Mauritius: A Blend of Europe & Asia
More Than Dead As A Dodo
By David Ellis
A sign outside a building in Port Louis in Mauritius proudly proclaims: "We glue broken Virgins".
Fortunately, and to our relief, it turned out to be a repair shop for spiritual statues ...
Further, on the road, a plaque beneath a statue of Queen Victoria read ". In Memory of Our Beloved & Much Regretted Queen Victoria".
That something may get a little confused in translation on this small dot in the middle of the Indian Ocean is probably not surprising. It was occupied by the Dutch, the French and the British, and today is inhabited by the descendants of all these and the Indians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Thais, Chinese and African. Also, probably some we missed during a visit to this almost secret paradise.
And we suspect some likely Aussie Unionist initiative at one time in the cultural affairs of the island, with its eclectic mix of religions - Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims - it was once decided that in the spirit of multi-culturalism, everyone could celebrate each with public and religious holidays.
It has reached the point where so many people were taking so much time off per week, the government has finally put a stop to them before the place went bankrupt.
Mauritius Historic Port-Louis-Central-Market
The Dutch were the first Europeans to occupy Mauritius in 1598 establishing a base to protect their precious spices ships on the run from the East Indies. And in need of fresh food, they turned to the flightless Dodo bird, these birds weighed in at 20 kg provided an easy and plentiful supplies of meat - never having been victims of a predator, the poor old Dodos just stood there awaiting their fate.
In a few years, almost the entire population of tens of thousands of birds had been almost wiped out, and those who survived became victims of domestic animals and Dutch firm had brought with them.
Every last one of them disappeared, hence the saying, "Dead as a Dodo".
Mauritius Port Louis-Central-Market
The Dutch left Mauritius in the early 1700s and fourteen years later, the French moved in, bringing African slaves to work their sugar plantations that thrived in the ideal tropical climate. But in 1814, Britain captured the island from the French, abolished slavery in favour of contracted workers from India, and, finally, in 1968 gave the country its independence.
Today, this remarkable mix of ethnic groups has led to a population of around 1.3 million speaking native Creole (a kind of pidgin French with snippets of English, Hindi and several African dialects tossed into the mix.)
For tourists it's almost heaven in the making: kilometre after kilometre of powdery white sand beaches, electric blue warm waters and bountiful water sports off beautiful resorts, and fascinating places to visit such as, tea plantations with their mansions dating from colonial times, a crocodile and Giant Tortoises Park, a wonderful aquarium, sugar museum and factory, rum distilleries ... and for the more active, exceptional mountain walks, and unbelievable fishing opportunities.
And an assortment of foods that is a paradise of French, African, Indian, Chinese and spicy Dutch.
Mauritius Rhumerie de Chamarel
Choose from the beautiful street stalls, restaurants, hotels and resorts, all places where wonderful meat and seafood creations are often served with a tasty sauce called rougaille that is made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers ... infused with cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and cloves.
Crayfish, shrimp and crabs are great on the menu too, and try the fried octopus that has been marinated in mustard seeds, chilli, garlic, oil and vinegar and eaten with rice, pickles and dahl.
Tempting curries that may include octopus and duck, while Chinese restaurants are big on an equally unusual crispy squid, and "spring rolls" which are fried in a flour dough rather than the thin envelope we know.
Mauritius Shanti Maurice Resort @ Sunset
Or if you are not all that adventurous, opt for restaurants offering delicacies such as shrimp and sweet potato cakes, stews of lamb with garlic mashed potatoes, stuffed chicken breast with wild rice and pecans ... and finally French influenced tarts, pastries, cakes and biscuits, or lush tropical fruits.
And then, of course, there's the rum, which has been made here since the Dutch dabbled with it as far back as the early 1600s, and the French and British more so from the mid-1850s.
For more information on holiday in Mauritius, Mauritius Attractions contact on www.MauritiusAttractions.com
Mauritius Statue of Queen Victoria