After a hectic week, we do sometimes long to disconnect, to unwind.
On this first Saturday of June, I felt an urge to surround myself with green. There are several attractions in Mauritius that promote the communion of Man with nature, but I was far from imagining that the haven of peace I was about to discover would exceed all my hopes.
Indeed, I delightfully accepted an invitation to spend the weekend at La Vallée de L’Est, a hunting camp on a private piece of land. We were advised to take a 4×4 to get there. The spot was difficult to access! We were warned! We drove, fully equipped, to the Southeast of the island; we were told the nights were likely to be chilly (although this is the mid-season), we therefore also brought our sweaters but remained a little skeptical!
The ride to La Vallée de L’Est was very enjoyable, we crossed a really beautiful road along the sea. We were in absolute awe of the authenticity of the village of Vieux Grand Port. There in fact reigns an indescribable atmosphere. Could it be due to past events? Quite possibly!
It is in fact in this picturesque village that the Dutch first landed in 1598, a year that marked the first wave of colonization on the island. We stopped in front of the monument that was erected to commemorate this event and then discovered the ruins of a military base built by the Dutch. It also served as a station for the French a few years thereafter. The route led us to Bois des Amourettes (which literally means ‘the woods of fleeting love’), overlooked by Lion Mountain. It is a small village that apparently takes its name from the several wooded areas found there and in which lovers kept away from prying eyes! How authentic was this explanation? We like the idea of this spicy version to be the correct one!
A long white concrete and stone pier caught our attention. It was built during World War II as the British planned on using it for warships during stopovers for supplies, except that when its construction was completed, the war was already over. We took a side road that would take us to our spot, perched high up in the valley. We quickly figured out why a car would not have been suitable; it was undoubtedly a rough path, along a winding road, off the beaten track with sharp outlines, enough to make one feel nauseous! We were flung back and forth and had to hang on for the ride but the discomfort of our trip faded into background once we saw the sumptuous landscapes lying ahead of us!
The view offered a myriad of colors: different shades of green and azure blue. A panoramic beauty that left us speechless! A green setting where we could spot majestic hundred-year-old trees and deer running wild in the valley. Right there, the mountains, further away, the valleys and in the distance, the ocean. The higher we went, the rockier and bumpier the climb became, and the view even more amazing! We reached a plateau where we found the spot where we would spend unforgettable moments: a pretty wooden house overlooking the surrounding valleys, offering a breathtaking view of the lagoon islands: L’île-au-Phare and L’île de la Passe. We could see sailing boats over the horizon, leaving the village of Mahebourg en route to L’Ile aux Cerfs. A stunning postcard-like view!
That weekend getaway definitely promised a unique experience. The cabin is not connected to the island’s electricity grid, it produces its own supply of electricity from solar panels. It has a rustic decor with hunting trophies and an antique fireplace.
We soon realized that we would have to wrap up well in the evening as the location is exposed to general winds. It was chilly and that was a very good excuse to burn logs in the famous fireplace. Sitting around the fire, we felt like we were in a chalet in Switzerland! We were surrounded by great silence and the thick darkness of the night. By the torchlight, we could distinguish shining eyes in the bush. Those were curious deer coming to spy on us.
At sunrise, we came out of our restful sleep to the sound of chirping birds. A treat to our ears! As we opened the shutters, we took a deep breath of fresh air, whilst staring at the picturesque landscape ahead of us. The dazzling sun was showing off its orange highlights before heading off to the mountains. A small walk in the surrounding woods was called for. We took a decisive step through a trail. We walked into the trees and shrubs: hibiscus, guava trees, fig trees, royal palm trees … We could not keep our eyes off that unaltered lush nature, but we still feared to find ourselves face to face with the Great Woods! What a shame it would be to disturb them! The walk was invigorating, as we had to cross streams, pass over fences while paying attention to our surroundings. We had to be careful not to leave any marks!
Once lunch was over, a nap in the grass was most welcomed and that was the moment we were introduced to the local kestrel. We had spotted her lair earlier. She gave us a great performance of her flight. That rare bird made our day. In the distance, the catamarans returned with satisfied passengers on board. The day drew to an end and the night fell too early on our perfect day. It was hard imagining that we would have to take the road back to civilization the next day! Admittedly, we were not looking forward to going back to our modern comfort, noise and traffic jam!
However, we had to heavy heartedly collect our belongings to take the road back. The path back winded downwards with sharp curves and right then, we had to abruptly stop the vehicle because, just a few meters away stood a majestic deer on the watch-out. It stood proudly, staring at us for a few minutes that seemed like an eternity! We did not dare to move, although we craved to immortalize the moment, but we feared we would scare it away. We still had plenty of time to enjoy its sight before it went on and disappeared into the woods.
It occurred to us that it probably wanted us to know that this was its territory and that as a good host, it came to say goodbye! Did it also want to thank us for our visit and let us know that we could come back …? We dared to believe that it did because this fascinating spot nestled at the top of this valley deserved a second visit!