Check out part one of my day in Mauritius here.
Following a great night’s sleep at the Le Meridien in Mauritius we were up early and ready to set out to see the island. We were waylaid, however, by a 20 minute monsoon. It was actually quite pretty to watch the rain pour down over the beach but it also put us about 20 minutes behind schedule, and we were on a pretty tight schedule. We had only 5 hours from leaving the hotel to when the rental car was due back and when we had to complete our check-in for the return flight. There was not a lot of room for error.
First stop that morning was the downtown district of Port Louis. Home to a rather urban waterfront area, as well as some of the main tourist sites. The Aapravasi Ghat is one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the island and is a memorial and museum to honor and remember the thousands upon thousands who migrated to the island as indentured servants. Mauritius was the first major use of such a labor force. Sadly, the museum was closed so we couldn’t walk around inside (no explanation why, either, as we were there during their posted opening hours, but such is life) but the views from along the fence line certainly gave a bit of insight into how those laborers arrived and adjusted to their new life.
Next up on our whirlwind tour was a visit to the Mauritius Postal Museum. That was actually cool enough that I gave it a whole post just for itself. Read all about it here.
A 24-hour stay in Mauritius, condensed into 5 minutes.
Time was ticking and there was another UNESCO site that we still wanted to visit, along with some adventures to be had on the roads, so we were off and headed south. Or so we thought. Once again, we were lost on the roads. We had directions but no names on the roads. Plus there was enough road construction that anything the may have resembled the map probably wasn’t going to help us anyways. Needless to say, we were lost.
We found the local university. We found some interesting side roads. And, eventually, we found the southwest coast and Le Morne. The Le Morne Cultural Landscape area is the other UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island of Mauritius and it, too, represents the history of forced labor used in the region. This area, however, was used by maroons and runaway slaves as a hiding place to avoid being returned to their bondage. The topology and growth in the area provided coverage where the escaped slaves could seek refuge. According to UNESCO:
Protected by the mountain’s isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs, the escaped slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne. The oral traditions associated with the maroons, have made Le Morne a symbol of the slaves’ fight for freedom, their suffering, and their sacrifice, all of which have relevance to the countries from which the slaves came – the African mainland, Madagascar, India, and South-east Asia. Indeed, Mauritius, an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, also came to be known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne Mountain.
The memorial site is just across the road from a public beach area and both are worth visiting. The statues at the memorial are cool and the beach was one of the nicer ones we saw, with a water line that wasn’t too rocky (unlike at the Le Meridien) and with camping and toilet facilities available. Plus the trees growing in the park area provided a bit of cool shade, something that should never be overlooked for its value in Mauritius.
As beautiful as it is, however, the region is rather remote. A full hour drive from either Port Louis or the airport, we were running out of time and had to get back on the road if we were going to have a chance of finding our way back and catching our flight.
The last leg of our trip was the drive across the southern edge of the island, back to the airport. We were, by this point, running very late which was rather unfortunate. This area was also the prettiest region of the island that we encountered and it would’ve been great to have more time to drive at slightly less reckless speeds through the winding two-lane road wedged between the water and cliffs. Sure, we stopped a couple times to snap a few photos. And we got caught in a traffic jam that was in the middle of a street market of some sort. Great experiences and great views but not enough time.
Finally back at the airport we got the car returned and made it in to the check-in line with just a few minutes to spare. It was then that I faced perhaps the most significant challenge of the day. The agent really wanted to check my suitcase and I really wanted to carry it on like I normally do. Their 7kg limit proved to be quite a challenge. Ultimately I leveraged my ScottEVest jacket and packed it with about 10kg worth of gear. While still wearing it I proved that my bag was close enough (yes, the guy at the counter basically rolled his eyes at me the whole time) and once past security everything went right back in the bag. A quick (and very late) lunch at the "restaurant" in the airport terminal and then we were off.
It was a quick visit – literally 24 hours on the ground – but a fun one. Just the right amount of adventure and excitement to balance out the insanity of getting there and home over a long weekend.
- South African Airways extorts additional fare at departure
- Spending a day in Mauritius (Part 1)
- Collecting a different sort of stamp in Mauritius
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