Friday, October 30, 2015

Mauritius, Part 2

Beautiful Mauritius Waters
So for the most part our time in Mauritius quickly fell into an easy routine.  We would go to the beach in the morning to midafternoon, every other day and have the kids do their school work in the afternoons and evenings, or do school work in the mornings, head to the pool for a break, then finish up school work while Eden got a nap.  Life is pretty good.  We did venture to other places once in a while but mainly to grab a bite to eat somewhere or pick up some groceries.  On one of the days, Justin, Danielle, Eden and I headed over to a large shopping mall not too far from where we were staying.  I had wanted to go there because finding a park in Mauritius is quite difficult and this mall had a park and a couple of grocery stores.  Also, this mall touted their park to be the only one in Mauritius that complied with HIC (Head injury Criterion), good luck at any other park.  We are pretty lucky that in the United States parks must comply with very strict safety guidelines.  Walking into the mall you would think that you were someplace in the USA, it is not different from any mall there.  We walked around a little and then brought the girls to the park.  Needless to say, Eden was thrilled!  She had not been to a park since Venice, 15 whole days, and the kid was in complete withdrawal, what with jumping off of furniture, trying to swing from the counter, jumping on the bed.  We needed to do something and something quick.  Luckily the solution was not very difficult to get to.  She squealed with delight and off they played for about an hour.  The mall contained a grocery store that would be the equivalent to Whole Foods, called Food Lovers Market.  They had great produce and we even picked up some Nem and Samosas that I could fry up at the apartment. They were delicious.  Another thing we discovered were these frozen pizzas that are made in Mauritius.  The flavors are unique, like chicken Thai curry, and there savory twist of bologna pizza.  Even the Margarita pizza had a different spin.  These were great to have in the freezer for a very easy meal.  A few days later, I took Danielle out for a special treat.  Since we had arrived she had noticed women and girls that had henna designs on their hands or feet.  She had asked on several occasions if we could get it done and had even noticed a boutique that did it.  Once we got off the shuttle I told her what we would be doing.  She jumped for joy and gave me a big hug.  The lady handed Danielle a book of different designs and poor Danielle had a very hard time trying to pick one.  In the end, she picked a pretty and intricate design with several flowers and swirls.  I told the girl she could do any design she wanted for me.  Watching her pipe the henna on with such ease is amazing, she was done in under 10 minutes.  It truly is a work of art on your hand.  She told us to let it dry for at least 30 minutes being very careful not to bump it, she also said the longer the better.  Well, Danielle was determined to keep it untouched for as long as humanly possible.  It was so cute watching her walk around holding her hand in an awkward position making sure no one could even come close to bumping her, saying “its sooo pretty,” every few minutes.   After about an hour in a half she finally admitted to me that she urgently needed to go to the bathroom, but didn’t want to mess up her hand.  I giggled and told her that she could go and if some of the henna came off it would be fine since it was very dry.  She looked so relieved.  When we got home the boys dutifully ohhhed and ahhhed.  Both boys stated that they would like to try it also.  A few days later I picked up a couple of tubes of henna to do on them myself.  

Danielle getting Henna on her hand
All done!

Justin and I had wanted to do an excursion to Ile aux Cerfs.  This is a small island off of the eastern coast of Mauritius, and the pictures that I had seen of the island were stunning.  We found a tour company that did the excursion on a catamaran.  Since we all like to sail we thought this was a great combination.  The price even included the ground transportation to the dock, which was a good hour away from where we are staying.  The morning of the excursion the weather was fantastic.  We went out to the front gate of the complex to wait for the shuttle that would be picking us up at 8:30am.  
Caleb enjoying the snorkling
We waited and waited.  Finally, Justin called the tour office and asked where the driver was.  She stated that he would be there in 5 minutes.  Well, we have learned that 5 minutes Mauritius time is about 25 minutes regular time.  Finally he arrived and off we went.  Just to add another layer to our day we unfortunately got the crazy driver.  We zoomed down the road weaving and bobbing our way, at times suddenly slamming the brakes on.  About 30 minutes into it I was car sick.  I never get carsick.  In fact, the only time I ever did get car sick I was pregnant with Caleb.  And NO I am not pregnant.  I was so thankful to get out of the van until the driver looked at us and said, “I will be waiting for you right here when you get off the boat.”  Oh great, something to look forward to.  We quickly boarded a speed boat to take us to the catamaran.  The harbor is too shallow for the catamaran so they ferry people to it via speed boat.  Once on board we settled in and enjoyed the ride.  The water was smooth and once the sails were up the boat glided gracefully across the water.  Midway to the island we took a small detour and loaded another speed boat to take a look at a pretty waterfall.  Along the way, I spotted some monkeys in the trees and we also saw these huge bats flying around.  Danielle later discovered that these are called Flying Foxes and they are not nocturnal, they are also considered to be the biggest bats around.  Eughh!  Back on the catamaran we ventured out a little farther and stopped for some great snorkeling.  Once we were finished, lunch was served.  They had chicken, fish, curry rice pilaf, salad and flambéed bananas for dessert.  Also, they had unlimited drinks.  I quickly realized that the rum and coke that the lady made was a 50/50 proportion, and the one the man made was 20/80, 80 being the coke.  I would get mine from the lady.  Once lunch was done we shortly arrived at Ile aux Cerfs.  I was not disappointed.  It was just as stunning as the pictures and I had to pinch myself to realize that I was not dreaming.  We walked a little further away from the crowd and headed towards the eastern shore.  There were not many people on this side and we felt like we had the island to ourselves.  One of our favorite things to do is to collect shells and this beach had plenty to offer.  We found sea urchin shells in green, purple and red, and Joel even found a pristine sand dollar.  We swam for a while and then boarded the catamaran for our journey back.  What a wonderful day we had.  Even the van ride back wasn’t as terrible, probably because I had quite a few rum and cokes from the lady, so it numbed my senses a bit.  

Waterfall on East side of island
If you look close there are many huge bats (called flying foxes)  in this tree
Ile aux Cerfs
Caroline on the catamaran
One of the things we wanted to do was to eat at an Indian restaurant.  There is a large Indian influence here and on Trip Advisor Justin had found a place, Happy Rajah, that everyone raved about and lucky for us was only a shuttle ride away.  We headed over one day for lunch and we were not disappointed.  The food came out on these large metal trays.  Everyone loved the food.  It was so flavorful and tasty, the spices popped in your mouth.  We had these dips for the naan and I dipped mine in one of two that the waiter said was spicy.  He did not lie or over exaggerate. Caleb was just about to try the other spicy one when I stopped him and told him to let daddy test it first.  Justin tried it and it was not very spicy at all.  Justin tried the one I had and agreed with me that it was very spicy.  We basically ate everything in sight.  It was so delicious.  I think my favorite thing was this amazingly flavorful squash.  Who knew squash could taste like that.  I need that recipe.  Honestly, I could not pick out anything that I didn’t like, even the really spicy dip was good.  

Caleb enjoying the Indian cuisine
Joel and Justin at Happy Rajah
Since we had such a wonderful time Justin and I decided to book another catamaran ride to Ile Gabriel.  This one goes out of Grand Baie, which is a short cab ride away.  We scheduled it for Thursday before we left.  The night before our excursion I had slept horribly.  I had awoken and could not fall back to sleep because I kept having this overwhelming feeling of anxiety.  Weird I never feel this way.  I ended up getting out of bed at 6am and it was pouring rain.  Well, hopefully it will clear up, and lucky for us there was a break in the clouds.  We got ready and headed over to the dock.  Once we boarded the catamaran we settled in and off we went.  The sea was not nearly as calm as the previous trip and the wind was blowing rather hard.  During the safety briefing they mentioned that if you needed to get sick don’t use the restroom, but grab a plastic bag instead.  Weird, they never mentioned that on our previous trip.  The more we ventured the rougher the seas got.  
Justin and Eden on the catamaran
Justin took the kids towards the front of the boat but not out on the deck, still in the seating area.  I decided to stand next to this man on the deck, but against the roof of the seating area.  We had been getting tossed around for about an hour and at one point, we went over a wave and the catamaran pitched forward down the back of the wave about 15 feet. This happened 2 more times.   Ummm, this was when I decided to get back into the seating area.  Justin, the kids and I headed back to our spot at the back of the boat.  I looked around and lots of people were using the bags.  I have been on my fair share of boats and this was the roughest seas I have ever sailed on, and it was getting worse.  I decided to stand about 12 feet away from Justin and the kids because the smell of vomit was starting to get to me.  About 30 seconds later the nose of the boat went down the back of a wave and under the next one.  The wave went right over my head and luckily I had been holding on because I nearly knocked over.  The wave was so big that Justin and the kids were also drenched and everything was floating around.  I went over and sat next to Danielle because she had started to cry and say she was scared.  Honestly I was terrified, but very calm.  I think I might have had a premonition or gut feeling, call it what you want, but my anxiety was all used up and I did not freak out.  After the big wave one of the crew members asked everyone on board, in French, if they would like to continue the 29km journey to the island or turn around.  I did not wait for anyone to respond and said “Demi tour!!” (Turn around).  Everyone agreed.   In all honesty I was somewhat surprised that they felt that they needed to ask.   The captain carefully turned the boat around and we headed back to Mauritius.  Once the boat was turned the crew unanimously took a sigh relief, even they were scared.   I took Danielle and Joel into the sun to dry off and try to warm up and Caleb cared for Justin and Eden.  Eden seemed oblivious to what had happened, but Justin was very seasick trying desperately to keep his breakfast down.  I can proudly share that all of the Coppin’s kept their breakfast in.  Thankfully, the closer we got to the mainland the calmer the water became. The crew headed to a beach and prepared lunch.  Honestly I couldn’t eat because I was feeling so overwhelmed.  I could not believe how many people were eating.  I had personally witnessed about half of these people puking, but that didn’t slow anyone down.  During this whole escapade there was this fluffy Frenchman that kept on drinking and by the time we had lunch he was dancing around the boat in his speedo, thrusting and bouncing around.  Justin announced “Now I really need to throw up.”  And Caleb stated, “He is making me blind.”  After lunch they ferried us over to the beach and we swam and had our pictures taken by the boat photographer. He had not taken any pictures during the rough seas, I guess that one will need to be a mental memory only.  I did purchase the flash drive with the pictures because I had not really taken any and I wanted one with our whole family in it.  Once back to the apartment I took a shower and cried, relieved and grateful that we were all safe and sound.  Tomorrow we leave Mauritius and head to South Africa.  I am leaving this island with so much appreciation for so many things.  This placed has struck me in a way that I had not expected.  And as one final goodbye showed me how easily everything could have changed.  

Heading towards Ile Gabriel

Eden photobombing us

Group photo at Pereybere after boating scare

Eden is always ready for swimming

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