First day with the rental car. Time for a road trip! Here was the picture on our GPS:
Note that it was also in Japanese.
The car was a little tin can of a thing, the Nissan March, nothing like the huge SUVs made for off-road safaris in Zambia. The streets here in Mauritius are modern and well-paved, but tiny and narrow, crowded on both sides by palm trees and sugar cane towering 20 feet tall. As we made our way to the Southern part of the island, we were reminded by every vista of the Indian Ocean that we were on a tropical holiday. So far, Mauritius has been culturally like no place we’ve ever been before, a weird mix of Yalta, Malibu, and Hawaii, where people speak French, look Indian, and eat Chinese food.
And drink rum!
Yes, lots of rum.
The Rhumerie de Chamarel was our destination; a sugar cane processing plant turned Rum Distillery when the rest of the world started buying sugar from Brazil and left Mauritius in need of new markets. So much sugar cane! So much fermenting, sweet… hey, wait a minute. This stuff has potential for something other than sugar, right?
Don’t worry, that is not a rum cocktail in their hands.
We signed up for a tour, and in our group was a french-speaking family, a guy from Boston, and a couple from Greenland. We all agreed that none of us had every met anyone from Greenland! Talking to them was almost more interesting than drinking rum in Mauritius. The knew all about Walter Mitty. Did you know that all those Greenland scenes were actually shot in Iceland?
The Rhumerie was much like a winery. The sugar cane is harvested and fed into a machine, that chops it into small pieces and pounds it with hammers, to extract the sugar “juice.” We didn’t know you could “juice” sugar cane, but it turns out you get sugar by feeding cane through what is basically a huge juicer. Pretty cool.
Then the juice is distilled and sent to huge vats, where it sits and mellows for several months.
Some of it sits in stainless steel tanks, while other batches rest in oak barrels. Just like wine. Afterward we had a tasting, of 8-10 different varieties of rum. Classic, double-distilled, vanilla, coconut, mandarin, spice, coffee, and some kind of rum cocktail. The guy from Boston turned out to be pretty lively!
Jake is pretty lively too, when he gets in a dancing mood. Be careful Jake, don’t knock over the bottles of rum!
Later, fueled by a late lunch at McDonald’s to blunt the effect of our rum tasting (a.k.a. Mike is in heaven),
we came home to have a few more rum and cokes and watch Star Wars.
Pretty much a perfect day.