Our last day trip was exploring the Mauritius sights in the south of the island. This is the trip I was looking forward the most as we were expected to see some of the places, which come up the most when talking about Mauritius.
We were once again picked up from our hotel and drove to meet the rest of the group, which as during the previous day trip, was around 25 people. The guide was different from the trip before, but again, Finnish-speaking. Unfortunately this guide was even worse than the other one in terms of being professional and informative. I’m always amazed how little it apparently takes to be a tourist guide and this is mostly the reason I’m reluctant to pay for guide services during travels as you never know what you’ll get.
Our first stop was at Trou aux Cerfs (also known as Murr’s Volcano), which is a crater of a dormant volcano, which is located near the town of Curepipe. The crater is about 300m in diameter and 100m deep. The crater was formed during the time the island of Mauritius was created. The drive to Trou aux Cerfs went through an affluent area of houses for rich people and embassies surrounded by high fences. Some of the houses looked really nice, but every single one of them had a very high fence around them.
We took a look at the crater from the top as I understand that there is really no way down into the crater. The crater is surrounded by thick forest of trees and other plants and looks very steep. There is a 1 km circular road going around the crater, but it is best visible from a few access points.
The area is very quiet and peaceful and you could stare at the scenery for quite some time. On the other side you can see a view of Curepipe and Trois Mamelles.
Apparently the view is not nice enough from the ground level, so there is a half-built viewing tower, which is so ugly that it surely doesn’t help the scenery, but I guess you will be able to see the surroundings better when it’ll be ready.
After this, we headed to some tourist trap, which was called Voiliers de l’Ocean. The guide said that it was a shop where local craftsmen make replicas of 18th century sailing ships. I genuinely hate these places and I especially hate being taken to these shops when I pay for the day trip as they usually pay commission to the guides and there is never anything I would like to buy anyway, so these kind of stops are a complete waste of time from my point of view. This time I decided to stay in the bus for half an hour listening to an audiobook until everyone got back.
After this useless stop, we continued to Grand Bassin, which is also known as Ganga Talao. It represents the Ganges river of India and has a hindu temple. The area is a pilgrimage site and every February hundreds of thousands of Hindus visit the place. Now in March it was surprising to see a huge road and parking lots seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
First you see two giant statues. First was the Durga statue and the second was Shiva statue. Both statues are 33m tall. It was drizzling, so the area was somewhat uninviting and it was difficult to understand why this area is a pilgrimage site. There were also a couple of monkeys, who were stealing food meant for sacrifice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen monkeys outside of zoos until now.
From the statues there is a short distance to the hindu temple. It was very busy with Hindus visiting the temple, but also tourists taking pictures. The guide told us to take our shoes off if we want to enter the temple and cover our shoulders. I would’ve appreciated the advice before the trip, so that I could’ve taken a scarf with me. Luckily I was wearing a shirt with short sleeves, which had to do this time. The guide was stumbling to explain even a little bit of hinduism, forgot the name of Ganesh, and kept reading what I guess was Wikipedia page about hinduism from his iPad. He also said that it’s ok to participate in the hindu ceremony inside as long as we give the holy man money because “they like money”. I’m not even a little bit religious, but I generally prefer that other religions and customs are treated with a modicum of respect instead of a circus show.
I have also never been to a hindu temple before, so this was a new experience for me as well. It was quite a surprise to realize that I somehow have not been to a predominantly hindu countries before. Something that I need to rectify in the near future.
The temple was surrounded by statues of different hindu deities such as Saraswati and Ganesh.
Then we had a stop at a place, which I honestly have no idea where it was. The guide just said that this is a stop, there is a nice view, and that the “guiding part ends here”. He also said that if we were interested, we could buy a pineapple with salt and chili, which is a local delicacy. There was a short walk via a path surrounded by hawkers, but the view was in fact really nice.
We did get both a fresh coconut and a pineapple with salt and chili. Luckily we still had a little cash on us. The pineapple was delicious even though it didn’t look too good wrapped in a plastic bag with the salt and chili sauce.
Then we stopped for lunch at a place, where all Summer Time tours stop for lunch. We had the dubious luck to sit at the same table with the guide, who had serious issues to count to 24 and who couldn’t explain what risotto is. Then he made sure that his meal and Coke was free of charge and started babbling how guides get everything for free and how he makes sure that he stays in the full view of the coconut and pineapple hawker when he recommends tourists to try these because then he gets a pineapple for free. He also complained that he and the other guides are staying nowhere nearly as nice as we are. I had to hold my tongue as not to tell him that if he would pay as much for accommodation as we were, he could stay at a nicer place as well. 😀
Despite the dumb commentary throughout the lunch, the food was actually very good and the view from the restaurant was even better.
After lunch we drove to see the Chamarel waterfall. The waterfall plunge 95 m in a single drop and are located in Black River Gorges National Park. There are two viewing platforms, one lower and one higher. The view is really nice from both of them and the upper viewpoint requires only about a 5 min climb.
Apparently you can walk down the train and take a dip at the bottom of the Chamarel waterfall, but we were given only 20 min to stay there, so trekking was out of the question.
Our last stop of the day was at Seven Colored Earths, which is a sand field with different colored sand. It has just rained, so there was definitely fewer colors than the promised seven, but the sun started shining again and the drying sand was quickly turning different colors again. The sand’s colors are a result of the uneven cooling of molten rock.
Here was another enclosure of tortoises, but as I said before, it is much cooler to see them roam free than in a closure.
I think that this was my favorite trip despite the dumbest and most annoying guide ever, but for the first time I thought that I get why Mauritius has such a reputation as a paradise island. The nature was indeed very beautiful.
We returned to our resort and spent the two days enjoying the sun and the pool and the last two days working in our hotel room because it was raining all the time. At least this way I caught up with my emails and got to keep two extra days of vacation time. 🙂