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Category Archives: Wanderlust

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PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 3: In Which Two Lionesses Decide Not To Have Us For Lunch

Day 2 of our Mauritius trip ended on a fantastic note and we ended up buying a model of HMS Bounty.

On to day 3 of our Mauritius trip. As per the itinerary set by our trip organizer, day 3 was supposed to be a day of rest. However, we had done a bit of digging and discovered that Casela National Park was an absolute must see location for anyone visiting Mauritius.

So we made a few phone calls to our tour organizer, some money changed hands and we were on our way to Casela National Park. Casela National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, zoo and adventure park all rolled into one. It has loads of wildlife related activities and some adventure activities like zip lining and quad bike driving as well.

So let me get on to the activity which we were really really looking forward to.

Walking with the Lions!!

To the best of my knowledge, this activity is offered in only three countries in the world: Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mauritius.Let me try to describe this activity.

  1. Step 1: Take 2 Lions or Lionesses. We are an equal opportunities employer here in Mauritius.
  2. Step 2: Take a bunch of unsuspecting pieces of lion food/ pieces of meat tourists.
  3. Step3: Make them take an hour long walk with the aforementioned lions. Make the tourists hold a stick each to make them feel brave(please excuse me while I break into uncontrollable laughter). I suppose you could send along a bunch of guides.
  4. Step 4: Take a headcount and limbcount at the end of the walk. Missing tourists are bad for tourism.
  5. Step 5: Laugh all the way to the bank.

Basically, the Casela National Park animal keepers train the lions to the point that they do not attack any tourists who are accompanied by the keepers. In all other aspects, they are still wild. They hunt, they fight and display all the aggression, ferocity and yes, playfulness of their species.

Also, you are given a stick to hold on to which is an added signal to the lion that you are not to be attacked. The lions are not tame in any way. They have just been barely trained to reign in their aggressive instincts to a small extent when accompanied by their keepers.

For our walk, we were accompanied by four National Park Keepers, a bunch of tourists and two Lionesses. The lionesses were: a white lioness named Pizula and a tawny one named Sinanga.

Pallavi: Yash you remember the names of the lionesses who would have preferred to eat you and don’t remember the names of the Animal Keepers who were there to save your scrawny butt. Doesn’t that indicate something to you about your geeky personality?

Me: Hmmmmm… No.

Pallavi: <Rolling her eyes>

We really would have liked to walk with lions instead of lionesses as I think they look more majestic and beautiful and drop dead awesome (Go ahead .. call me a Male Chauvinist) but as per the keepers, males tend to be lazy and moody and not always active so early in the morning (wonder why Pallavi is laughing her head off..).

Anyhoo.. back to the walk..We received some preliminary instructions from the keepers.

  • No sudden movements.
  • Always keep the stick in your hands.
  • When we ask you to pat the lions(I can’t believe we did this and I can’t believe that I am using the words “pat” and “Lion” in the same sentence), do not pat it like you would pat your grandma’s little awww-cho-cute kitten. Pat Thump it with a firm hand. If you pat it softly, it will think that it is being buzzed by flies and will take a bite out of your hand(ouch!).
  • Stay with the group. If you lose sight of the group, be afraid. Be very afraid!
  • Do not touch the back of the lion’s neck as they take it as a threat.
  • Please try to smile for the photos.

Now I will let my pictures do most of the talking..

And they lead in the Furred, Feline Beauties

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Walking with Sinanga.

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And here we get to actually pat Pizula.

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The fact that these lionesses are quite wild was brought home to us in quite a dramatic fashion when Pallavi tried to pat Pizula.

Despite the instruction from the keepers, she patted Pizula with a light touch instead of giving the lioness a firm patting. Before we realized it, Pizula turned her neck and snapped at Pallavi’s hand! Thankfully, Pallavi pulled her hand back with a shriek and the keepers calmed Pizula down. No harm done except maybe to our blood pressures.

Then there was Sinanga. Her favourite and supposedly playful activity was to run ahead of the group, hide behind a tree and jump on Pizula when she passed by the tree!

As if these shenanigans were not enough, a few minutes later, Sinanga apparently smelled out some prey nearby and rushed right off! Pizula went running after her friend and some of the keepers had to go running after them to get them back.

Man those ladies sure know what they want out of life!

About 10 minutes later, the keepers led back the two lionesses. They had smelled some wild boar and had started chasing them. It was only with great difficulty and some bribery in the form of some chopped meat that the keepers were able to get them back for the walk.

And now we come to my favourite pics from this day..

The keepers got Pizula to climb up a tree.

Totally Obvious Side Note: If any misguided dumbass tells you to climb a tree when you are being chased by a lion; DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! Lions don’t just climb trees. They literally run up the trunk of the tree like they were born for it! If you want to avoid a lion by climbing up a tree, you need to find a tree which you can climb faster than the lion and which the lion can’t climb. Good luck with that Mr. Dead Meat.

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Anyways, the keepers got Pizula to climb up a tree and we got our pics taken with Pizula looking down at us like I would look at a plate of Aloo Paranthas with a side order of mango pickles.

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And finally my absolute favourite pic of the entire trip.

The precise moment when Pallavi realized that the 100 Kilo bundle of pointy clawed, sharp toothed ferocity sitting above us, probably sees us as lunch.

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Thank you so much Sinanga and Pizula for not eating us.

After this we got to see some Lion cubs and also explored the zoo for a while.

Then it was time for …

Zip Lining!!

Zip Lining was awesome fun but the part which was most scary and exciting was the Burma Bridge Crossing.

This is Burma Bridge Crossing:

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Yep..500 metres of shaky cable and plank bridge suspended over a gorge with awesome views of the park and the soundtrack being provided by your knocking knees.

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I would like to think that I have a good head for heights but the 20 minute walk across the Burma bridge was seriously scary. Yes we had safety lines and even if we had slipped, we wouldn’t have fallen. Try telling that to your mind.

Gotta say Pallavi did it like a champ. I could see that she was scared too but she just kept walking, one step in front of another and pretty soon she was across. There is an awesome life lesson right there.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How do you cross a 500 metre chasm on a shaky plank bridge? One step at a time!

Ok.. enough with the fruity self help talk.

It was Zip Lining Time.We went through three zip lining courses and each of them was mind-blowing..

Yes we had a safety line. Yes it was still scary.

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Go on it is just a small step 🙂

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Wheeeeeee ………….

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My plan for tandem skydiving with Pallavi was shot down by Pallavi on the grounds that I am legally insane and was probably dropped on my head when I was a baby leading to an unfortunate and incurable case of my brains having leaked out of my ears.

And with that I conclude my Mauritius trip chronicles. I have not included everything that we saw or did.I have mainly included the highlights.

If anyone is planning a trip to Mauritius, drop in a comment and I will help you out any ways I can.

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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Wanderlust

 

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PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 1: In Which We Fly High, Go Low and Almost Eat Fish!

On to the day 1 of our Mauritius trip.

We started the day with a breakfast of toast, fruit, porridge, milk, orange juice, coffee and more fruit. The travel agency bus arrived at 8:30 am and off we went. There were a bunch of honeymooning Indian couples in the bus and we were glad for the company.  We were also glad and a bit surprised to spot a much older Indian couple with us. They were in their sixties and it was real pleasure to see them. It is not very common for older Indian couples to visit places like Mauritius and we were pleasantly surprised to see them.

The plan for the day was:

  • Visit to the Ille Aux Surfs island which has some great beaches and a small waterfall inland.
  • WATER SPORTS!!!!
  • Lots of swimming.

Our driver (another Mauritian of Indian descent called Manish) took us to an agency which conducts watersports and we bought tickets for the following activities:

  • Tube Riding
  • Para Sailing
  • Undersea Walk and
  • A boat trip to the waterfall

Lunch was part of the package. This whole package came to 6500 Mauritian Rupees(INR 12000 approx) per couple.

So anyways, off we went to the beach for the first activity of the day:

Tube Riding

Let me describe Tube Riding in my eloquent, moving and articulate writing style.

You sit on rubber boat. Rubber boat tied to speed boat with rope. Speed boat move at high speed. Rubber boat dragged behind. Bumpety-bumpety-bump-bump! Since you idiot enough to sit in said rubber boat, hold on for dear life. Screaming mandatory. Curse and swear to taste.

After this was over we headed out for our next activity:

Undersea Walk.

This was one activity that Pallavi and I were really, really looking forward to. We had heard a lot of great things about this and were really excited about it. In undersea walk, the operators take you to a shallow(3-4 m depth) stretch of the ocean. You put on a clear plastic helmet through which fresh air is pumped in through a pipe for you to breathe. They also attach a couple of weights to your waist. Then you descend underwater and can actually walk on the ocean bed. That’s right. You actually walk underwater!

Now that the boring technical description is over, I will actually get to describe the experience itself.

Undersea walks has got to be one of the highlights of our trip to Mauritius. I had never experienced anything like this before.(Mental Note: Learn Scuba Diving ASAP). We got to the launch point for undersea walk by boat. Launch point was a platform built in shallow waters about 2-3 km from the coast. Soon it was our time to go under. We put on the bubble shaped helmet(which I’ll be calling the Bone Dome:)), shoes and the weights and down the ladder we went.

The first thing that stuck me about the experience was the absolute silence underwater. This is something that I have experienced while swimming but it was a bit eerie when it happened during the walk. There was a serenity to the whole experience that was both enervating and unnerving at the same time. Lifting my head up, I could see the sunlight streaming down through the clear water. It was an awesome sight. Then I slowly relaxed and saw that the ocean floor was covered with broken coral pieces and some bits from an old ship wreck. White and black striped fish swam with impunity around us. Soon Pallavi joined me and we settled down to enjoy one of the most fantastic experiences of our trip. We tried touching the fish and barely managed it. Man can those fishes swim! They will be swimming along slowly, seemingly oblivious to their environment and as soon as you try to touch them.. zoom!! They swim away from you so fast. Then the operators handed us a bit of bread to feed the fish and suddenly we had the entire school of fish feeding from our hands. And it tickled like crazy :). This was an awesome experience. I will be probably boring my grand-kids with stories of how we fed fish underwater.

Here are some pics

Pallavi All Smiles :)

Pallavi All Smiles 🙂

Inside water.. This is y I came to Mauritius :)

Inside water.. This is y I came to Mauritius 🙂

All we need are a bunch of fins and we are good to go.. Hehehe

All we need are a bunch of fins and we are good to go.. Hehehe

Hmm.. Pallavi is pinching me right now..
Pallavi: Say it! Say it!
Me: Say what?
Pallavi: You know what!
Me: I am a geek. I can’t use that word!
Pallavi: Say it or I’ll poke you with my hairpin. Go on…
Me: Alright! Alright!

Me: Undersea walks. It was Magical!

Pallavi: There! See it was not all that tough, was it?
Me: Just you wait! This article is not over yet. I will have my vengeance. Muhuhahahahaha!
Pallavi: Prrrrrrrrrr! 😛

Anyways getting back to undersea walks, it was an absolutely awesome experience and one I’ll recommend to anyone visiting Mauritius. We walked around underwater, fed the fish, had our pictures taken underwater and just chilled out and enjoyed the calming, soothing experience. Pretty soon the operators were asking us to come out and we were (very reluctantly) climbing the ladder to the surface again.

Then it was on to the next activity of the day…

Parasailing!!!

We were trying out this activity for the first time and the experience was really great. The view from the top was amazing and the wind gusting all over us has to be experienced to be believed. Now I can’t wait to learn Skydiving and Hang-gliding! My only beef with parasailing was the fact that it got over way too soon. We had barely settled down and were beginning to enjoy the view when the whole thing ended. It lasted for around 5-6 minutes which in my not so humble opinion is a big letdown. Be good if it lasts for something like 10 minutes.

Now it was time for lunch and a boatride to Ille Aux Cerfs island.

We came back to the start off point of the water sports activities for lunch. We were running a bit behind schedule so we all decided to have our lunch packed and eat at the Ille Aux Cerfs island. We collected the lunch packets and boarded the boat to Ille Aux Cerfs island.

Ille Aux Cerfs island is a beautiful island with some very pretty beaches. It also has a small waterfall inland and an Indian restaurant called Masala which we had heard a lot about.

Our ferry boat first took us to the waterfall which was just about okay. It was not a very big waterfall but the way the locals had hyped it up made you think of it as Niagara’s long lost twin sister or something.When we reached the waterfall, Pallavi’s first words were: “So where is this great big waterfall?”

Ferryman: Right in front of you madam.

Pallavi: What?? That thing over there is no waterfall!!

Me: Yeah Dude!! The diving board at my local swimming pool is higher than that!

Oh well… at this time I was reminded of a quote by Mark Twain:

The Gentle Reader will never, never know what a complete ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the Gentle Reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a complete ass“.

After visiting the “I-will-be-a-waterfall-when-i-grow-up”, we came back to the beach. It was time for lunch.

And this is when we almost ate fish!

As I mentioned before, we had taken two lunch packets before leaving for the island. Pallavi and I are vegetarians so we had asked for and received vegetarian lunch packets. And this is where I goofed up. I took the sealed lunch packets from the organizers. Asked them if they were veg and once they confirmed it, I took their word for it and didn’t open them and check.

On the Ille Aux Cerfs island, we found that one of the packets had vegetarian lunch in it, the other one had minced fish in it. That spoiled the mood a bit for Pallavi and me. Thankfully we went to the restaurant Masala on the island which had a some good reviews and had a proper lunch.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls

Do As I Say, and Don’t Do As I Do

  • Just because you are on vacation, do not switch off your common sense. Travelling, at the end of the day, involves dealing with lots of people. And people make mistakes. You do not have to make things worse by adding your own set of goof ups into the mix. Ask questions. Check things. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open. That does not mean that you should not be having fun. Have fun. Have loads of fun but do not leave your brains at home. 🙂
  • Listen to your partner. This is a big one. When I was collecting the lunch packets, Pallavi asked me to check if they were vegetarian. I should have listened to her and actually “checked”. Instead, I contented myself with taking someone’s word for it. Not a good idea. When you have a partner with you whose common sense is working as opposed to yours which has gone to sleep, it is a really good idea to just listen to them. Will save everyone a lot of aggravation.

On the plus side though, the lunch at Masala restaurant was awesome. We were really hungry and in addition to the single packed vegetarian lunch, we wolfed down two vegetarian thalis and a side order of samosas. We really felt great after that awesome lunch.

After lunch it was time for a long leisurely swim.

We spent the next one hour lazing around the beach, swimming, splashing water on each other and swimming some more. It was a beautiful beach and we had a great time.

After that we took the boat to return from the island and took the bus back to our hotel. We had loads of fun on the first day and came back to the hotel tired but happy.

Next Post: PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 2: In Which We Buy The Ship HMS Bounty

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Wanderlust

 

PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 0:In Which We Get Lost In A Dubai Shoppping Mall On The Way To Mauritius!

A trip to Mauritius was on the cards for a long time. When I was getting married, Mauritius was one of the honeymoon destinations that Pallavi and I thought about. Singapore was where we eventually decided to go for our honeymoon, but Mauritius was always in the list.

Anyways, for our second wedding anniversary, we decided to lay this craving to rest.

Pretty soon our bookings were done. We used a travel agent called Hoysala Tours and Travels and we were ready to go.

Helpful Hint:

Mauritius has tourist VISA on arrival. So, minimum of VISA related fuss.

We were booked to Mauritius on Emirates flight via Dubai, i.e, we had to switch flights in Dubai.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,

Do As I Say and Don’t Do As I Do:

Always try to book a direct flight to Mauritius if you are flying there from India.Taking a connecting flight via Dubai adds about 4-5 hours to your travel time.

On the plus side though, we got to see the Dubai airport and boy what an airport!!!

Dubai airport is HUGE!!! It is also built for trade, commerce, business, vyaapar and even money making ! 🙂 In other words, Dubai airport is one massive, duty free shopping mall which also has a few planes taking off and landing here and there and a few pesky passengers wasting space and oxygen.

Anyways we left Bangalore on the 27th of November and reached Mauritius on the same day. The travel agent rep was waiting for us and we settled down for an hour long drive to our hotel: Le Surcouf.

Our driver was a Mauritian of Indian descent named Satish. From our conversation with Satish and by looking at the Mauritian countryside, we got the following facts:

1. Sugarcane is grown everywhere and I mean everywhere.

2. Water is an expensive commodity in Mauritius. Most hotels serve only mineral water on demand for which they charge a premium. That’s right! Unlike India, as soon as you step into a hotel, a waiter is not likely to plonk down glasses of water on your table. It is better to buy mineral water bottles at convenience stores and use them. Even these are expensive but are still cheaper than paying exorbitant rates for the same at the hotel.

3. Extremely good roads. Disciplined driving. One big city(Port Louis: the capital). Rest small towns and villages.

4. Everything shuts down at around 4 pm. When we were driving down, all we could see was closed shops.

Anyways we reached our hotel at around 6 pm local time and finished off the check in formalities. Since we were a little tired, we had an early dinner and went off to sleep. Our Mauritian holiday had just begun!

Next Post: PolymathGeek Goes To Mauritius: Part 1: In Which We Fly High, Go Low and Almost Eat Fish!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Wanderlust

 
 
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