27.11.2008 - 24.02.2009 35 °C
So, after 3 weeks in Mauritius, finally the first entry. Things didn't really work out as I expected, this is why it took so long:
Upon arrival I got stuck at the airport's visa section. They didn't want to let me in because I didn't have a return ticket. Turns out no one enters Mauritius without a plane ticket back to his/her country! I tried reasoning with them and told them I intend to continue towards India, I even suggested buying a ticket to India on the spot, but nothing helped. I had to buy a ticket back to the EU for January, because they gave me only a staying permit for two months, even though I asked for three. The immigration people here are definitely not helpful...
Since I agreed with Orca to stay here until the end of February, I intend to postpone my ticket to February, then apply for a one month extension of my staying permit, then cancel my ticket to get my money back and then buy a ticket to India. So many things can go wrong with this plan. But I see no other way...
I was picked up at the airport by a cab driver who brought me first to the Orca diving center where i met the staff and then to my apartment. The Orca center is located in Pereybere on the north coast in the Hibiscus Hotel. Here's a picture from inside the hotel compound:
Here's another one taken from the shore. The hotel and the dive center are somewhere between the trees. I really like the spot :-)
The Orca staff comprises Wolfgang the German base leader, Larissa a German instructor, Harry and Roshan (who quit in December) two Mauritian divemasters, and Daniel the boat captain. And now me. So it's a much smaller dive center than what I'm used to from Egypt. There is also no back staff, meaning we have to carry our very heavy steel tanks ourselves. Damn!
Here's the view of the coast line from the dive center:
My apartment is in the next village called Cap Malheureux. I think it's called this because this is where the French lost the battle against the English during the Napolean wars (I also heard because so many poor people live here or because many boats sunk close by - the currents are very treacherous). But even after 200 years of British rule only the official things are in English. Everything else is in French or Creole, the local language. Creole is a simplified and phonetic version of French created by the slaves (coming from many different tribes) a few centuries ago to communicate between themselves. I don't think there exist any original inhabitants anymore. Most people here are descendants of Indian immigrants.
Here's the house I live in:
I have one room:
Apart from a fridge in the right corner this is actually all there is in the kitchen. Needless to say I'm not cooking any complicated meals :-D By the way, if anyone knows recipes that use only one pan, I'm all ears!
Then there's one bathroom (no warm water unfortunately, but since it's usually over 30 degrees Celsius outside i can still manage ;-) and a terrace:
During the first week I had a nice French couple as neighbors. Here we are with some locals (Cowboy, the local alcoholic, and Salim, a tout) drinking rum with coconut milk. Oh yeah, there's a lot of sugar cane here, so there's a lot of rum...
We also did some barbecues on the terrace. Here's my friend Salim with some lobsters:
And our rather rudimental barbecue:
When I cross the road I get to a small lawn with a beach. I like to spend the evenings there, It's really calm, sometimes the neighboring families are out picnicking, and there's a great view of the island Coin de Mire:
And here's my local nemesis. This bastard takes a sick pleasure in waking me up every single morning at sunrise, more than one hour earlier than I would need to. How can I get rid of this beast without alienating the neighbors???
The diving is quite different from Egypt around here. There are no shore dives, everybody goes with the boat. After a few centuries of happy destruction, most corals here are dead. Really dead. There are now a few soft corals that grow on the dead hard corals, but you need to go deep to find some living hard corals. However there is still quite some marine life around (lobsters!!!). Nothing big, though, no sharks :-( Anyway, don't come here if you want to see nice corals. The reason to come here are the many wrecks that lie around and the fact that the legal maximum depth is 70m, as opposed to 40 m in most countries. So if you want to do some deep dives, this is the place for it.
After one week my wallet was stolen at the dive center with some cash and all my cards inside. Theft is rampant around here, thus I had decided not to leave anything too valuable in my apartment while I'm at work. Bad move...
One week later I hit my head against the bus i take to go to work. I still don't know how it happened, but I bled all over the place. Unfortunately i forgot to take a picture. Anyway I went to the medical dispenser in the next village where they let me wait for an hour and then, when it became clear that no doctor would be showing up today, a nurse gave me a bandage and told me to go to the hospital. So I took the bus to the hospital in the next bigger town, Pamplemousse. Too bad I didn't took a picture there either, but imagine a third world bus station hastily cleaned up and converted in a hospital and you have a good idea of the conditions there. The people there are really nice though. They put me on a dirty table and gave me five stiches and some medicine. Too bad there's not a better story behind that scar. Oh well, maybe the next one...
I'm spending a small fortune on sunglasses! Somehow I keep loosing or breaking them.
I love my Asus EeePC. Unfortunately the savages here have never even heard of wifi! Damn these cannibals!
I discovered something about me: I would rather live in the desert with internet access than on a tropical island without. I think I'll go see a psychiatrist for some hours of therapy when I get to Argentina.