I want someone to look at me the way I look at rum
Exploring Preskil Island Resort on Mauritius
Review by Andrew Threlfall
My first thought was where’s the mixer?’ My second was ‘what would Oliver Reed do?’
Let me explain. I’d just been presented with not one, not two, but three huge glasses of local Mauritian rum – all free of charge probably in the expectation that I would hand two of them back, all to be roadtested with ten second intervals – and there was no mixer. Just like when I’d sat down to interview Oliver Reed for the front cover of Front magazine, a month before he passed away after a week of boozing, there was every opportunity to pass out from alcohol poisoning and no way to slow the process down by way of adding any Coca-Cola.
And that would mean that I would now not learn how to fly over the Indian Ocean that afternoon. Because as the instructor had told us you can’t be drunk and kite surf at the same time. I’m going to take a quantum leap here and guess that not many Riddle readers have actually Kite Surfed. For a start it is a shiny new sport and as with such sports there is still an evaluation taking place in terms of the injuries to adrenaline rush ratio.
The sport is so new in fact that it won’t be appearing at next year’s Tokyo Olympics but may be in Paris five years from now.
It’s also incredibly intricate and difficult. Let’s not beat around the bush, this is a sport for really dedicated aficionados who are also keen to part with £2-3000 for the pre-requisite kit. By far and away the most important part of the kit is the latest part, the bar that one holds onto which it very very sensitively controls, so the theory goes. Teacher Jerome, the owner of Specialised Kiteboarding actually developed the ‘click bar’. You can spend hours learning the necessary skills with him and his partner Dominique. Step one, the discovery lesson lasting two hours, step two involving board work, also for two hours. A bonus however is the ever present boat to rush by and scoop you up.
Bearing all of this in mind, it’s probably a good idea that I was learning the basics stood waist deep in 15 centigrade clear Indian Ocean water. The rum would have been an absolute necessity were I getting my feet wet for the first time off the coast of Dorset or in the Mediterranean for example where the sport is booming.
Should kite surfing not be your cup of tea, kayaking and e-biking were great substitutes on offer from the Preskil Beach resort and the local town of Mahebourg with its Hindu temples were an absolute must to discover. There was another new sport that I managed to discover – using coconuts as rugby balls thinking that I was taking part in the ongoing Japan Rugby World Cup thousands of miles away. Incidentally another quaint little tradition Mauritius celebrates is an absolute obsession with the English Premier League and the illusion that Manchester United are still perennial champions like they were under Sir Alex Ferguson. Everywhere you go you see Manchester United shirts and the country literally comes to a standstill at weekends to congregate to watch the lives games; don’t forget this is Africa and very reminiscent of village life 20 years ago when there was only one television.
The best way to wait for the kite surfing weather to return wasn’t the rum, it was a short boat trip over to Ile aux Aigrettes, the only remaining piece of “Mauritius Dry Coastal Forest” – a once plentiful vegetation habitat home to a large number of extremely rare or endangered species including the now extinct dodo and most spectacularly the non-indigenous Aldabra giant tortoise. Introduced to Île aux Aigrettes the Aldabra giant tortoise has taken over the important ecological role of the extinct Mauritian tortoise and is now living, and breeding with the females, at 190 years of age. The large tortoises eat and spread the plant seeds which helps the forest to rejuvenate naturally.
Inspired by what they had seen I certainly saw a few honeymooning couples rushing back onto the boat back to the resort to emulate 165-year-old Big George. Me? I had two rums, no mixer, sent up to my room and the supermodel girlfriend on FaceTime. Well, Man United were playing so I had to pass the time.