Sunday, May 4, 2008
A return from paradise revisited
And so I return with hundreds of photos, as brown as the proverbial nut, relaxed, happily married and with my routines in a total muddle. Lest you think I’ve been away for nearly a month, I confess I haven’t, but I seem to have been running around for the last week or two trying to get myself back on track.
And where did I go? Well, think tropics, the Indian Ocean, dark volcanic mountains, rolling fields of sugar cane, white coral beaches, palm trees and turquoise lagoons and you’ll get the picture. For those who have an inkling, yes, I returned to Mauritius. And how was it? Good – but not spectacular. The service in the hotel, where we’ve stayed before, was not brilliant, despite an upgrading to supposedly “5 star +” status. Cunningly, they managed to “forget” we were on a honeymoon package and, until I stalked off to “have words” with management, the service is described, at best, as “ornery” and at worst, as downright sloppy. All I can say is thank goodness for Sam the restaurant manager who went out of his way to make our stay special.
But hotel service aside, the other thing that really got me about “paradise” is how greedy it has become. In the past you could get good bargains on fabrics and clothes, now, despite setting itself up as a “duty free shopping haven”, I found everything (despite some hearty bargaining) to be on average 5 – 12 times more expensive than it is here. A Polo shirt, for example, at the Ralph Lauren factory shop (much of the stuff is made on the island) was three times more expensive than it is in the mall down the road… Prices in the hotels, long known to be astronomical, have gone insane. A bottle of water costs 120 Mauritian Rupees at the hotel and 14 MRU at the local shop… Moreover, local people are increasingly of mixed opinion as the Mauritian government sells off more and more prime and beachfront land for the development of still more hotels and luxury (golf) estates for wealthy foreigners. Starting prices on these estates are on average US$800 000 - this while the average salary of a skilled Mauritian worker is only US$ 2,600 per annum.
All that muttered about, and despite having our luggage searched on arrival and finding no transfer to the hotel (as pre-booked), we still had a really good time. Nothing beats lounging around on a long, white beach or snorkeling in warm, crystal clear waters. Having been to Mauritius twice before, we didn’t do as much sight-seeing as usual. This time we just spent a day wandering the back streets of Port Louis, the island’s capital city, and another getting annoyed in the “duty free” shops – a pastime made better by visiting Grand Bassin, the sacred Hindu lake.
All told it was good and a wonderful break, but I don’t think I’m likely to go rushing back.
And lest you think I came away with only the mutters and photos (see my flickr account), I’ll share with you two of the pieces I scribbled in my notebook whilst sitting on the balcony early one morning…
A world full of pastels scattered with vibrant brights... A Gauguin painting come to life. Dusky skinned islanders, heart-searing bougainvillea, a bird the colour of joy. And sights merge with sounds creating the whole.
A blue boat, a pink boat, on palest blue water, blending with the hiss, rush and murmur of the ocean’s stroking. Twitters and chirps and cheeps enfold green fronds and pink, yellow and orange blooms. And threaded through it all, completing the tapestry, the scent of frangipani, orange blossom and lilac.
A rich evocation of all that is life, the parts made whole in a single vista. And amidst it all the watcher observes the solitary fisherman, patient, eyes drawn only by the water.
The lagoon, a tranquil lake of serenity mirrors the sky as the fisherman in his pink boat checks his nets. Beyond the reef, where the coral lies exposed by the low tide, dolphins slide in loping rhythm through the sky blue ocean. Only the thin dark line of the horizon defines the boundary between sea and sky as, merging, the two appear one.
Another fisherman poles through the lagoon on a flat-bottomed craft, his eyes searching the coral gardens for the prize.
And as the sibilant susurration of the sea fills the middle distance, the immediate vicinity is syrupy with birdsong. Sparrows, bulbuls, mynahs, weavers – their voices rise above the ocean’s lulled roar – a tropical symphony murmuring multiple interwoven stories as a new day dawns.