Trip to and Arrival in Mauritius
Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
33Trip End May 07, 2014
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Where I stayed
The Air Mauritius (code share with Air France) flight was full, as usual, and left on time. 12 hours to go!
The space between rows was less that on American planes. Mauritians usually are, as the French, slighter than us "Anglo-Saxons" as the French often refer to English-speakers (think of guys with horns on their helmets and axes in hand about to pillage Rouen…). That morphology is taken into account in row spacing, so when the lady in front of my reclined her seat, I could easily have given her a scalp massage….
The passengers were a mix of Mauritians heading home, and tourists heading for vacation. There were French people in front, behind and to the left of me, and a German family on the right. I also heard several varieties of English accents, some Italian, and a Slavic language I didn’t recognize.
As always, I watched the flight map and thought about the historic places over or near which we flew. Down the coast of Italy, including ancient Rome; Anzio where American troops landed and fought a difficult battle in WW2, Monte Casino - where the casualties were so high- and the ruins of Pompeii. We flew over Mediterranean volcanoes including Stromboli, and over the straits of Messina, probably the location where Homer placed the monsters Scylla and the Charybdis in the Iliad. We flew over Libya, famous from antiquity and where Rommel faced Patton and Montgomery in the desert. We flew over upper Egypt and Sudan, passing not far from Omdurman where Chinese Gordon made his last stand against the Mahdi and his armies. We passed over Ethiopia from where legend says the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon in his wisdom. We crossed over Somali, almost right over Mogadishu where in October 1993, 160 American soldiers attempted to arrest warlord Mohamad Farah Aidid leading the Day of the Rangers or Black Hawk Down, during which they were surrounded by and fought thousands of heavily armed militia.
We crossed into the Indian Ocean and over the equator at almost the same time, then flew between the beautiful Seychelles Islands and Madagascar as we approached Mauritius.
About 04:00 the lights came up, two hours or so before our landing, so we could have a light breakfast and wake up before arrival. It was still dark when we touched down. The horizon was just beginning to glow, however, as we filed off into the newly opened terminal which I’ve seen under construction for several years. It is very modern and spacious, especially compared to the old one which was frequently overcrowded if two wide-bodies arrived at the same time. There are more immigration desks now and there were more agents present that before to process us. A flight from London arrived at the same time we did, so six or seven hundred people arrived all at once. There is now a dedicated lane for premium flyers, a status for which I qualify because of my frequent flyer level, so I zipped through the lines, relatively speaking.
It’s obvious the pace of life is more relaxed here, people work and sometimes it seems, even think at a slower pace. The immigration agent plodded through my papers. In Mauritius, they want to make sure travelers have ongoing ticket; no illegal aliens thank you very much. As simple as it seemed to me, the agent couldn't find the end of my itinerary. He asked me where Lomé was located. I told him it was in Togo in West Africa. “Where is the end of your trip?” he asked. I turned the itinerary to the last page and pointed to Dallas. He looked carefully and thought for a moment, then nodded to himself and stamped me into the country.
At the next desk I turned in a yellow health form, assuring the authorities I didn't have a fever or cough, and informing them to what countries I had traveled in the last six months, and how they could reach me by phone. Large posters to one side warned of the dangers of Dengue fever. This is a mosquito-borne illness for which there is no vaccination, and it’s extremely painful. Before good anesthetics became available, those afflicted used to writhe around in pain in such a wild manner, that dingue entered the French language as a synonym for crazy or insane. There have been a few cases of Dengue here recently though no Chikungunya, so I’ll be careful of mosquitoes none the less.
The fellow at the desk ask if he could help with luggage, for which I was thankful, until he picked up my carryon bag and left me with the large suitcase…. The room is on the third floor (second floor for Europeans) and does have a lovely view. I peeled off the clothes I had been wearing for 2 days, and showered in spite of the cold water (I’ll be checking on that). Then I slept for four more hours before dragging myself out of bed at noon (which was 03:00 in Dallas). I needed some bottled water and a bite of lunch so I drove the short distance into Mahébourg to the city market in the center and looked for a restaurant. Mahébourg is not really a tourist destination, the tourists go to the West coast where the beaches are nicest, so walking around I only saw two other westerners, I think, but they may have actually been light-skinned Mauriciennes. I looked for an Indian restaurant but couldn't find one. Chinese food is what’s most popular locally, so I stopped at the Dragon de Chine restaurant and ordered Cantonese rice with chicken and egg (I’m not sure which came first), and a bottle of cold water.
So, what I didn’t have for lunch today was squid or octopus. As you can see from the photo, these delicacies can be prepared sautéed with onions, or green peppers, or in a curry, or in Mauritian tomato sauce or sweet and sour, or in a salad with pepper. You’ll notice the squid is more expensive; that’s because octopus (I’m told) is somewhat rubbery and noticeably chewier.
I walked through the central market and stopped long enough to buy some fresh saffron, nutmeg and cinnamon as a gift for my mother (Hi Mom!), and then bought some bottled water for the next few days. I’ll spend the rest of the day working and preparing for the activities of tomorrow, and I’ll try to find an Indian restaurant for dinner. I’m still tired from the trip, so I should sleep well.