3.02.2009

mauritius: former home of the dodo, current home of awesome.

I have to say, I never thought that I would ever step foot in the country of Mauritius, but it may well be the reason I am on this trip in the first place.

The whole reason I even heard about Semester at Sea is thanks to my friend Ted. We were at the study abroad fair last fall and I had been looking around the Italy table thinking about studying in Florence and Ted goes “Come with me to the SAS table. It’s so cool. They go to Mauritius! No one even knows where that is”. And it’s true, I did not know where Mauritius was, but Ted got me to the table and after one look at the itinerary I was sold. So thank you Ted. Because I have now set both feet on Mauritian soil and I have to say that it was a pretty great experience.

For some reason after leaving South Africa everyone on the ship was in a bit of a funk. We had a global studies exam that stressed everyone out, there was a lot of school work smooshed into a short amount of time, and after having endless things to do in Cape Town I think we all felt a little stuck on the ship. However, by the time we got to Mauritius our tests had been handed in, papers typed, it was Friday and we were all excited to spend the day in a country that truly is a paradise.

We learned in global studies that Mauritius had no native people but had been slowly inhabited by traders and pirates starting in the 1500s. After killing off the now infamous Dodo bird and cultivating lots of sugar cane they settled in to stay and were later joined by a large immigrant population from India. These days Mauritius retains a bunch of cultural influences and has synthesized all those cultures into their own blend of Mauritian creole.

After diplomatic briefing in the morning everyone was itching to get off the ship and get going on their trips. My friends and I had signed up for an SAS trip to the Adventure Park and Beach. We boarded the buses and made our way through Port Louis, the capital, toward the adventure park in Chamarel. Our bus driver was driving like a mad man which made the trip half a little scary and half more exciting. He rear ended someone in traffic, got pulled over and would accelerate really quickly before slamming on the brakes to go around a sharp turn. However, I think we made it to the adventure park in record time considering his speed.

The park sat on top of a mountain with views of the valley below and the other peaks dotting the coastline. The entire area was completely green with trees, grasses and flowers everywhere. Upon arrival we were given harnesses, applied ample amounts of bug spray and headed into the woods to do the ropes courses. The first half of the course was a series of suspension bridges that went through the forest. We hooked our carabineers onto a lifeline above the bridge and then walked across. I decided it would be more fun to walk without holding on and made it across for the most part on all of them. The bridges looked over more views of the valley and the forest which made for a pretty nice time on the first course.

For the second course we had to take a mini hike up into a different part of the forest. It was hot and very humid so by the time we got into the shade where the course started we were thoroughly sweaty and gross. The second course was more exciting and also more physically challenging. There was a bridge that you had to swing and jump from plank to plank, one that involved jumping from swing to swing, one that was a rope enclosure with no bottom that you had to climb across and another that was just a rope net that you climbed across horizontally. Luckily after that there was a small zip line and it finished with a tightrope-like bridge where you held onto one rope and walked across the other. It was funny to watch each other trying to get across and Taylor and I had a great time. It was definitely more physically tiring than I expected though and I woke up with sore arms for the next few days.

After the ropes course we got back to the base for a lunch of chicken curry, lentils and rice before getting changed to go to the beach. Everyone else had gotten eaten up in the woods by mosquitoes but whatever bug spray my friend Bradee brought kept us all bite free, for which I was very thankful. We hopped back on the bus with the Mauritian Dale Earnhardt Jr behind the wheel and started the drive to Flik en Flac beach. On the way we passes more views of the mountains looking down onto the ocean and fields upon fields of sugar cane. We got to the beach and it was absolutely beautiful. All of us were hot and pretty yucky so we dropped our stuff and went into the ocean for a swim. The water was a gorgeous clear light blue and was as warm as a bath. It was everyone’s first time swimming in the Indian Ocean and we were all pretty excited about it. The salty water washed away all the bug spray and sunscreen and we just hung out in the ocean and enjoyed the view. After our swim we headed to a local restaurant to get some drinks to take back to the beach. We tried a really tasty local beer called Phoenix and sat out on the beach sipping our drinks and enjoying the scenery. After another dip in the ocean it was time to head out. Instead of going back to the ship we had the bus drop us off at the Waterfront which was an area with restaurants and shops. We grabbed a table at an outdoor cafĂ© overlooking the harbor and had some more snacks and drinks before it was time to go back to the ship. When it was time to go we hopped on a water taxi across the harbor and made it back to the MV in time to enjoy the bbq that they had for us on the 7th deck. After a quick shower and changing into some purple attire it was time for the opening ceremonies of the 98th Sea Olympics.

All in all Mauritius really was a paradise. It was great to spend the day outside enjoying the natural beauty of the country and just having a good time with friends. It was interesting to see the effect that humans have had on the island and to think about it as it would have been when it was completely uninhabited. It’s strange to imagine a place without a native people but in the end I saw that the people of Mauritius actually had a great sense of national pride that we rarely see in America. When asked about their nationality people identified themselves first and foremost as Mauritian which I found interesting. I definitely know I would not have had the opportunity to visit it without SAS or Ted, (chances are I probably never would have heard of it at all), but I am definitely better off for having experienced it and will be able to carry my day in Mauritius with me now and for the rest of the voyage.

Onto Sea Olympics,

lia

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