We step off the 'plane into a wall of humidity. It’s 3am and the sky is pitch black. Hauling our luggage towards a taxi driver, we promptly depart Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam airport. Like most locals, the taxi driver is an Indian who speaks French as well as the Mauritian Creole. His tiny, cocoa-coloured fingers pivot the fake leather steering wheel as he turns corners at an extraordinary speed. We refrain from glancing at the speedometer and look out of the window instead, as the landscape races by.
Mauritius, contrary to what we had believed, is a poor country. But the extent of this is not yet evident as we drive on the highway. Concrete supermarkets and stores line the main roads but as soon as we veer off onto a smaller road, the grey outline of corrugated iron huts comes into view. In the black of night, we can barely make out the pastel-colours of huts with hundreds if not thousands of electricity wires hanging from one to the next.
The driver educates us about the country’s vibrant and enthralling mix of cultures. Mauritius has Indian, Chinese and African influences. Moreover, Buddhism, Christianity and Muslim religions are celebrated in the form of temples, mosques, pagodas and churches scattered across the island. In fact, the cheerful colours and pungent scents of these sacred places is yet one indication of the diversity of the island.
As we arrive at the hotel, the smell of the sea reaches our noses and the croaking of massive frogs, unlike any we've ever seen before, breaks all silence. There is a jungle-like appeal to this quaint accommodation. But the cerise doorway jolts my thoughts back to civilization. We feel as though we've been transported into the middle of the Amazon, albeit with Indian-speaking inhabitants and dwellings!
The hotel we choose to book into is Mont Choisy, which is almost halfway across the island, about an hour’s drive from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. We are eagerly welcomed by well-groomed staff in meticulous uniforms. Rooms are built in a townhouse-style and are colourful and attractive, most with little white verandahs.
The hotel is not a 5 star one, but the staff sure make one feel as though you are living the high-life. Mauritius, after all, is known for service. And boy do the Mauritians exceed one’s expectations in every way possible.
We eat like kings and get ready to take a local bus-ride to the Pamplemousses Garden. As soon as we get on, we are stared at with interest by the many locals who sit squished together on the tiny, worn seats. They are unused to tourists taking their cheap transport!
The tropical plants and trees at Pamplemousses are unlike anything we've ever seen before. And because of the wonderfully warm weather, the fruits on the trees were enormous. Roots grew far above the ground’s surface and intermingled around the main tree stumps. A lush tropical paradise that we fell in love with.
The evening brought a visit to the beach. This is what we’ve been waiting for – a true Mauritian cultural dip. We sit on the cool sand, working our feet deep into the wetness. A woman dressed in a traditional Mauritian outfit brings a local Phoenix beer to us after which we sample the local cuisine while the music plays.
The rhythm is intoxicating and we are immediately up, moving to and fro.
Dessert is then ready and we are presented with a fried banana – the most delicious banana I have ever tasted.
This is island life and we could live here in romantic Mauritius forever!