Settling In

It’s 2 weeks since we arrived in Mauritius, 10 days in our little apartment and 4 days in our new “jobs” and we’re beginning to feel like we’re settling in. Before we came out we used to dream about the slow pace of life that we’d be enjoying out here and now we’ve got it. I have to say though it did take a bit of adjusting to, the idea that we didn’t have to rush around all the time to get things done; the last two weeks have made Ian, in particular, realise what a stress junkie he’d become!

We’ve become regular passengers on the local buses which ply their trade between here (Blue Bay) and Mahebourg – 24 rupees (43p) each way. There are 3 or 4 different ones and, as far as we can make out, each one is Our local transportprivately owned and together they stick to a (rough) timetable which allows us to jump on to get into the supermarket and then, depending on how much we’ve bought, we either get a taxi back (£3) or the bus again. Usually it’s a cab but the other night, as we were feeling frugal, (and there were no taxis around), we got the bus back – and it broke down 1 ½ miles from home. So we started walking with our heavy bags and, as luck would have it, our landlord happened past in his beat-up old Audi and gave us a lift. Anyway I reckon the next time we get that particular bus (Sam’s Travel) he owes us a free ride into town.

We’ve taken to going down the beach most evenings (often with a bottle of Phoenix, the local beer),Phoenix to watch the sun go down and, in doing so, are beginning to get to know a few of the locals who make their living in one way or another from the tourists. One of them, Tristan, (probably one of the few that’s actually coherent and not out of his head all the time), stops for a chat every time he sees us. He’s from the island of Rodriguez so he’s sold us on the idea of a short visit there sometime before we leave for Australia – to be researched.

Last Sunday we were feeling restless, not helped by the fact that the weather was bad and our internet access was down so we hired a car for the day and headed for the Black River Gorges national park – and it never stopped raining all day. It was grim and, on the way we passed through what must be the grimmest town I’ve ever been to, Curepipe. Grim, ugly old buildings, pouring rain, fog, the lot. It’s built on a high plateau and gets the most rain of anywhere on the island – what a place to live! From Curepipe on the way to the Black River Gorges we passed a place called Grand Bassin, a small lake which is the site of an annual Hindu pilgrimage and so is surrounded by Hindu shrines – and loads of huge car parks. The lake is guarded by a massive statue of Shiva (about 2/3 the height of the Statue of Liberty) and it was so foggy that you could barely see the top when you were standing in front of it. So we cut and ran for the most northerly point on the island, Grand Baie, the Cote d’Azur of Mauritius and reputedly the driest part of the island. Hmm, we weren’t convinced; probably OK for bars, clubbing and casinos but I think our little corner here at Blue Bay is much nicer.

On the way we visited the famous Botanical Gardens, (Jardins de Pamplemousse), and saw a tree planted by Princess Margaret in 1954, one by Princess Anne in the ‘80s (it wasn’t doing very well at all), some giant water lilies dedicated to Queen Victoria and some giant tortoisesVictor Meldrew – not dedicated to anybody that we could see. Then our first day at work, volunteering with “Lagon Bleu” came round and we’ve spent the rest of the week learning about what they do and figuring out what we can best do to help them in the 9 or so weeks we’re going to be with them. It’s been quite an eye opener for Ian, coming from the corporate ranks of Vodafone and seeing how a small NGO has to struggle to make progress with very little funding. This year has been particularly bad for them in terms of raising money so it looks like one of our main tasks is going to be cleaning out their database of prospects and then picking up the phone and cold-calling. (Did somebody say something about diving??) Anyway more about Lagon Bleu and their mission and trials and tribulations in a future post. It’s Saturday afternoon and the beach is calling loudly.

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