Welcome to Fantasy Island

Back to school
Shame about the weather!

The good news is that after 6 months of severe drought the rains have come to Mauritius. The bad news is that means it is raining! And that we are not allowed to complain about it, And that even when it isn’t raining it is about 99% humidity (well, it feels like that anyway). It is the rainy season, and we came here knowing that, so we have no grounds for disappointment. Actually the humidity & rain suits the landscape perfectly. After the dry dustiness of East Africa, we are now surrounded by lush greenness and blue water – just beautiful.

We are staying with our friends Owen & Maryanne. Owen’s parents & mine have been friends for about 150 years, so we have known each other forever. Owen moved to Mauritius 25 years ago, his wife Maryanne was born here, although they met in Sydney. Owen is a naturalist/zoologist/conservationist/entrepreneur, and owns a crocodile park called La Vanille Nature Park. But we’re going there tomorrow, so you’ll hear all about that then.

We arrived in Mauritius in the early evening. The flight was uneventful (always a good thing!) and the first thing we noticed getting off the plane was the humidity. In Africa it was quite hot but always a dry heat, so as long as you could find shade it was very comfortable. Owen picked us up at the airport and drove us to his house. We really enjoyed being in a car with suspension, on paved level highways. The house is brand new, they have finished building it only recently, and it is just beautiful – very elegant, spacious & open, full of pieces of art & interesting furniture collected on their travels. And there is a lovely pool & a magnificent ocean view. There is also a snail research laboratory & various pets, including reptiles, a cat called Chablis & a friendly Rottweiler called Ebony. (Is friendly Rottweiler an oxymoron?).

The next morning dawned hot, muggy & cloudy (which may be the daily report – I’ll let you know if it changes). After a leisurely breakfast we piled into the car (Keith & I, Owen & Maryanne, their grown up son Jeremy, and Ebony the Rottweiler) & headed for the hills. We drove along the foreshore for a while. Even in the grey the water is a lovely shade of blue. We passed sugar plantations (once Mauritius’ only industry, but now ranked 3rd, after tourism & textiles), groves of palm trees, little villages & bays. We are in the south of the island, which is not the beach resort area. We stopped at the Matthew Flinders monument. On one of his exploration journeys to Terra Australis, he popped into Mauritius to stock up on supplies. At that time Mauritius was a French colony, and MF had been away so long he didn’t realise England & France were at war. So they popped him in jail & kept him prisoner on the Island for 6 years. Oops! Nearby there was a little rocky headland with some steps so we popped up there to take in the view. What with the volcanic peaks, lush greenness, fringing reefs and little bays along the shoreline, it is hard to find a spot that isn’t stunning.

From there we headed inland and up into the wooded hills. Owen has 100 acres of land there which he is planning to turn into a fabulous ecotourism centre. He told us there is very little native Mauritian forest left, because of clearing for sugar plantations and logging, especially for ebony. There is a small amount of native forest on his land, but he (& his staff) have weeded & cleared and planted thousands of native species. They plan to have an information centre & boardwalks through the forest. There is also a lookout with stupendous views over the island. We had a walk through the forest (avoiding stepping on seedlings) and stopped at the lookout (where it was so windy I was sure we would get blown off!). Now we are going to have to come back in 4 years time when it is all running!

We had lunch (somewhat late) at Le Chamarel. a great restaurant with a great view & great food. (Do you think I should get a job as a restaurant reviewer?). We all enjoyed a delicious rum punch, which meant I slept all the way home. Spent the afternoon chilling on the large patio. It is so pleasant here, I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else, but I guess there’s an island to see out there!

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