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Friday, September 3, 2010

26th Stop - Mauritius

According to Mark Twain, Mauritius was created first,
then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius!
Despite several attempts to contact some JCI members in Mauritius, I only received replies from people who were no longer members. I appreciate their efforts nonetheless of having forwarded my message on to active members.

Lim, another person on, and I failed to firm up plans before I arrived because of a communication breakdown so I contacted Sandy from Feast of Mauritius, a bed and breakfast in Flic-en-Flac, and checked in for the week.

Sandy has an interesting concept for her bed and breakfast. She proposes an all-inclusive formula for a bed, breakfast and gourmet dinner each night. She is the author of a best-selling cookbook in Mauritius which I had a chance to look through. What I really like about the cookbook was that she adhered to the KISS principle. No, there were no pictures of glam rockers and extra long tongues. KISS stands for Keep it Simple Silly. The recipes are creative and tasty, but more importantly, easy for anyone to make.

I met her brother from France, Colin, who was there on vacation, her husband, Rajan, and son, Kingsley. Everybody was very pleasant throughout my entire stay. I was shocked when I told Rajan that I had lived in Saigon and he started talking to me in fluent Vietnamese. He had spent the first 20 or so years of his life there and fled when the communists took over. I also attended a joint birthday party on Saturday night and met their extended family and friends.

On Saturday, I took the bus into Port Louis to meet up with two other couchsurfers for lunch, Jennyfer from Mauritius and Lando from the USA. Thanks Jennyfer for arranging this! It turns out that Lando was also staying in Flic-en-Flac so we rode back and he told me all about what brought him to Mauritius.
Me with Manu and Côme in Bel Ombre

Lando had left the high-rolling world of hedge fund management after the crash (and Madoff fallout) to pursue something more noble in life. He started out volunteering on a sustainable farm outside of Cape Town and then went on to Kenya to help farming cooperatives reschedule their debts and clean up their balance sheets. After that, he decided to take a vacation in Mauritius and the Réunion and ride some waves. Yes, Lando is also a surfer.

Lando and I rented a car on Wednesday to go South and try to catch some waves or maybe hook up with a German friend of his, Basti, who was kite-surfing at the Morne. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any swell and we couldn’t get ahold of Basti, so we went on to Bel Ombre to meet up with Manu and Côme, two people he had met through Jennyfer.

Manu, from Mauritius, and Côme, from Lyon, are working at the Bel Ombre Foundation for Empowerment which provides skills training to the local population that empower them to get jobs. Manu gave us a tour and introduced us to Oriana, the operations manager, who went into more detail about their different programs. Thanks Manu for giving me the chance to tell the young group of students about my project!

Seven Colored Earths
Afterwards, Lando and I went to see the Seven Colored Earths natural wonder in the middle of the island. This is a unique natural phenomenon created by different metals in the earth. The dirt is in seven different hues ranging from reddish pink to orange and purple.

A quick stopover in Flic-en-Flac to get changed and then we went to Manu’s parents place for dinner. Thanks again Manu and to your parents for a lovely Mauritian dinner and some fascinating conversations. Lando and I both learned about the forced eviction in the 1970s of the Chagossians (former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands) by the British so that that Americans could build a naval base there. Check out the article:

On my last day in Mauritius, Lando and I drove out to the East coast of the island and checked out another kite-surfing spot, but unfortunately we didn't have time to learn. Then he dropped me off at the airport and I was on my way to India!

Next stop: Mumbai, India!

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