So, I have now been here for two weeks and have just arrived in my third and final hotel. The weather has not been as good as anticipated; though I knew it was winter here, that had meant for me some very cool evenings but mostly fine days. Instead there has been a lot more rain within this than expected. Yet I admit, I have no reason to complain. I have been off from work, in beautiful surroundings and the wet weather has given me more chance to study.
I would like some more sun rays now though, for my last week here! That said, I have been delighted with stunning sunsets, and glorious rainbows.
It is indeed romance-central across the island, and though I had been pre-warned that much of the island’s draw as a tourist are the spectacular 5 star hotels it boasts, I could never have imagined this until I saw them with my own eyes. (My drive up the East coast yesterday opened my eyes to hotel complexes I have never imagined could exist). Meanwhile, I have now spent time in both the North and South of the island, and thanks to having hired a little car, I have also circumnavigated the whole perimeter of the island and feel I have a good semblance of how it varies from region to region.
I can certainly state that it isn’t an easy place to meet people as a solo traveler, as this seems to be quite unheard of here. And I would most definitely recommend getting a car if you are coming here, whether solo or with others. It takes a lot longer to get to places than I expected given the size of the place, and though the beaches and the hotels are the main draw, you cannot easily get to one from another without transport. Also, in times of inclement weather it is useful to reach another quarter of the island, as chances are where the rainbow ends, the sun will be shining.
I have now stayed in three different hotels, though none of them 5 star I admit. Ironically though, after talking with some people I met, I discovered one of my stays cost the same as if I had actually been in a 5 star….so I wasn’t ecstatic about this discovery I admit!
Each hotel has had it’s plus points but each successor has been vastly better than the former.
The first, Ocean Villas, had the biggest room for me, with a spare single bed in a lounge section of the space, and included a large bath in the main seating area, which I took much enjoyment from, especially given that the nights of my first week felt very cold to me! There was a particular staff member there who learnt my name immediately and always made sure to give me two extra coffees each morning, though the hotel rule seemed to be one tea/coffee per guest. She was very sweet and I loved seeing her in the mornings. The food varied in quality but the fish was fantastic. Whilst the breakfast buffet held a wide range of choice, I was quite affronted when, after two days of finding the rice and noodles tray depleted, the chef admonished me for querying it, telling it was my fault for coming down too late (breakfast ran from 7:30-10am and it was 9:20am…so I was quite within the remit I feel). The pool area was lovely, yet in the photos it shows a second pool next to the beach…..hmm perhaps it has been blown away amidst the winds of late, as no matter how many times I checked, I did not stumble upon it within the grassy lawn!
After a week of enjoying this lovely space, I picked up my little motor and off I jaunted to the South, stopping at Port Louis en-route. It is said that no trip to the island is quite right without a visit to the capital. I can see why if you are not used to African-style areas, or hustle and bustle of Asian islands etc. But otherwise, I think you would be fine to give it a miss. The Caudan waterfront reminded me of Cape Town waterfront, but on a very small-scale. It is shops, some cafes, and a few lovely museums. For me though, it didn’t hold my interest. I popped into the central bazaar whilst in the city also, and bought myself a beautiful bedspread. Once again however, I wasn’t bowled over as it felt very tourist-driven and I struggled to get into the haggling scenarios as I felt more like it was a chance to be ripped-off than buy quality wares. The food market on the ground floor however did whet my appetite and should I live on the island, I would only ever want to buy my products from here; all of my senses were alive with the experience. Yum yum.
One thing I did really love about the Caudan waterfront though, is the fact that in the main square they have music playing, coming out from speakers that are subtly part of the landscape, in no way obtrusive or even particularly obvious. Thankfully I liked the style of music being broadcast (ha!) and I found it to be a really nice feature; on a sunny day, this would be a nice spot to share my lunch break with friends and colleagues. Just not so much on a drizzly grey one! The juice bars were also another plus and took me back to happy memories of my extended stay on Koh Phangnan, Thailand.
Though the rain continued for much of my drive, I endeavored to pass by the various coastlines until I reached the Black River, where I landed upon my second hotel, The Bay. A beautiful hotel room, with a balcony that gave me a sea view this time. However, it was directly above the outdoor restaurant, meaning a few things. One, that my view was thwarted by the wooden parasols covering the restaurant, so I needed to cast my eye slightly past them. Secondly, whenever there was live music, it may as well have been played in my room. I loved the layout and decor, and the reception staff were very sweet, as was the housemaid; I really took to her and she made me smile every time we chatted. However, there was often a time when I sat by the pool waiting for someone to come and ask me if I needed anything, when I instead went thirsty and would ultimately either have to leave my repose and go to the bar myself, or I would get irked and instead go to my room and take one of my own drinks. The restaurant was nice and many people from outside of the hotel would come there, due to the fabulous sunsets it hosts whilst you eat. However this also meant I had to know in advance if I would be eating in the hotel that evening, to ensure I could book a table and once I had barely put my cutlery down before I was asked to vacate the table, in order to ready it for new clients. This didn’t feel so relaxing for me. It was also outside, meaning there were occasion when I ate my breakfast amidst wet weather and a brisk wind. Not ideal for me (I feel cold at the slightest quiver of breeze and with my curious circulation, once I am cold, I remain so for an hour or more after.)
As with the former hotel, it seemed difficult to connect with the guests here also. Despite greeting different people, no-one seemed to want to break their coupledom by talking to this strange solo creature with her smile and openness to share experiences.
Not a problem for me however, as I am more than comfortable in my own skin and to accept each as their own.
So off I went, to do none other than Walk with the Lions. Oh yes. I kid you not. And what an incredible experience that was!
A friend from Lagos had told me if there was one thing I must do when I reached the island, it would be this. He was full of acclaim for it and was certain it was something I would adore. Turns out he was entirely spot-on! (Thanks mate!)
We were all armed with our stick, and were told under no circumstance whatsoever were we to drop it, even if we were taking the best photo of lives. We were also told not to crouch down or touch the lions above their neck. Sounds simple right? A sign that I had seen earlier within the safari park had also caught my attention hehe.
As it goes, it turns out that walking beside two wild white lions has a tendency to provoke strangers to talk to each other. So finally I found myself chatting to another human being, becoming engaged in discussion with a delightful friend from Venezuela, who I later enjoyed a sunset dinner with at one of the local beaches. Together we took turns to be photographer, capturing wonderful glimpses of the once-in-a-lifetime experience. We later paid for the official photos also, as again we agreed it was unlikely to be repeated. (Though a word to the wise. The company ended up sending us ALL of the photos. So if you go on this adventure, share the costs of the photos with someone else. As it certainly didn’t come cheap, and it didn’t exactly cost them much;we didn’t even get them on a USB or CD, but via a data sharing site. So we could easily have split the bill given that we now both have the photos for the entire group. Harrumph.)
Now, after these photos, I feel there is little I can write that will grab your attention! And there is little that has managed to grab mine either since.
Until another day in my spectacular life that is……
A few days later, back at The Bay after a day of pottering around at the sweet Tamarin beach, having enjoyed the antics of kids learning to surf accompanied by incredibly patient and encouraging fathers, and having been totally wrapped in my new book, I found myself making some more new friends. And what a delight these two are. A couple from Frankfurt, who made me feel loved in an instant and are so interesting in their different stories and anecdotes, and have such an easy-flowing, loving way together. In the matter of minutes, we were sat sharing beers, laughing together, and feeling like we were old friends. Having just flown in the night before, and only being on the island for a week, I felt drawn therefore to ask them of their plans for their next day, in case they wanted to join me in mine. Which they did. Fantastic.
So, now jump forwards to 5:45am on a cool dark morning, in the car park of a nearby shopping centre, as we three were waiting for our guide. Jump forwards another hour, to where Georgina and I, both being of slim-build, were shivering our tiny bones off on the back of a speedboat, whilst Stefan graciously offered us both his warm fleece. Sadly for him, he has recently suffered a bad knee injury and was sporting a knee brace, meaning he would be unable to partake in the next adventure to come. Having had my fair share of wearing an almost identical brace, this had been how we had come to bond in the first place and my heart went out for him in this particular instant. However, given his jovial and incredibly positive demeanor, it was nothing bad for him; he was happy to play photographer and enjoy the experience at boat-level. (I think he also took much amusement out of knowing how cold we both felt, and how much colder we were about to be!!!).
Just as the sun began to rise, oh so spectacularly over the Mauritian mountains, and as I looked like a little frog rather than a sublime mermaid (!), in Georgina and I jumped, ready to intertwine with an incredible pod of what I believe to be Spinner dolphins. Three times we hurtled ourselves into what felt like ice-cold waters (we were such wimps!) but it was the third and final time that was the best. I literally had four dolphins glide underneath my belly as they headed back down to the depths. Apparently they were using the side of the brain that allows them to be in ‘rest’ state, hence why they were in formation and moving around the bay. When the other side is in-state, they would have been swimming at a rate of 40kmh and out at sea, so we would not have stood a chance.
An incredible set of adventures after having spent most of the first week writing, within my solitude, as you can imagine! Later that day, we decided to continue the jollities by sneaking me into their stunning hotel (this time it was indeed a 5 star), and into the spa and sauna. Naughty us Europeans also, as we weren’t best pleased by the male/female divide for the saunas…so given that there was no-one else there, we all three went in together. That is until a guy appeared as I was leaving the bathroom and looked totally flummoxed; “Er, this is the men’s, right?” Haha. Yes. Sorry! (Ironically he was also European and when he realised, he was of the same mind and was annoyed to be separated from his girlfriend too).
The subterfuge, mixed in with the splendor of the environment, had me feeling like Cinderella at the ball, or a kiddie with full access to the sweet jar. A great conclusion to an unforgettable week. And so great to make friends like this.
And now that leads me onto the third and final week. I have returned the car and am back in the North of the island, with the sensation of returning home, as it feels so familiar. I always love this feeling when traveling. Though at the same time, it is usually my signal to pack up bag and hit the road jack!
The weather isn’t great again, but this is neither here nor there at this stage. The greeting I received when I arrived at the new hotel (Sea Point) is unlike any I have ever had before and it just keeps going! I was greeted by not one but two women to describe all of the hotel’s features to me, as well as in-person by the manager, and later two further managers. Each staff member knows my first name and already the waiters know that I have a great dislike for bananas (this really made me chuckle as I sat down for dinner! The strangest way I’ve ever met someone for the first time in a formal setting I think; “Good evening, a pleasure to meet you, sorry you don’t like bananas!”). The hotel is a boutique venue and prides itself as providing exceptional service and I fully support this claim. I even came back from dinner to find my bed remade into a different style (I hadn’t even slept in it yet), with a little sweet upon my pillow. Cute! I love a bit of a romantic touch. Unfortunately my room is one of just a few that do not have their own balcony, but it was the only available and I very much wanted to stay here. And I still have a view of the infinity pool, as well as the sea. And my room is just beautiful. So I am more than happy. Here in Mauritius, with myself and I.
I know that solo travel isn’t for everyone, and to be honest in some ways this isn’t so much travel as holiday. But I really couldn’t praise it more. Of course, I would love to share moments with loved ones too. Who wouldn’t. But I also love the opportunities this brings, when you are by yourself and putting yourself out there. So, as I see it, I will wander until the day I die. Otherwise I will be dead whilst I am alive.