The welcome to Mauritius was spectacular. We arrived at about 7:30 am local time. We were greeted with shots of rum, a fruit basket and a welcome bag of goodies. Alan (s/v Bronwyn) also handed us a fresh baguette, which we proceeded to eat immediately. There were many fellow fleet members there to welcome us after our two week passage. After our shot of rum, we were invited over to s/v Peat Smoke (who arrived 1 mile ahead of us) for a shot of whiskey. I cannot remember the last time I had so much to drink before 9:00 am. Thus began a long series of celebrations. Every time a boat arrived a whole group of people would come out to welcome the boat, even if the boat arrived in the middle of the night. The biggest celebration occurred when s/v J'Sea arrived. John and Linda had to hand steer for almost the entire two week trip due to their auto pilot failing.
While in Mauritius, Alan and Mark (s/v Bronwyn) invited us to head out for a day of touring in their hired car (rented car). We set off with a rough sketch of where we were planning on going but really just set out. We visited the Bois Cheri tea factory which was founded in 1892 and had an intimate tour of the factory. We were able to walk through the entire factory getting really close to the machinery. Next we went to the Chamarel Rum Factory where we had a quick tour of the factory, a rather lengthy rum tasting and then an exquisite lunch at their restaurant.
After the rum factory lunch and a stop at their store (where I purchased the vanilla flavored liquor), we went back to the tea factory for our tea tasting. The view was spectacular and the tea was the perfect way to end the day.
We also did a day long tour with the rest of the World Arc Fleet. Unfortunately, Mark was left behind at the boat working on the heads (more about that in one moment). We started out at the Labourdonnais Chateau which was a restored mansion which was originally built in 1856-1859 and part of a large sugar cane plantation. We visited a Sucre (sugar) Factory which was converted into a museum. Sucre production continues to be one of the major economies in Mauritius in addition to tourism. The Dutch introduced sugar cane production to the island when it was colonized by them in 1598. One third of the island was devoted to sugar production at that time. We also visited the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens. The gardens were renamed after the Mauritius' first Prime Minister who was elected to office in 1968 when the island gained its independence. The botanical garden is home to 85 different types of palm trees. I had no idea there were so many kinds. The interesting thing about the botanical garden is that there were trees from all over the world there. The garden had many plaques announcing who had donated the tree and where the tree was from. The result was an amazing collection of the most interesting and beautiful trees from around the world.
As mentioned in my last blog, there are multiple items on the list to fix while we are in Cape Town. Unfortunately, sometimes items become a major priority before you are ready to deal with them. Soon upon arriving in Mauritius we realized that we were unable to dump our holding tank (the tank that holds the waste from the boat). We have two ways to empty the tank - one by using the macerator pump which macerates the waste and then dumps it overboard - the other by pumping out the waste through a fitting on our deck which is typically done at a marina with pump out facilities. Mark and I quickly discovered that our macerator pump was broken and our holding tank was full. Thus, we were no longer able to use our heads (toilets) on board. Luckily, we were at a marina where there were toilets available to use 24 hours per day. We won't go into what we would have had to do if we were in an anchorage! We quickly learned that there were no pump out facilities in Mauritius and probably there wouldn't be any in Reunion Island either, our next stop. We had someone look at the macerator pump and we were told that the bellows was broken and they could not get a replacement part for it for at least one week, maybe two. Mark spent the next day taking apart the macerator pump (an odoriferous and messy job) and taking apart one of the pumps for the head which has some identical parts. He also called Island Packet to see if they could provide us with any other helpful information on how to fix the pump. They disagreed with the first diagnosis of the problem and told us that our duck bill valves were probably inverted. We liked that diagnosis because Mark found two spare duck bill valves already on the boat. I arrived back to the boat around 5:00 pm after the tour and Mark filled me in on what he had done and learned. I took a look at the two pumps which he had taken apart and started trying to clean up some of the mess (not fun). Within a few minutes, I told Mark that I thought we could replace the duck bill valves. He confirmed that if we did take apart the pipes leading to the pump (where one of the valves was located) we would not have a volcanic eruption of the holding tank but rather have about 1.5 cups of waste to deal with. I said let's do it. So we spent the next 3.5 hours taking the rest of the pump apart, replacing the duck bill valves (which were inverted, thank you Island Packet) and putting everything back together. Once done, we turned on the macerator pump and the holding tank emptied. We celebrated by using the toilets. Replacing these duck bill valves is now the foulest job I have done on the boat, followed closely by cleaning the shower drain pumps and the primary water filter on the water maker.
While sitting on Southern Cross one afternoon, I remembered that they had a scale on board. Both Mark and I know we have lost weight since starting the trip but have not had the opportunity to weigh ourselves since we left America almost one year ago. Both of us hopped on the scale and weighed ourselves. Between the two of us, we have lost 50 lbs. I won't disclose how much Mark has lost but I can tell you I have lost 15 lbs. Mark's comment after getting off the scale was that he feels emaciated. He went back to our boat and happily ate a bag of potato chips.
While in Mauritius, we found a movie theatre that had movies in English with French subtitles. Given that Mark's wish while on the Indian Ocean Passage was to go see the new Bourne movie, we were ecstatic to find that the Bagatella Mall's movie theatre was playing the Bourne Legacy. The night before we left Mauritius, Cathy and Steve (s/v Southern Cross) joined us at the movie theatre and we happily watched the movie. We had to go back for seconds on the popcorn because the large container was smaller than the smallest you would find in America. And forget about extra butter. But curiously, no one was complaining.
The morning we left Mauritius, we had a multi-cultural blessing ceremony on the dock. Two Catholic priests, a Buddhist monk, a Muslim religious leader, a Hindu religious leader, and a Jewish rabbi all participated in the service. This ceremony was truly indicative of the unity of all of the religious groups on the island. There is much respect for all cultures and all people in Mauritius (1.2 million in total). Everyone we met talked of tolerance and acceptance of all the people on the island. We had one of the best welcomes from the people of Mauritius out of all the places we visited. The people and their graciousness certainly make Mauritius a wonderful place to visit.