With more rain forecast, today we planned an indoorsy kind of day in Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius. But by the time we were ready to go out, and our hire car had been delivered, the sun was determinedly forcing its way through the clouds, so we quickly changed plans and headed for the coast.
The beaches on the north coast are said to be the prettiest, and are also the most developed. It took about an hour to drive there, along the main north-south highway, which passes through Port Louis. We reached Grand Baie, once a small fishing village but now a bustling collection of hotels, resorts & tourist shops. We had a bit of a look at the shops, but weren’t really in the mood for buying anything (though the air-conditioned shops were appealing – with the sun shining, you’ll be surprised to hear, it was rather warm) but what we were really wanting to see was the famous beach. And it was just as we hoped – palm trees, white sand, bobbing boats, and water the most perfect shade of aquamarine. Just like on every postcard and travel agent’s poster. Superb. We dipped our feet in the ocean, which was surprisingly warm, and walked along the length of the beach.
As I said it was rather warm and we decided we needed an ice-cream. If you are thinking of having a sea-change to Mauritius, we have identified a business opportunity for you. We could not find one ice-cream vendor, though there were plenty of cafe’s, bars & fast-food outlets. Just sayin’…
Lovely as Grand Baie was, we were informed there was better to come, so we dragged ourselves away. The next beach along the coast is called Pereybère, and it was even more perfect than Grand Baie. Somewhat smaller and much less developed. And an added bonus – a little cafe, right on the beach. It was still a little early but we suddenly felt a great desire for lunch. We sat down and ordered, but all the best tables were taken. (This was a tiny cafe, there were only around 6-8 tables). But we noticed a man dining alone at the table we declared to be the best one (in the shade, and right on the edge of the water). We watched carefully as he slowly finished his meal, drank his beer, had a leisurely cigarette and – finally – left. We quickly grabbed the table & were completely happy. The food was rather ordinary but the spot was so perfect we didn’t care one bit. I know the photos won’t so it justice, but try to imagine.
Reluctantly we left Pereybère (after ice cream for dessert of course) & continued along the coast. We stopped briefly at a few more beaches along the way, marvelling at each one over the colour of the water & the prettiness of the scene. We popped in to a charming little Catholic church (which amusingly has a sign warning people they could not take wedding photos there unless they were actually having a wedding) and also an unnamed Hindu shrine. We drove until we ran out of beaches, and then headed inland.
The Botanic Gardens at Pamplemousses are famous. Lonely Planet says they rival London’s Kew Gardens. I’m not sure about that, but they were certainly lovely. The plants are mostly exotics, brought in from South America, India & other places. There are 80 different types of palms, lots of spice trees I had not seen before (nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon) and probably the most interesting – giant waterlilies, with leaves that grow to up to 3m across (though we didn’t see any that big, they were still huge).
Owen & Maryanne had both warned us to leave early enough coming home to beat the peak hour traffic. But that would have meant missing out on the botanic gardens, so we decided to take the risk. Surprise, surprise, turns out they were right! It took us well over 2 hours to get home, most of that time sitting in gridlock. With only one main North South road that goes right through Port Louis, traffic is apparently always a nightmare. It seems no-one can come up with an affordable solution, so they just keep discussing it & commuters keep sitting in traffic jams! We will definitely avoid that in future.
The treats were not over yet. As we reached the house we watched the sky turn pink & orange as the sun set – particularly beautiful & colourful, and a perfect end to a great day!.