The Budget – Mauritius

As with each of our previous trips, the final job is to tally up the cost.  Once again, I kept a running total but this did not necessarily influence our spending.

The grand total for 19 days and nights was $8,740.80.

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This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $     3,346.72
Accommodation $     2,478.14
Insurance $         168.64
Transport $     1,213.72
Food/Drink $     1,318.57
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $     203.16
Souvenirs/Gifts $         11.85
Other spending $         71.68

The trip was a little under 3 weeks and the airfares were the biggest single expense.  Less popular destinations, like Mauritius, are unlikely to have great deals on airfares.

We purchased an annual insurance policy this year to cover both this trip as well as 9 weeks in Europe later in the year.  I apportioned an amount based on a percentage of the total days we will be away during the period covered by the policy.

Transport was our hire car and fuel as well as car parking for our own car at the airport, top-up of our transit cards for Singapore and bus fares on one day in Mauritius.

Food and drinks included dining out as well as groceries and alcohol.

There was very little in the way of sightseeing costs on this trip as it was predominately about the natural environment.

The final category of ‘Other’ was a couple of items from the chemist.

The trip was several months in the planning and we had pre-paid more than 80% of the total cost before we set out.

It is now 17 weeks until we depart for Edinburgh on the first leg of our next trip.  Watch this space for some more planning posts  in the next few months.

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The Australian Connection

On our final day we made a stop en route to the airport.  This modest memorial on the south coast of Mauritius marks the bay where Matthew Flinders came ashore in 1803.  He was returning to England after circumnavigating New Holland, which was to become known as Australia.  Unfortunately, England and France were at war and he was detained on Ile de France for 6 years before he could resume his journey.

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A little more detail.

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The memorial was unveiled by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex on the 200th anniversary of Matthew Flinders’ landing at Baie du Cap near the southwest tip of Mauritius.

Finally, why did we choose to go to Mauritius?  This is a question I have been asked by many people.  It is a tropical island paradise and if that was simply my only rationale, I could have chosen many other locations that are probably easier and cheaper to access from Australia.

It is more than an island paradise to me – it is an integral, albeit small, part of who I am and where I come from.  Mauritius had no indigenous inhabitants and is a melting pot of nations.  While I do not know the full lineage, I do know that my great-great grandfather, Leon Burgeuz (of French descent) was among a number of young Mauritian men who travelled to the Victorian goldfields during the goldrushes of the 1850s.  He married in Australia, returned to Mauritius and sugar plantations before finally emigrating to Australia in 1878 and establishing himself in the sugar plantations of north Queensland.  One of his daughters, my great grandmother, was born in Port Louis in 1865.

Despite some investigation beforehand, I was unable to locate the precise location of their home in Mauritius as place and locality names seem to have been lost in the mists of time.  Much of Mauritius continues to be under sugar cane cultivation today.

Our Mauritius adventure is almost at a close as we prepare to board our flight for the final leg home from Singapore.

There will be one more post detailing the mundane of the finances of the trip.

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Going to Town

After nearly a fortnight in Mauritius, we finally visited the capital, Port Louis.   Everything I had read indicated that driving in Port Louis was not for the faint-hearted but since we were not keen on a 2 hour bus ride from La Gaulette in the south-west we decided to give it a go.  A brief sojourn on the edge of the city was enough and we headed for the hills – literally and figuratively.  The one major road (4 lane highway) from Port Louis  ascends quickly to the central plateau area of the island.

I worked out that we could catch an express bus from a major shopping mall on the plateau to the city so we parked in the expansive carpark and hopped on the express bus for the princely sum of MUR32 (about $1.60).  It was a relief to sit back and let the driver deal with the craziness of taxis, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

There are several sights in and around Port Louis but we limited ourselves to one major attraction – the Blue Penny Museum.  This very professionally curated museum focused on the early exploration of the Indian Ocean, development and strategic importance of Mauritius and Port Louis, in particular.  The development of postal communications and the role of Mauritius are also explored and the rare blue penny stamp, from which the museum takes its name, is displayed briefly each hour in order to conserve it.  The final gallery is dedicated to the story of ‘Paul et Virginie’.  The centrepiece is a magnificent sculpture depicting the 2 main characters.  No photography was allowed in the museum.

GMan on the boardwalk and part of the city of Port Louis in the background.

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The Blue Penny Museum is located on the La Caudan waterfront development which is very tourist-orientated with outlets of high-end luxury brands and souvenir shops.

Another view looking from the harbour to the city with the statue of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam in the centre.

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We walked along the boardwalk overlooking the harbour, past the statue of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and then headed a mere couple of blocks to the Port Louis Central Market which is a very different vibe to La Caudan.  It is a vibrant local market with something for everyone and here is a glimpse near one of the entrances.

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We did not delve too deeply into Port Louis as we were not keen on shopping and it was simply too hot to walk any distance.

 

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A Tale of Two Towers

While the majority of the attractions in Mauritius are based on the natural environment, there are a number of structures worth discovering.

Signage and advertising can be limited so you really need to be diligent in seeking out some of the places.  In fact, one of the titles I considered for this post was ‘Looking for a Lighthouse’!

Our first stop was the Martello tower at La Preneuse near Black River.  It is tucked away in the beach carpark in a tiny backstreet and you would really need to know what you were looking for.  Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of the exterior but here are a few from inside as well as the roof-top cannon.  We enjoyed the guided tour for a modest entrance charge.

The commander’s quarters.

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GMan and the roof-top cannon.

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The view from the nearby cliff above the beach offered a perfect view of Le Morne Brabant.

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We then headed a bit further north on the west coast to locate the only surviving lighthouse on Mauritius.  Despite a distinct lack of directions plus some major roadworks and diversions we managed to locate the lighthouse.

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It is a classical style and appears to be well-maintained.  I could not get any closer as it is located in a secure compound.

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I was excited to add Pointe aux Caves lighthouse to my collection.

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Southwest Scenery

Our third and longest stay in Mauritius is 8 nights at La Gaulette, almost at the southwest tip of the island.  It is surrounded by spectacular scenery including the Black River Gorges National Park and Le Morne Brabant.

Chamarel is only about 15 minutes drive from where we are staying.  There are some amazing secrets tucked into the mountains.

Chamarel waterfall disappears out of view into the cavernous depths.

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The Seven Coloured Earths showcases an unusual phenomenon.  It was difficult to capture the full effect in a photograph.

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Looking north along the valleys from one of the highest points on the plateau in Black River Gorges National Park.

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Le Morne Brabant is located in the extreme south west of Mauritius on the Le Morne peninsula which is a UNESCO World Heritage area. This is the view from the International Slave Route monument.

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A closer look at one of the sculptures at the International Slave Route monument.

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We are enjoying our stay in Mauritius and sharing some of the things we have seen and done.

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Sightseeing

While we were staying at Grand Baie we visited two locations of particular interest.

The first was the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden.  We joined a guided tour which was interesting and gave some insights which we certainly would not have discovered on our own.  Some of the highlights included:

Mon Plaisir – the second building on the site which was built in 1823.

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Waterlily flower

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Baby tortoise (about the size of 20c piece) on a developing lilypad.

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A few minutes away is L’Aventure du Sucre – an extensive museum about the history of sugar production on Mauritius.  It is located in an old sugar factory and is really much more than simply about sugar as the whole social history of Mauritius is closely entwined with sugar cane cultivation and the production and export of sugar.  We found it most interesting.

Although I did not take any photos in the museum here is the restored steam locomotive in the gardens.

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There is such a diverse landscape on a small island plus some interesting attractions we are simply spoiled for choice.  I hope you are enjoying the snippets I am sharing.

 

 

 

 

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South to North

Even though Mauritius is only about 65km from north to south and 45km from east to west, we decided to stay in 3 different locations during our holiday.

The first was Blue Bay in the south-east and conveniently located adjacent to the airport.  From here we explored the south-eastern portion of the island including a trip to Ile aux Aigrettes.  This is a tiny coral island which is about 800m offshore across the lagoon.  It is a conservation reserve and a guided tour is the only option if you wish to visit.

Leaving Pointe Jerome in our wake.

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Coral in the lagoon.

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Welcome to Ile aux Aigrettes.

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Sculptures of some of the extinct species.

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The rare pink pigeon is being brought back from the brink of extinction but still extremely rare.

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Today we moved to our next destination – Grand Baie.  This is not far from the northernmost point of Cap Malheureux.  The actual point is not accessible due to private residences but these photos were taken nearby.

Notre-Dame church.

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Fresh fish.

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Tomorrow we are off to explore some more sights in the north.

 

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The First Day

Our first priority was some grocery shopping so we headed off to the nearest supermarket to stock up on some basics.

The drive revealed picture perfect sights. The travel brochures do not lie.

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The water is crystal clear.

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A fellow motorist. I am not sure where he was taking the foliage or for what purpose.

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We found this tiny museum near Soulliac. It is dedicated to Robert Edward Hart – a local poet, writer and naturalist. The building was his home, built from coral.

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One of the display cases of his collection. Not all were as pretty and some looked downright dangerous!

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The view from the back door!

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A little further along the south coast we found a lookout.

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A bit of information about what we could see.

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It was a short and relatively easy walk down to the rocky headland.

The view looking east.

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GMan and some of the rock formations.

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We have booked an eco-tour to a tiny offshore island so more about that later.

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The Adventure Begins

It is now 2 days since we left Brisbane to set off on our latest adventure and what a ride it has been!

You may need to grab a coffee and a bit of time as this post is a bit long-winded.

Our first night in Singapore was uneventful.  We stayed at the Crowne Plaza at Changi Airport since we arrived about 9pm on Monday evening and were scheduled to depart the following afternoon at about 3.30pm.  Note the word ‘scheduled’.

The following morning we caught up with GMan’s cousin and her husband for coffee.  No, they do not live in Singapore but were visiting from Victoria so it was a great opportunity.

By now we knew that our flight had been rescheduled to depart 25 minutes earlier than the original time.  However,  the arrival time in Mauritius had also been amended – to almost 2 hours later!!  What!!  That made no sense at all.  Then we discovered that we were now flying via Kuala Lumpur instead of directly from Singapore to Mauritius.  The new arrival time was 8.40pm.

Things continued to deteriorate.  We arrived at the designated gate in plenty of time to board but there was no sign of a plane.  Yes, the inbound service had been delayed and it did not land until after the boarding was due to commence.  The flight eventually departed almost an hour later than scheduled.

I have never been to Kuala Lumpur and my first impression was not amazing.  Herded into a small area exiting the aerobridge, we were then instructed to make 3 queues to pass through security screening.  Miraculously, this subsequently became one line.  The security staff did not seem to have any sense of urgency to screen the transit passengers and I could sense that our estimated arrival time in Mauritius was slipping further into the evening than ever.  Thankfully, Kuala Lumpur Airport offers easy-to-access  complimentary Wi-fi so I was able to while away the time with a Facebook post and a couple of emails.

We were finally underway on the last leg of our flight and discovered that our arrival time was now 9.30pm – almost 3 hours later than the original time of 6.45pm.  Of course, this was barring any further delays.  During the time in Kuala Lumpur, I had managed to contact the rental car company and the host of our accommodation, however, my revised estimates were now a bit short of the mark but near enough.

Touchdown and welcome to Mauritius!!  Unlike many major Western airports, the immigration process at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is entirely manual and the small number of staff seemed to be working on ‘island time’ yesterday evening.

The gentleman from the car rental company rang as we were standing in the queue and we assured him that we would not be too much longer.Even though the office was due to close at 10pm he kindly waited for us, albeit, at the entrance to the building.  We had already decided that if the office did close – worst-case scenario, that we would just have to get a taxi to our accommodation which was only about 6km away.  This had been an intentional decision and one that we were very thankful for as we drove out of the airport and onto the main road.

One of the things I had read when planning this trip was that driving at night was not recommended.  We did not have a lot of choice when it came to flight times so I had known that we would be driving a relatively short distance to our accommodation in the early evening, however, this was no longer early evening.  So, we just took a deep breath and headed off.

We had not pre-ordered a a Sim card for our phone on this trip and were without our trusty Google Maps.  In the mad rush to get the car rental finalised I forgot to ask for map so we were completely dependent on my memory and some signage at a couple of major intersections.  Miraculously, we made the short journey without any hiccups and arrived at our apartment to find our host patiently waiting for us.  Check-in was simple and swift.  The keys were handed over with a promise from Jane that she would return in the morning to greet us more fully and answer any questions we might have.

After a shower and about 6 hours sleep this was the view from our balcony this morning.

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A perfect day in this island paradise and we were ready to embrace it.

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The Next Trip

Although the last few posts have been about the planning for our Northern Hemisphere adventure later in the year, our next trip is now not far away.  In a little over 4 weeks we will be heading off to Mauritius with a brief stopover in Singapore on both the outbound and return legs.

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In terms of planning, this has been fairly simple.  Airfares, 3 different accommodations and a hire car are all booked.

My research indicates that the maximum temperature is likely to be in the range of 25 – 30C so mostly simple summer clothes will be in my suitcase.  Swimwear and a hat will be the other essentials.

 

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