The Other Mauritius – The Central Towns (2)

The meteorological office was in a much more salubrious location.  To get there you passed by one of the most exclusive golf courses on the island, and many high class villas.  Indeed the Prime Minister had his residence up in this district.  Given the love for most tourists to have their beach side properties with the views of the ocean and access to all the restaurants down there, I wondered why Vacoas, and, to some extent, Curepipe had some of the most desirable property on the whole island.  Country clubs, golf courses and some of the more fashionable retail stores had clustered around these people’s residences.  Why indeed did over a quarter of a million people, more than double the population of Port Louis, live in this cluster or towns?  The answer lie in the 1800s when during the industrialisation of the island, both the sugar industry and other commodities, the working population suffered a series of epidemics.  It was also the period following the end of slavery and the period of indentured labour.  Many Indians had only turned up in the previous twenty years and were not acclimatised to deal with local diseases. The worst epidemic was malaria; the mosquitoes festered in the mangrove swamps, barachois and dank woodlands in the lowlands.  Much of Plaines Wilhelm is out of reach of their breeding grounds and life was much healthier here.  Unfortunately that meant that the Indian population in particular, although a couple of generations removed from their ancestral Bihar home, were always complaining of the bad weather.  Curepipe was often spurned by many Mauritians for being too cold and miserable.  Certainly on my first trip, I found the town centre constantly shrouded in cloud and often raining; the moss and dirt on the buildings in the shopping streets made it look particularly drab.  But on the second trip I had several trips through the town during sunny weather and I felt it had a strong late spring fresh feel that was rare in Mauritius.

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Curepipe Botanic Gardens

Curepipe held the national stadium, several prestigious buildings and an intimate but pretty little botanic gardens.  It was a busy city and seemed a world away from Port Louis, although only about 15 miles from the centre of the capital.

Heading further south you felt even more distant from the metropolitan part of the island, and a world away from Calodyne.  The old road out of Curepipe soon skirted out towards the largest forest on the island, some of which was privately held by rich landowners in hunting grounds called Domains.

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