Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Mauritian Mountain Getaway

As I've sorely neglected this blog for the 20 months we've been here, I thought I'd write about some of the things we've seen and done since we arrived here back in July 2014. Today, I thought I'd share a few days we spent in a part of that Mauritius isn't internationally renowned (but perhaps should be): the mountains.
Our good friends invited us to join them for a few days in a place called Chamarel, nestled in the peaks and valleys of the mountains toward to southeast of this little island. I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being, by far, one of our favourite adventures on the island.

Our friends encouraged us to bring warm pyjamas, sweaters, and long sleeves, particularly for nighttime. I thought they were crazy at first, but I was so glad we heeded their advice. It was July, the middle of winter for Mauritius, and although in our part of the island, to the North, it barely gets below 65F (18C) at night, in the mountains to the south it dipped closer to 55F (12C) which, I assure you, feels quite frigid after a year of non-stop tropical heat.
The View From Our Kitchen Window
We arrived at our little cabin, perfectly picturesque, nestled in lush, green trees and planted firmly in rich, terracotta soil, which reminded me so much of my years playing in the red clay earth of Alabama. Our little cabin had one bedroom, big enough to house a queen bed, a twin bed, and a travel cot, thank goodness. The little kitchen had a window that framed the beautiful valley below us. The dining table was outside, so we could spend our mornings eating breakfast and taking in that perfect view.
Our friends have two little boys, one C's age, one M's age, so it was perfect. They spent all their time playing outside (not an iPad or iPhone in sight!). On our first morning, we packed everyone into the cars and drove, for the first time, to Le Morne beach to watch the kite surfers.

That afternoon, we had lunch at Le Chamarel.  We ate Kreol dishes (think roasted boar shank and dorado vindaye curry) and took in this spectular vista:
That night we had a delicious dinner al fresco, BBQ with plenty of wine, followed by toasted marshmallows as we cozied around the fire.

The following day began late, with lunch and a tour at the Chamarel Rhumerie, tasting the fabulous  flavoured rums and sampling the delicious compotes and confitures made on site:
Full and happy after a good meal, we moved on to visit the Chamarel Waterfall, where enormous fruit bats the size of hawks soared overhead. The kids thought this was amazing (as did I!). Unfortunately, they were a bit camera shy.

And then to the Seven Coloured Earth, which is quite a wonder, as apparently even if you take a big jar full of the earth, mix it all up, the different colours will eventually separate on their own into a spectrum of reds, oranges, browns, and purples. It was beautiful, especially against the green of the mountain behind it.

While there, we drank sugar cane juice (which is just as sweet as you'd imagine). They put the cane into this crazy contraption and voila!

We visited the giant tortoises...

...then headed back to the cabin for naps, play time, and another amazing dinner with friends.

On our last morning, we took the kids to The Curious Corner, where we all had a great time exploring, climbing trees, and somehow ended up standing on the ceiling.

We can't wait to go again, very soon!

*all photos courtesy of yours truly and the hubby.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Diving Back In

Today, I took my first ocean swim in three months. I sharply inhale as I entered the water, feeling a bit brave for striding straight into the cool blue of the Indian Ocean. Within seconds I feel warm, refreshed, and much more alive. I have never been a swimmer - nor, I freely admit, an athlete - but from the first day early last September that I decided to swim the length of our beach, I took to it like the proverbial fish to water.  

my view aquatic
I crave this time in the ocean. I don't have many quiet moments in my day, but the 45 minutes I steal to swim are guaranteed to be peaceful and beautiful. Alone with my thoughts, I'm able to think clearly for at least a little while. A cyclone and a Mauritian summer of storm after storm deprived me of these swims, as our little beach became filled with seaweed and I learned the hard and painful way of the microscopic jellyfish that become tangled in the ocean greenery. It eventually became difficult to even walk on our beach, the waves depositing a solid green and brown blanket of seaweed all along the shoreline. But now, luckily, our beach looks like our beach again, just in time for winter (and our dear friends who are visiting next month).  

As I push through the water, I consider my view. The water is crystal clear and tourquoise, and I can see 12-14 feet below me to the coral along the floor of our lagoon. On one swim, back in December, I saw a huge marlin swim beside me about 10 feet away. My speed increased exponentially to give me a much better workout than I intended! Luckily, the time I saw a huge ray fly out of the water and dive back in, I was standing at the shore with my little family. The fish must enjoy human company, as they don’t seem to mind you as you borrow their playground. So far, anyway. 

Along the shore I try to count the coconut trees but my efforts are wasted as I lose count quite quickly. There are evergreens that grow along our beach, too, with long, feather-like branches and tiny prickly seeds that fall to the sand and painfully remind you of their existence. Then there’s that sky. Perfectly blue, full of white fluffy clouds and the occasional airplane filled, I’m sure, with excited travellers already in love with the sight of this little island paradise below them.
With each subconscious stroke, my mind wanders further. I contemplate that we have only 3 months left here. I’m trying to savour each remaining day. Trying not to take anything for granted. Trying not to waste a moment. At the same time I’m trying to mentally prepare for what is ahead: not only prioritizing the huge task sorting and packing, but also the more emotional side that comes with every move. Not just my emotions, either, but that of our five-year-old, who I know will be very sad to leave some people behind.

It’s difficult to balance the feeling of excitement and anticipation, of the impending comfort of returning to what is familiar and, let’s face it, convenient. There will be much to miss here:  friends we’ve made, places we visit, and, of course, these stunning beaches and mountains. But there is also much to look forward to: visiting family and seeing old friends, returning to favourite haunts and discovering new places that popped up in our absence. And, of course, always in the back of our minds is our next international adventure: Mexico. 

I have some new plans and goals for the coming year and I’m looking forward to embarking on these adventures. It’s a bittersweet time; transitions usually are. But by the end of my swim I feel a renewed sense of purpose, clearer in my thoughts, and very appreciative of this crazy, incredible adventure I’m living.