building, and any walk along the coast will take you clambering over these tumbled rocks.
Strolling around Grand Baie: sometimes white beach, sometimes black volcanic rock
Pretty beaches, beautiful sea, vibrant streets and colourful displays: lots to see here!

Magnificent fresh fish for sale in Grand Baie
Driving fish towards their nets in Merville Bay
 This is how you do it if you are a tourist – but YOU don’t keep the fish you catch! 
The boats each came in with about 6 magnificent Dorado
Colourful Dodo?
One wonders why the Natural History Museum in Port Louis shows them like this…
and behind it an artillery piece!
Our 4 month visit here will soon be over - we leave Mauritius on 30 September.
As we leave the harbour, we will pass a sight that has become familiar in our numerous entries and exits: this fire-damaged ship, the Brandenberg, was brought in by local tugs months ago.
The owners of the containers on board must have been frustrated…
but they were eventually offloaded and trans-shipped
Hopefully the overhaul and repaint has now begun
Au Revoir, Mauritius!

We will stop for a few days in Reunion then, when the weather prediction looks good for at least the first 5 days, we will set off for Richards Bay.
To see where we are on that voyage, go here….

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mauritius: magic month 3

Imagine a beach house leading from patio to shady grass to white beach to turquoise sea.

Imagine living on a yacht anchored a short distance from the beach, with your family in the beach house.

Imagine what a great place this would be for a family reunion... well, it really was!

Soft, balmy sunsets

Babies practiced "walking" (sorry sideways...!)
Grandparents got stronger!

The dinghy was always on standby, to act as transport and often climbing frame for beach children!

The yacht was a great place for celebrations...

... and also provided winches, ropes, anchor chains, fenders and other interesting play-items: a strangely different, wonderful new home to explore.
A window that looks down on people!
There was a successful day-trip to an island: even 90-year olds, if determined and plucky, can get from beach to dinghy to boat safely - what a celebration!

We ventured out for a car trip to a waterfall in the Black River (Riviere Noire) area: beautiful even in the dry season.

One of the most famous sights in Mauritius is the Seven Coloured Earth (s), a striking geological formation nearby, in the Chamarel plain. These sand dunes have seven distinct colours (approximately red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, yellow); he differently coloured soil components settle in different layers, giving the dunes a beautiful patterned appearance.

Then followed a drive along the scenic south coast to the Gris-Gris headlands of Souillac, a rugged area very exposed to the SE Trade winds.

Back to the beach-house - at the end of the holiday, left-overs and toys were ferried back to Ketoro at the end of the holiday.
Mauritius had been a magical place for a family reunion!

These little ones inspired us to take another look at our journeys and experiences on Ketoro, and tell them in a way that would keep us close to them. So we have set up a blog for them:
At this stage it shares our animals with them - and all other children who may be interested!