Trip to Mauritius- Mauritian melting pot.

Let no one tell you Mauritius is just for adrenaline junkies or beach-bums and don’t let the canoodling, cooing honeymooners distract you either. It’s got enough history along with sports to fit into anyone’s itinerary. Determined to experience the history before I began sampling other pleasures on offer in the land of dodo, I landed – accompanied by at least dozen honeymooners- at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international Airport one muggy day.

There was no better place to start than the often overlooked Port Louis, where indentured labourers arrived before being herded off to plantations. The Apravasi Ghat, now a Unesco Heritage site, is where the girmitiya set thei

Mauritius Aapravasi Ghat

r first foot on landing. A flood of scenes from amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies sprange to mind as I stood before a concrete pair of footsteps – a tribute to those who landed at Coolie Ghat as it was known. They could return home after serving their contracted five years, but almost none made it back. The crumbling cookhouse, immigration sheds, bathing area and a hospital are grim reminders of the tough times they faced.

 

But then it was time to move on to places with happier associations. I set off for Le Caudan waterfront, a favourite haunt of locals and tourist. This is the waterfront embossed on the Mauritian 50-rupee note. Food, fun, shopping- it’s got everything. An amateur philatelist, I couldn’t keep away from the blue Penny Museum to visit its piece de resistance- a pair of rare Red and Blue Penny Stamps dating back to 1847.

Then I stooped in a small sugarcane juice stall at corner which featured differently flavoured juices, including a rum- fortified one. Afterwards, energised and curious about the serpentine queue at another stall. I walked towards it- only to discover the line was for the popular Dholl-Puri combo. Brought by Bihari immigrants. It’s an inexpensive street food that draws froeigners as well as locals. Indian fare like samussa, biryani and farata (paratha) are equally popular making it impossible for hard-core Indian tourist to pine for tastes of home.

Mauritius Adelaide Fort

A short uphill drive to the crumbling Adelaide Fort seemed a waste of effort till I stood near an old gun outside. The remnants of the Moorish fort offered a breath-taking view of Port Louis and adjoining hills. From there, I also spied the Champs de Mars, world’s second oldest race course. That Mauritians love betting is clear during from the crowds at races like the Maiden Cup, Barbe Cup or Couped’Or. While elite plantation owners bask in VIP seats, enjoying a bottle of bubbly, the less affluent content themselves sipping alouda (flavoured milk) and munching on pistaches bouies (boiled peanuts) or pistaches grilles (roasted peanuts).

I then opted for the famed Ile aux Cerfs (Creole for Island of the Deer) to enjoy some sun and sand. The sugarcane fields stretched boundless as we raced along the snaking road – past tranquil village with French names under a sky so blue it seemed unreal. Azure water, frothy waves and endless white sands greeted my eyes along with sun-worshipping who lay like beached whales. There, lolling under a sun umbrella, I spent time people- watching in the company of fresh green coconut.

Next morning, I decided to sample one of the many adventures the island has to offer. Scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, parasailing and windsurfing, sea karting, submarine diving and undersea walking. Mauritius has all of these activities and more. I opted for a submarine ride.

Pressurised and air-conditioned, the cabin had huge portholes giving us stunning view of undersea life. The submarine did a fast descent and then we passed through a canyon, gazing at the corals and the colourful fish. A rusted anchor of a 17th century galleon lent mystery. Afterwards, armed with a diving certificate for having done nothing but watching fish float by, I called it a day. Of course, I could have relaxed under another umbrella at any of the island’s dozen beaches but I gave them a miss since I wanted to sample some Creole delicacies.

Life on the island- whose mascot is the dodo which become extinct in 1681 but still peeps at tourists from T-shirts, souvenirs, paintings and stamps- is leisurely and calming. I did the rounds of the other beaches, gazed intrigued at the seven- coloured earth at Chamarel, patted the lions and posed for pictures with them at Casela Nature Park and got drunk on Rum at the Rhummery- but that’s another story.

Mauritius tourism official site.

READY RECKONER
  • How to get there: Air Mauritius operates flights from Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai to Mauritius.
  • Where to stay: There are expensive hotel like St. Regis to mid-range option like Lux, Zilwa, Ambre and Le Pearl Beach, as well as budget apartments and hotels.
  • What to see: Apravasi Ghat, Port Louis, L’Aventure du Sucre, The Citadelle- Fort Adelaide, The Blue Penny Museum, Pamplemousses Garden.
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