My snoring startles me awake, (jet lagged and two nights of sleepless travel to get to this fascinating island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean) and I have no idea where I am because my eyes are covered, and there is this very, very strange, yet lovely stream of warm liquid pouring all over my forehead. I am alone, covered with towels here at the La Meridian Hotel spa in Mauritius. A sweet Indian girl has given me a massage and continued to talk about a shirodhara, which I had no idea what she was talking about. Between the French Creole being spoken on this African island, the Africana of the South Africans who are here on holiday enforce, I don’t bother trying. Their English is so heavily accented, I figure I will find out soon enough what a shirodhara is.
Indian women get this treatment done two times a month and it helps with headaches, anxiety, depression, none of which I am experiencing on this gorgeous island. It was the icing on the cake after my massage.
Above my head is suspended a copper pot holding about a quart of warmed sesame oil that streams continuously over my forehead and down my head for fifteen minutes. The stream is centered on my Third Eye or chakra. After my full body massage on a teak table (and that included my belly and boobs) my endearing young Indian girl, Nisha, sets me up with my shirodhara. I’m loving it, even if my snoring startles me awake every few minutes.
It took awhile to get here- 15 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa and then another 4 into the Indian Ocean, but it is exotic and strangely lovely that I’m already feeling it is well worth the effort on Day 1.
Mauritius is more than half Indian population. Some signs are in Indian, women wear saris, the smell of exotic spices cooking fills the air and you forget that this is Africa. The handsome Black Africans are also here and there are even more that are mixed so they have this nice blending of warm skin tones and facial features. Yet these people speak French- French Creole. It is a bit confusing at first, like you were turned on your head when you got off the plane. It is best to have no expectations when you come to Mauritius for it is like no place on earth. You won’t find any Americans here yet, (altho we’re hoping that changes soon) but it kind of nice not to be surrounded by carbon copies of myself.
My massage and shirodhara rounded off a very enjoyable first day spent sailing a catamaran to two tiny islands, where we disembarked on an inflatable dingy and were deposited on this coral paradise for half the day. We snorkeled with black and white striped bullfish which came up to my fingers and nibbled on them, colorful parrotfish, brilliant yellow needlefish with pointy noses and a sea turtle! Lucky me! The sailboat hands and captain bar-b-qued a fine lunch of fish and chicken while we played and lounged on the beach and picked up pieces of bleached dead coral and took naps. This 7 hour excursion was organized by my fantastic La Meridian Hotel, which also offered the luxurious spa treatment.
After my day snorkeling and sailing and being rubbed and dripped into ecstasy, I satisfied my hunger at the hotel’s magnificent buffet. I sampled the slimy innards of prickly seas urchins cut in half and dished out with a spoon and rubbery octopus, as well as more normal seafood like smoked fish pate and stir fried garlic mussels. I can hardly wait to go to sleep and wake up and see what the next day’s adventures hold! The shirodhara oil drip made me completely forget my epic plane ride and where exactly I was in the world, and that’s a good thin, forgetting, when you are on holiday.
And, what we don’t write in the magazines…
Tonight, I scooped the loose, slimy flesh of the innerds of a sea urchin out with a spoon and tasted rubbery octopus. Eating like the locals. For a second, I thought I was back in China. But I do not feel like I am in Africa either, even though I am a 4 hour flight from Johannasburg, South Africa. I can’t tell what it feels like. The people are mostly Indian. (An Indian person speaking French in Africa- confusing.) Not that India is so close- an 8 hr flight, about. But they make up the majority of the population. I just got done reading a startling book about the Mumbai slums and this place is definitely Paradise compared to that- if I were an Indian I would be here too. “Welcome to Paradise” is the sign that greets you at the airport. I’m looking for it.
I have to look beyond the French people, who are loving this place because they speak French Creole here.So the French are everywhere. The South African are too as they offer tremendous family packages to them. The plane was full of tow-headed blonde kids who were not well behaved and spoke yet another funky-sounding language- Africana. They are Dutch descendants and look Scandinavian. They don’t talk to me either. I told a French couple at the dinner buffet tonight that the fish pate was excellent and got scolded because I do not speak French. Oh my God, they are entitled.
Today I went on an all-day catamaran ride to a small island where we swam and snorkeled. Had bbq fish and chicken lunch on board. The entire boat was filled with couples- of all ages, who sat in little pods and stroked shoulders and acted like they were all on second or first honeymoons. Guess what, they had very little interest in speaking to me. Just enraptured with one another- even grey haired couples. The ship’s photographer took each couple and posed them in lame poses – back to back on the seat, etc, behind the wheel like they were steering. At least it entertained me. He never once asked me if I wanted my picture taken, not that I did. But I felt slightly invisible.
I accidently put my Dramamine (2 “flavors- strong, fast acting, and drowsy as opposed to weak and long term) in Sierra’s black day pack instead of mine- it was very late when I remembered it and was sleepy. So my driver took me to a pharmacy this am to purchase some- or a facsimile. They act like they are so sure of what they hand you. It is a good thing I’ve been around the block in foreign countries. (Sierra you get this- NEVER knowing what they are prescribing to you – China). She hands me a box and luckily it said in English, “IMODIUM.” I said no, this isn’t what I want. Then we get the point across that it is for throwing up. I make it clear that I am not throwing up AT THIS MOMENT, so I have to take it on trust that the next box in French or whatever, is correct. It does not work however, and I spend 4 hours (RT) staring at the horizon line while the cat rocks up and down on the seas, right amongst the dewy eyed couples who ignored me. It was pretty painful. They assured me the sea would be very calm and I would not get sick. Oh, horseshit. I did see a sea turtle, while I snorkeled however and they said they only spot one every month or so. I could only snorkel for 15 mins before I was ready to puke- pill and all.