The Other Mauritius – Vignettes around the island

Still it was a major adventure.  Over the weeks, and particularly the weekends, I realised I had traversed so many of the main roads of Mauritius, criss-crossing the island and overlapping routes I had taken before.  I took to filling in the gaps; visited other sites such as some of the major waterfalls like Rochester, Chamarel, Alexander.

  I saw the coloured earths; not the famous ones again at Chamarel but an interesting imitation near Bassin Bleu.  Removing the vegetation from  a sugar cane field, and smoothing the clay underneath in the shape of the island of Mauritius itself, people who owned the old estate had revealed over 23 different coloured soils; the effects caused by different balances of chemicals in the soil.  I must admit I found it difficult to discern all 23 different ones, but I used to have problems distinguishing vermillion and scarlet so I believed the experts.  All in all it was a pleasant little tourist attraction, a great walk around the edge of this bare earth with different aspects, including a high viewpoint which not only looked over the site but down the hill to the south coast as well.

Despite all my excursions through the lesser known lanes of the island’s interior, I still would find myself on the coast from time to time, and staring out at the ocean.  One of my favourite of these points was at Albion. Not very far west of Port Louis, I had been to Albion village  for the first time to talk with people at the Fisheries Institute just behind the beach, but for recreation I would drive to the lighthouse.  Probably the most spectacular and tallest of the lighthouses in all of Mauritius, it stood proud on a set of impressive cliffs.  Striped red and white, it was noticeable for miles around.  Most importantly for me, when you came flying in from London, this was often the first Mauritian feature you would see out the window.  I say, often, as sometimes the clouds would be swirling around the aircraft so much you would see very little, but if they cleared long enough you saw the top of the lighthouse as you crossed the coast.  I always found the approach the airport impressive.  Once over land, the plane would negotiate a valley between two small mountain ranges and pass above the centre of the Plaines Wilhelms’ towns.  It then came over a forest at a very low altitude – i.e. it was passing over the high ground near Midlands and then the land gently sloped away to the coast and the plane almost drops in parallel to the ground; gradually getting closer and closer to the land,  but running out of island to stop on.

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