I was exhilarated by an amazing sunset run. Port Louis is like a bowl surrounded by steep mountains. As I headed uptown to the hippodrome (oldest race course in the world? or at least the southern hemisphere?) I realized it was not the usual crowds of joggers and walkers, but full-on the practice parade for independence day the following Monday. Heading up the steep slopes to the fort to get some overview of the city, my heart lifted at the golden sunset pouring light into the bowl and bathing all in blessing. Aerial view onto marching bands of police and army, military helicopters flying almost below me in formation and even reversing past each other.
Down again watching the clock, past side streets full of sport clubs waiting to join the parade, karatekas, soccer players. Rushing through darkening city centre streets already abandoned as most of Port Louis seems to be at night, back to wash at hotel. U called to say he’ll be a bit late so headed into bar of hotel, which seemed remarkably full and lively for once, it is Friday. Start chatting to one of the musicians and soon a couple of the staff wearing traditional dress, an incredibly elegant black girl in a grass skirt and a white guy in a blouse start joining the joking.
Into the interior in a fast car, R is waiting in an restaurant in a bleak South African looking shopping centre, the large parking area jammed with good cars. The food is Indian and the red wine flowing well as the conversation wanders.
The evening cannot stop now, so we head to a quiet place R knows where there is apparently live music. Its an old estate house, surrounded by quiet dark forests, with only a few tables filled with discreet people. We start hammering the rum, different flavours. The music is a saxman (Chinese) and a singer with a guitar. It turns into our private performance, we dig out from the singer that he’s also a composer and soon the soppy cover ballades are replaced with Mauritian blues. The rum thuds in your ears like the jungle that presses all around, giant insects hopping onto the path as you walk, the empty house full of interesting rooms as my natural curiosity unleashed by the alcohol I wander back corridors and rooms. U is waxing lyrical about the meaning of life and past lost loves, as he does so excellently, and R adds his usual blend of sage wisdom.
Back at the hotel after U and R head back to families, the bar is pumping now with disco sounds. A big Asian style guy asks me to dance with his sister “with respect”. Would she ever think of living anywhere else, I ask. She looks at me bored and asks why should she want to live anywhere else, if she can live in Mauritius?
The next day heading across the island to the airport, the taxi driver gives me the same story. He has relatives in UK but can’t imagine anywhere nicer to live. We chat on the road across about religious tolerance and bridging differences when Hindus and Muslims fall in love and run away from their traditional families to marry (the tolerance usually kicks in when the babies arrive, he says), and huge family sunday picnics. We cruise past nature preserve forests full of bursting, tumbling, wild trees and, he tells me, pigs and deer introduced by European settlers.
Its pre-arranged, I need the sea before the plane back to Johannesburg. He knows the perfect beach behind the airport. I head through a small shady park and out into the bright sand, already wearing sunblock and swimshorts under my other shorts. I reach the beach and lying there are two incredibly langorous dark ladies in bikinis. They are so content with their Saturday and how could I improve it? Plus it would feel like starting to chat to a long legged and curvy Gauguin painting so I try to lock the image in my memory (this blog helps) and head into the warm seas. I’m watching the clock so swim as far as I can in the time, parallel to the shore before back for a quick and halting shower and then, still dripping and sandy, into the airport to check in.