Mauritius is a fair sized island in the Indian Ocean that is east and a couple clicks north of Madagascar. Where the official language is English, yet everyone speaks French and hardly anyone speaks English. Formerly part of the British Commonwealth, there doesn’t seem to be a lick of British culture left on the island save for some traffic circles, which by the way have traffic cops on the country’s only major highway. Traffic circles apparently don’t work when you never have a break in traffic from one direction for an extended period of time. According to our airport transfer driver, 10% of the Mauritius population commutes to the capital city of Port Louis on this major highway. So basically, the highway is gridlock going south anytime after 12PM. We stayed on the northern part of the island in the touristy area of Grand Bay. Mauritius is like Hawaii divided by 100. The major resorts are 2 or 3 stories, and there are only 5 of them in a row in the area we were. There was one super market, a casino the size of a Rite Aid (that came equipped with dodge ‘em cars and bumper boats for the kids to play on, when combined was larger than the gaming room floor), a ton of restaurants and shops that sold Hollister paraphernalia at 5 times US prices.
We stayed at a budget bungalow complex on the main road for a modest 25 Euro per night fee. The airport transfer was more expensive. The lovely lady who greeted us and showed us to the room went through the normal spiel and finally got to the “surrounding area” part of the routine. All she said was, “the beach is that way, and the supermarket is the other way.” Compared with everywhere else we’ve been, this was a delight. It was nice not having to get a map and find directions everywhere we need to go. Instead, we walk out of the hotel, turn left for 50 meters, and voila, we’re at the supermarket/casino/dodge ‘em cars. The super market was not unlike any other. Except that the most popular item had to be the 400 gram, 11 Rupee freshly baked French bread (that’s just shy of a pound and less than 50 US cents and 4 adjectives). We would see people carrying backpacks of the French bread rolls out of the store. We purchased one daily.
Our days were mostly lazy. Explore a little the first few days, walk to the resorts and utilize their beaches and read or swim, hang out at the supermarket. We wanted to try out our newly earned SCUBA licenses in Mauritius, but we succumbed to our frugality. Anyway, we were bummed out about that. So we just loafed some more.
Our Doctor who administered our vaccines gave us a packet of weather reports for every country we were going. Mauritius in May was apparently a mild 26 degrees Celsius and only rained two days of the month. We got three days in one week. So that kind of spoiled the beach fun, which led us to watching the show Alias on the computer.
The biggest challenge of all, which turned out to be fruitless, yet unnecessary was trying to pay for our hotel bill in Euros. Our hotel owner insisted that we pay Euros for the weeklong stay. She said that we could take Euros out of a nearby ATM or just exchange money. The last thing we wanted was to pay huge premiums to exchange money. So we searched for this elusive ATM, we saw one at the airport that had such a claim, but it was mislabeled, and it was already too late to go back. The hotel owner had faulty intel on where the ATM machine was near us. So we essentially put our ATM card into every machine in the area to no avail. This whole operation was to save probably what amounted to 30 bucks. We had not op tech to help us locate the cheapest Euros as the internet café was too pricey. Our intelligence gathering was pretty weak as the banks barely spoke English and offered no help. When we asked HSBC (who had the ATM at the airport with the supposed Euros), “Where do you have an ATM that dispenses Euros”, our response back was, “We sell Euros at 45 Rupees.” So finally, we went back on the final day to pay and told her we’d like to pay in Rupees instead of Euros. We were worried that she’d try to pull a fast one on us with a poor exchange rate, but she ended up giving us a more favorable exchange rate than the market. High Five.