Monday, January 08, 2007

Mauritius, the Dodos, and Us.

Happy New Year!

The island nation of Mauritius lies east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean off Africa's east coast. If you haven't heard of it before, you are in good company- not many people have, but it's remarkable as the only place that ever harbored the extinct Dodo bird. The wooden carving above was one of my holiday purchases on the island.

If you have seen the movie Ice Age, you might remember the part with the Dodo birds fighting the heroes for watermelons. "There goes our last female!" was yelled by someone in our family every time we saw a new Dodo likeness, which was pretty often. Tee shirts, statues, key chains, magnets, paintings, you name it- never has an extinct animal enjoyed such adulation.

Anyway- that is where I've been lately. :-)

We planned and executed a hedonist's holiday, spending 11 days relaxing and doing our best not to think or do anything difficult. We succeeded admirably.

We flew from Ghana to Dubai in the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) where we switched planes for the last leg. Due to lag in flight scheduling, Emirates Airlines provided us with a hotel room in Dubai for 18 hours (and three meals!) and after a nap we went out to explore a little. This was the first visit any of us has made to an Arabic country.

Cooper has certainly been exposed to a lot of different cultures, even in the U.S., but this raised the bar for him substantially. It was an eye opener for him to see, side by side, women in tube tops and hot pants and women in full burkas. He heard his first muezzin call and watched people respond to it, and he spotted his first arrow (on the ceiling of our hotel room) pointing him toward Mecca. He got to see endless examples of the graceful written Arabic language and see signs for 'exotic' destinations hanging over the highway just like any busy street in America.

We enjoyed our brief stay and wallowed in the modern efficiency of the city- what a change!
Hi Jin! We were practically in your backyard, but so jet lagged, we couldn't think straight.)

Once we arrived in Mauritius (a few days before Christmas), we checked into the hotel and our terrific room beachside.

Our room is straight back if you just stay between the trees, on the ground floor. The picture was taken from the beach. We just walked out our patio door, across the grass and parked ourselves on beach chairs, steps from the Indian Ocean.

This is what you see if you stand in the last picture and turn 180 degrees.

It looks like heaven, and it was.

This was our holiday tree...

...shared with the other guests and photographed through the lobby looking across the pool and out toward the ocean.

We didn't learn a darned thing, didn't see anything historically important, and didn't expand our minds an inch during this vacation, but it still felt pretty good.

We spent three hours touring a wildlife reserve on the south end of the island on Quad bikes (the four wheel off-road ones that are so fun and can be so dangerous). The wildlife was boars and deer, neither of which are in short supply in America so we didn't exactly swoon over them, but this was the scenery we drove our ATVs through...

We also visited a glass blowing factory (all their glass is made from recycled material) where we watched them work for quite a while and then bought way too much stuff, including a small glass Dodo. :-)

The island itself is volcanic, and even though it's been a couple hundred plus years since the last eruption (sometime just after the Dodo went extinct), there is a huge volcanic crater in the center of the island. This is what you see standing at the edge of the crater...

...and when you turn around...

 get a terrific view of the island from about 1500 feet in elevation.

We snorkeled a lot, watched dolphins play, collected bleached coral from the beach, and ate WAY too much.

When New Year's Eve came, the hotel thoughtfully provided party hats (which Cooper found very much to his liking) and midnight fireworks on the beach.

Here we are amusing ourselves by snapping pictures of ourselves as we wait for the show to begin in the last minutes of 2006...

And here is the world's worst picture ever of fireworks, but we like it anyway.

It was a great evening and a terrific vacation.