The Mauritian Sunset
Glorious on a nightly basis...
Mauritius is an island off the coast of Madagascar of which Mark Twain has said: "you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius." It lives up to it's illustrious reputation. We chose to stay, twice, at the Hilton Spa Resort, and our stays there were pure magic.
Torch Lighting Ceremony
We arrived in the afternoon, and a gong was rung by the hotel staff upon our entry, as is the tradition with all guests, to the spectacular architecture of gardens, waters, and lounges. It was soon dusk, and as night fell, we heard an enchanting African song rising swiftly by the beach, with a chorus of children singing in the refrain. Along the garden walkways and bridges, over the intricate natural pools, the hotel staff carried torches of fire, and formed a circle by the beach. This ritual was repeated nightly so that no artificial light was present and the nighttime festivities, which were spectacular, were lit by flame, with the gentle sound of the Indian Ocean rushing in the distance. Sega dancers, limber, deep-skinned beauties dressed in gorgeous full skirts of every color, spun out to the rhythm
of beating drums and tribal accompaniments, their dances the personification of the wind itself, as though they had found the way to tame this force and become it, the frills of their skirts rippling in wavelike patterns.
The Southern Cross
Even as this display was underway, I began noticing something was different, as I looked above me, and all around me, to the undimmed splay of countless stars. One of them was remarkably bright, changing colors moment to moment, indigo, gold, scarlet, emerald. I looked for the familiar constellations I knew from what my father had taught me when I was little, but the orientation was different somehow. Mauritius is in the southern hemisphere, and it is noticeable instantly in the stars, for the view on the galaxy is different from the north. I later learned that what I was seeing was one of the stars of the the famous constellation the Southern Cross, which to the eye appears to be a diamond shape. The mesmerizing, polychromatic star is called accrux, and it is known to be two stars revolving around one another, hence the changes in light and colors. "When you see the Southern Cross for the first
If Degas could have painted the Sega dancer lit by flame at night...
time, you understand now why you came this way", so the song goes. To see an astronomer's photo of this majestic constellation, click here.
Land of the Baobab
Our journey from the airport to the hotel was filled with the sights of inactive volcanic mountains rising from the green fields below in the tropcial mist. When I spotted a sign marked "Baobab Street", I inquired to our driver as to whether we might see a specimen of these legendary trees that grow for thousands of years. I was rewarded with a detour to see one and a photograph of the ancient beauty.
Days and Nights in Paradise
Our hotel bedspread was decorated nightly with displays of flowers, the first night spelling out "Welcome". The outdoor gardens were both intimate and galactically stellar. Bridges rose over pools with waterfalls, palms, tropical flowers and koi flourished in the full blush of beauty. By day, we lounged by the beach and splashed in the waterfall, by night, a romantic dinner for two by the pool was set privately just for us, replete with unmatched service and Thai cuisine.
Chamarel and Shiva
Chamarel is the site of the Seven Colored Earth, undulating
Drums and Dancers
The African influence is felt in every beat of the Sega dance
bands of earth in seven colors of the rainbow. No one knows how the formation came into existence, and it was once buried under brush. We visited Chamarel and were treated to the delightful signts along the way of the pristine aqua ocean rimming the roadways, and the Chamarel Falls, a waterfall of 83 meters. While at Chamarel, we heard a strange animal that was practically roaring, and were astonished to find the reverberation coming from the mouth of a giant tortoise, who was in flagrante delicto with the female tortoise. Meanwhile, a passionate Italian woman declared to us: "That's amore!" Later as we took back to the winding roads, a gigantic statue of Shiva, accompanied by a rising cobra, appeared as we approached a Hindu temple. As I went inside to have a look, I was greeted by the temple keeper who welcomed me by painting a "tilak" on my forehead, lighting incense, and chanting while giving me an urn of water to pour onto the Shiva Lingam.
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