Trip to and Arrival in Mauritius

Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
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Trip End May 07, 2014


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Where I stayed
Coco Villa

Flag of Mauritius  , Grand Port,
Friday, April 4, 2014

I fought to stay awake in the lounge during the layover in Paris. It became a struggle toward the end, but I made it. I enjoyed the snacks Air France lays out, they had a nice assortment of French cheeses including camembert, emmenthal, a blue, a tome and a wonderful goat cheese, which is one of my and Marjolaine's favorites. Shortly before heading to the boarding gate, I had a glass of very nice Bordeaux as well; I figured that would help ensure I’d sleep on the plane.

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 soon as we took off, I dropped off to sleep, awakening about an hour later or so when the meal service began. After the meal, I finished off the Elmer Kelton novel I has started on the flight to Paris, and dozed off again. This time after sleeping about four more hours, which was welcome. I woke with about four hours left to the flight, and started a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, one of the heroes of my youth. I had never read Edmund Morris’s Theodore Rex, and a trip this long seemed an appropriate time to enjoy it.

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.

I picked up the rental car and drove the short way to Mahébourg. Up until now I’ve almost always used a hotel in Quatre Bornes which is fairly close to the capital of Port Louis. That’s been the hotel visiting ministers have used going back I believe to the 80s if not farther back. It is good value for money, but during my visits now, I spend more time in the south of the island, so I thought I’d look for something suitable here. I found a hotel online which I asked Jocelyn to check out for me. He suggested another one for the same price that had a slightly better location and also some parking. I asked him to reserve it. So as I drove in, after looking around and asking directions, I found the Coco Villa, courtyard hotel which looks to have a dozen or 15 rooms. It was only 7:00 am when I arrived, but I was able to move into my room right away, and was pleased to see the beautiful view right on the water. It has air-con, breakfast is included and it’s on the water (no beach but nice view) all for less than the price of a Red Roof or Motel 6 back home.

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.

Before I left on this trip Clyde Kilough and I were joking about an item in the news which reported that to combat the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, authorities were encouraging people not to eat the local bat soup specialty, since bats easily transmit blood-borne diseases. I assured Clyde that I always avoided bat soup, as well as porcupine, agouti (a sort of Rodent Of Unusual Size – though not as large as in the Princess Bride…) and other “bush meat” as it’s sometimes called. Clyde suggested it might be interesting for me to mention not only what I eat when I travel, but also what’s on the menu that I didn’t eat.

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.
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Comments

Sara Hawk on

Happy Sabbath! Please give our greetings to the brethren in Mauritius!

TESS WASHINGTON on

Good morning Mr. Meeker! It's Friday, 7:30am PST. I just finished reading your blog from Mauritius. Really enjoyed it! It was a delight to read it! I especially cracked up with your account of that lady in her reclining seat! I also laughed at your account of various unclean foods! Those days are long gone for all of us in the Body! It's funny now for me just to think about it! It's wonderful that you think about your mom, very special! May God bless all your labor...we'll be with you and with our brethrens in Mauritius! Thank you!

Bernard on

Glad your trip has been uneventful so far and that you made it to Mahébourg. Reading your blog brings back very pleasant memories. Seems we were there only yesterday! Happy Sabbath and our love to the Brethren. sleep well!

Clyde Kilough on

What? No bat soup on the menu?! Eat well, my friend!

Lonnie Gjesvold on

Thanks for commentary and I'm looking forward to reading all about the trip. I've been reading Roosevelt's autobiography---such a long book but interesting! Have a great day!

Marguerite Evans on

Glad that Mr. Kilough asked that you mention the food offered on menus and that you don't eat. It was quite interesting, to say the least! I never knew they serve bat soup. Please pass on our greetings to the brethren in Mauritius.

Barbara Anderson on

thanks for the blog. It is such a pleasure to read them and learn a little more about out brethren and I appreciate your time and effort in traveling.

mary hendren on

Thanks, Joel, for such a picturesque commentary. You have a lovely "room with a view" and in a better location for your activities. I'd never thought about the things you don't eat because of your comments about the delightful things you do enjoy. Cinnamon, nutmeg and and saffron--what fitting gifts for your mother considering her interest in spices. You're in our prayers daily.

jpvernaud
jpvernaud on

Nous vous souhaitons un très bon Sabbat, merci de saluer nos frères et sœurs de l'Ile Maurice de notre part

Carol Townsend on

So happy you're having a successful trip! I saw Marjolaine the day you left, and the DVDs are shipping out! I know she misses you!

Jack Hendren on

Greetings Joel,

Thank you for such an interesting narrative of the countries and regions over which you flew. There is indeed so much history in the area. Glad you made it to Mauritius and had some 'recharge' time before the Sabbath.

Have a refreshing and busy serving the members there Sabbath. I am sure they a very pleased to have your visit.

All the best,
Jack

Lenna Slaughter on

This will be a very long trip for you. You and your family will be in my prayers. Stay safe and have blessed travels!

Janel Johnson on

Thanks for another wonderful glimpse into your travel adventures, Joel. The glass of Bordeaux not only helped you sleep, it also amplified your sense of humor! From scalp massages to "ROUS"es, you made me and Doug laugh out loud. (He's currently reading and enjoying "Bully Pulpit," by Doris Kearns Goodwin after having finished "The River of Doubt" by Candice Millard. Teddy Roosevelt seems to be on several reading lists.) Looking forward to your next installment as we pray for a safe, successful and profitable trip.

danielandcindy
danielandcindy on

Thank you for the colorful descriptions of your travels so far! I'm glad to read this long journey seems to be starting well. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Please pass our greetings and love to the brethren there and a peaceful and edifying Sabbath to all! ~Cindy

Bruce Gore on

Hello Joel, we talked with Daniel briefly tonight. He's looking forward to joining you. The little ones miss him already and he hasn't even left. I read Morris' bk on T. Roosevelt a number of years ago. Was very interesting. You'll enjoy his run in with the French guy in S. Dakota.
You both will be in our prayers, Bruce

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