Our second trip was to the north of the island to see the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden and to visit Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. The drive across the island took about an hour and a half from our resort, but it was nothing compared to the gridlock around Port Louis and in the city itself. I think that we spent 2-3 hours in traffic just trying to get in and out of Port Louis.
Pamplemousses Botanical Garden is something like 30 hectares, so you really either need a guide to show you the interesting stuff or a lot of time to wander around on your own. So the guide was actually pretty interesting when it came to pointing out different trees and telling facts about them, but she did it in the dumbest way possible. She kept calling the founder of the gardens, Pierre Poivre, Peter Pepper, talked about “the slave culture“ period on Mauritius, and in general dumbed everything down. I’m not sure if this is the way they do it on the tours organized by TUI or just the way this Finnish guide did the tour, but to me a lot of things seemed like she looked down on the local culture and lacked any historical understanding of bigger picture.
The garden actually had a lot of interesting trees, which initially didn’t look like much. For example the awesome-looking tree above is actually a palm tree being suffocated by another plant, which with time will kill the tree it surrounds.
Also the roots on some trees were unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything similar before, so it was fascinating. 🙂
I have also never seen a lychee or a mango tree before and I would’ve never guessed that these unremarkable trees grow such delicious fruit.
The garden also had a small enclosure with giant tortoises also exported from Seychelles, but it is a completely different experience to look at them from behind the fence than stumbling upon one in the middle of the road like we did at Île aux Aigrettes.
From the garden we continued to Port Louis and despite distance not being very long, we spent over an hour in traffic before we got to Citadel Fort Adelaide. The fort itself was rather unremarkable and looked like it had none of the original stones in it. It did have a nice view of Port Louis though.
The guide failed to tell us anything about this fort, so I had to google the info about it after we came back to the hotel. Fort Adelaide was built between 1834 and 1840 and is known as La Citadelle. The purpose of the fort was to guard the harbor against enemy attacks and spot fires in the city of Port Louis.
So when a Lonely Planet guidebook tells you that you could spend a half day or maybe even a day somewhere, it means that there’s really not much to see there. I’m not 100% sure whether that is true, but at least our tour of the city consisted mainly driving through it. when we finally reached the famous and recommended Caudan Waterfront, it turned out to be a kind of mall with some shops and restaurants.
According to the Lonely Planet guidebook the middle class lives outside the city of Port Louis, so many restaurants are open only for lunch and mostly only the restaurants at Caudan Waterfront are open during evenings and weekends. Also apparently Port Louis is not very safe after sunset, so there’s not much to do in the city in the evenings.
There was an opportunity to visit a local market, but it was really hot and we were not really interested in a market selling souvenirs or other knick-knacks. Apparently the market was cleaned up in a 2004 renovation, but according to the guidebook there is still chance to see rats there, so it hasn’t lost all of its “charm”. 😀 In addition to souvenirs, there should be also sections for Chinese herbal medicine and aphrodisiacs, but that didn’t interest us much either.
So we spent some time walking around Caudan Waterfront and then we got something to eat. We also got mojitos from a bar, which were quite bland. We also got bubble tea, which I’ve had before, but didn’t like. Surprisingly this time my mango bubble tea was actually very good while my boyfriend took a traditional version of bubble tea and it wasn’t good at all.
After spending a couple of hours here, we were driven back to our hotel and we finally got to take a dip in the pool, which has been on our mind during the entire trip as it was a very hot day.
I don’t even know what I think about this day trip. I am not even sure that Port Louis has that much more to offer as the city’s museums didn’t really interest me and Caudan Waterfront and La Citadelle were less than impressing. On the other hand the botanical garden was actually quite interesting as I didn’t know the first thing about Mauritius’ flora. The unpleasant surprise was also the guide on this trip, who really underestimated the intelligence of everyone in the group and her jokes were on the level of “this garden has 30 000 different species of trees and I will of course have a test on all of the at the end of our tour”.
I think the best part of this was to actually see some other parts of Mauritius than just our resort and we learned to appreciate the breeze on the coast after the suffocating heat of inland Mauritius.