Cultural discovery of the
south coast on electric bikes
Mauritius Island is full of secret gem’s when it come to its history, culture and nature. For good and for bad, it is not always easy to discover them and to stumble upon someone who knows well the subject. Through this article, Mauritius Conscious’ team and friends will take you down the unspoiled south coast of the island, where we were treated for a full-day of discoveries riding our electric bikes.
Our journey started at La Place du Moulin in Bel Ombre. After understanding better how the electric-assistance bikes work and, following a thorough briefing on safety, we stepped into our adventure. First stop was the Chateau de Bel Ombre, a splendid colonial house that the very Charles Telfair used to call home sweet home, surrounded by beautiful flower gardens and a golf course nowadays. Botanist, Doctor and Personal Secretary of Mauritius Governor, Telfair was crucial to the introduction of botanical gardens in Mauritius, like the Pamplemousses Garden, and to the discovery of endemic species, like the Telfairs skink from Round Island. My favorite take-away, however, was to learn that in his public figure role, Telfair fought to improve the living conditions of slaves, like their education and housing opportunities.
We took our bikes and safely rode in single line between sugarcane fields and the turquoise-blue ocean. Second stop was at the Baie du Jacotet, a beautiful, sandy beach marked by history rather than hotel and villa developments. Turns out that this overlooked spot in the South coast witnessed a determining battle between the French and the English during the French mandate in Mauritius; a battle that injured both captains and sent them to heal next to the other at the same hospital. The drastic loss of British soldiers in this battle and the apparent weakness of the French made the Royal Navy come to a final, master decision: they should invest all their remaining resources in a surprise, land attack from the North of Mauritius – the same that won them power over the island in 1810.
The sun was bright above us and a generous breeze refreshed our way to the incredibly beautiful beach of St. Felix. The group of local riders who accompanied us couldn’t help but notice how reduced the stretch of sand was compared to their childhood memories. “Sand erosion is mostly due to two factors: the degradation of the coral reef and that of the coastal forests that used to surround the coast” said Romina, specialist in sustainable tourism. “The buildings and roads built so close to the shore have replaced the flora and the dunes that represented physical barriers for sand not to drift away. Added to that, the diminished coral barrier isn’t capable any longer to prevent the currents and waves from coming in and pulling the fragile sand deposits back with them. I felt relieved to be wearing my eco-compatible sunscreen, at least, but seeing the degradation of the beach certainly helped me understand how important it is to support less destructive kinds of developments in-land, rather than yet more Resorts on the scarce coast.
We continued our way through Riambel beach and La Roche qui Pleure, until we arrived to the lively village of Souillac to discover its old port. It’s preserved architecture from the times of French colonization made it easy to imagine how it looked in its times of splendour (late 1700’s, most of 1800’s) when it used to be one of the most important ports of Mauritius.
As my energy levels and those of my electric bike started to run low, we arrived at Madame Mala’s home, my favorite stop of the day. Mala hosted us warmly at her place and welcomed the group of bikers with the most delicious vegetarian curries I have ever had: cari gros pois, giromoun, brèdes and rougaille soya. We gladly helped her to spread the batter of the traditional flat and round rotis – only ours were squares.
After the tasteful break it was time for us to get back onto the saddle. The electric motor and support of our bikes was very appreciated at this point. We took the same road back to Bel Ombre but this time it seemed like a totally new one, thanks to the different perception of landscapes and the new stops of our guides along the road.
If you, like me, are eager to discover and learn more about Mauritius, our Conscious Partners can organize this and other biking tours around the island just as good! Give a go to the Chamarel, Le Morne, Grand Old Port and Pamplemousses discoveries in an eco-conscious and culturally-rich way.
#ditchthevan #ditchyourcar #takeaelectricbike