Monday 27th June
Last night the kids had been out exploring the resort and came to us asking if they could do the kids club today. Essentially the resort provides a day of entertainment for kids with all manner of activities from 10am-5pm. They have 2 club houses …one for youngsters up to 12 years and the other for teens. Games, xboxes, baking, t-shirt painting, trampoline, foosball, tennis and more. It didn’t take long for us to agree for them to do it as it then meant the adults would have 7 hours to do some exploring of our own around the island. 7 hours would be plenty we figured …..how wrong were we to be as it turns out.
After an early but leisurely breakfast they took off to the clubhouse and were rearing to go by 09.30am. In fact they were too busy to worry about us leaving so at 10am we grabbed the mitsubishi with the GPS and took off for a bit of a drive. Our aim was to find and visit the Adventure du Sucre which is a recently closed sugar refinery that has been turned into a museum and rum distillery. As sugar cane production is a large part of the income of Mauritius and there are fields of it everywhere it serves to give a history of the industry and of Mauritius itself.
The GPS gave us a distance of around 35km so we drove following the coast before heading inland. Nearby to where we are staying is a district/town called Flacq (pronounced Flarc) On from Flacq we found the Adventure Du Sucre quite easily in a town called Pamplemousses (French for grapefruit) and spent around an 1.5 hours taking it in. The process of refining sugar we didn’t realise was so involved nor did we realise the extent of the history of the island involving the Dutch, French and English and how it’s huge Indian influenced population arrived here. They have a sugar tasting area where you can taste the different types of sugar that are produced on the island and they have their rum tasting area where you can sample the variants of rum that they produce on site. we are not rum drinkers but the vanilla rum was palatable with the others being strong to unlikeable. I asked for “un petite per” pours but even they were too much for me.
From there we headed up to Grand Baie which is a tourist resort area at the top of the island full of the usual tourist related shops and activities . Think Phuket, Surfers Paradise or any resort area in fact. We found a beach in a sheltered cove that looked across the harbour to many yachts, boats and expensive looking beachfront properties. Simply a stunning location. We had used the GPS to get us to the town but disregarded her instructions when went looking for the beach….that may have been a mistake.
From Grand Baie it was around 25km to Port Louis the capital. We were warned by the hotel staff to get out of there no later than 3pm due to the traffic congestion…it was now around 2pm so we figured we had ample time…..go in , have a look around then head back in time for Noelle and Kylie to do yoga. Even before we got to the town/city traffic was at a standstill so with me driving and my soon not to be trusted navigator…(Noelle and Kylie took the backseat driver role) we again disregarded the GPS instructions and took the 1st left we could find in an effort to bypass the traffic and get into town.
This bypass did take us into the centre of the town where the buildings are reminiscent of what we have seen in places like the Caribbean but also feel like a kaleidoscope of countries and cultures with flashes of India, Africa, Europe, China and the Middle East with colonial influenced buildings scattered around as well. This was not the slick glass and steel towers that we have been used to recently in capital cities. The town sits at the base of the mountains that make up part of the island.
With Harold working to navigate us through the narrow streets and get us on a heading out of the city (I was refusing to backtrack) we gained elevation which gave us a view over part of the city to the harbour. Around the same time he realised that the very road we were trying to bypass was in fact a ring road and we had no choice but to re-enter onto it if we were to leave the city. Again we had to navigate through narrow streets and side alleys and along the way you could have been forgiven for thinking that we were in Pakistan, or China, or India, or elsewhere in the middle east. It seemed there was an area for each of these populations. Although we never felt unsafe at any time this would not be areas you would want to be in at night.
By this time our fuel had dropped down 1 bar (we have a digital fuel gauge and this caused the robust fuel negotiations when we picked up the cars). After putting 600 Mauritian Rupees, around NZ$25 of petrol in we found a road running parallel with the ring road that gave us hope we could get out of the town without rejoining the ring road…as it turns out we were able to achieve this.
During this time the girls were questioning the navigational abilities of my co driver and using the place name Flacq as a substitute for another word that has a wide array of meanings. This turned into a free for all with phrases using the word Flacq being created. Very hard to describe and it was one of those things where you really had to be there but we were all in stitches with laughter and I had tears in my eyes and was unable to drive for a moment… on top of that we were now on the open road but the baker was having trouble finding the resort on the GPS (she was not happy we had disregarded her instructions so was getting us back – our theory). He entered where he thought we should be headed and this gave us a reading of around 40km…….tight for the yoga class but doable. Flacq’in easy
The weather here is changeable and windy at times. With an island this size and no real mountain range it blows straight across an today the rain was coming and going at times. The speed limit is 110kmh on the highway, a really nice 4 lane road with other roads not quite as good and speed limits at times down to 60kmh. We saw many old J series bedford trucks being used to cart sugar cane around the island. These old workhorses were in very good condition and carried loads that looked at times to make them extremely overweight.
Most roads we have travelled on here apart from the highway are narrow and very confrontational……..hazards include wandering dogs, wandering pedestrians and other vehicles wandering over the centre line. We had a couple of close calls and also had vehicles passing us on corners, over rises or just plain when the felt like it. Flacq’in idiots!
After our 40 odd kms we arrived at our destination which by the reckoning of the GPS put us on an empty block of land. Noelle asked a passerby how far to Flacq and she said “so far away” Well the navigator Flacq’ed that up. We asked a shopkeeper and he gave us directions to get us going back in the general direction. It turns out we were south of the airport which put us at least 45km from the resort. Another search of the GPS gave us a name that appeared to be close so we ran with that.
By this time we had less than an hour to go until we had to be back to collect the kids. We finally got onto the road we took when we first arrived and ended up passing a large number of historic sites from the early settlers and arrivals. We were on track to be on time when at going through one little village I took a wrong turn……I did the same thing the first night …….I blame the GPS now getting her own back on us ignoring her earlier. Then not long after she sent us down a side road that when you see the road sign there was clearly no reason to go down there in the first place.
We got back with minutes to spare after what ended up being a longer than expected day. We can see how easy it would be to travel direct to your resort and lock yourself away for a week without seeing anything of the island. We have only 4 days and i’m pretty confident the places we went today , many Mauritians may not have been there much less tourists.
Having gotten back the kids were oblivious to us with BB & BG arranging to play tennis. KK & I played some board games before we freshened up with a shower and had dinner in house at the buffet this evening. It wasn’t our original plan but we were all pretty tired from the days activities.
Currently as I write this, everyone is asleep but I’ve just finished watching Italy beat Spain at Euro16 and I’m getting ready to watch England & Iceland battle it out.
Tomorrow we plan to hang around for our final day using the boats and other facilities before we leave at 6am on Wednesday back to the airport and a 4 hour flight to Joburg. So far I think the general consensus is that they are all having a Flacq’in good time.
It’s nice to travel with like minded people and although everyone has different interests we have done enough together over the years to know what works without feeling we are compromising ourselves.
The excitement for the African overland is mounting and once we touch down on the continent this little interlude will be not lost to our memories but it may fade sooner than we would like.
The weather today was around 20 degrees so still shorts and t-shirt weather….very pleasant……we’re picking the desert will at night get cooler still but the days should be similar to what we are experiencing.
Fun times ahead….. more soon