Fri 09.11.12 – Sun 11.11.12:
After an hour’s sleep, I was back up an’ at ‘em, ready to take on my final day in Réunion. Geraldine left for a work meeting at 9am and I made good use of the morning, updating my blog and uploading a ton of photos onto Facebook. I spoke to Mickael and he assured me that the ticket for today’s ferry to Mauritius was in the bag – all I needed to do is turn up and show my ‘onward ticket’ (something I knocked up on Illustrator) and we were done. I was hoping to see Mickael for lunch before I left, but he was busy with work.
At lunchtime, Geraldine returned and we ate together before I gathered my things together and headed for the bus station. Bye Geraldine! You’re the BEST! I had been told in no uncertain terms to be at the port of 3.30pm SHARP! The fact that I was only getting on the bus (17km away from the port) at 3.20pm told me I might not make that deadline. But it’s motorway pretty much all the way, so I’d only be 10 minutes late. Well, that’s if there was no traffic jam getting out of Saint-Denis (there was) and if the bus driver dropped me at the port (he didn’t).
The problem is this: the town NEAR the port is called (rather unhelpfully) “Le Port”. So when you ask if the bus is going to THE port or LE port it creates all kinds of hilarious linguistic confusion that wouldn’t seem out of place in a racist 1970s sitcom. Anyway, after I explained that I needed the harbour, the quayside, the dock, the place where the floaty boat things live, the driver told me I needed to get off *ici*. Okay. So I start walking. Now I was kind of expecting I might be walking in the searing heat for maybe five, ten minutes.
Nah, make that FORTY. He had dropped me three kilometres from where I needed to be. The Seven Years War was over 250 years ago France, for heaven’s sake, get over it!!
And so it was 4.30pm by the time I got to the ferry, half jogging, hoping they wouldn’t tell me I was too late, meet me with that blank-faced ‘non’ that irritated the hell out of Mickael at the port last week. I shouldn’t have worried. There was still a massive queue. I didn’t check in for another half an hour.
Getting back onto the old Trochetia was a funny old feeling. I can’t quite believe it’s been THREE YEARS since I was last on the beast. And yet I instinctively knew where the canteen was, how to get out on deck and (most importantly) where the bar was.
Happy the Phoenix beer was just €1 a can. As we pulled out of port and circled around the north of the island, I went out onto the deck to watch the sun set in the warm evening air. I was happily updating my Twitter feed while texting sweet nothings to Casey when OH JESUS CHRIST DID I JUST SERIOUSLY JUST ACTUALLY SERIOUSLY DO THAT??
I checked my sent items. Oh bollocks. I had. I had just sent a private message intended for my girlfriend TO TWITTER. And my Twitter account is linked to this site, Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, MySpace, Digg, Google+, LinkedIn, Friends Reunited, b3ta, 4chan, Wikipedia, Reuters, BBC News, Cracked.com, MI5, the CIA, the FBI, The Matrix, Babylon 5, the Harlem Globetrotters and Wikileaks. My howls of anguish reverberated throughout the Southern Hemisphere.
This is when it pays to a) have a tech-savvy girlfriend b) trust her with your passwords.
Thanks Case! Won’t happen again!! *eek*
Once I’d been assured that all mention of the incident had been stricken from the record (thank goodness that the message was fairly innocuous) my body finally remembered that it hadn’t slept for a week and a half. I staggered to my shared cabin and heaved my carcass up into my bunk. Within 10 minutes I was fast asleep.
I awoke at 6am with a feeling we may have arrived in Mauritius. We had arrived in Mauritius. This met with a modicum of relief, since my ticket for some reason said Réunion > Tamatave. As Tamatave is in Madagascar that would have been a bad thing.
So then, Mauritius WE MEET AGAIN! One more Saturday night out eh? Well BRING IT ON!!
Mauritius is a great little island. I’ve been here twice before on The Odyssey Expedition. Funny place: it was completely uninhabited by humans until fairly recently, and then it was fought over by the noble British and the dastardly French (joking, just joking!) so it has a rather eclectic mix of ethnicities: Creole Africans, Indians, French and Britishers. Unlike Réunion, pretty much everybody here is at least bilingual, most being multilingual. Whereas the French selfishly hoard Réunion for themselves (when did you last see a tourist brochure for Réunion eh?), Mauritius is open to everyone. As I mentioned last time I was here, it’s the home of the dodo, the second most famous extinct bird in the world (after Amy Winehouse) and the most expensive postage stamp in the world.
Unlike Maldives (with which it is sometimes confused, along with Montserrat, Martinique and Mauritania), Mauritius is a volcanic island, so it has little to fear as a result of man-made global climate change, and unlike most of the 54 other countries that make up the African Union, it isn’t a complete basket-case.
(I must stress at this point that I am not admonishing Africans by saying that, I’m criticising the post-colonial system, the obscene presidential kleptocracies given carte blanche (and immunity from prosecution) by the bloated faceless harpies of the United Nations along with the systematic removal of all individual rights to not be imprisoned without trail, tortured, raped or slaughtered by your own government. I make no bones about it: the world would be a better place without the United Nations. I wrote at length about this matter last time I was in Africa. I will probably do so again.)
I had arranged to met with Arno, my CouchSurf host, at 11am. After a pleasant Danish and coffee at the Port Louis Waterfront (where I remembered from last time had free wi-fi), I was heading over to the old post office to meet him when I was stopped by a middle-aged Australian couple called John and Dawn who recognised me from the TV. We had a good chat about travelling the world and John showed me a map of all the places they had been. They gave even me a run for my money. Once you get them itchy feet though, it’s a hard habit to kick.
It was pouring down with rain by the time I reached Arno. I jumped in his car and off we went to his home in Grand Baie, a few miles north of Port Louis. Arno is originally from La Rochelle on the west coast of France and he works in shipbuilding, mostly design schematics for vessels under 100ft. We were welcomed into his home by his lovely Mauritian girlfriend, Emeline, and after getting stuff organised for the big departure tomorrow and a pow-wow with my old mucka Dino, the three of us headed out to Port Louis. I had an important photo to take.
After a bottle of Franziskaner beer from the lovely little Lambic bar and restaurant (situated in one of the few original colonial-era houses still standing in the city), we headed back to the scene of the crime. The Keg and Marlin.
One of the funniest parts of my TV show (aside from the silly title and the bits where I get thrown in jail) is during my stay in Mauritius the first time, three years ago. I won a stack of cash on the horses and then decided (in my infinite wisdom) to blow it all on booze. This seemed like a good idea at the time as I was fairly convinced that since it had taken me 10 months to reach 124 countries, it would only take another 8 or so to reach the last 76 (this was pre-South Sudan). HOW WRONG I WAS.
Anyway, there was a drinking competition at the Keg and Marlin pub on the Waterfront. Pretty straight forward: you had six weeks in which to drink 20 beers, each from a different country of the world. This ‘Drink Your Way Around The World’ challenge sounded pretty sweet to me, but unlike the locals, I only had one night in which to do it in. My ship back to Réunion left at 3pm the following afternoon.
I’ll start with a Guinness, Mr Barman…
(Video may not be available in the UK due to copywrong issues)
So it was time to go back and see if my name was proudly displayed on the wall. I looked, but I couldn’t find it. But then Arno spotted it, second column, right at the top (as requested!): GRAHAM HUGHES.
I’ve not been this proud of my own achievements since I completed the Curry Hell challenge in the old Rupali restaurant in Newcastle. The hottest curry in the world and I hoovered it up like it was Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.
Hey, did I ever mention I’ve met Quentin Tarantino?
And beat Joe Calzaghe in a fight???
ENOUGH, GRAHAM! Stick to the damn story!
Sorry ego demon. So then, a quick celebratory pint in the ol’ Keg and once again we were off, this time to a fancy beer restaurant what makes it’s own beer and everything. A couple of halves of the blonde stuff and I was in my element, chatting away nineteen to the dozen to Emeline About Mauritian history and politics. Ah, the best lessons are always learnt down the pub.
After that we headed back to Grand Baie for some Chinese food before retiring to bed at a reasonable hour. A grand day out, eh Gromit?