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Published: February 14th 2020
Friday 14th February
Today we paid a return visit to Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens.
We visited the gardens 10 years ago on our first ever visit to Mauritius and having visited most of the other interesting places on previous trips i.e. tea plantation, sugar plantation, colonial houses, historical buildings and museums etc, we thought it would be enjoyable to revisit the gardens.
We booked through the hotel a half day tour which also took in Port Louis, the capital.
We were introduced to Rudi, our guide and Navi the driver, David & I were the only English passengers, the other 10 were French but did not speak English (Well if they did they didn’t let on!).
Pamplemousses is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Famous for its long pond of giant water lilies.
The garden was first constructed in 1770, and it covers an area of around 37 hectares.
We pre-booked a golf cart to take us around and soon met our very informative guide & driver Kavish. Such a knowledgable young man, pointing out all the various trees/palms and plants as we trundled along. I will never remember all the
names but some of the common names of the palms referred to them as coconut palm, elephant feet palm, champagne palm, crocodile palm, these descriptions applied mainly to the shapes of the palm trunks & there was one palm whose roots were visible and resembled a part of the male anatomy (I didn’t photograph that one). Kavish asked for my phone to take a picture with the flash on, it was amazing to see a unique tree known which is said was known as the bleeding palm as it appears to be bleeding.
The centrepiece of the gardens is a long pond filled with giant Victoria amazonica water lilies, native to South America. Young leaves emerge as wrinkled balls and unfold into the classic tea-tray shape up to 2m across in a matter of hours. The flowers in the centre of the huge leaves open white one day and close red the next. I only spotted one white flower, apparently January is the best time to see them but Kavish stopped the golf cart giving me plenty of photography opportunities.
We saw a Talipot palm which flowers once after about 40 years and then
We stopped at two lotus ponds, the pods and flowers gently swaying in the warm breeze. Another request for my phone from Kavish this time a slo-mo photo as he splashed water onto the lotus leaves to show just how waterproof they were. All I have to do now is suss out how to include this slo-mo video into the blog.
The gardens were named after Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the first prime minister of independent Mauritius, and were started by Mahé de Labourdonnais in 1735 as a vegetable plot for his Mon Plaisir Château (which now contains a small exhibition of photographs). Close to the chateau is the funerary platform where Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was cremated (his ashes were scattered on the Ganges in India). Various international dignitaries have planted trees in the surrounding gardens, including Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi and a host of British royals.
The landscape came into its own in 1768 under the auspices of French horticulturalist Pierre Poivre. Like Kew Gardens, the gardens played a significant role in the horticultural espionage of the day. Poivre imported seeds from around the world in a bid to end
France's dependence on Asian spices. The gardens were neglected between 1810 and 1849 until British horticulturalist James Duncan transformed them into an arboretum for palms and other tropical trees.
It was soon time for our wonderful guide to take us back to meet the rest of the group, we had passed them several times as we were driven around and in the heat we were so glad we booked the golf cart as it would have been impossible for Mr.M to make the tour otherwise and if I’m honest me too.
We continued our drive through the countryside, sugar cane fields on both sides. They harvest the crop between June & December and still 80% by hand with 20% cut by machinery but as Rudi explained the machinery is very expensive. I expect the wages for the workers is quite low but thankfully no more plantations are owned by slave magnets.
We passed a disused sugar cane plant with its tall brick chimney, how did we know it was disused ? Check out the photo and you will see a small tree growing from the top brickwork.
We then continued our journey & stopped
outside Port Louis at a high vantage point overlooking the race course, the harbour and the bustling city below.
Next a brief stop at a local market. There was time to buy spices and most of the french passengers did just that!
It was really hot and humid in the market so I was glad when we made our way outside to the waters edge and felt a slight breeze. Met up with David and together
with Rudi enjoyed a fresh fruit drink from one of the juice bars close to the modern shopping centre.
Our purpose for the day was to revisit the botanical gardens so we were quite happy to skip the shops & sat under the suspended umbrella rows listening to the music and watching couples passing by with the ladies holding a red rose or a bouquet for Valentine’s Day .
It’s been very hot today, so I nice cool beer back at the hotel before we look forward to enjoying dinner at La Plage restaurant this evening on the beach to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
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