Mauritius Diary - Part 2

Boardseeker

A day in the life with Chris Yates

We pick up where we left off from last week as Hanna Poschinger and Tom Hartmann show us around the rest of the tropical island of Mauritius. Expect big waves, incredible cliches and great parties…

Wednesday:

As the wind forecast looks worse for today, but the swell direction is right we decide to dust off our surfboards and go for an early bird session at Little Reef. What seemed to be a really short distance when you are sailing turns out to be the longest paddle-out EVER! But glassy water and 1-1.5 meter waves with not too many people in the line up is welcoming us. Beginners can mess about in the white water on the inside where they are also quite safe. In the line up it’s more like paddeling against the current to stay in one place. Opening at 9 a.m. Club Mistral is organizing trips to the little reef by boat, where you get monitored by experienced surf instructors – a big advantage, and you don’t have to paddle back to the beach on your own. I thought that I was going to die, paddling back after 2 hours of surfing. I was already in a slow motion mode with the movement of my arms but I saw Cyril’s Panini Truck already waiting there for me. The thought of the fresh baked brownies from Gabi (his wife) and the cappucino kept me alive. Cyril himself has run his own business for years already and knows every surfer at the beach. For the reason that his wife is from Germany, he is perfect in german, english and french. He offers the best baguettes, paninis, crepes and brownies you have ever had! If the day is busy, his smoked marlin baguettes and paninis are already sold out by midday.

Back on dry land we decide to do a little sightseeing trip as the wind doesn’t seem to have kicked in properly. We leave the surfboards in the car, just in case another surfspot might work out today. The coastal drive heading to Souillac is magnificant, even though some locals have a way of driving that is more ’natural’ than law based, which we tenderly called ’island style’. In the end it only made me sink deeper into my seat and hold the steering wheel a bit tighter. We pass by small villages with friendly faces, empty beaches with loads of small fishing boats. The nature of the coast varying from cliffs, to grass covered or sandy beaches. Close to Souillac we take hidden roads through fields of sugarcane to reach the ’Rochester Falls’. A big waterfall that floats into a basin of sweet water. The stones of volcanic origin are fascinating and a guy who seems to be much wider than tall is standing at a peak wearing small red panties. With a loud cheer he is jumping off the rocks. We are stunned, that’s what we want to do! He sees the look in our eyes and waves us over. At the top of the waterfall he has a small hut where he is selling local pineapples, mangos, coconuts, bananas and papayas. He tells us that if we buy some of his fruits he is going to show us where to jump in order not to die…I am like ’WOW!!!! Ok give me everything you have! I want to survive this!’. Five minutes later our bags are full with a mix of different kinds of fruits and he shows us the two possible spots to jump where the water is deep enough. I realize that everything looks a bit different when you are standing up there on the slippery stones for the first time. I consider the walk of shame back down but then I don’t want to lose this oppurtunity. At the end each one of us jumps several times, we are cheering at each other.

On our way back, our stomachs aching from all the different fruits, we pass by ’Ilot Sancho’ – tales from past times report that this small isle was a popular place for pirates to bury their loot. There are quite a few legends of pirates hiding their prey on Mauritius, that is what keeps treasure hunters coming back even nowadays, though there was no trove reported yet. Anyways I considered that place to be kind of spooky, even though there were perfect waves breaking on two different spots. Due to the tide the water was very shallow and a session too risky. The weather starts to get more rainy the closer it gets to the evening. The island is partly covered with clouds and it’s still so beautiful. We are lucky and catch one hour of wind in the evening – after 5 p.m everybody stays inside the lagoon for saftey reasons. If Club Mistral closes down for the day there is no rescue boat available anymore and going over the reef is considered to be more stupid than anything else.

Thursday:

This is the day when Mauritius shows what it’s got. Huge swell from the southwest in combination with strong southeast winds are hitting the island with full power. Le Morne looks amazing, half of the beach has already disappeared over-night because of such powerful waves rolling over the reef. All the channels are closed, the red flags are waving from several trees at the mainspot, reminding sailers that a rescue might not be possible. One Eye looks like a double mast high wall of water constantly breaking at the reef. The wind there is almost completely offshore and the wave hits the razor- sharp reef with an unbelievable speed. Tom Hartmann is rigging his stuff!

He is the only one going out when even all the locals have decide to stay at the beach, but he works like a real professional and tries to minimize the risk. He is convincing the rescue team of Club Mistral to keep an eye on him as he is riding the massive monsters down the line, wearing nothing more than boardshorts and his harness, with a speed that makes everyone on the beach hold their breath. I am scared to death only standing at the beach, but the show at One Eye is amazing. Hard to imagine that this wave can also work when it is not even 1.5 meters.

For the reason that going anywhere but the lagoon is too dangerous (unless you are a superhero), we rig the smallest stuff and keep within the shelter of the reef. Apart from strong currents as fast as a river, we score small waves for jumping. These come into the lagoon from Little Reef, which turns out to be not so little anymore.

In the evening as the wind goes down and the sea calms a bit, the guys from Club Mistral are organizing a BBQ at the mainbeach. We are having fresh samosas, fish and some chicken. They even prepared a fireplace, where we all sit with some local sugarcane rum (don’t miss it) and beer, listening to the sounds of the guitar and singing of a local. Some friends ask me to join them on a dolphin spotting tour tomorrow morning and of course I’m in!!

Friday:

Alarm goes off at 07:00 a.m. Even though the rum is better than in most of the other parts of the world, waking up on the next day stays exactely the same. I grab my bag and rush to the beach, as the guys told me that the dolphin tour is going to start at 08:00 from Tamarin. A Catamaran is going to pick us up there and we will go along the outside of the reef. Tamarin is also really popular for surfing. The spot at Tamarin Bay offers a beachbreak wave for beginners and two point breaks that partly break on a very shallow reef; the ’Mainbreak’ (watch out for localism!) on the left side of the bay and ’Black Rocks’ over on the right. The waves at Tamarin Bay usually work with swell coming from the south or southwest, starting at about 1.5 to 2 meters and is best on the pushing tide. If you don’t bring along your own surfboard you can rent one at the ’Tamarin Hotel’ behind the beach (20€ for 4 hours), surf lessons are also possible. Club Mistral also offers Surfboards in combination with supervision, not only for Le Morne but also for Tamarin.

Our boat is big enough for about 8 people, the captain and the two guys who assist him are locals and welcome us with happy faces and a cold coke. Because I finally want to wake up properly, I grab the drink gratefully. Each of us is getting equipped with fins, a snorkel and diving goggles. I try not to think about how many people already used my pink and green snorkel and listen to our captain Jean-Paul who is telling us about the underwater world of Mauritius. With his walkie takie he is getting information about the place where the dolphins were last sighted. Seeing the waves breaking onto the reef from the other side is amazing, you certainly need a strong stomach to fight sea sickness as the boat rocks back and forth. One of the girls with us is already transfixed to the horizon in a paralized kind of way, she starts to get whiter and whiter (with a shade of green). Then they suddenly show up. There are about 30 dolphins swimming gracefully next to our boat. Jean-Paul tells us to jump in, everybody grabs their snorkeling gear and hurries to the water. As we are swimming in the Indian ocean they get closer and closer, I could touch them by just strechting out my hand, but they look so wonderful that I dare not disturb them. They are everywhere around us, curiosly coming closer and diving underneath us. After half an hour in the water we begin to get quite cold, we paddle back to the boat totally stoked from the beautiful experience.

Back at the beach we get a call on our local mobile that Le Morne is working already for 4.7s. As the weather is changing from sun to rain several times today, rainbows are extending from one side of the spot to the other. Seeing the island with a big rainbow above it, is almost too much. Nobody will believe me when I tell them back home. Mauritius once more fulfils its clichee of pure paradise.

Saturday:

Today it looks like the wind is not quite coming through, due to the slightly different direction. We get some people together, pack the cars and go up to the north passing by Tamarin, Flic en Flac, the capital city Port Louis and Grand Baie. As we finally reach the Cape Malheureux (Cape of misfortune), which got it’s name because of the British who landed there with 1000 men in 1810 and conquered the island. At the most northerly part of Mauritius we find a flat water lagoon with turquoise water and no one around but us. Guys like Manuel Grafenauer and Tom Hartmann show some high class freestyle whilst others take the oppurtunity for a bit of freeriding. The small red roofed catholic church ’Notre Dame Auxiliatrice’, which was built during the colonial era, and the island just off the coast makes this place unique and easy to find.

After some hours the wind starts to die and we hit the road back to La Gaulette. As one of the French guys who we got to know has his birthday, we have no other choice but to party. We organize a taxibus and a driver for about 20 people to take us to Flic en Flac over on the islands west coast. There are several clubs and bars to go out, with the most popular club called ’Shotz’. An open air dance floor, cool music and tasty drinks are what greet us. Everything we could have asked for. The taxi there costs a few Euros per person and the driver is waits for us in the village to get the group back to La Gaulette in the early hours of the morning.

Sunday:

In my dreams I am still dancing to some music, still feeling the bass in my head as one of my friends is rushing into my room, reminding me of the horse race that is supposed to take place today. I am wide awake within a minute as I remember Cyril (the master of paninis) telling us he will pick us up around 11 a.m. to go to Port Louis. I am jumping into my dress, get my hair together somehow as someone is hooting in front of the house. Cyril managed to organize us a few box seats in the race course arena. Horse-racing bets are really popular among the population of Mauritius. Young and old, poor and rich all come together to place a bet or two, or just to watch the thrilling races. The place is full, people are shouting, throwing their hands in the air as the horses pass. After each race you see happy faces, as well as some very disappointed ones. Cyril tells us, that always when he is winning some money he finances something for his house or his panini truck, like a new fridge. Of course we are betting as well with the lowest possible stake. With the little money we win we try out all the different kinds of Indian food that are offered at the race. Rondis (similar to crêpes), Samosas and fried vegetables are really helpful, after a night out anyway.

’What a week!’ I am telling to myself as we drive south again.

To conclude I have to say that it was the most incredible seven days. We had wind for 4.5 to 5.0, a nice swell coming in and mostly sunny weather. From my experience of the last two summers spent there, it is possible to score it at Mauritius even if you are there for a few days. Although be sure to pack your surf board. For the highest chance of wind, waves and nice weather you should go between the middle of August and the end of September. Be sure to stay there for at least two weeks. Furthermore, if you want to have the ultimate playground with flat water, waves and chop it is high up there on the must-travel-to list, even if it does rain sometimes it just makes it more beautiful. My last advice for you: ’Smile when it rains’, you will never forget or regret the journey.

A travel diary by Hanna Poschinger
A day in the life with Chris Yates

Final Quote – Tom Hartmann

“Le Mourne is the perfect playground for me. You arrive at the beach and just need to choose either to ride waves at Manawa or One Eye, jump at Little Reef or cruis and freestyle in the turquoise Lagoon. It covers all those conditions in one spot.”

 

 

 

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