So 2012 has come to a close, and in advance of what had been the pending apocalypse (or because we wanted our kids to have some fun while learning about the environment, one or the other), we decided to take all of ELI Africa’s students from our Roche Bois and Pamplemousses centers for a a full day trip in the South. As you know, my projects here with ELI all are focused around environmental awareness and protection, and so we trekked on down to La Vanille Crocodile Park and the Ebony Forest and endemic nursery of Chamarel.
Early wake-ups haven’t really been my thing since I was about 14, but this one at 6 AM found me full of energy and excitement. Cedric spent the night, since he lives in the Central Plateau and the bus was leaving from Pamplemousses in the North, and though he was a bittt more groggy than me, we caught the bus out of Trou aux Biches and were on our way by 6:30. After arriving in Pamplemousses, we had some time to kill and some belly’s to fill, so we found a roti stand to grab some breakfast. Or at least we thought we did. The owner couldn’t open yet because he was still waiting on his munchies to delivered from Port Louis, but assured us we had no more than a ten minute wait. It turned out to be about twenty five for the delivery truck to arrive, but unfortunately, we found out that that roti wasn’t aboard- only dholl puri. I was craving roti, but c’est la vie. It wasn’t a total loss, for during our wait, we were entertained by a middle-aged Mauritian man who was the Usain Bolt of pacing- a total champion. There was no order or rhythm, just purpose. Twenty quick paces down the sidewalk, 15 back up, 10, 30, 15, 5… Finally, after about ten minutes, he headed east and we lost sight of him. “Guess he finally figured out how to solve his problem,” we though. Wrong. Five minutes later, he was back, and the sketchy sidewalk patrolling resumed.
We left Pamplemousses at 8:30 sharp (on-time, a stunning rarity for Mauritian travels), and had the kids and teachers from Roches Bois on the bus and on the road by 9:00. After a long road (full of some nauseating switchbacks taken at full speed for some of the travelers), we reached Chamarel around 11 in the morning. We were greeted by the wonderful Christine Griffiths, who manages the forest and nursery. For a little background, her project seeks to restore and grow a native forest in the area, including the rare white and black ebony trees, while raising a plethora of seedlings to help restore the endemic ecosystems of Mauritius, which now cover only 2% of the island. Since 2006, they have already planted over 80,000 plants and trees! So it’s the perfect place for our students to learn about the history of environmental degradation in Mauritius and how they can help restore their island’s future with their own hands. The students split up into two groups: the younger Roche Bois kids started off planting seeds in the earth, while the older Pamplemousses kids got a VIP tour of the forest. Rather than giving you more words to process, I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of this chapter of the day.
As the rain started tumbling down, it was time for us to depart Chamarel. After a brief respite at Bel Ombre’s beach on the southern coast for lunch a bit of soccer (sorry, football will always be the pigskin and gridiron kind for me), we re-boarded the bus and made our way to the famous La Vanille Crocodille Park. Again, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but it was truly wonderful to see ELI’s kids’ eyes light up with wonder and joy as they peered down the gullets of the wide-jawed crocodiles, point and laugh at the playful monkeys, and grin until their smiles reached their ears as they scratched the chins of the giant Aldabra tortoises (not to mention I was doing the exact same thing as them during the whole visit). All in all, it was one of the best days I’ve had with ELI, and a great way to send of 2012.