Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mauritius - day 1

Day 1 - 24 January

We went to Africaaaaaaaa!

Honestly, when I started planning the trip, I didn't even know that Mauritius falls under the African continent. Only when I looked it up on a map did I realise how close to Africa it was. (Well, officially, it's about 2000 km from Africa, but on the map, it's close enough.) Fun fact: Mauritius is the only country in Africa, where Hinduism is the largest religion. More fun facts will follow, but first, let me get into the details of why we found ourselves in Africaaaaaaa in the first place!

Every year, on our wedding anniversary, Viv and I take a vacation. This year, it was extra special because it was our 10th anniversary. Gosh, sometimes I can't believe we have known each other for 19 years and been married for a decade! Since it was a special anniversary, we planned to make it a big family vacation -- complete with his parents, my parents and his sister. (I did ask my sister too, but it was impossible for her to get away in the middle of the school term and travel so far.)

So all the tickets were booked and all the plans made, when there was a sudden family emergency that my in-laws needed to attend to, because of which they had to cancel their tickets. Of course, everyone was deeply disappointed because it was supposed to be a full-clan vacation. My parents suggested that we cancel the whole thing, but my in-laws, large-hearted as they are, insisted that we carry on with the rest of the troop.

So, carry on we did. Viv, Xena, my sis-in-law (henceforth known as Clueless, based on her blog) and I boarded the Air Mauritius flight and set off. My friend Pizzadude was super excited at the thought of us taking an 'exotic flight' as he called it, and asked us to take lots of photos of the plane, including its interior.

I wouldn't have taken this shot if not for Pizzadude's request!

Happy mommy and baby after boarding

Clueless and I went through the in-flight magazine and found this map, which we pored over, looking for familiar names and comparing it with the places in the itinerary I'd put together. 

Air Mauritius turned out to be absolutely fabulous. Coming from Singapore, we get used to the high standards of Singapore Airlines -- SQ (except their website, which absolutely sucks), and other airlines often pale in comparison. However, Air Mauritius was not only as good as SQ in many respects, it was actually better in some!

The in-flight service was definitely wayyyy wayyyy better than that of SQ. The flight attendants were inherently smiley, which was really pleasant. When the drinks cart was going around, because of his no-sugar embargo and a sore throat, Viv asked for warm water with a slice of lemon, which the cart didn't have. Without showing any 'negative emotion' (e.g. making a face or rolling their eyes, which I'm sure some SQ lady would have done, especially when troubled by an Indian), they calmly and smilingly arranged it for him. In fact, when they said the cart didn't have it and they would try to arrange it for it, I was sure they would forget all about it. However, within a few minutes, they were back with his special drink. Bravo! 

They gave a gift pack to Xena, containing a cross-body bag, a pack of flashcards featuring the birds of Mauritius, a cap and a set of colour pencils. SQ also gives gift packs to kids, but the contents in this one were wayyyy better. Xena was thrilled and spent a lot of time going through the flashcards. This resulted in her knowledge of Mauritian birds reaching rather alarming levels, but this came in quite handy later in the vacation whenever we spotted interesting birds.
The inflight entertainment list was on par with SQ (even better actually, because there were some really new movies and shows). But of course, they lost out on technology, because the screen quality wasn't as great as SQ's.

Their safety video was the most hilarious (intentionally, or unintentionally, I don't know) safety video I've even seen. A couple is demonstrating the various safety features, but they are not seated inside an airplane as they do so. They are shown to be in the middle of their Mauritius vacation! 

Yes, this actually is a screenshot of them frolicking in the water wearing their life vests. They showed us how to put these on and then delightedly jumped off a cliff into the water.  I kid you not.

Still don't believe me? Watch the full video below!

While the four of us were on our way, my parents, who had taken a flight directly from India, had already reached Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) International Airport. (SSR was a Mauritian of Indian origin who served as its first Chief Minister, and after leading Mauritius to independence in 1968, its first Prime Minister too. Fun fact: There is a statue of him in Patna, as a nod to his forefathers who came from a village in Bihar.)

I was very nervous about my parents having to handle things on their own at an unknown airport, but it was the only way out. We had tried to see if we could reach before they do, but the flight days and timings didn't work out, so they ended up waiting at the airport for about 6 hours before we landed.

Mom spent most of the hours playing Sudoku on her iPad, while dad wandered around, taking photos like this one. (Mauritius was a British colonial possession from 1810 to 1968.)

I had sent them a long email, with details on what to do after landing, and marked out places where they could grab a meal. I'd even asked them to go to the information desk and ask someone to help set up Wi-Fi on their phones. When we landed at the airport, I breathed a sigh of relief, as all was well. As soon as I connected to the airport Wi-Fi, I received WhatsApp messages from both of them. After we picked up our luggage, we found them in the waiting area.

I'd booked a van to take us from the airport to our AirBnB. With 6 people, and an average of 2 pieces of luggage each, a van was indeed necessary.

We were headed to Albion, on the western side of Mauritius. This was quite far away from the airport, which was on the south-eastern side. No wonder it took us over an hour to get there. Finding the place wasn't exactly a breeze either as there are literally no road signs or house numbers, and all we had was the name of a lane. After multiple phone calls with our host, we finally reached.

Our host, a very friendly guy, gave us a warm welcome. We'd known that we would be reaching too late to head out for dinner, so we had asked him to arrange for some food, which we would pay for. He had suggested a home-made dinner, featuring parathas and some vegetables and we had happily agreed to it. What we hadn't anticipated was the sheer number of dishes his cook had prepared for us!

It was a feast indeed!

It was quite dark, so we didn't manage to get a good look at the place until the next morning, but when we did, boy, were we blown away! The AirBnB pictures did NOT do justice to the beautiful two-storey house we had on our hands.

Click here for Day 2 - Exploring Albion.



  • Once, while wandering in the airport,I almost lost my way! I asked the wife to wait at one spot and went searching for a telephone booth to contact Sayesha. An airport staff gave me some directions. Without my realising it, the directions took me to Level 2. I could not succeed in using the telephone booth. Then I returned to find that the wife was nowhere to be seen! After a lot of queries I finally came down and was relieved to find her!!!

    By Blogger The Gardener, at 11:37 AM  

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