University At Sea travel blog

Mary Queen of Peace Church


Giant Amazon Water lily

Pink lotus

View from Volcano

Robinson Crusoe Island


Monday, March 1, 2010

Immigration was handled a little differently today. Our passports have been held by the ship’s purser while we’re on board, but when we get into some ports we have to present our passports to officers. In Mauritius we had to wait until either our tour or alphabetical group was called. The sound system doesn’t carry well into our cabins, so whenever I heard the chime, I opened my door to hear the announcement; that meant while I as dressing and putting on my make-up. A number of tour groups got called and then A - B. I though I‘d have a long way to go, but the next group that got called was W - Z. That was really strange, but I wasn’t going to complain. I collected my passport, presented it to immigration and turned back in to the ship again, since I’d be still on board.

Mauritius has one claim to fame as being the home of the dodo bird, a flightless bird that was so tame that it was child’s play to shoot it, which is what idle soldiers and sailors did in the sixteenth century until all the birds were gone.

Our excursion for the day would be only in the morning and started out to the church of Mary the Queen of Peace that was erected just after World War II with a statue of Mary holding a globe of peace . Thousands of islanders attended mass celebrated by Pope John Paul in 1989. There is a breathtaking view of the city from the walkway leading up to the church with a backdrop of a deep green mountain behind it.

We drove to the oldest racecourse in the Indian Ocean and the second oldest in the southern Hemisphere. It is also used as a training area for the police force, who were standing in formation and then marching. Across the street was a Chinese pagoda that we were allowed to enter without removing our shoes.

It was a very slow ride to the market through very narrow streets and heavy traffic. On one side of the street was a market selling fruits and vegetables; the other side of the street had mostly merchandise, thousands of tee shirts, saris, towels, beads and souvenirs. I felt intimidated again and really didn’t like the touching to invite me to look at the merchandise. This was only a half-day trip. I had lunch on board and relaxed with a book the rest of the day. We were at a busy port, so when I went to read on deck the side closest to the dock had a funny industrial smell and noise; the other side of the ship was quieter but warmer and soon the sun got too bright. So being inside was a better solution, but I like to take advantage of being outdoors as much as possible. I am careful about the sun, and haven’t gotten very tan.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We spent most of the morning at Pompemusses Botanical Garden with two guides for our group. The garden has mostly palms and many different spice trees. It is famous for the Giant Amazon water lilies, with leaves that must be at least 3 feet in diameter and the edges of the leaves forming an upturned rim. There were also many lotus plants. It was a leisurely walk with a very knowledgeable guide. This is the way I love to view a garden.

Next we drove to a sugar museum. The museum had been a working sugar processing plant with the equipment on display to show how sugar cane gets to be sugar. There was a lot of signage that could take 1 ½ hours to complete. We were able to get through quicker with a guide that explained a lot of the details. We needed to get finished in time for ten of our group to get to the airport. But not before the final segment of the tour. We learned all about the sugar, and the end products of sugar is molasses that is either dry and exported or is wet and used for rum, alcohol or perfume. We tasted some of the brown sugar and three kinds of rum. I had orange rum that had a citrus taste, regular rum that was nice and smooth and coffee rum that tasted like kaluha. A nice end to that trip.

Because I’ll be going on a Discovery excursion tomorrow, I’d miss the tour to a volcano and a visit to a factory that makes things out of recycled glass. Seven in our group engaged a van to take us to those places on our own. That was a real treat not having to go with a big bus and pacing ourselves with more time. Driving along, instead of rice paddies there were fields of sugar cane as far as one could see, on both sides of the road. The volcano is a crater that was formed as a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, and is now filled with water and vegetation.. There are spectacular views of the island with the different mountain ranges from the top of the volcano.

The glass factory was interesting. They didn’t do any glass blowing while we were there, but were making some round objects and the blast furnaces were intense. There was a showroom to purchase things. A lot of the pieces were pretty heavy, so that’s always a consideration of what one can put into a suitcase.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

The ship’s tour was to Robinson Crusoe Island for a day of relaxation. We had to ride a van for almost an hour through rush-hour traffic that can come to a standstill, then take a boat for a short ride to the island. One of our friends had been there the previous day and was a good scout as to what to expect and how to get the best cabana. The island is volcanic, so the beach was not fine sand but more course and stony. We were lucky to get one of the first boats that held about 25 people and when we docked, Pat was the first one to head to the prized cabana that would accommodate all eight of us. It had very large couches with many pillows to sprawl out on, it was close to the water and we got a beautiful sea breeze. Some snorkeled, I waded for a while, then read until it was time for lunch. There were lamb chops, shrimp, chicken, fish, lots of salads, fruit and desserts and unlimited drinks. A couple of us walked around the island which took about twenty minutes - completely around the outside perimeter of the island. By about 3:00 PM we were ready to board the boat for the ride back to the ship, which didn’t seem to take as long as it did going.

We are off to Port Dennis, Reunion Island with a new captain. Our former captain will be rejoining us after a brief vacation.

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