Ile Aux Cerfs, Mauritius
Poulet, Rum Bananas and Sega
Our fixer approached us whilst stretched out under the Mauritian sun (after a 14 hour flight we felt indebted to sleep), introducing himself as McCloud I was instantly thrown back to the 70s TV horseback detective roaming New York’s urban sprawl astride his sturdy palomino. This McCloud however offered to solve an alternative mystery what to do on the next day. Fixers in Mauritius are incredibly adaptable, one minute they’re taxi drivers, the next they’re guides or in McCloud’s case a sailor. Negotiating in Mauritius is done through a series of smiley conversations, they’re the masters of the relational sell, befriending you before a price is agreed. They’re in no hurry to be anywhere special because the island is a gem of Eastern promise a haven from the outside world protected by a roaring reef.
We shook on a deal to travel across the bay on speed boat from Trou D’Eau Douce to an island paradise of over 740 acres, Ile Aux Cerfs named after the stags that once roamed freely. Our captain carved through the gentle surf across patches of turquoise, dark azures and pops of vivid green. We chugged past calm mangrove channels inhabited by curious monkeys and tree tops flecked with bats waiting for the moon to rise. We loitered at a charming but unimpressive waterfall, and definitely not worth the tourist traffic jam.
Hit by pangs of luncheon hunger we beached on a tree lined sand bar with a rum shack an outdoor grill kitchen and shaded tables. The Maharani smiled, she sniffed the air and the smell of charcoal roasted fish and fowl drew the hunger deeper from the pit of our stomachs. Our barefoot waiter, a lad in beach baggies, tattoos and good manners, our tipple? Rum, wine or beer? We shrugged and he charged our glasses and in doing so the mood shifted to the sound of a duo, a vocalist on guitar and his harmonising compadre on a goat hide drum belting out a mix of soulful classics and the infectious butt moving sound of the Mauritian sega (saygah). A full gutsy spirited and hypnotic sound mixing African timbres and Southeast Asian hand movements. A table of Mauritian women of all shapes and sizes flung their arms in the air, sung at the top of their voices and gyrated their full derrières. Plates of barbecued chicken, fish steaks and luscious lobster arrived, the juices slid down our chins and the music fed our spirits.
Feeling full fat and happy we indulged a little further in griddled rum soaked bananas dusted with crunchy sugar from the previous season’s harvest. Cajoled...not to heavily into a little rum tasting we slung back the spectrum of seven flavoured rums finishing on an explosive chilli fired variety.
Back on Ile Aux Cerfs we reclined just in time for the island’s clouds to gather and threaten our lunchtime tranquillity with a burst of winter rain...we scampered as quickly as we arrived escaping the downpour by minutes. Ah well the sun was in the food and the music.