Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Exploring the Island

RTW Day 3. So how does this mosquito net work? When I first arrived, I asked another person staying here whether they'd seen any mozzies. Not yet. Apparently the British realised that all the mosquitos here bred in the mangrove swamps, so they planted other trees there that would drain them. Completely removed the mosquitos, but also unfortunately eradicated the breeding grounds for lots of tropical fish. So now the Islanders are putting the swamps back. Anyway, I also haven't seen any mosquitos, but you can never be too sure. So last night I unwrapped the net, care of COLT as a leaving present, and tried hanging it above the bed.
Firstly it's a single net, and this is a double bed, but that's okay. However, I think the proportions suggest that the hanging point is towards one end of the bed. Presumably the "head" end. Strangely though, it seems to be really slack at the foot end, so that the net ends up draped over your skin, and presumably if they can tolerate the anti-mozzy chemicals impregnated in the net, then the buggers could chomp on my ankles (they seem to really like my ankles - perhaps the most accessible hairless bit of me?) through the netting. So the obvious thing is to put the hanging ring higher, so the whole thing lifts off you. However then one finds that the "head" end is too taut and will lift off the bed if you raise it any more. So what's going on?! Need an instruction book! Or Google...
Today I had a small but pleasant breakfast of instant coffee, bread with cheese and jam, and a half-pineapple. Then along to the bus station for the bus to Port Louis, the capital. The French hotel owner had told me not to bother, as everything would be shut, but what else am I supposed to do - lie around on the beach and swim in the crystal clear waters for a second day running?!
The buses here are old but frequent. People don't seem to travel far, so whoever you sit next to will change on a regular basis if you're travelling from one end of the island to the other. This journey was uneventful, passing over the cooler top of the Island, so one long climb for the first 30 mins and a fast descent the last 10 (all times guestimated!) though amusing that the bus stopped by a melon vendor, conductor yells at him and waves some notes, and they swap. Melon stashed on the dashboard of the bus, presumably for later!
[photo of conductor buying melons]
I tried to ask the conductor about the bus services to airport for tomorrow morning, but was a complete waste of time, not because they didn't understand me, more that they didn't seem interested in understanding me. There was a timetable pinned up in the bus, but at the time I need to head to the airport, there are two buses with are listed as "K Express" and "O Express". I wanted to check whether these stop at the airport. Instead I was told that the bus back from Port Louis [GPS: 20.15993S, 57.50072E] (where we had just arrived) stopped over therrrre thank you and get off the bus now please, Sir.
Now, you may have noticed these GPS grid references I've been posting occasionally. If you're interested in seeing where I'm talking about, just fire up Google Earth (what, you don't have it? go download immediately!!), and paste the numberX, numberY bit into the. Et voila! Almost as much fun as being here with me, eh?! Anyway, my cunning geeky plan is to track my location and publish overlays, kmz files, which will show you my route. That relies on paid-for Google Earth at the moment rather than the free stuff, so is on hold. Also need to master GPSDash, the program on my phone I'm using to record Waypoints.
Port Louis was as quiet as expected. It seemed much like all other Mauritian towns, but with some particularly large tower blocks, and no beach :( By the harbour there was a so-called English pub, advertising a "wide variety of beers on tap and cask". I poked my suspicious head round the corner - one lager tap and a couple of bottles! Disgraceful! The only place open in town seemed to be KFC (McDonalds closed Sundays). And no Starbucks! Perhaps I just didn't notice the no-doubt countless branches. As I walked around, I listened to a Radio 4 Podcast: the File on 4 Programme, 17th October, about Labour's attempts at bringing the private sector into the NHS. It's shocking how weasely (is that a word?) these politician are. Forget Tory sleaze, the Labour party have far exceeded any moral depths plunged in the past. It's amazing also the complete denial and way in which all controls are bypassed - apparently information is consistently being withheld from the Commons Select Committee on the dubious grounds of commercial confidentiality. And yet it is precisely these so-called commercial grounds that are the supposed justification for the whole project in the first place. Anyway, more ranting on this and similar subjects later!
I clambored up in the heat and sun (where is my sun-cream when I need it) up to an imposing Moorish citadel perched above the city, which was built by the British in, erm, late 1800s, though it never saw much use aside from an occasional garrison being stationed there (and a horrible murder in the 50s). Back down and time to head back to Mahebourg. The bus station didn't seem to have an area for buses going my way, so I asked around, and was pointed out of the station to the main road. I waited where I was told to wait, by a dual carriageway with no bus stop. Hmmm. Asked a person walking past whether this was the right place. Oh yes, he says, the bus will come eventually. Got chatting to another person ten minutes later. Oh no, those buses don't stop here at all, it's a few blocks on and round the corner. I wonder whether he is winding me up. Seemed quite convincing though, so I follow his advice, which thankfully was correct. I would have been waiting a long time in the original spot. I guess it's the Indian thing of never wanting to displease people with an answer. Is this so-and-so? Yes; The answer is always yes. Can be frustrating at times though!
Dinner was at a LP approved restaurant called Chez Nous. Extremely quiet, but a pretty girl serving made up for that. I had some sort of calamari dish with saffron rice. Really nice, though she seemed worried it would be spicy? The sauce tasted more like sweet soy sauce. No evidence of even pepper let alone spice. Ah well. Washed down with a glass of red. And now it's bed time.. as the waves lap against my window, time to dream of BA First tomorrow morning, my 9:10am departure, and the first flight on my Round the World ticket! No oversleeping, Crawley...

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