July 1, 2017 - Today was a real day of adventure. I got up at 7am and was out a little after 8am. My destination? The Black River Gorges National Park. The challenge? Being frugal. There is no direct bus to the park, so I asked a tour agency the other day how much it would cost to take me/pick me up. It was about $55, which seemed like a lot. And this, my friends, is one of the times when traveling alone sucks. Everything costs more because there is no one to share the cost with you. I also asked Bernard if I could take the bus. He said yes - take the bus to the nearby Cascavelle "Mall" and then take another bus to Black River. I would have to walk from there but he didn't know how far. I decided to just give it a go. If it didn't work well, I could always come back. So I got the first bus and when I paid, I was horrified to learn that this 5-or-so minute bus costs almost the same as a 45-minute journey to the capital. I mean, it was only like 70 cents, but still. How
Who are we?
"Oh, what big birds!"
"Those aren't big birds, sweetheart. They're giant vampire bats!"
Oh, Indie, you shouldn't lie to her like that.
could it cost so much COMPARATIVELY? The money-taker showed me where to get the next bus and which one to look for. There was also a guy at the bus stand who helped as well, and I got on that bus and paid just slightly more for the ride to Black River, which was another 30 minutes or so.
When I got there, the money-taker showed me which way to go and said it was about 2.5 km. Two other guys got off the bus and were walking in the same direction, so I checked again with them and they sent me off. By then it was 9am and I hoped to make it to the park by 10am, which had always been my plan. Soon after, there was a guy walking behind me, on the other side of the road, exercising and coming up fast. I asked him about directions and he told me he walks to the park every morning and back. He's a 75 year old expat Italian who spent most of his life in South Africa, and now that he's retired, he rents an apartment in Mauritius and spends some of the year here. We
decided to walk together, and the entire journey took about an hour. I got there by my self-appointed time, and it was nice to have someone to talk to.
As we walked, I looked up and saw some large birds. Then I looked again and realized they weren't birds - they were the large fruit bats I had seen yesterday! So cool! I never worked with flying foxes, but they are the coolest. I took about 40 pictures over the next hour, trying to get anything decent. It's hard when they're on the move and I'm looking up and trying to zoom in and focus all at the same time.
I said good-bye to Lucien (or something close) and went in to the information office. I was just so pleased to see an information office. I really had no idea what the options would be, so ti was great to talk to the guy there. He suggested that since I wasn't tied to a car that I do the 10km, 3 hour hike across the park. There are no buses from there either, and I couldn't really walk to the bus, but he said if I was up
for an adventure, there would be some way to get to the town from which I would take a bus to another town to get the bus home. Or, if I felt less adventurous I could go part way and come back. If I stuck around until 4:45pm, they would even drive me to the bus. He said he had actually seen me walking to the park when he drove in, but thought it would be rude to offer me a lift. Anyway, since I would be through by 1pm, I decided to give it a go and be adventurous. He even gave me a pear and a little bag of Cheezy Bites (crackers) for my journey!
The hike did take three hours. By the time I started, I was already an hour deep in sweat from the walk in. It did not get better. But the hike itself was really good. I only saw people coming from the other direction the whole time, and that's either because they were tied to their cars and had to come back, or because my walk was nearly all uphill and theirs was downhill. I thought uphill the whole way would be
a little crappy, but it turned out to be quite good. There was a decent stretch which was really steep and super muddy, which clay-like mud, and it would have been really hard coming down without perpetually sliding and falling. I already had a hard enough time on the regular path, sliding a bit and tripping over rocks. I never lift my feet high enough when I walk on uneven ground, it seems.
After the steep, uphill part, there was a pavilion of sorts and a lot of people sitting in the sun, having water or a snack. I sat down in the pavilion, in the shade, to have my snack and water. It felt good to relax for a few minutes, and even better when the noisy crowd left.
The forest changed a lot as I hiked. It started with large trees, many with termite colonies, and I was always in the shade. I crossed two small rivers. It opened up a bit. Trees became smaller as I climbed higher. Then the crazy steep bit. Then pines, with some palms and fern trees mixed in, towards the end. A lot of change over a pretty small distance.
There are several rare and endangered bird species in Mauritius - well, all of them are, because, people in the 1600s liked to eat everything, and so on - and I'd hoped to see some of them, but no luck on this trip. I'll have an other shot next week.
Towards the end of my walk, I had a great view of waterfalls and saw a bench. I wanted to keep walking to finish, but wondered why I was in a rush. I sat down to enjoy the view and contemplate life, and then a huge breeze came by and I said "Nope" and kept moving. Better. When I finished the walk, I took my sweaty muddy self into the info office at the end of the trail. I told the guy there about the other guy saying they might be able to help me work out a way to get home. He thought about it and went into another room to speak to someone. He came back and told me that someone could drive me to the bus in fifteen minutes! So nice. I used the bathroom, relaxed for a bit, and then we were off. The
guy who drive me is a park ranger who had come in for a meeting. He drove me to Curepipe, one town further than the original one we had thought, to make sure I could get a direct bus to Quatre Bornes. From there I could get the bus to Flic en Flac. I had read about Curepipe and thought it was pronounced Cure-a-pipe. But no. It is Kur-peep! He dropped me off, refused money, gave me his email in case I needed something, and told me to check out the town before leaving.
I'm glad he did. Despite Mark Twain once calling this town "the nastiest spot on Earth", I had a look back through my book to see if there was anything of note. It does - a botanic garden. This garden does not compare to the one I went to yesterday, but it was free, and more importantly, it has a palm tree, Hyophorbe amaricaulis
, which is the last remaining one of its kind on Earth. It was about a 15 minute walk to the park, but worth seeing the "loneliest tree in the world". It's a similar story to Lonesome George, the tortoise who was
the last of his species and died in 2012, but this plant never got a nickname or a sad story. I just can't believe there is only one left in the world, and when it dies, another species will be gone. It is protected behind a fence, but it's still a lot of trust, since it's not completely closed in. I also checked out the church and market.
*Just a quick note about the people I've encountered in Mauritius. They are nice. I hope that is coming out in these stories. So many good people making sure I get where I'm going, giving me snacks, getting me to the bus, making sure my tv works. It's been really nice.*
I took the bus to Q. Bornes, and the money-taker came for a chat and asked me out for dinner. I said no thanks, but he still pointed out the right bus that I needed for the final leg of my journey. I had enough time to change and shop for groceries before hitting the beach for sunset. The sunset was good, and quite lively, as it is Saturday and there were some guys playing music and singing.
For dinner, I splurged. I bought some precut veggies and made a stir-fry in some herb butter from Kerrygold. I also bought a baguette and some brie and ate that as well. My digestive system has stopped working, so I'm hoping that introducing some veggies back in will make a difference. I finished it with an ice cream. Maybe the rest diluted the veggie power?
Can't believe tomorrow is my last day here before I fly to Rodrigues, a smaller island belonging to Mauritius. Still undecided about what to do. Must plan!
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