After the drive described in the last post, I stayed the Saturday night in Mahébourg. (Auberge Aquarella; I recommend it.) Early the next morning, after chatting a bit with a bus driver at the local station, I wandered out to the beach and took one of my oddest photographs.
Dotted along the coast are a number of tiny shrines, often just on little ledges between the road and the sea. Most are Hindu but this one is obviously Christian. It's wonderfully sited on a little rock, so that it's an island at least at high tide.
Everyone who sees this photo wants to get closer.
Then they ask, wait, who's that inside?
I'm not sure. An image of a man in a loincloth. Jesus? As with many things, I like this level of uncertainty. And I love the idea that small rocks on the edge of the sea are the place for shrines.
Then I drove west across the island, trying to keep to back roads.
I stopped for an hour or so at a small farmstead that's been developed as a tourist attraction. That is to say: they've set up an entry booth, and a shop, and they charge admission. Other than that, it looks like a farm, dedicated to research on sustainable agriculture -- in other words, something, anything, other than sugarcane.
This enclosure had me wondering if they were appealing to children who knew the story of the tortoise and the hare.
I was headed generally for the Black River Gorges National Park in the southwest highlands of the island, but viewed from the road, the park was a disappointment. It appeared to be a series of former plantations. I'd drive through a patch of pure pine, then pure eucalyptus, then pure melaleuca. But at one of the overlooks there was a chance to get down into more varied foliage. My irreverent camera, bucking my better judgment, sought out the absurd.
But overall the view southwest looked like this. The rock in the middle distance is on the coast ...
When I drove on down to the coast, the same rock looked like this.
The west coast is dry (sugarcane must be irrigated) and moderately touristed. The volcanic landforms are especially obvious.
I made a brief stop at the Casela Bird Park, a small zoo over-laden with secondary attractions (Minature golf?). No luck photographing birds, but I did find a small indigenous garden in a very remote corner of the place, as though it were tolerated as the hobby of an eccentric uncle. It yielded just one photogenic Mauritius native, a Dombeya acutangula.
I drove back east along the island's southern coast, one of the least touristed shores. It was a pleasant Sunday late afternoon, and everyone seemed out in the strees and parks and beaches of the coastal towns. And despite the lack of tourists, someone had taken the trouble to plant the highway with coconut palms. (Planted rows of trees on rural highways are surprisingly common all over the island.)
So that's what I can offer. No great drama. No great summing up. Just a scrap of palm in the wind, and the sugarcane.