Monday, April 6, 2015

Mauritius


            I recently posted pictures up of my trip to Mauritius and had planned on leaving it at that, but I was recently asked to also write up a post as to what it was that I did while I was there and a little about the country itself.  First I should give a little background information about the country itself.  Mauritius is a small island country to the east of Madagascar.  The country, before it gained its independence, was once a part of the British Empire and is where Britain first tried out its “Great Experiment,” in which it abolished slavery and imported indentured servants as a labor force.  Most
of these indentured servants came from India and soon overtook the population that was in Mauritius in numbers and now make up a large majority of the population.  This has created a country in which you can find many different languages spoken (English, French, Hindi, Creole) and many different types of food (namely Indian and Creole, along with Western cuisine).  The country is quite developed (highly developed to what I have been used to for the last year) and one would find it very easy to get around.  All of the roads are paved and they have a great bus system that is both cheap and fast; you can get from one side of the island to the other is about an hour, making touring very easy.  The people in Mauritius, it could easily be argued, are the nicest people you can find on this planet.  People are so helpful that if they do not know the answer or do not speak English well will find someone who does to help.  Also, although it is a big tourist location you never get the feeling that it truly is.  That all being said Mauritius has to be on the top of my list for one of the most beautiful places and best vacation spots that I have ever been to.  It is a must see.  What follows is the story of my trip to Mauritius:
            Our flight out of Madagascar, originally being scheduled for 8 A.M, Monday morning, had been pushed up to 6 A.M.  So catching a charter bus to the airport at 4 A.M. we arrived just in time to find that the flight was now delayed till its original time at 8 A.M.  As the plan took off we were hit with the realization that we were leaving Madagascar, and actually going to Mauritius!!!  Arriving in Mauritius I was immediately hit with culture shock as I walked into the airport, was hit by a blast of air conditioning, and stood at the door of a room full of Vazaha (foreigners).  Having only our carry-ons, we quickly made it though customs and went to exchange our Malagasy Ariary into the Mauritius Rupee.  Going with the plan of exchanging all of our Ariary turned out to be a bad idea.  It turned out that none of the major banks would exchange Ariary.  So I being the only one with American Dollars exchanged what I had and we went to the bus station to make our way to our hostel just outside Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius.  I say hostel but it was more like an apartment.  The landlord had divided his house in half; renting out one half to travelers.  This was a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with a full kitchen.  It was really nice.  Outside our apartment was the common area where the landlord would hang out and we, the first night, would eat dinner.  After settling in we decided to just hangout their and decide what we were going to do for the rest of the week, as well as figure out what we were going to do for money.  Having talked with the landlord he offered to cook us a Mauritius dinner and to talk with us about our plans. 
            Waking up the next day we decided to go to the Waterfront in Port Louis to try to exchange our money.  This ended up being a failure and so we decided to try a few other banks in town as well, but everyone just looked at us like we were crazy.  Having failed at getting more money we decided to make the best of our time and take a tour of Port Louis.  We started our tour with a stop at McDonald’s for lunch, then armed with a guide book we made our way though town.  First we made our way to Aapravasi Ghat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the indentured servants first stepped foot when arriving in Mauritius.  After touring this site we made our way through the Central Market, then to a really nice Islamic mosque, then through China Town to a huge catholic church, and finally up to the fort which gave us an amazing panoramic view of the whole city and area.  After taking in the sites of Port Louis we made our way back home, stopping to get a street food chicken sandwich.  Street food in Mauritius is both amazingly delicious and cheap. 
            The following day, still living off only the money I had exchanged, we decided to try again to withdraw money.  After a few failed attempts we finally found an ATM machine that allowed me to pull out money.  So after pulling money out for everyone we hoped on a bus and made our way to Triolet, a town in the north, to see a Hindu temple.  After touring this temple and grabbing some street food, some Dahl, we caught another bus back to Port Louis.  Here we decided to do some street shopping.  It was during this time that we decided to go to ShopRight, a grocery store, to buy some sunscreen.  Taking PCV’s to a grocery store is a bad idea.  What seemed like forever later we were finally leaving with a basket full of groceries, with which we had to carry all the way to the bus station on the other side of town. 
            On the fourth day we made a tour of the southern part of the island.  This, for me at least, was on of the best days of the vacation.  First going to the Chamerel Park, where we saw the Chamerel falls and the 7 colored earth, which were both amazing.  After leaving, we stopped at a Creole restaurant nearby to eat an amazing lunch. We then made our way to the Grande Basin to see the Hindu temple there.  The temple complex was huge and was centered around a lake that for the Hindu’s in Mauritius is the most sacred place outside of India.  While here we toured the temple grounds and hung out with some monkeys (which were so awesome!!!).  The temple was amazingly beautiful and we got to see the sun set over the temple complex.  Towards the end of our time there we walked into where they housed the cows.  As we entered a man came up to us to tell us about the place.  He related how we were blessed because we had shown up when a new calf was born.  We then joined him in his office where we talked and he gave us some Chai and a souvenir.  After our talk, as we were leaving, he gave us a bag of desserts that were left over from a festival they had just had.  While he was bagging the desserts he talked about some of the foods that we had missed out on the day before and decided that we should stay for dinner.  So he asked the cook to make some food and we joined them for dinner there at the temple. 
            The next day we went back to the north of the island, this time to Grande Bay.  Here we took a catamaran out to Gabriel Island where we hung out on the beach, ate some bar-b-q, and did a little bit of snorkeling.  The snorkeling part was very short and not really in a good area either so that part was a bit of a flop (doing a snorkeling package through one of the tourist places is not the best if snorkeling is what you want to do).  When we returned we walked around Grande Bay for a little bit, but Grande Bay being more touristy and all of us being a little tired from being in the sun all day, we decided to return home; but not before grabbing a little street food (a roti and lamb soup for me).
            Our sixth day in Mauritius lead us to the south eastern part of the island.  We first went to Mahebourg to see the market there; what we originally had planned for the day of our arrival.  At the market the girls did a little clothes shopping and I enjoyed the array of food choices.  Here I had a lot of chana puri, an octopus sandwich, and a grenadine milkshake.  And yes this trip was more an exploration of food for me than anything else.  When we had satisfied ourselves with food we went to the history museum and then to the biscuit factory, but it was already closed.  After this went to Blue Bay, which was amazingly beautiful, to try out some snorkeling with the gear our landlord had lent us.  Upon arriving though we were told that no one was allowed into the water because the bay was full of little blue jellyfish.  After walking the beach for a bit we left and went to the Moka Mall close to Port Louis.  We had one objective here, happy hour at the Flying Dodo, a craft brewery/restaurant.  Having arrived early we walked around the mall and did a little window shopping.  When happy hour started we went to the Flying Dodo and ordered dinner and a round of beers.  The food and beers were pretty pricy, well regular American prices (but that is crazy expensive for me).  The food though was delicious and the beer…well the beer was the best I have had in a long time.  It was great!!!  The brewery changes its beers every month so they always have something new, but we had the Independence, Vanilla Lager, Old Style Belgian Wit, and the Blonde. 
            Our last full day in Mauritius was spent in the south west of the country.  We first went to see LeMorne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where slaves would hide after running away.  After this we went to Flic and Flac, a beach on the western coast.  This might have been my favorite beach of all the ones that we had been to.  This beach, although it had many tourist, was also a popular hangout spot for Mauritians as well.  Throughout the beach you could hear people playing drums and find numerous food trucks.  After spending some time at the beach we returned to Moka Mall to catch the 6 o’clock showing of Fast and the Furious 7. This would turn out to be the most frustrating part of the whole trip.  It turns out that the theater does not start selling tickets for the show until 30 minutes before.  So getting there early we were the first in line to wait to buy our tickets.  After buying our tickets we then had to stand in another line and wait to be let into the theater.  When we had finally got into the theater it was already 6:30.  Being in a movie theater eating popcorn and watching a good movie was great though.  After the movie we went to the food court and bought a pizza for dinner.  The following day we returned to the airport and flew back to Madagascar. 

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