The existence of this mass of towns just west of the centre of the island always confused me somewhat. In many countries the capital absolutely dominates the life of a country; it has by far the largest population, it would be the centre of business, culture and sports. Port Louis had elements of this, but its core population was dropping, and because it was wedged between a narrow lagoon and the mountains that included La Pouce and Pieter Both, there was not a lot of room for expansion. A spine of towns head up from the coast just west of Port Louis, starting at the mouth of the largest river in Mauritius, the Grand River North West (often abbreviated to GRNW).
Although not the longest, it drains a big chunk of the central plain. From Rose Hill and Beau Bassin in the north, which I found like Port Louis was slightly claustrophobic – wedged as they were between the gorge of GRNW and Corps de Gardes Mountains. The next town, Quatre Bornes, was more handsome to me. You entered it from a bend in the M1 and this main thoroughfare runs through the centre of the town for over a mile, rising steadily all the way. The middle opened out to a bustling bus station and a massive market place; the stalls dotted around formal gardens near where the old railway ran through.
The towns got more interesting the further up the hill you went. The next two, Vacoas and Phoenix were parallel to each other. While Phoenix was not much more than a settlement surrounding a major industrial estate, including the island’s biggest brewery with the same name, Vacoas was a grid of suburban streets. I’d had a couple of meetings up here, the country’s meteorological office was in Vacoas, and also on a remote road way out of town was the National Remote Sensing Centre at the back of the next town up called Curepipe. When I first went here I thought I had been sent on a wild goose chase. In an agricultural zone noted for growing a wide range of vegetables (the climate being so much cooler than the coast), I saw a sign to the NRSC but the tarmacced track led off into what looked like a derelict military base. There were old Nissan huts, large concrete areas which looked like parade grounds, and then finally I saw some satellite receiving dishes and a modern building in which the NRSC was housed.