"" Writer's Wanderings: World Cruise - Land Ho! Mauritius Island

Monday, March 30, 2015

World Cruise - Land Ho! Mauritius Island

Our table waiter, Nenad, greeted us with a huge grin on his face as we entered and he came to seat us for breakfast. Nenad is a fairly serious young man and I would never call him “bubbly” but he certainly was this morning. 

“Did you see?” he asked as he flipped the napkin into a triangle to place on my lap. “Land. There will be land by lunch time.” Again that grin that could light up the darkest room spread across his face and into his eyes.

“I see now what makes you happy,” I said.

“Yes! Yes! Big sea days over for a while!” He went off with a little skip in his step. I wondered what he was going to do when we hit the big seven sea days stretch next month. That would be one day longer.

But yes, Nenad was right. By lunch time we could see a beautiful splash of green in the middle of all the blue that had surrounded us for six days. The Indian Ocean had been kinder than the Tasman Sea had. The waves were not nearly as treacherous. Still, it was good to see green and I went out and began taking pictures of anything that my lens crossed.

Mauritius Island was a first for us so we had booked an excursion with the ship since we didn’t really know what to expect. The face to face immigration for the island began earlier than expected and we were done in time to get an early lunch. Our tour was to be six hours long.

The small bus that we rode in went through Port Louis and it wasn’t long before Bob leaned over and quietly said to me, “I wonder how they got a Caribbean island in the middle of the Indian Ocean?” It did resemble the islands of the Caribbean. A lot of ramshackle housing and animals, mostly dogs, running free.

While we’d been told the island was French, our guide advised us that English was the most important language. This was said of course with a heavy Creole accent. He was very informative and kept up a running commentary as we slowed to get a look at a processing area for extracting sea salt. It was a series of stone platforms where sea water was evaporating and leaving behind the salt.

A stop at an overlook for a quick picture of a beautiful seascape and then we arrived at our first stop, the Chameral Waterfall. We did a Chevy Chase nod, took the required pictures, and were soon back on the bus headed for the 7-Colored Earth Dunes.I heard people speculating that the dunes might be similar to the colored earth out west in Arizona or Utah. We were all a little surprised to find that it looked more like an area where there had been a lot of earth dumped in piles and yes, there were 7 different colors.

Our next stop was quite nice—a rum distillery. We followed a sidewalk that paralleled an open area where you could see the various stages of distilling the rum from sugar cane. Of course at the end there was the rum tasting. A couple of tastes and my throat said, enough! I headed for the tea they were serving us along with little snacks. Thankfully it was my throat that had burned and not my mouth because their tea tasted heavenly.

After we had enjoyed sitting in the lovely garden restaurant and lolling in the shade, it was time again to hit the road. Our next stop was the Black River Gorge Overlook. Fantastic view and I think we were all drinking in the greens and colored rocks especially those beneath our feet that were solid and unmoving unlike the deck of the ship had been for six days.

I was amazed at our next place to visit. Our approach was peppered with all sorts of stories of the Hindu faith especially the story of Lord Shiva who had swallowed poison and was saved when a snake constricted around his neck and forced the poison out. As we approached the Great Bassin or Sacred Lake as our guide called it, before us suddenly loomed a huge statue of Lord Shiva. It is said to be 108 feet tall and in February, the bricked pathway that was about 50 feet wide and ran parallel to the road for about 2 miles is said to be filled with over 600,000 Hindu pilgrims who come from their homes to worship during Maha Shivaratree. That’s almost half the population of the island!

The Great Bassin has a temple and in the water are several statues relevant to the Hindu worship. The statues are very colorful and we watched with curiosity as the worshippers waded through the waters teeming with little fish and brought their offerings and went through their rituals.

The blue statue in the picture is in reference to the color Lord Shiva turned as the snake constricted. I don’t know the significance of the worship but it seemed to be the one that was most visited. We watched as a family and then a single woman each took a coconut and beat it against a pick until it broke and they could pour the coconut milk into a cup that was at the feet of the statue. This was offered as well as flowers and fruit. While I know they are very intent on their worship, to me as a believer in Jesus Christ, it was a bit sad.

Our last stop for the day was to be a ship factory. It turned out that it was a model ship factory and it closed before we got there. The gift shop however stayed open for us. ‘Nuf said.

Much to our amazement our bus pulled into the parking lot on the pier right on time, 6:30. We hustled onto the ship and into the shower and fresh clothes and were ready in time for our reservation at the Tastes specialty restaurant. By the time we were done eating, our eyes were really getting heavy and in order to fight the temptation to go to bed early especially if we had another time change and gained an hour, we set up my tripod and camera and played with some night shots.

It was good to know that when we would wake in the morning there would be another island to explore. Reunion. What would this new place be like?

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