When I’m back home in Mauritius, there is much more I enjoy doing than staying at home usually sitting in the hallway and reading a book – I’m the reason there are carpets and cushions everywhere in the house – and enjoying the silence and privacy which practically don’t exist here in my yurt in Turkey. Although that literally is mostly what I ended up doing during the first two weeks I was back home over summer (or winter in the Southern Hemisphere – that always gets people confused). One of my favourite spots to go to is to Mahébourg, a small “town” on the southeast coast of the island, somewhere I had been going as a child with my dad to watch the Regatta race every year while stuffing myself with all the yumminess from the food stalls there. I’ve had a thing for boats since and working on a boat for some time definitely falls into my bucket list.
The last time I was there, I ventured outside the market and waterfront area to go to the National History Museum which is just 10 minutes away and which documents all the epic battles between the French Navy and the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars – France’s only naval victory during this period. I’m not entirely sure why people think I’m crazy when I visit museums in Mauritius (which are tiny compared to museums in Europe and here in Turkey but as important in terms of history and quite enjoyable to be honest).
It has definite changed since the last time I visited, now including the history of the old railways in Mauritius during the British colonial rule.
The walk down the waterfront area is quite pleasant on a good day – unless the winds are against you – with the beautiful landscape that Mauritius is most well known for. It’s even better with some typical Mauritius snacks that are usually sold on market day – Mondays, if I’m not wrong – or the hawkers hanging around on the other day. When I’m down at Mahebourg, I usually HAVE to get myself some merveille which I would describe as being a crispy flatbread with tomato chutney and tamarind sauce spread on it. It’s hands down the best I’ve ever had on the island and would gladly take a bus down to Mahebourg just to eat that – oh, I usually do that.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the same with some confits (pickles). The chayote pickles, or chouchou confits as we call then in Mauritius, are to die for and I usually get extremely disappointed if they don’t have any. Depending on the season, you can get pickled mangoes, cucumbers, pineapples and olives. No wonder I get extreme acne outbreak whenever I go back home, with all that I eat.
And finally some coconut water to wash down everything. Usually after drinking, you can give the fruit back to the vendor so they can open it for you to enjoy some fresh coconut flesh.
The coast down at Mahébourg is not protected by any reefs so it can be quite dangerous for swimming. Blue Bay beach is quite close however and you can easily hop on a bus there from the bus station. On weekdays, you might even have the whole lagoon to yourself which is when I tend to go there rather than weekends when it’s completely packed.
On the way, if I’ve had time to arrange the trip and con my ex-colleague and very good friend into accompanying me – usually she’d do the arrangements to be honest after a lot of bugging and pleading – I’d make a stop at Ile aux Aigrettes, a small offshore island off about 850 m off the coast. Unlike the mainland which is of volcanic origin, it’s made up of coral limestone and is home to the last of the dry coastal forest that was once found around most of coastal Mauritius. The island is also a nature reserve and home to several endemic species, including Giant Tortoises. You can arrange to have an “ecotour” with the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. We usually like being left to our own devices and can get lost around explore the island as long as we want – the joys of being part of the organisation.
Now I’m really missing some tropical sun. Can winter be over soon?