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Pictures of our Mauritius trip – part 2: Main Island 1st part
Mauritius (part 1: Island of Rodrigues)
Mauritius (part 3: Main Island 2nd part)
Mauritius Map
        Map of the Indian Ocean
latest picture: July 16, 2011
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001  On June 22, 2011, Air Mauritius
brings us in an 8 hour flight from Kuala
Lumpur in Malaysia to the island of
Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
During this flight we leave Asia for
Africa while crossing the Equator
from North to the South
002  Bizarre mountains rising steeply
from the plains and sugar cane fields
are our first impressions on our
approach of this island that
geographically belongs to Africa
003  Villages interrupt the green
of the vast sugar cane fields
Bizarre mountain groups are towering steeply between endless green sugar cane plantations towards a blue sky. This is the surprising scenery that greets us on Air Mauritius‘ approach to the airport Plaisance in the Southeast of the rather small island (709 sq.mi.), lying in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011. We end up at a talkative and smiling immigration officer who right away stamps us a three months’ stay into our passports. Also the customs officers look at us benevolently when we push our trolley trough the “Green Channel - Nothing to declare“. It immediately makes us feel welcomed. Outside of the airport our organized transport is already waiting for us and within 20 minutes we are in our booked guesthouse “Le Saladier“in Mahébourg, still close to the airport.
004  “Lion’s Head“in the Southeast
is dominating Mahébourg’s waterfront.
Once it was a busy port, today there
are only a few fishing boats
005  Liliana is standing in front of the
“Statue of Harmony Swami Sivandanda”
built by young volunteers at
Mahébourg’s waterfront
006  The sun is setting at the ocean
front at Mahébourg. It is a favorite
place for local families at weekends
Already shortly afterwards we stroll along Mahébourg‘s water front where in 1680 the first fleets of the Dutch landed. On this late Wednesday evening, we almost feel a bit “lonely“. No crowds, no noise, only a couple of anchored fishing boats bobbing up and down, an offshore island and a striking mountain ridge, the “Lion’s Head“ greeting from the other side of the bay. What a different picture from the one we left behind only seven hours ago – from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia but also in Australasia (Southeast Asia and Pacific). After six years and 19 new countries we swapped now with Africa. Yes, geographically, we are in Africa again. The “real“ African life however is still a world away. The majority of the population on the mainland is of Indian origin. They are descendants of Indian workers imported to cultivate the sugar cane fields. But also Chinese and Europeans made the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean“ – how the island is also called – their permanent home.
007  “Blue Bay“ in the South of Mahébourg
deserves its name! Surrounded by white
sandy beaches and tiny offshore islands,
it evokes a whiff of the South Pacific …..
008  ..... mothers are playing with
their kids at the public beach
009  View over an upscale beach
resort at “Blue Bay“ South
of Mahébourg
“Bonjour!“ Friendly people are greeting us. “Do they not speak English on the island?” Soon we learn that English is recognized as the official language. In day-to-day life however French and Creole is widely spoken, dating back to the long French colonial time from 1710 until 1810. One more thing they have adopted from the French: The crispy baguette freshly baked every morning and evening! Topped with a piece of tasty French cheese, some slices of salami and one-two local “Phoenix“ beer, is always a special treat. What more do we want? To begin with, we booked merely for three nights at the friendly “Auberge Le Saladier“guesthouse in Mahébourg, because we knew that afterwards we were in the air again: To the small laid-back island of Rodrigues, covering only 42 sq.mi., but lying 350 miles East of Mauritius. It belongs politically to Mauritius – but is autonomous – and is said to look as relaxed as the main island did 60 years ago. We are looking forward to a quiet week until the arrival of the delayed container with our LandCruiser in Port Louis that comes from Sri Lanka. (There is a separate webpage about Rodrigues).
010  Beautiful Hindu temple in
Mahébourg. The majority of the
Mauritius population is Hindu
011  The Mahébourg Mosque is rising
against a deep blue sky. There is quite
a big Muslim community in this city
012  The Christian church “Notre Dame
des Anges“ is the focal point of Mahébourg.
About 52% of the Mauritians are Hindu,
28% Christians and 17% Muslims (Wikipedia)
After a week of nostalgic life on Rodrigues where “they roll the sideways up at night“ we are back on the more busy main island and also again in the guesthouse “Le Saladier“ in Mahébourg. At 8am on Monday morning, we are once more catching the local bus to Port Louis that is passing by only a few steps away from where we stay and conveniently just can be stopped along the road. There are still enough free seats. But soon it fills up on the two-hour-drive across the island to the capital 30 miles away. Then it means standing for those who board later. Going this way daily to work in the morning is rather uncomfortable. For us, our container is calling. It has been unloaded in the port last Friday. Now we need to take care of the compulsory insurance and the local visitor license plate.
013  July 7, 2011: Our container is
opened in the port of Port Louis in the
presence of the head of the customs
and other staff. Our LandCruiser was
loaded on May 25, 2011, in Sri Lanka
and reached Mauritius via Malaysia
and Réunion
014  Emil is adding the “Mauritius sticker”
at the country band of our LandCruiser.
Mauritius is our 170th visited country on
our almost 27th years lasting epic
journey around the world
015  With the help of our agent, Emil
attaches the temporary local license
plate “VIS 169“ at our LandCruiser
Just short of Port Louis we ask the friendly looking ticket collector, who goes from seat to seat to cash the fare of 35 Rupees (= US$ 1.20) per person, to give us a sign when we have to get off for the NTA , the National Transport Authority. “On our return journey we can drop you right in front of it” he offers. What a kind gesture! Because we have started already with the car’s paper work before we flew to Rodrigues, things go more or less smoothly. In less than half an hour, we leave the crowded building with the license plate No. VIS 169 and Rp. 4‘500 (= US$ 155) less in our pocket (Rp. 3‘000 is the deposit for the license plates and Rp. 1‘500 for the monthly road tax). Also with the agent of the Whitegate Insurance Company we soon reach an agreement for the mandatory third party insurance, but only next day. However we must pay the premium for a whole year (Rp. 8‘400 = US$ 288) with the prospect of reimbursement of the too many paid months at our departure. To come straight to the point: It worked out for both, but the refund has taken four months for the number plates!
016  View from Fort Adelaide over
the city center of Port Louis. The citadel
has been built by the British but was
never used as a Fortress
017  The sea of houses of Port Louis
is spreading towards the surrounding
hills. There are about 160’000 people
living in the capital of Mauritius
018  The appealing “Caudan”
Waterfront in Port Louis invites to
shop, stroll or just take a break
Exploring this lively capital with a population of around 160‘000 people is full of surprises. It is a mixture of modern and ancient, of capital and village character, of teeming local and “orderly“ touristic life. Our favorits are the lovely “Boulevard Place d’Armes“, lined by majestic royal palms and compared a bit with Champs-Élysées in Paris and the snow-white Jummah Mosque with its playful turrets. But also the small market hall, built in the colonial style, sitting a bit lost between modern highrise skyscrapers, attracts always our eyes.
019  The “Boulevard Place d’Armes“
in Port Louis is lined with majestic royal
palms and is compared with Champs-
Elysees in Paris
020  The white turrets of Port
Louis’ Yuma (Jummah) Mosque
rise against a stormy sky
021  Mauritius beauties gather at
the Caudan waterfront in the
center of Port Louis
The lively colorful market scenes with the many street vendors are omnipresent. We prefer this compared to the modern “Caudan Waterfront“ with its smart restaurants, expensive shops and a casino, despite that is a lovely place to stroll and relax. There we see also most of the mostly short term tourists. Of course we drive also up the hill to Fort Adelaide where the compact city with the white sea of houses spreading towards the surrounding hills lies to our feet. The citadel was built by the English, but it was never used as a fortress.
022  Port Louis‘market place is sticking out
pleasantly against the modern skyscraper
023  A street vendor tries to
find a buyer for his vegetable
024  A market corner in Port Louis
cramped with all kind of house ware
Finally Wednesday is the day: Full of expectations, we are waiting in front of our container to be opened. The first thing we notice is that our personal padlock we fixed in Colombo on Sri Lanka is missing. Then we also see that the seal does not have its original number – a clear proof that the container was reopened somewhere: Either still in Sri Lanka or in Malaysia or Réunion, the two transshipment ports. But this does not really worry us much, because it is not the first time. It was already the case at the arrival in Papua New Guinea, coming from Jakarta/Indonesia. However, in such a case we don’t take over anymore the responsibility for the container’s content, because not only something might be missing, just as well something else could have been added.
025  Journalists and TV crew pose
for a picture after the press conference
at the Tourist Promotion Authority in
Port Louis. Behind Liliana is Mrs.
Roselyne Hauchler who arranged a
bond free entrance of our LandCruiser
026  At a family restaurant in
Port Louis, our Beef Curry is
served in the private living room
027  Finally “on the road again”! We
drive through endless sugar cane fields
whose “flowers” are shining
beautifully in the evening sun
But here it becomes suddenly a problem: CMA-CGM – the shipping line – has its own rules in such a case: It has to investigate about it. Where did it happen and by whom? Only after clarification and after the headquarters in Marseille have given their approval, the container may be opened. We do not dare to think how long that may take! For now it means in the first place that we will have to leave the port without our treasured companion and sit again for two hours in the bus until we are “home“ in Mahébourg on the opposite side of the island. At least the scenery we pass is really beautiful and the bizarre mountain peaks that rise straight from the plains are always a lovely sight.
028  Chimneys of the ancient sugar
cane mills are still dotting the landscape.
Annually 600’000 tons of sugar are
produced in the average; 530’000 tons
are exported to the European Union
029  The sugar cane harvest is in
full swing. Highly and heavely
loaded trucks are on the road
030  The sun is setting behind
a sugar cane field
Wonders will never cease: Because next morning, July 7th, 2011, at 11am, we are already standing once more in front of our container. Yesterday we put a lot of pressure on CMA-CGM. They pulled out all the stops and apparently got the approval from Marseille before the office closed, when it became clear that our container was reopened by the customs authorities of Colombo in Sri Lanka (presumably due to container scanning). Now, finally the seal is broken, under the eyes of at least a dozen people. They are from the customs, from the port, from the shipping line and from the agency. Of course, now everybody is anxious and curious to see what might have changed in that box.
031  Our LandCruiser drives towards
a small “alley” of deep hanging roots
on the Southeastern coastal
road near Savannah
032  Teatime: Workers of a potato
field walk along the edge of a field
033  The Rochester Falls near Souillac
in the South are gushing into a small
pond, surrounded by trees. The name
“Rochester” was given during the
period of 1847 when the novel “Jane
Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, with the
main character “Mr. Rochester”
was published
There is fortunately no sensation – it is our good old blue LandCruiser – our indispensable travel buddy. Nothing is missing, nothing is „added“; it stands in front of us safe and sound as we drove it in 44 days ago; the broken original seal lies in a corner. As always, it arouses immediately a lot of admiration and the customs’ check is no longer an issue. What a wonderful feeling to be mobile and independent again and to be able to discover our 170th country! There is still left one obligation however: The press conference in the afternoon, organized by the Ministry of Tourism. Here we cannot dodge because it is only and alone their merit – especially Ms. Hauchler’s – that in the last minute a bond-free entry of our car has been granted.
034  The black rocky coastline near
Souillac’s Gris-Gris beach in the
South is known for its strong waves
035  Though the small Gris-Gris beach
near Souillac in the South looks inviting,
swimming is not recommended due to
the strong current
036  Emil is standing in front of
impressing tree roots at the sea
shore park of Souillac in the South
Due to our published article in the newspapers, locals approach us already next day when we are walking along the white sandy beach at Blue Bay that is hardly a five minutes drive to the South from Mahébourg. It is a scenery like in a picture book: The blue lagoon, the glistening white sandy beach and some tiny off shore islands evoke a whiff of a South Pacific flair. No wonder that it is also very touristy and no wonder that there are plenty of persistent touts and hawkers, which is annoying after a while.
037  Emil chats with Wynette and James
who invited us to a barbecue to their
house in Mont Désert near Plaisance.
Both are enthusiastic travelers too
038  Looking down from the nearly
2’300 ft. high Black River
National Park to the South Coast
039  The “Grand Bassin” Craterlake
(Ganga Talao) in the Southern Highlands
is a sacred pilgrimage place to the
big Hindu community
It begins usually with a little small talk, but does not take long before they try to sell something, be it a boat trip, a souvenir or another trap. All the more we are pleased to meet Wynette, James and their son Matthew. Immediately we have an interesting conversation and already two days later we are sitting in their lovely home bordering a sugar cane field sipping a glass of wine. Wynette is from South Africa and James from Zambia and a helicopter pilot at Air Mauritius. Both are enthusiastic travelers. They are living already since five years in Mauritius and James just renewed his contract for another ten years. They like the life on the island.
040  The bronze statue of the Hindu God
Shiva is standing guard to the holy “Ganga
Talao”. With 108 feet, it is the tallest statue
in Mauritius. Wrapped around his arms
and shoulders are three cobras …..
041  ….. The view through the temple
gate to the „Ganga Talao“ with the
temple on the other lake side
is simply stunning …..
042  .....The silhouette of the
Hindu God Shiva against the
darkening evening sky
It‘s ages since we were able to chat with like-minded people, having spent the past years mainly on islands “off the beaten track“ of “ordinary” car travelers. Somehow we are missing this exchange of experiences. It is James who tries to dispel our doubts not to wild camp on beaches for safety reasons, where there are often toilets and even cold showers. But he is and remains the only person who doesn’t see any security issue. Otherwise we are always warned about it. Whom do we have to believe now? Therefore we prefer to play safe and keep our guesthouse “Le Saladier“ in Mahébourg as a base for the discovery of the small island where returning the same day is no question at all. We like it in the guesthouse, as we have two rooms and wifi and a complete kitchen that nobody else is using and our LandCruiser has a safe parking in the garage. But for US$ 55 a night, including breakfast, it is still a luxury for a place we call temporarily our home!
“Ganga Talao” is a famous pilgrimage site for the approximately 500’000 Hindu population of Mauritius. Every year, at Maha Shivaratri
festival in February/March, devotees from all over the island make the pilgrimage to the lake bare footed to make offerings to their gods
043  to Hanuman
044  to Lord Vishnu
045  to Ganesh
It is wintertime in Mauritius and therefore off-season. The skies are deep blue, the air is fresh and the sight is clear when we start to our first tour along the Eastern shore of the Southern half. Emerald-green fields of sugar cane spread endlessly in front of us. Sometimes its flowers are glistening white, sometimes silvery, then brown, then pink – depending on the incident sunlight. They are flowering between May and October. Now and then a high chimney of an ancient sugar cane mill arises. The cane is cut 80% mechanically, 20% still by hand – where the topography doesn’t allow it. Until five years ago 600‘000 metric tons of sugar were produced annually. 530‘000 tons were exported to the European Union. Business was not anymore that profitable when the sugar prices dropped by 20%. Today’s main income is tourism and textile.
046  Flic-en-Flac in the West is a
famous tourist center. Top-end resorts
are side by side. Here at the Hilton
beach that borders the public beach …..
047  ….. its umbrellas are
arranged perfectly in a line …..
048  ….. no chairs, no umbrellas – the
public beach, sandwiched between
Hotel Resorts. However there are many
public beaches around Mauritius, which
are accessible to everybody for free
East of Souillac on the South coast we branch off to the Gris-Gris-Beach. It is a rocky coast line with a small sandy beach and a strong current. There are even picnic tables, benches and rubbish bins! Later, West of Souillac, we follow a rusty small road sign, half hidden by high sugar cane, to the Rochester water falls, named after the main character of the novel “Jane Eyre“ of Charlotte Bronte, published around 1847. Are we on the right path? – we suddenly doubt, when we drive for a long time through a narrow cane “tunnel“. It ends abruptly at a little open grassy space. We park our LandCruiser and continue on foot. Soon we hear the rushing of the water fall and reaching it, we feel a wonderful aura of peace. The sun is just seeping through the foliage of the high trees and illuminates the twin waterfall that is rushing into a small pool. It is not spectacular, but lovely in its natural environment. The only disturbing factor is a bunch of shouting juveniles gathering up the falls ready to jump into the pool for some money.
049  Water sport is not lacking in
Flic-en-Flac. There is a big
competition at the high-end resorts
050  Our picnic consisting of baguette,
salami, cheese, olives and local Phoenix
beer takes place under casuarinas at
Flic-en-Flac’s public beach
051  Inland, South of Flic-en-Flac, the
mountain peaks of the “Montagne du
Rempart” (left) and the three “Mamelles”
tower almost vertically against the sky
A few miles further we are at another sandy beach, ideal for our lunch picnic. How different it is here compared with overcrowded Asia: No curious people showing up and staring for hours – our privacy is respected. With each day, we like Mauritius more! In the meantime, it is mid-afternoon and according to Lonely Planet we are approaching the most attractive coastline of the entire island: Morne Brabant in the Southwest. We definitively want to save this jewel for another day. Today we actually only want to make a loop, otherwise we have explored the whole island already in a couple of days, which is definitively too fast. We need to amortize the freight and hefty port fees on a longer term.
052  View towards the “Piton Canot”
from the Western access road to the
Black River Gorges National Park
053  The Chapel of Saint Anne in
Chamarel, lying at 1’000ft. altitude
in the Southwestern hills shines
in the afternoon sun
054  A rum distillery in Mauritius:
The „Rhumerie de Chamarel“
sitting in the fertile Chamarel
Valley in the Southwest
Our return trip leads us at a quick pace through the Southern Highlands past the “Black River National Park“. There, on 2’300 ft. altitude, a stiff wind is blowing. Since a very long time we grab our warm jumpers. Evening is approaching and the sun sits already low when near the National Park entry suddenly a huge bronze statue towers in front of us, glistening in the evening light. We are totally taken by surprise at this beautiful sight and read that it represents the Hindu God Shiva that is a standing guard to the holy “Ganga Talao“ crater lake and its lakeshore temple. With 108 feet height, it is the tallest statue in Mauritius. Wrapped around its arms and shoulders are three cobras. “Ganga Talao“ is an important pilgrimage site for the Hindu community, which counts about 500‘000 heads. At the annual “Maha Shivaratri Festival” in February/March devotees from all over the island go barefooted on a pilgrimage to the temple to make offerings to their gods.
055  The mild climate of the fertile
Chamarel Valley favors also the
pineapple growth
056  View over the gentle Western
hills from the Black River Gorges National
Park towards the South. The block in
the back at right is the “Morne Brabant”
057  Swaying palm trees border
a pineapple field in the Chamarel
Valley in the Southwest
The scent of freshly brewed coffee from the breakfast room lies in the air. On the terrace the flock of birds that come every morning is already present, waiting for our breakfast breadcrumbs: The cheeky Madagascan Red Fody with its distinctive call, three shy Red-Whiskered BulBul and two gentle grey pigeons. It is a peaceful start of a new day. The blue skies are promising and we start to our second trip to the South of the island. Through the fertile Chamaral Valley we cross the Southern Highlands from East to the West where sweet pineapples are growing, favored by the mild climate of this region. We cannot miss the viewpoint at the “Black River Gorges National Park” on 2’300 ft. altitude. Souvenir shops line the path to the lookout. From there, we enjoy a sweeping view over rolling hills gleaming in the sun and a small waterfall cascading almost vertically through all shades of jungle green.
058  View Northwards from the
lookout of the Black River Gorges
National Park over the rolling hills …..
059  ..... and the waterfall
cascading almost vertically
through dense vegetation
060  The skies darken over the “Pieter
Both” Mountain, with 2’690ft. the
second highest mountain in Mauritius
After our descent to the valley, we roll towards the most famous beach resort in the Southwest – “Flip en Flac“ with shining white sandy beaches, lined by casuarinas, and a turquoise lagoon. On one side one hotel complex of the luxury class after the other lines the beach with all its amenities – from beach chairs, parasols to all kind of water sports. On the other side is the public beach with clean sanitary facilities and cold showers what we learn to appreciate later on most of the beaches. Where else in the world are there still such beautiful well equipped free beaches, most of them even with car access right to the shore? This is our world! Here we enjoy our picnic before we continue our tour through the South of the island.
061  The sun catches the fan-shaped
„voyageurs“. This plant from the family
of Strelitziaceae grows more than 30ft.
and collects water what gave it the
name „traveler’s tree“ (Ravenala
madagascariensis). Although there
are forests of it in Mauritius, it is
originating from Madagascar
062  The red berry of the
“Brazilian Pepper“ (Schinus
terebinthifolius) contrast to the
luxuriant green of the highland.
It is not a true pepper but is
also used as a spice, often
together with real pepper
063  The delicate flower of the tea
plant. The tea plantations in Mauritius
cannot be compared to those in
Sri Lanka or Malaysia. They are found
only at an altitude of around 1’600ft.
and are rather small-area
More websites from Mauritius:
Articles in newspapers about us in Mauritius:
Article"Le tour du monde en LandCruiser", Daily Newspaper "Le Mauricien" - July 9, 2011
Article"Globe lovers", Weekly Newspaper "Le Dimanche" - July 10, 2011
Article"Emil et Liliana Schmid sur les routes à Maurice", Daily Newspaper "Le Matinal" - July 12, 2011