On Location – Mauritius Day 7
Today our blogger in Mauritius went on a cycling tour of the east coast with a history lesson thrown into the mix…
Yesterday I went on a catamaran trip. To be fair, it was quite a lazy experience on my part. I mean, I had to do very little other than soak up the sun and glug beer while the crew hoisted the main sail and rustled up an onboard barbie. Today, however, I signed up for a slightly more energetic tour that gave my thighs – and my brain – a work-out.
On your bike
Twice a week, the ‘animation’ team at the Ambre Resort & Spa lay on free bike tours. And that’s precisely what I did today. The route took us from the hotel along a sandy coastal trail fringed by exotic ‘filao’ pines. At times it was a bit of a bone-rattling experience as I juddered over gnarled tree roots that protruded from the ground. But the mountain bike I’d been given made short work of the bumpy terrain. Having taken a breather under the canopy of a tree, we then joined the winding main road, heading south from Belle Mare to the nearby port-town of Trou-D’eau-Douce. En route we passed lush fields filled with ripening pineapples, courgettes and red chillis.
Finally, we arrived in Trou-D’eau-Douce. I have to say, by this point, I had got a bit of a sweat on – so I was more than happy to park up and listen to our guide, Jonathan, as he pointed out some of the local sights. First among them was the old Dutch fort that stands guard over the bay. While I knew the French and British flags had both flown over Mauritius at one time or another, I had no idea the island was first colonised by the Dutch, around 400 years ago. In fact, Mauritius owes its name to the then Dutch sovereign, Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange.
Dead as a dodo
Jonathan explained the Dutch weren’t that interested in Mauritius. They regarded it merely as a pit-stop en route to their colonies in India. Calling in at the island, they would stock up on fresh water and supplies. The supplies, however, turned out to be dodos, which the Dutch famously hunted to extinction. However, in their favour, they did introduce tropical staples including sugar cane, bananas, coconuts and pineapples. Sweet treats aside, the Dutch influence on Mauritius can still be felt today – you don’t have to go far before you stumble upon something connected to the Dutch explorers, be it a town’s name or, in this case, old ruins.
Like a prayer
History lesson banked, we then peddled on a little further into town. We stopped off at an imposing stone church called L’église de Notre-Dame-du-Bon-et-Perpétuel-Secours (try saying that after a couple of All Inclusive cocktails!). I can’t tell you how lovely and dark and cool it was inside the church – by this point in the day the thermostat was really beginning to crank up. What’s more, just as I stepped over the threshold, a ray of sunshine burst through the big blue-purple stained-glass rose window showering the nave in colour.