Mauritius Stories and Tips

First Impressions

The first thing that tripped me out when flying in over the island was that, from the air, you can see both sides and the top and bottom of the island. It's TINY: 60x40km! With 1.2 million people, it has one of the highest population densities in the world. The capital, Port Louis, has only about 140,000 people, but just about everyone on the whole island commutes into the city, along a main two-lane road that runs the circumference of the island, so they know about peak hour traffic. It's madness. Apparently the government has promised to fix it, and the government before, and the one before that...

It's odd, but there was no culture shock with Mauritius. I think part of that is because there is no indigenous culture; it was completely deserted, except for the dodo and other long-since extinct characters, before being colonised in the 16th century by passing Portuguese sailors, then Dutch, then French, and then English pirates/colonials. Followed by a wave of Indians in the early 1900s, the population is a blur of Europeans, Indians, and Africans, with a smattering of Chinese, sometimes all mushed together but often distinct, thanks to religion.

So if you stand on top of the fortress that overlooks Port Louis, you can see a Buddhist temple, Catholic cathedral, Tamil compound, Hindu spires... and the food is the same. In the centre of the city, I snacked from a hole-in-the-wall serving halal biryani and curry, but the island speciality is smoked marlin.

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