The Avis chauffer was supposed to pick me up at 5am, or so the itinerary led me to believe. My driver, bless his little cotton socks, cruised over to collect me at 4.10am. Luckily for him, I'd packed the night before and had already stumbled out of bed at 4am. I must admit there was something singularly incongruous about seeing a large silver Mercedes pull up in front of our treehaus. Ah hell, it couldn't hurt to get through to Cape Town International Airport a little earlier.
Cape Town International Airport has been described as "the only construction site with its own airport". It's still a mess but is considerably better than when they first started with the improvements. Our dinky little airport is supposed to cater for all the soccer hooligans descending upon us for the World Cup. Joy. If Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) can get its rear into gear, that is.
I bought a killer cuppaccino after checking in my bag then meandered to the marquee doubling as the domestic departures. I'd hate to know how this flimsy structure has been holding up in the wind. There I joined hundreds of bleary-eyed commuters heading for other parts of the country. I met up with Audrey, our airlines writer, who was also being packed off to Mauritius. We couldn't figure out who Sarah was, tho' we had an inkling as to her identity. Ah, the joy of knowing people from phone and email only. Our little jaunt was to be a small team-building exercise as well.
We flew up to Jozi courtesy of 1Time. I managed to sleep through most of those two hours, having spent most of the previous night editing and trying to tie up loose ends. Arriving at OR Tambo Airport I was very glad to discover none of my check-in luggage had been stolen. This is a regular occurence at this airport but I also didn't feel like plastic-wrapping my suitcase at R50 a pop.
Finally we met up with Sarah then moseyed along to meet the rest of our group of journos at the Air Mauritius check-in, where we were ushered along to the Air Mauritius business lounge, where we were indulged with Bloody Marys and as many snacks we could eat. Om nom nom nom nom...
I somehow managed to sleep through most of the Air Mauritius flight as well, lulled into sleep by the soporific effect dealt by the advertorial on my TV screen detailing the island's wonderful attributes, that would only really appeal to people who earn what I do each day, as opposed to once a month.
But the Air Mauritius staff were very nice and also made sure I had plenty of food and wine, so I really can't complain about the Asian gentleman in the row in front of me who snored.
We arrived at Mauritius's Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport (SSR for short). Try to say that fast, while sober... after 7pm, going forward in time by two hours. Night falls early this far up. Nothing like Cape Town's lingering sunsets lasting until well after 8pm. The first thing that struck me was the humidity. Just like Durban. Breathing here's like breathing in syrup.
The next thing is that everyone speaks French. Very soon I was "bonjouring" and "merci-ing". Of course I understood very little unless I could read the words with a handy English translation nearby but I kept thinking of Amy... Damn, girl, you would have loved this little trip.
We travelled by road to Le Touessrok, in a minibus. The roads are very narrow and curvy, and when you enter villages, the houses open their doors right onto the road. No pavements in sight. Hindus are the dominant sector, so many of the homes have little shrines out front to honour their chief deities, all lit up with red lights. Very festive.
Many of the houses aren't complete because the Mauritian government makes people pay less tax if a) the roof isn't complete, or b) the house isn't painted. Consequently, driving through the poorer sections of Mauritius is like driving through a half-finished construction site.
Oh, and a word on the driving on this island. I gain the impression that there isn't much of a traffic department. When a car stops in the road... or parks, there is no place to stop but that lane, so you kind of have to keep your eyes open for random obstructions while you drive. Also, many of the locals ride bicycles or scooters, so that's an added menace.
A giant banyan tree stands sentinel at Le Touessrok's front entrance. Giant bird cages hanging from the branches contain lights, so it's all very pretty and fairytale. I looked up as I climbed out, and saw my first-ever fruitbat. Kinda freaky. It's cat-sized and flaps about in a rather ungainly fashion.
We had supper at Barlen's, a beachside restaurant... And I got to try curried jack fruit (tastes somewhat like a combination of mango and aubergine) as well as palm hearts (also known as the millionaire's salad).
Then, to bed. My room overlooked the sea and when I stood on the balcony, I could smell the salt-sweet air. It was very warm and I went to sleep with the slop and wash of small waves on the resort's volcanic rock foundations.