MAURITIUS: EAST AFRICA
DAY 79 - 01 APRIL 2023 (SHIP'S date)
Under way from Le Port to Durban
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting from Queen Mary 2
In the port of Port Louis, Mauritius.
The great American writer and national hero, Mark Twain is quoted as saying ,
“Mauritius was made first – then heaven was modelled on Mauritius”.
Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation off the coast of the African continent in the Southwest Indian Ocean about 900km east of Madagascar. The island was known by Arab and Astronesian sailors as early as the 10th century. The Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited. Five ships of the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course during a cyclone on their way to the Spice Islands and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadholder of the Netherlands. Ethnically the majority of the population is Indian and there are also many people of African descent as well as European and Chinese.
The island of Mauritius is known for having been the only known home of the dodo. First sighted by Europeans around 1600 on Mauritius, the dodo became extinct less than eight years later. A volcanic island, the population of Mauritius is 1.3 million.
A team of local dancers and musicians enthusiastically welcomed the QM2 to Mauritius. Stepping off the gangway of the ship, the heat of the sun was immediately felt. Hats, sun glasses and sun screen were needed. Coaches to take passengers on shore excursions, lined up at the quay.
Along with an information leaflet, a brightly coloured brochure caught my attention. “Experience the Island Life – RETIRE- in Mauritius.” An enterprising piece of marketing from the Economic Development Board. In this day and age when most countries are discouraging immigration, Mauritius offers three main cost affective routes for those who are 50 and above to fulfil their dreams.
It’s hard to resist, “Enjoy your retirement on a paradise island. A pleasant tropical climate, quality of life, political and economic stability and a favourable tax regime. Mauritius is a blend of multiculturalism, legendary hospitality and an exceptional living environment.“
In a convoy, some 30 coaches with local drivers and guides start their journey to introduce day visitors to the island. Driving up to an hour across the island, the scenery Is lush and vibrant, palm trees mark the centre of the highway as uncut grasses wave in a gentle breeze, overlooked by a dramatic mountain range.
Our first stop, the 19th century Eureka Colonial House. A grand wooden mansion, now a Museum, was built entirely from wood, mainly teak and ebony, salvaged from ships destroyed in battle. The French owners lived in style and the house has 117 wooden windows and doors, and the highest quality furniture, porcelain and crystals are lovingly preserved in the gracious home which is set in landscaped gardens.
One small statute has pride of place in the downstairs parlour - a dodo – the extinct bird that is a symbol of the nation. It is said they became extinct because the trees were cut down where they made their homes. On the lawn we are served delicious, spicy snacks and cold drinks by the smiling ladies who cooked the food. The house is still family owned through many generations and the foundations of wealth and social status came from ownership of sugar plantations. The first sugar plantation was introduced to the island in 1639.
Our next stop on the Northern Discovery tour, Fort Adelaide/Citadel. Fourteen heavyweight canons which were used to protect the harbour are preserved in the grounds. The fort, built by the British in 1834, accommodated up to 200 soldiers in readiness for the battle of the British against the French. The perimeter of the fort offers a panoramic view of the capital city, Port Louis, down below and in the distance the harbour. In the recent past, threats from Somali pirates presented a danger but that situation is past and helicopters from India and France offer ongoing protection.
The island is mainly French speaking but the locals also use a combined language of French and English called Engrish. Creole, a mixture of broken French with some African words, is also spoken in certain communities.
There are many notable places of religious worship and close together there are seen Hindu, Temples, Buddha Shrines and Christian churches.
Mauritius is a melting pot and mixed races are generally considered to be well integrated. From further afield, International students come to study at the French Tourism University and various other cultural and educational organisations.
The island shows many signs of prosperity with detached family villas and new residential developments in suburban areas outside the city. The popular racecourse, Champs de Mars, holds a season of meetings from May to November.
Tourism is a leading source of revenues as, of course, sugar, and also a global trade in textiles and the export of sea food. Mauritius is a democracy holding elections every five years and this is considered the foundation of prosperity and stability the island enjoys.
Sugar, a Magic Word and Rare Commodity- L’Adventure du Sucre Museum Mauritius specialises In the production pf natural sugars from cane. This produces fifteen types of specialist sugar from Golden and granulated, which are dry sugars, to sugars of the Muscovado type that contain a high level of moisture and molasses. One cane produces 20 litres of sugar. World leaders have visited the sugar processing plant, including Queen Elizabeth 11 and Pope Jean Paul 11.
Visitors are invited to view the multiple stages of sugar processing in a state-of-the-art factory plant pulsating with extraction machinery, huge wheels and turning cogs. The history of sugar is told in a series of photographs, videos and fairy tales. After viewing the process, it is time to sample the goods. Sprinklings of the 15 speciality sugars are offered to taste. A young man, Xavier measures the sugar and explains the various cooking items that are made with different types of sugar.
Xavier has a story of his own to tell. His parents saw the Queen Mary 2 on her World Voyage through Australia. “They were on holiday in Fremantle – without me – “ he says, “and they happened to meet Queen Mary 2 passengers. I didn’t dream that a week later, on a tour, passengers of that ship would walk into the sugar store where I work. I can’t wait to tell them.”
Having enjoyed our sugar rush, next stop the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens. There are over 14,000 varieties of flowers and plants and dozens of varieties of palms. Royal Palm Trees, which are used for palme of hearts salads; elephant foot palms from Africa and 40 different species of mango trees.
The Gardens are well known for their giant Victoria Regina water lilies and the Talipot Palm which flowers once every 60 years.
Mauritius is rightly proud pf its world-famous beaches, and on the drive back to the ship, the bus driver stopped at a small almost deserted beach, and gave passengers a chance to paddle in the warm, sparkling ocean.
It is said that if you leave your footprints in the sand, you will make a return visit. Come back for the sun, sand, sunshine and of course, the sugar. As for me, I may come back to Retire!
the journey continues...
Happy Sailing... Ellen
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Current position of Queen Mary 2:
Under way from Le Port to Durban
Departure was 1 d 23 hrs 53 min ago. (at 19:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 1 d 12 hrs 37 min. (at 05:30 h local time)
Traveled distance since Le Port: 727.94 nm (1,348.15 km)
Remaining distance to Durban: 712.66 nm (1,319.85 km)
Traveled distance since Fremantle (Perth): 4,092.04 nm (7,578.46 km)
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.