The 1.5-year journey has been extended

Mauritius is changing at a faster pace with new malls (not my preference) and this newly built highway.

As of today I’m changing the name of my blog to “Live and love life from “1.5 years exploring Asia and the return to Delicious Mauritius.” I have officially completed my 1.5 years of volunteering and exploring Southeast Asia and visiting family in Mauritius, a small island-country oh the southeast coast of Africa where I was born.

But my journey is nowhere near over.

While I was in Mauritius I had my little freak out and I wasn’t ready to go back to Vancouver yet. I almost said, “Go back home” but now I feel like I have another home and that’s in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Many travelers I’ve met found new homes in other countries and have also had a hard time returning to their home countries.

I met a friend randomly at a community event and she took me to her hometown in Banteay Meanchey, 2 hours away from Siem Reap, to meet her family for a few days.

While my parents are still healthy, I told myself in Mauritius, “I’ll apply for a few jobs that look really interesting in Cambodia. If I don’t get any of the jobs, it’s not meant to be and I’ll get work in Vancouver.” I thought my chances would be relatively low because even if I got an offer, I’d have to wait almost two months to start because I was going to Vancouver to see my family and friends.

After two hours and applying to three positions, I got a reply from one of the jobs the next day to arrange a Skype interview. After a good conversation, I ended up getting a position as a marketing executive for a travel company.

I’m very happy to be going back to Siem Reap for a little bit longer and where life goes from there is uncertain but that’s ok and being open is half of the fun. A few of my good friends now are applying for positions outside of Vancouver because the world has many more possible paths than the place we grew up.

Follow your heart and discover your passions.

 

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Life doesn’t stop just because it rains

This is the most adventurous trail I’ve ever done in my life. We were trekking through Black River Gorges in the bush while it was raining most of the day.

I grew up in Vancouver, Canada where it rains most of the year so I’ve gotten used to it. But most people refuse to go out at all as soon as it rains since it’s windy and cold. But in places like Mauritius, an island-country close to South Africa, and Asia, it’s not that cold when it rains and can actually be quite refreshing.

What’s nice about Mauritius is there are microclimates. So if it’s raining in the wet city of Curepipe, it’s often sunny in other parts of this small island. If it’s cloudy in the south, it can be very sunny up north.

I’ve been going cycling with my cool cousin Joseph at least once a week for the past month. Like me, he’ll go out for a ride rain or shine. During our last ride, he told me, “I am not someone who is deterred by obstacles. I like to venture out and go alone. If I always wait for someone to come with me, I will never go.

Ben enjoying the natural water slide in Black River Gorges.

Going out rain or shine

Every time we start, the weather is very cold and wet in Curepipe but we always take a chance and venture out. We’ve been very lucky because the few times we went out with an open mind and moved away from Curepipe, the skies cleared up and we got a perfect breeze as we started our journey. It’s almost like we were rewarded for having an open mind.

The first time Joseph and I cycled 70 km, the rain came at the perfect time after we had been cycling for awhile and we were very hot. The rain was a blessing. When I was at my max tiredness going up a huge hill and there were dark clouds hovering over our heads, I saw a rainbow appear and it reminded me that there is beauty among the darkness and we just have to look for it and focus on that.

I unfortunately didn’t bring my camera to show you pictures of the last bicycle ride, but we started by the airport and ended up having the most scenic ride so far. We stayed along the south coast where the roads were ride, streets were quiet and we heard nothing but the constant waves crashing against the rocks and wind brushing against our skin. As I looked at the waves hitting the rocks, the spectacular turquoise colour manifests itself as it gets closer to the land.

We passed one of many streams in the mountains.

Joseph asked me, “I don’t know the way but we can explore. If we don’t try, we won’t know.” Most Mauritians have never stepped foot on these parts of the island, because you either have to walk among the trees or bicycle. Joseph and I travel in a similar style, which is very hard to find among many Asian families. We like to stay away from tourist spots, venture deep into the land, connect with people in the communities, and are not afraid to venture without a map because you can always ask people around to find your way back.

Yesterday we finished a full day hike at Black River Gorges National Park and it ended up raining a lot and became very slippery. Almost all of us fell at some point, we had to use our hands to pass through the forest trail and all of the mud. But venturing this this path was a lot of fun and definitely the most adventurous hiking route I’ve done in my life.

We can’t predict how the weather or the day will be. But if we always wait for the perfect circumstances, we may never go out and do what we enjoy.

While Joseph and I were climbing the continuous hills after 6 hours of riding, a rainbow appeared as we are heading back home among the dark clouds.

Look for beauty, not negativity

Most of the people I come across both in Canada, Asia and Mauritius live in their routines and the walls of their home. I know we are creatures of habit but in order for people to grow and learn, we need to break out of our walls and see all the beauty the world has to offer and the wonderful people we meet.

I feel very sad for over-sheltered children around the world. I understand the intention of parents to protect their children but as they grow older, the parents are taking away their ability to be self-sufficient, quick on their feet and deal with difficult situations. Some of the brightest and well-mannered kids I’ve met are in the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia, many of whom grew up in the jungle or the farm.

As we live our lives, people often spend most of the time looking at the dark clouds. Go out and look between the clouds and you may find a beautiful rainbow in your day. After all, you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.

Cycling in Delicious Mauritius

My cool cousin Joseph sailing down the hill east of Mauritius.

I can’t believe I went five months without sitting on a single bicycle since I’ve been in Mauritius until last week. I cycled for years in Vancouver, Canada and almost every day in Cambodia so I was getting antsy to ride.

My family’s not really into outdoor activities until finally I discovered one of my cousin’s husband Joseph used to hike every week in Mauritius for decades and cycles to work every day. For the last month, he’s introduced me to his friend Mukesh who knows all of the hiking and cycling routes in Mauritius like the back of his hand.

I took full advantage of any hills we got and pedaled as quick as I could.

The 70 km ride in the West

Last Saturday I thought Joseph was just free to ride for an hour or two but we ended up doing a 70 km ride from the centre of Mauritius in Curepipe to Bambous in the west then all the way back up the big hill to get back to Curepipe. We rode for six hours.

I haven’t pushed my body physically in such a long time. When you’re not exercising consistently, it can be a big jump. But in my head, I was determined to stay on the bike and push through and not walk the bike up. I discovered that when I look down when I’m pushing up a big hill, my body gets tired much more quickly than when I look up the sky. I forgot how much people can push their bodies to their full potential and the ride reminded me that when we put ourselves in challenging situations in life, it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow.

An attempted selfie.

Bicycling focuses my mind and puts things more in perspective. I reflect a lot while I’m riding and concentrate on breathing slowly. It is a unique meditation that makes me refocus on the bigger picture that is nature. It’s so easy for our minds to fixate on negative things going on in our lives or negative moments. But when you’re outdoors, you are reminded than those problems are small dots in the big picture and that there are many more positive things to focus on.

We enjoyed a local roti before the long ride up the hill.

While I was pushing through the ride, I kept thinking of what our friend Pi Nan on Mindful Farm told us in Thailand, “We feel sad when we think of negative things on the past. Just focus on your breath and be present. When you are meditating just focus on the present. And remember to smile while you meditate.” Pi Nan was a monk for 20 years before starting his self-sufficient organic farm in northern Thailand.

I’m fascinated by how little food I need to eat while I’m doing full day hikes or bike rides. All we ate was a local roti, a type of Indian bread, with curry and a pineapple on the road.

A pitstop at Les 7 Cascades, a popular place for people to hike and do canyoning (repelling down on a rope by the waterfalls).

Mentally I didn’t give myself the option of stopping, I just kept looking up the sky and didn’t focus on how many more kilometres we had to go. I just kept pedaling towards the sky. My body kept magically gained energy from somewhere. I see how if people don’t have the mental willpower, their bodies will not push through to achieve what they want. Our bodies respond to our minds so if people don’t believe something can be done, then they won’t act.

By the time we finally reached home, I was proud that I managed to bike the whole route without getting off the bike.

The 80+ km ride in the east

I call Joseph’s friend Mukesh Santa Claus because he has a long white beard. But he’s ok with that, I asked him permission.

We did a fantastic ride going from Montagne Blanche in the east of Mauritius then riding along the coast to the south of the island then back up to where we started. There were surprisingly not that many hills on this route, especially compared to the route we did the week before.

On the way to the coast.

It was nice to pass through very small villages and the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too hot and we had a beautiful breeze by the water.

One highlight of the day for me was when a woman we bought snacks from came up to our table 10 minutes after we bought food and she genuinely said, “I’m so sorry sir, I owe you 30 rupees from what you bought.” In a country where many people are trying to scam you, it was really beautiful to see this lovely woman acting so honestly. But every country I’ve been to in Asia where scams are common, there are just as many, if not more, good people who are honest and genuine whether they are rich or poor.

Within minutes after we came back after riding for 7 hours, rain began pouring heavily. We had perfect timing. Even if it rained, we would have gone out somewhere. Life doesn’t stop just because it rains.

When we finally arrived back, Santa Claus’ wife was so kind to prepare farata (an Indian pancake bread) with a curry and soup for us.

Another day, another beautiful ride.

This wonderful woman who we bought cakes from came to our table and returned some change to Santa Claus when she realized she kept an extra $1 US by mistake.

Joseph cut us a sugar cane to eat.

This sugar cane was actually sweet. Sometimes when you suck the sugar cane it’s not that sweet until it’s been processed.

Going off the road through private land.

Santa Claus getting us into another private area where we can see the dam.

Good quality bikes.

A scenic ride away from the coast.

The rain is coming.

A very peaceful rest stop on the east coast.

A local snack called gateau piment, which are chilli cakes made up of split peas, chilli, onions, coriander and cumin.

 

A local snack called channi pourri.

We took two samosas, 5 gateau piments and three chani pourris all for 28 rupees, just under $1 US.

View on the southern coast.

These were the cannons that were used when former colonials battled for the land.

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Hiking Mauritius’ mountains

This is the viewpoint from one of the peaks overlooking the south of Delicious Mauritius.

It’s taken me months to find family and friends who enjoy hiking in Mauritius, Africa. There aren’t many high mountains on the island but you can do full day hikes at some locations like Black River Gorges National Park where we went. I have now hiked at the national park twice, including a 25 km hike last week, and it’s been beautiful to see this natural wonders of Mauritius.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a rainbow form at the bottom of a waterfall. It began as a half rainbow then transformed into a full one.

The Black River Gorges National Park is the largest protected forest of Mauritius and has over 50 km of trails. It used to be a common hunting ground but the area became protected in 1993 when a group of scientists identified over 300 species of plants, birds and a population of giant fruit bats. The area also has the island’s most endangered species including the Mauritius kestrel, echo parakeet and pink pigeon.

One of several beautiful waterfalls at the park.

The park is often filled with locals and expats who do their regular walks on the variety of trails as well as people who enjoy mountain biking. There are nice picnic areas in the park where you can enjoy your food. The first time we went to the park, my cousin Josef was very nice and picked me up and brought loads of food to share with the group.

I wanted to wait until I hiked with either a group or local people because I don’t know the trails well and there have been some attacks on tourists in some areas of Mauritius. I don’t believe it’s widespread and this national park has quite a few people around in the daytime.

The trails on the map are categorized as easy, less difficult and difficult. But the “easy” trail we went on in the morning was quite rocky and had varied trail. I enjoy these types of trails but it was funny to me that it was classified as “easy.”

You’ll need a car to get there as it’s not accessible by bus. You can do one of the trails and go back the same way to get to the car. Or if you have energy and faith in your sense of direction, you can do a full day and do a circle loop to get back to your car.

If you like hiking and visiting Mauritius for even a few days, I recommend doing one of the trails at Black River Gorges and has one of the best views of the island.

A nice hangout hut overlooking the south of the island.

This is the group we went hiking with a few weeks ago and we enjoyed a delicious lunch eating samosas, sandwiches and hot drinks before we set out for our afternoon hike.

 

This is Mukesh, I call him Santa Claus because of his beard. He showed me this tree called, “arbre du voyageur,” which means traveler’s tree. When you stab it in the right place, water pours out. I tried the water, it tasted clean.

A rainbow appeared during the first 30 minutes of our full day hike while we were walking at the top of one of the mountains.

 

 

Canyoning in Mauritius

 

DSC01749I’ll be honest. The first time I heard the word canyoning in my home island-country Mauritius, I thought it meant that people swang on a rope between two cliffs.

When my cousin took me canyoning at Les 7 Cascades, I discovered that we would be repelling down a cliff beside a waterfall 25 meters down. Les 7 Cascades means “seven waterfalls” and there are many local and international visitors who visit the area for trekking.

It’s recommended to go with a guide or a local who knows the route very well because it’s quite easy to get lost. If you can afford it, you can get a group of four to share a guide and it’s about 1600 rupees per person without lunch or 1900 rupees with lunch.

Our guide Oliver was great and he explained how to use the canyoning equipment very well. He first gave us wetsuits since we would be going in water. He gave us a good training session on how to repel down the rope properly and how to also be the safety person.

Les 7 Cascades has the best views and landscape around Mauritius and I highly recommend making a visit here if you appreciate our dear Mother Nature.

The hardest part was actually at the beginning where you are just clipping on the cliff and you can see the right to the ground. Repelling down is easier and the more fun part. We did about 45 minutes of walking and trekking to get from one point to another.

Our training session on how to use the ropes and clips.

Oliver guiding us from the top of the cliff.

Getting used to the ropes and walking at the top is probably the scariest part of the whole experience.

Jon just hangin’.

Our training session on how to use the ropes and clips.

Checking out the view without falling.

Our guide Oliver enjoying himself while repelling down.

After we repelled down the first waterfall, we had the option to cliff jump 6 meters into the water. I’m a pretty adventurous person but cliff jumping scares me quite a bit. I had to push myself to do it. I always believe in pushing yourself in challenging situations. Once you start, you’re committed and there’s no turning back. Three of us made the leap and jumped.

A fantastic view by the waterfall.

The landing.

 

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My cousin Jon with his son, me, and his daughter-in-law. They were visiting Mauritius from Australia.

 

 

 

Don’t let fears shield kindness

People bartering on the streets of Port Louis, the capital of Delicious Mauritius.

Right now I’m in my birth country Mauritius, a small island-country, off the south-east coast of Africa.

I’m sure most of you know people who are so paranoid about the world that they over shelter their children and tell them all the scary stories about how they will be killed, attacked or rape if they mingle with the wrong people. No exaggeration.

Even though for the next few months I’m living in the same country as some people here, we live in completely different worlds. In their world, people constantly at risk of getting mugged, attacked and people outside their circles cannot be trusted. I feel guilty that I let some people’s irrational fears led me to create an unnecessary guard during my first two weeks here. What I’ve experienced so far in Mauritius on the street, public transit and financially destitute communities is nothing but genuine kindness and people who are helpful.

The most vibrant and funniest women I’ve met in Mauritius. They love to joke, dance and have big hearts. They were teaching me how to dance saga, a catchy traditional dance style in Mauritius.

My grandma lives just 15 minutes from the city centre so I just walk around only in the daytime. It’s true that in Mauritius, it’s not generally safe to walk around or go around at night unless you have a car and with a group of people. But in the daytime, common sense will protect you.

In my first two weeks trying to navigate Port Louis, when I got lost, I asked a man for directions and he kindly offered to walk me part way to my direction. I made sure I held my valuables tight and prepare for the worst and even thought, “I shouldn’t let him walk me all the way, then he’ll know where I’m going and what if he and other people try to steal something later on. I don’t know what it’s like here.” As soon as I knew where I was, I thanked him for his help and continued on.

But he is not the first person to be so kind to me and I realized that I got sucked into other people’s unjustified fears. I’ve been traveling on my own for a year and a half, and like anywhere else, I use street smarts and my intuition to judge who I can and cannot interact with.

Packed van coming back from an all-night beach jam West of Mauritius under star-covered sky. While most people don’t go out past 6 p.m. in Mauritius, if you find the right crowd, it’s safe and fun.

Another time I went the wrong direction and I asked a woman in her 50s where to go. She said, “I saw you walking up the street and the other woman sent you the wrong way. If I didn’t have to be at a meeting I would drive you myself.” Then she took time to draw me a map of where to go. She was really sweet.

There are so many busses around Mauritius and it’s not always clear where to go, so I always ask. I asked an old man about the bus before everyone got on. Before he said down, he asked if he could sit beside me and I said yes. He told me a bit about his life, and where he grew up. He got off a few stops before mine and he told me to enjoy the rest of my trip.

I’m not naive of the dangers that exist in every country, but there is a difference between being cautiously prudent and being unjustifiably paranoid. Irrational fears create an unnecessary barrier to experiencing the kindness of people who live next to you.

Our lovely couch surfing friends we miss so much that we met in the Philippines. We became instant friends after meeting in the travel community. Good energy attracts good energy.

 

50th wedding anniversary

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My godparents Mami Angela and Papi Roland.

A few weeks ago I was very happy to be in Mauritius to celebrate my godparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Yes, that’s right, 50th anniversary!

This is of course something that many couples, especially in North American culture, rarely achieve. We celebrated with 250 guests at a restaurant in the country’s capital Port Louis.

My godparents, whom I call Mami and Papi, are my first parents because they raised me for the first two years of my life in Mauritius before I went to Canada.

Mmmmmmm cake.

Mami’s brothers and sisters all in good health. She is one of 12!

Lovely cousins.

Cousins’ wives Jacqueline and Genvieve who are always so cheerful and welcoming.

My aunt’s family on my dad’s side. They are always so welcoming whenever I stay over and I love playing with their daughters. They have an endless amount of energy and always make me laugh.

My generous cousins on my dad’s side of the family.

My dad’s brothers and sisters who all live in Delicious Mauritius.

Ching ching (cheers).

Always playing.

My cousin’s daughter Lana. She’s so thoughtful to give me two of her jewelry for me to remember her and drew me a birthday card.

They’re always so photogenic.

My talented nephew who sings, dances, mixes and is my hookup to the cool places around Mauritius.

More awesome cousins Lonlon and Alain who I love hanging out with and are incredibly generous with all of their guests.