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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Black gorges national park, Mauritius

When I looked into the map of Mauritius, a large “green” patch of area caught my attention. It was the “Black Gorges National Park”. In the quest for blue beaches, it is very easy to overlook some of the other aspects of Mauritius. It is also one of the few remaining rainforest in Mauritius. All these aspects made me to include this as part of my itinerary.

Black gorges national park

Plaine Champagne road
There are many entry points to the national park. One of them is Plaine Champagne road deviating from the route to Chamarel (seven colored earth). This route going from east to west cuts the national park. The lookout that provides the nice view of the forests is definitely worth the visit. 

A view of forests in Black gorges national park
Further on this road is the deviation to Alexandra waterfalls. While the place was serene and beautiful, the waterfalls itself was dry. Understandable considering we were in the summer season!! It would be a good place to visit during rainy season. But the area is peaceful and a good place for picnic.

Alexandra waterfalls
This route ends at Le Petrin that has an information center and also the starting point (or end point!!) for some treks. 

View of the ocean
Les Gorges road
This is the deviation from A3 that runs along the east coast. The road ends at the visitor center that has some nice information about the national park. We went to this place on the last day of our trip. This place is good to visit if you like to walk into the forests. There are many trails in this area. We walked along a trail that provided had some stream crossing. As went deeper, the place was very peaceful where we could hear the chirping of birds, feel the motion of the winds and water flowing in the stream. Amazing place.

A stream in black gorges national park

Last words

Black gorges national park is in the South western part of Mauritius. It is definitely a nice place to visit for anyone interested in forests and hiking. A nice break from the beaches!!

Flora of Black Gorges national park

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Albion lighthouse, Mauritius

I have a fascination about lighthouses. Wherever I travel, I rarely miss opportunity to visit the lighthouse. The recent trip to Mauritius provided an opportunity to see a lighthouse. Though not a tourist spot, I added Albion lighthouse to the itinerary. Opened in 1910, it is interesting to note that the lighthouse is still operational!!

Albion lighthouse
We went there on one of the evenings. It was about 30 minutes drive from Flac En Flac on the west coast. Very few vehicles parked indicated lack of tourist attraction for this place. We went around the lighthouse and spent some time there. It was not allowed to climb up.

Albion lighthouse from the front
To get good shots of the lighthouse we walked in the grasslands. On one side, I met a group doing wedding photography. It seemed to be a big business these days. One can also get some good views of the coast from the lighthouse. Unlike many places in Mauritius, the coast here was lined with cliff with rough waters. But the place was completely peaceful with very few people.

Albion lighthouse from grasslands
Overall, it was a very nice place. The best time to visit the lighthouse is in the evening.

Ocean view from lighthouse

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Port Louis, Mauritius

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Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius is more seen as a commercial center than a tourist place. It is a crowded city on week days and slow moving traffic is a common sight. Things change dramatically on Sunday where the city looks deserted. Through parking is generally free in Mauritius, Port Louis is an exception. But parking on weekend and Sundays are free!! These factors made me to plan a visit to the city on Sunday. But Chaya felt that I deliberately planned to foil her shopping plans!!

View of the street at Caudan waterfront

We visited Port Louis while coming back from North Mauritius beaches. Our main idea was to visit Caudan waterfront. Having parked our car in the parking area, we roamed around the area. The shopping complexes were empty but restaurants were open. We had some snacks at an Indian restaurant.


Caudan waterfront

For people interested in Hindi movies, this is a nice place as many Bollywood movies are shot in this area!! 


Posters of Bollywood personalities

There are few statues, namely the first prime minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and few museums. The museums were closed on Sunday. A historical place that could be visited is Apravasi Ghat (Coolie ghat), which was the landing point for Indian laborers in 19th century. 


Empty street of Port Louis

An highlight of Coudan waterfront is umbrella street, where colorful umbrella’s were placed above the street. Chaya and Tanu were especially looking for this and were overjoyed!!



Umbrella street
We spent couple of hours in the area and it was indeed a peaceful and relaxing place. If you are looking for shopping, visit during weekend. While I promised that we will be coming again during weekday, we felt that there was no need to shop in Mauritius and dropped the idea!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

North Mauritius beaches

Mauritius is filled with great beaches and so it is difficult to pick a particular breach!! But when you look at the map of Mauritius and concentration of resorts in the country, the part of Mauritius north of Port Louis certainly pos up. Majority of the tourists flock to that area for the beautiful beaches. From our place of stay Flic En Flac, the North Mauritius was about an hour’s journey subject to traffic conditions at Port Louis. We visited these beaches on one of the days. Here is the list of few beaches.

Sunset in Mauritius

Trou Aux Biches
Little difficult to pronounce, it translates to a pond where deer used to drink water!! It is a Long Beach lined with resorts. Public can enter from both ends of the beach. One of the best beaches for playing in water and indulging in water sports activity. 

Trou Aux Biches


Mont Choisy
North of Trou Aux Biches, this was the beach we liked a lot. With the backdrop of casuarina trees, Mont Choisy beach looks lot scenic that other beaches. It gave an opportunity for my daughter to play “hide and seek” games!!

Mont Choisy beach


Grand Baie beach
Grand Baie is an area filled with resorts having their private beaches. The public beach is rather small but a good place if one likes to have street food!! Not a good place for swimming due to the presence of fishing boats. 

Grand Baie public beach


Pereybere beach
Further north of Grand Baie is Pereybere beach. It looked like it was more popular with locals. Lot of parking place and eateries. The water is deeper but not rough. A nice place to spend some time.

Pereybere beach


Information
We went on for beach hopping but if one likes to stay in beach resorts, these beaches provide lot of options. But if you are looking for peaceful location, then South Mauritius beaches (yet to write about them) are better. If you are interested in submarine ride, then their office is between Trou Aux Biches and Mont Choisy beach.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ile Aux serfs (deer island), Mauritius

Ile Aux serfs is one of the most visited place in Mauritius. Almost every tourist or traveller would include this place in their itinerary. Needless to say the place is very touristy and also bit hyped. But nevertheless, a good place to visit!!

Beach at Ile Aux Cerfs
Ile Aux serfs is an island on the eastern coast of Mauritius. When translated, it sounds as deer island!! Though there are no deer, the island has a golf club, white sandy beaches and crystal clear water with some restaurants. It is also a good place for water sports like para sailing. People come to Mauritius for beaches and Ile Aux cerfs does not disappoint.

Two islands facing each other!!
It was about 75 minutes drive from Flic En Flac to the Jetty of Trou d’Eau Douce town. While the first part of the drive passed through the busy roads, but once the main highway was crossed the drive was through sugarcane plantations with very little vehicular traffic. As we neared the Jetty, the road turned narrow and I was bit worried about the parking place. But that was not an issue. In general, it is a good idea to come around the opening time of 9:30 AM. Also, try to avoid weekends and Sundays as it tends to get crowded. 

Clear waters
Anyone trying to google about this place would get a list of tour operators offering packages to this island. There is hardly any information available for people who plan to go on their own. But it is not an issue at all. After parking our car, we headed to the boat counter. It was 9:45 AM and there were not much tourists. The guy at the ticket counter provided the option of either going through public or private boat. Private boat was expensive and since the less crowded, we felt that it makes sense to take public boat. It was from the mainland->Ile Aux Cerfs -> GRSE waterfall->Ice Aux Serfs->mainland with good amount of time to spend on the island. 

Strip of sand at Ile Aux cerfs

Few minutes of waiting and the boat arrived. Apart from us, there were another group of three people on the boat. 15 minutes of ride brought us to the island. At the island, we found some nice place and jumped into the water!! For the next hour or two, we just played in water. It was a difficult task to bring Tanu out of water. There are public changing rooms, showers and toilets. 

To GRSE waterfalls

It was time to head to GRSE waterfall. A speed boat took us further south to the mouth of the river. Ver soon we were in front of a 30 feet waterfall.

GRSE waterfalls
It was an amazing experience to see waterfall from the boat. The boatman took very near to the base where we could experience the water splashing on us!! This place should not be missed at all. 

Tanu posing in front of the waterfalls

The boat person also allowed us to get down the boat and climb to the top of the waterfall. Not every boat stopped here so I feel it is left to the discretion of the boatman. Looks like he was happy with us for some reason!! By the way, even though we opted for the public boat, in this part of the trip we were the only ones on the boat.

View from the top of the falls

Very satisfied, we came back to the island. Now we decided to explore island bit and relax. It was not hard to find an isolated place. We spent a long time lazing under the trees gazing at the blue waters. It was a peaceful place. 

Information
  • The first boat starts at 9:30 AM from Trou d’Eau Douce.
  • The last boat from island is at around 4:30 PM
  • Avoid Weekend and Sundays. We went on Monday and it was peaceful.
  • Restaurants are available including an Indian restaurant. We did not try as we had brought our lunch. Expect the prices to be on higher side.
  • Get a combined trip of GRSE waterfall and island.
  • Public boat price is between 1000 to 1400 MUR. This includes trip to island and waterfall. Kids are charged lower rate.
  • I do not think that there is an option to stay on the island. There are many hotels on the mainland.
  • You need a full day for this island.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hike to a beautiful waterfall

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If you travel on the ghat road from jog falls towards the coast, it is hard to miss this majestic waterfalls performing hide and seek at each turn on the circuitous route. Having passed through many times on this road, I thought about reaching to the base of the waterfalls. But there seemed to be no path to reach to the base of the falls. I must say that I did not give a try!!

Second waterfalls
Recently I started getting news that a track has been made to the base of the falls. While that was encouraging, it also meant that I need to visit the place as soon as possible before our people fill it with garbage. During my recent visit to my native place, my cousin sister reminded me about this falls and I promptly added to the itinerary. 

MM waterfalls seen from the trail
We had planned many places on that day and it was quite late when we reached the ghat road. While the waterfall made its appearance on the road, we were in a bit of hurry to enjoy the beauty. We had to reach to the base and come back before it got dark. 

Base of the waterfalls
Some Government department had put up a board on the highway about the falls but it had fallen off. The remaining signs were easy to miss. One of them was an arrow written on the road!!  

Direction to waterfalls!!
The walk was simple though there were deviations that could mislead a bit. We directly reached the base of the falls. The falls looked beautiful and safe to play in water. But it did not look like the “real” base. That seemed to be higher up on upstream and we could not find a way to climb further. It would be tough climb on boulders. The time was also a limiting factor on that day.

"Main" waterfalls
While coming back, we made a detour where the stream formed another falls. It required us to cross the stream and get down to the base of the falls. Here I met a photographer from Sirsi who mentioned that there is one more waterfalls upstream.

First waterfalls
To reach that stage, I had walk along the stream for around 200 meters but it was worth the effort.

The first stage
It was dark by the time we reached the highway but were fully happy with the outcome!!

"Main" waterfalls



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Submarine experience in Mauritius

Before our trip to Mauritius, we never thought that a common person can get into a submarine. When Mauritius plan was made, Chaya who had heard about it from someone asked to include it in our itinerary. Many advertisements in Mauritius proclaimed the great experience of submarine. First I thought that it would be available at many places in Mauritius but that turned out to be false. There seemed to be only one company offering submarine. It was Blue Safari situated in North Mauritius.

Inside the submarine

When we visited North Mauritius on one of the days, we directly walked into Blue safari office. But no free slots were available that day and hence I had to make some changes to the plan and come back after two days. In general, it looks like the submarine is in great demand and it is better to make booking couple of days in advance.

Marine life

The total time duration of submarine trip was 2 hours but actual time inside submarine was about 45 minutes. From the Jetty, we were taken on a boat that took about 15 minutes where we were transferred to a bigger boat. The sea was rough and it was bit challenging to move to another boat. From the bigger boat, we had to get into the submarine. 

Corals and marine life
It was our first submarine experience. To enter into the submarine, we had to get down a narrow ladder through a small hole. Unlike the military submarines, this was a small one that had 10 + 1 seats. Five on each side and a center one for the pilot. But it was not claustrophobic. Some instructions were given and then the submarine dived into the ocean.

Wreckage of a ship

The dive was gradual and we did not notice it much. Interestingly, the red color (anywhere including shirt color) turned into violet!! This was because water acts as a selective filter and after 10 feet most of the red is gone!! The depth has different effect on each color. 

Wreckage

The submarine went down by 40 meters and we were at the floor of the ocean. Wreckage of a Japanese ship was seen. Having seen them only in television, it was a different experience to see in live below 40 meters. 

Sea turtle
The marine life and coral was also abundant. The sighting to remember was the sea turtle. A star fish was also seen. Many varieties of fish were seen. Having been on scuba diving and snorkeling, it is not different. The pilot ensured at both sides got good views of the marine life. Also, the roughness we experienced on the boat was completely absent under water. It was super calm!!

Starfish
The submarine ride itself was about 45 minutes after which we were transferred to the bigger boat and then to the smaller one. Overall, it was a good experience though it was very expensive. But it is not common to get an opportunity to get into a submarine!! It is not easy to go down 40 meters under waters by other means!!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Massive Ratnagiri fort

At the Karnataka Andra border near Madhugiri, situated is the massive Ratnagiri fort. It has a great history spanning from the time of cholas to Nayaks to Vijayanagar to Hyder Ali. This fort was in my backlog for a long time. After climbing the Madakasira fort in January this year, Wido and I had decided to climb Ratnagiri. So, when Wido announced that he would be in Bengaluru in October, a trip to Ratnagiri fort was planned. Wido’s colleague, Santosh also joined this trip.

View from the top

Like previous trip, I went to Airport to pick up Wido and Santosh proceeded towards Ratnagiri. The route we followed was Airport->Chikkaballapura->Tondebavi->Madhugiri->Ratnagiri. The road was mostly good except for the some stretches between Chikkaballapura and Tondebavi where road construction and rains had damaged the roads. The total distance was about 130 km.

Ratnagiri fort seen from the village

At the village, I tried to park the car and walk but the villagers insisted on driving further. The path was narrow and zigzag and it went inside the fort. Apparently the walls of the fort extended to the plains and part of the village was inside the fort. After reaching a dead end, we parked the vehicle and started our walk.

Car parking

By then few kids from the village had come near us. For them, Wido was the prime attraction. They were very proud hen I told that he had come from US to see the fort in their village. They volunteered to accompany us throughout the trek!! Being energetic and talkative kids, they were a nice company. Very soon they got our names and started calling “Aravind Anna”, “Wido brother” and “Santosh brother”!! 

Ratnagiri boys with Wido

After passing through some of the houses, we entered into the fields. A temple at the village looked big and old but was renovated recently. A kalyani next to the temple provided a glimpse of the past. The litter inside the pond indicated the level of importance given to historic structures. 

Kalyani

We could see a lone temple at the base of the hill. It was away from the route to the base.

Temple at the base of the hill

Very soon we were at the base of the hill. The massive brick wall was an imposing structure. It looked like a new addition to the fort. May be built during Hyder Ali days. Couple of sections before the brick was slippery due to rains but was not dangerous. Once you cross the brick wall, the continuous climb over steps begins.

Arc shared wall

It was an amazing walk. The recent rains had made the entire area green and many ponds had come up all along the way. At one of the gates there were some nice carvings. Unfortunately fortune hunters have damaged a lot by digging. The word “Ratna” would have definitely attracted lot of fortune hunters who are a bane to our society.


Carvings at the gatewaty

After crossing about five doors, we reached the second stage of the fort. Here there were two buildings which looked like the store room for ammunitions or grains. There were remains of the small temples at this stage.


Second stage of the fort

To reach to the last stage, we had to cross the narrow and steep steps. From the photos, it looks scary and dangerous but in reality, it turned to be an easy climb. The steps were wide enough and chances of slipping was less though we were cautious at certain places which was wet. If it is raining, it is risky to climb this stage.

Final stage of the fort

The steep steps

This is how it looks from the top of the steps.

Steep steps

A little bit of climb and after crossing the two storied gateway, we were at the top of the fort. A pond and a conical bastion was seen. The kids took us through a very narrow hole leading to the outer wall of the fort. It provided nice view of the surrounding area. If not for kids, we could not have found this narrow hole.

Two storey gateway


The fort spans across the two hillocks and said to have a perimeter of about 4.5 km. The other hillock had very few structures but looked formidable. Kids mentioned that the climb to the other hill was very difficult due to lack of steps and the rains had made the path very slippery. 

Fort walls

After spending good amount of time at the top of the fort, it was time to get down. The cloud cover had increased and some of the nearby areas were already receiving rains. 

At the top

Ratnagiri fort is one of the most formidable fort in the area. It is a pity that ASI has not taken any steps to maintain it apart from putting a board which itself is in a bad state!! Villagers though proud of the fort do not put importance to the maintenance. 

Responsibility as understood by ASI