We left Mauritius in December of 2010, thinking it was as far as we'd ever traveled, and that we were leaving a piece of paradise, never to return. So I was shocked to find myself there again only eight years later. It's as far as I remember, but when you reach a destination at the end of many, individual jumps, it seems farther.
To get to Mauritius the first time we'd flown and installed ourselves in West Africa, then traveled through South Africa, making the final three hour jump from Johannesburg to an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There's another way, of course: a grueling, 24 hour flight via a layover in Paris: from Paris to Mauritius alone is eleven hours on an aircraft.
This trip should have been the continuation of an exploration we'd begun with two happy children; instead to visit the final corner of the island without them felt sad and lonely. Every corner of the place was riddled with memories of two binkyfaces who are already a lot more grown up than they were when we visited as a family.
My plane arrived before dawn, and the sky lightened as I passed through customs and found a taxi. The morning was still and the roads were empty: it was Eid il Fitri and most Mauritians were resting at home as we parted the thick fields of sky-high sugar cane in our little French sedan. As we approached the south side of the island, the sea began to appear in glimpses, patches, whispers. And then it lay spread before me: the infinite turquoise and azure blue of the Indian Ocean, the earth's most picturesque body of water.
My hotel lie just a few miles along the coast from the famous Morne Brabant, a basalt monolith at the island's southwest extreme that adorns half of Mauritius' postcards, and for good reason: it's alluring and majestic and mysterious, steeped in local legend and absolutely eye-catching, a rocky bump emerging from a forest of green. We'd driven by it eight years ago on our way through Souillac to Flic-en-Flac, but this time a conference I attended spread along its flanks, and I had the pleasure of a few days' looking up at it in the mid-morning, tropical sun.
Now protected by UNESCO for its value as cultural patrimony, the Morne retains a wild look, and its forested slope remains home to all sorts of birds I enjoyed looking for each morning: the chatty Mynahs, with bright eyes and beak and white wing bands that flash when they spread their wings for flight, and the pointy-headed, Red-Cheeked Bulbuls. Neither was an elusive find; in fact the Mynahs are aggressive little pests, inviting themselves onto restaurant tables and trying to steal pommes frites before getting shooed off. The Bulbuls were looking for snacks too, but chatted contentedly from the thick foliage of the hotel's gardens at sunrise. Theirs was the song of morning.
I may yet make it back to Mauritius. I hope it stays as lovely as it is now, its mornings full of Mynahs, its Morne full of bird song.
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