For those of you who know Bruce and I we try and arrange our own accommodation, travel independently and usually plan our own trips avoiding organised tours if possible. So after some research we hired a driver which we had used previously for the day to explore the South West coast of Mauritius and some of the inland attractions of the Black River region.

Although we were told a particular driver we had requested was available someone else turned up talking up the wonderful day we were going to have. We carefully explained what we wanted to do the most important being driving along the coast to The Morne and then other attractions.

“Yes, Yes no problem you will get even more”, the driver exclaimed enthusiastically! (Have to add that  bit of dialogue…for effect). We drove to his place to pick up his wife who was to be the tour guide for the day.

We drove directly inland to see a extinct volcano crater called Trous aux Cerfs (Hole of the Deers…don’t know why its called that). The crater was about 40m deep…a big hole in the ground. The view of the surrounding area was lovely.

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A few photos and then we joined a procession of tour vans and taxis to a number of shops! A shop selling rum and other souvenirs. Bruce and I did a quick lap and left to the surprise of the driver and his wife. We told them we weren’t interested in shops…so continued up the road a bit further on and dropped off at the boat model workshop and shop of course!

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The little demonstration/workshop was actually worth seeing. The boats take ages to make all by hand and very intricate and are a specialty of the area. Our shop guide..sorry meant to say factory guide…then ushered us directly to the huge sales gallery which was made up of a couple of floors of beautifully handcrafted boats and other items for sale. We were shown how the goods could be packaged especially for transportation as cabin luggage. Beautiful works but sadly for the guide no sales from us.

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Through the door…to the gallery…no to the shop!

We were taken to another shop, little further up the road selling cashmere goods – just what we need for Darwin. A quick walk through and back in the car!  By now we had trouble keeping a straight face and chose to find it all bit amusing! Any more shops we asked…no no we were assured! Good now that’s over we can get on with what we want to see.

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We drove through some lovely forest areas where apparently hunting safaris are held at certain times of the year. They hunt deer, black pigs and even monkeys! We were shown some reservoir on the road and finally went to an attraction we had requested – The  Grand Basin (Ganga Talao) – A Hindu Worship place.

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The Grand Bassin is a natural lake about 600 m above sea level and inside the crater of an extinct volcano. (we found that out on the internet!) It is an important pilgrimage site for many Mauritians of Hindu faith.

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Anyway it was lovely to see lots of different statues; Shiva, Ganesh I think…and locals carrying our their prayer rituals. I was encouraged to participate in a Hindu blessing which is nice.

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After spending some time taking it all in and taking some photographs we met our guide and driver back at the car. We weren’t sure if we were imagining it but the car was starting to smell very strongly of petrol. I thought they had just overfilled the tank when we stopped at the servo.

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We continued on our way and stopped, literally at the edge of a tea plantation, shown the bushes told we could take a photo and whisked back into the car, did a U turn to continue on ‘our  tour’. We could see some workers further in the distance and I’m sure a tea tasting house but that was not to be…anyway we have seen some beautiful tea plantations in Thailand and could skip the tastings…some photographs of the workers and their baskets would have been nice though!

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We drove to the Black River Gorge Lookout which had a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape. There was couple of monkeys with a cute baby which became a greater attraction for visitors rather than the spectacular view. It was a lovely spot.

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By now it was lunch time and I’m sad that we didn’t take any photos to add to my little story!

At the start of the trip we said we didn’t want to be taken to any restaurant for lunch just buy some fruit or get a sandwich.  Like in Asia you always get taken to some family member’s place or someones where they get a kick back and its not very authentic usually catering to bland tourist tastes. We pulled up at a little restaurant called La Marmite which looked like it would be good. We invited the tour guide and driver to join us for lunch but they refused saying that they were fine. Luckily we asked to see the menu before we sat down. I couldn’t believe it as the dishes were 600 MR each which is double the price of any dishes we have seen, even in the middle of tourist areas! Maybe they thought we were so hungry that we wouldn’t care. We said no thanks and returned to the car to find the driver under the bonnet in the restaurants carport. I have to say they were once again a bit surprised to see us! Those painful guests again..they probably thought!

We said that we weren’t that hungry and that the prices were crazy! They both smirked a bit drove us less than 100 m down the road stopped at a roadside stall and we all ate delicious rotis for 10MR each! It is tedious having to constantly be up sold etc.

By now the car was really smelling strongly of fumes and even the bystanders were commenting on it. Apparently there was a hole in the tank or pipe so it was leaking fuel. Not good and also expensive for the driver as he needed to fuel up again.

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We continued down the windy road, stopped at a lovely lookout and went to Chamarel to see a couple attractions we were interested in; The waterfall and seven coloured earths. I can only describe the Seven Coloured Earths as a bit of an odd attraction. It is a smallish area of earth made up of; iron-ore, bauxite and other minerals/soil. We did like to see the giant tortoises flaked out in the sun.

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That’s the seven coloured earths. Bruce was going to be cheeky and say he could only see five!

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Giant turtle..and no I’m not injured just smudged Hindu paint.

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The Chamarel waterfall is quite lovely from the viewing platform. I had read that we could do a hike around it but was told by the guide that this wasn’t the case. Packed my runners for nothing. Later we found out that we could have hiked down to the bottom but that its quite difficult.

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Although we mainly wanted  to drive along the coast road from Flic en Flac to Tamarin and Le Morne, the ‘tour’ was cut short. It was not the driver’s fault that we had car trouble, but we felt a bit frustrated after being taken to places we didn’t want to go to especially the shops, and now we weren’t able to drive along the coast to the Morne which would have only added about another 40 minutes to the day.

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Quick stop to see the salt production on the side of the road on the way home.

After being told that we couldn’t do the rest of the drive we said we understood that car trouble was out of their control but we were disappointed. They were keen to arrange another full day tour of the parts of the coast we hadn’t seen and beyond!  By now we had to be firm and say we didn’t want another whole day tour and that we were not prepared to pay the full day price as we hadn’t  completed the tour and seen the main thing we asked at the start.

Sounds like we are painful but by then we had had enough of all the wheeling and dealing.

So that caused a flurry of phone calls and discussions between business partners and related parties.  In the end they realised that we were not going to be cajoled into more trips and agreed to charge less and for use to pay the rest later when they completed the trip on another day.

Its not the money but the principal of the thing and we were running out of patience as its a bit tedious having constant attempts of up selling and wheeling and dealing which interferes with the enjoyment of visiting some lovely places. Anyway we hotfooted it home, dropped the wife aka tour guide at the bank before it closed at 3:30 and I assume the car was driven to the mechanics before they closed as they had another job booked for the next day.

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I have to say it was an interesting day and we did see some lovely things. We tried to go with the flow, be flexible and have a sense of humour but by the end of the day we had a headache, had run out of patience and were pleased to get home.

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At the Grand Basin-maybe would help with patience or need a little meditation!

The completion of the tour on another day didn’t happen but that was due to other things happening such as the rescheduling of  a boat trip due to poor weather…but that’s another story!

So we can’t say we have driven along the whole of the west coast of Mauritius but we have gone from Flic en Flac to Cape Maleureux and explored some of the interior.

We are running out of free days now so we might just have to come back sometime!