Monday, July 30, 2012

And they are at the gate!

The races were fun!  I ended up even for the day, having picked a few winners and a few losers. Barry was ahead for the day until the last race when he put his money on what he thought was the correct horse but he made a mistake.  The horse he thought he had bet on won but when he went to collect his winnings he realized he had made a mistake. The racetrack is celebrating it 200th anniversary so it felt like we were following in the steps of centuries of Mauritians when we were placing our bets.  The turf looked like it was in great shape, and we had great fun joining in all the hooting and hollering at the finish line!
We have been busy since then, we took the boat about 15 km north to a spot called Riviere Noire, where we had great access to the National Park.
The boat is anchored in the bay furthest from the camera.

We climbed the tallest mountain in Mauritius at 823m. While going up this peak we had to use chains and ropes to help us up and down some of the steepest parts.  On the windward side of the mountain it was very mucky and our shoes became covered in slimy mud. I felt at times as if I was hauling around twice the weight of my ordinary shoes.  The footing was a bit treacherous in the greasy conditions and Barry and I were glad we had sturdy walking sticks.  On another day we hiked down the front of different peak for a great day's outing. Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, it was another 6 and 1/2 km to get back to the boat.  There never seemed to be much traffic on the road and we able to catch a ride.  It was a very boring, long bit of  walking at the end of a enjoyable mountain hike. 

We were on the boat and one of our fellow cruisers spotted a very weird looking roof on shore.  There is an endangered species of bird on the island called a pink pigeon.  He was sure he looking at a roof that shaped like pigeon.  One day we went out walking to clear up the mystery of the unusual roof.  We tried to get in a gated community, but the guard that was there to keep out the riff raff took look and denied us entry.  We walked along and down the road we saw a tour bus, sure enough it was stopped before the building that had the bird roof.  It turned out to be a dove and it was on a church, just when you thought you had seen everything!!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Here is a video that Barry took on the top of the hill overlooking Port Louis, Mauritius.  It gives you a good perspective of what the island looks like. The suburbs of  Port Louis go on for miles, it is amazing that a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean would have so much population. Historically, Mauritius or Isle de France was a stopover to reprovision and get fresh water for sailing ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope before heading to India.  The islands symbol is the dodo bird which became extinct in the 1600's shortly after European's landed.  Their demise was precipitated by the introduction of non-native species such as rats which ate their eggs as well as humans which ate their approximately 22 kg bodies.
The other day we took a tour of the southern part of the island. We engaged a local taxi driver and his car to conduct the four of us (the crew of Cat's-Paw IV and Tagish) around. We headed to Curepipe, a town where we visited a carpet store.
 As we sat enjoyed a cup of tea, they explained how the cashmere carpets were made, the emphasis being that the carpets were hand knotted.  They were stunning, the salesman showed us how each knot was made and he explained that a 30 year veteran would trim the carpet with sheers by hand when the knotting was finished.  He said they were magic carpets and rotated it under the light, the difference in shading was magnificent as they moved the carpet. I managed to resist buying one, but wonder if I will be sorry one day.
Our next stop was at model ship building factory. A couple of ladies were threading the rigging on the 3 masted ships. It was amazing to me that they could figure out where everything went.  One fellow had small .05 cm. sq. pieces of wood that he was sandpapering, they would be the ports for the canons, one ship we saw had 3 decks of canons on the ship.  They had all the famous ships from years gone by including a model of the Bluenose, I was impressed.

We headed out to southeast side of the island and visited the site of the first European settlement on the island, the Portuguese discovered Mauritius but the Dutch were the first to name and settle the island. The Dutch had a hard time with plagues and cyclones and were unable to maintain a lasted settlement.  
The French took over and colonized the island with slaves from Africa and introduced sugar cane.  The  British attacked and took over the island in 1835, they abolished slavery and indentured servants from India were brought in to continue to harvest the sugar cane.  The British were very benevolent conquerors, allowing the islanders to maintain their language and religion to this day the dominant language in French but English is learned at school and most officials, thankfully, are bilingual.  

Our tour continued with the natural beauty of the island.  We stopped to see a natural bridge made of volcanic rock.  The bridge was on the sea shore with waves pounding through the opening under the bridge, it was quite spectacular.  Standing on that bridge you could feel and see and hear the power of the waves. I was glad to be over top rather than underneath them. 
Our next stop was at a valley that bisected the island.  It was quite a deep rift and there was a long waterfall spilling down one side.  The mist gives this picture such a haunting feeling.  
Our next stop was at an unique spot.  It was called the coloured earth, apparently the basalt in the area had broken down and given it's colour to the dirt.  No vegetation would grow so the grains of dirt would blow around and form these fabulously coloured mounds.  I haven't seen anything else quite like it in our travels.  
We headed home after looking at a possible anchorage about 20 km down the island.  I think we might head there next week.  I went on another big hike up a hill called the Corps de Garde, it was a great day.  Barry figured his ankle might not like the climb so he stayed on the boat. We managed to extend our visa today.  It was the most bureaucratic experience we have had in awhile, having to provide proof of our finances as well as copies of all the documents we were given when entering the country, custom and health clearances. (I do not think these are computerized so not easily accessed.) It took us a very long and boring 2 hours of sitting around to meet all their requirements.  Horse racing is quite a tradition on the island so on Saturday we are heading off to the races. I don't think I have ever laid a bet at a race track so this may be a first!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

There are three Canadian boats in the harbour and we are planning a pot luck for later in the day.  I have made a potato salad and will bring burgers and buns so we can have a little taste of home on July 1st in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  I hope all of you at home have great weather to celebrate our nation's birthday. 
Port Louis, Mauritius, looking over the harbour
Development along the waterfront
We are in Mauritius now.  It is an island which is home to about 1.4 million people.  While Mauritius was home for the descendants of African slaves and the population was 90 % black, the people here are a mixture of the offspring of African slaves and indentured servants that were brought over from India to pick the sugar cane after the slaves were freed in the early 1800's. The Indian descendants seem to be in the majority here in the capital of Port Louis.
  Mauritius has more wealth than Rodrigues and there is an economic base here, clothing is manufactured as well as a booming IT industry and lots of tourism.  There seems to be the remains of a sugar cane industry as well as the production of alcohol.  We are moored at a marina tied up to our buddies Tagish, because there is no more room at the dock.  We have access to electricity, water and best of all HOT showers. 
Buildings in the older section of town, close to China town. 
As you can see there is a huge variety of architecture in the city, from very old fashioned structures to the latest in sky scrapers.  It is all in the space of a few blocks and give the city a very unique feel. The town in surrounded by large hills and mountains and has a great natural harbour.  We went hiking up one of the big peaks just to the east of town. 
La Pousse or The Thumb, our destination.

The crew of Tagish and Barry and I took a 45 minute bus ride to the other side of the mountain and set off for the summit.  It was a glorious day, it took us about 1 and 1/2 to get up and about 2 hours to get down, as we walked all the way back into town. We met this fellow on the way up, he was on his way to market from his garden, he has fresh cilantro and green onions in his basket.  It was an easy walk through cane fields at first and then the trail became rocky and steeper up through the trees on the mountain side. Some of the footing was tricky because in the trees the soil was still wet and it was very slimy and my shoes would slip and slide. 

The last bit was very steep, and you wouldn't have wanted to slip off the edge.  There were fantastic views from the top and you could almost see clear around the island. Barry could see the boats in a harbour over 15 kilometers away. 

Yesterday we walked up to Fort Adelaide built in the 1830's but never really used in war. It was a much shorter walk but quite steep and I was out of breath by the time we reached the fort. Once again it had great views of the city and the harbour.  The picture at the top is actually taken from the fort.  
Notice La Pousse in the background, that really was quite a hike!
Can you make out the date on the cannon?