The Other Mauritius – Where few tourists ever go

Mauritius is known from the outside for its tourist resorts and beaches; nationally it is inextricably linked with sugar, but it does get a bit sickly after a while.  I craved a different scenery.  To the south of Moka, I eventually found this.  Instead of taking the main motorway south from Curepipe I would head off from Valetta on a quiet back road.  I remember the cross roads where I would turn off well ,it was in amongst a small wooded grove.  As soon as you left the main road you could see an industrial complex on the right.  It was quite modern.  Indeed I had seen several of these dotted around the island.  It was an attempt in the 1960s to diversify Mauritius’ dependency on the sugar.  Incentives were given to build garment factories and women, yes it was mainly women, were encouraged to sit at row after row of sewing machines and looms.  It was all quite modern for the time, but as usual with small islands, they were eventually undercut by much larger factories in south and south east Asia.  Now only a few remain, and the rest are industrial relics, albeit more modern than the old sugar factories.

The scenery changes to the south into a scrubby woodland.  I realised this was not the natural vegetation but a sprawling regrowth over what had once been tea plantation.  I could spy the odd tea plant sitting in amongst the weeds.  As I went further south,  I saw active tea plantations.  There were always people in these fields as I went by, tending carefully to the small dark green trees, or weeding in amongst them, or occasionally I would see the ladies with baskets on their backs nipping the new tips off and tossing them behind them.

I passed through this area a few times, but once I noted from my map that in amongst the plantation was a small village called Dubreil.  Curiosity got the better of me once and I turned off.  I was always a little cautious about heading off the main roads; for one thing the maps never made it quite clear whether these were public roads.  But I passed by a lot of people walking the road in their different colour overalls.  I entered this rather drab little village; I think again the drabness was more the constant battle against the cool moist air in these upland areas than the motivation of the locals.  But this village had a quietness that most of Mauritius lacked.  People were going about their business but there were few bright colours in their clothes, the children were not playing around in the streets and there was a distinct lack of vendors on the main road.  I realised this was really a corporate village.  The houses all looked similar; many detached with their own gardens but all so similar and plain that it was like all life and individuality had been sucked out of them.

The village was set behind the offices and complex of the tea factory; whose gardens were the best tended and most colourful around.  The village was there to house just the people who worked in the fields or the factory.  Who would live at the end of this cul de sac, miles from the nearest town with nothing more than tea plants to look at.  I felt uneasy and quite melancholic to spend any more time there so turned the car straight around and headed back.

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