At least for now -, and we, the regular walkers and lovers of this piece of natural beauty in our little island hope that the ‘now’ means forever… in terms of man-years, not on the cosmic scale!
In fact, a petition had been prepared, circulated and signed by over 9000 citizens, to register our protest against a project of allowing food vendor stalls at Trou-O-Cerfs (TOC) along with light electric vehicles to take tourists around the rim. We have been relieved to learn that the Municipality of Curepipe has set aside the project in the wake of our petition to that effect, and we thank the mayor and councillors for their seeing the merits of this petition, and for the correct decision that they have taken to safeguard Trou-O-Cerfs.
This should also serve as an example of how a peaceful engagement of the citizenry with the authorities to protect a natural environment can result in a successful outcome. Though legal recourse exists in our judicial system to pursue to its logical end all such movements, one hopes that understanding and dialogue at the basic level can resolve contentious issues and save much time and energy, and also scarce resources that may have to be mobilized to make one’s case.
To come back to TOC, no one who has ever been there, and I would think – and hope – that this means most Mauritian nationals at some stage of their lives, can deny that it is a unique spot in Mauritius, attracting not only locals but is also on the tourist circuit. Throughout the day tourists are to be found accompanied (or not) by their guides, and looking down into the crater is but one of the joys of being there, although nowadays it is dry most of the time.
However, within the living memory of many denizens of Curepipe and environs who have been frequenting it from childhood, such as myself, there are pleasant recollections of viewing the lake at the bottom of the crater from the rim, with the surface of the water gleaming in the sunlight. And many of us, again like myself on camping trips down there with the St. Clement Boy Scouts, have splashed about in the clear waters. That’s why there is a little tug at the heartstrings when I look at the dry bed and its caked earth – even in rainy Curepipe, climate change oblige!
The uniqueness of TOC is not only that it is an extinct volcano: more interestingly, it offers a panoramic view of the whole island that is not to be found anywhere in Mauritius at such an accessible and easily reached place. Of course if you climb Le Pouce or some other mountain you would get such a panoramic view – but that cannot be done daily by anyone, whereas TOC is there for everybody at ground level. And for Curepipians it is practically at a stone’s throw away from their residence, In fact many people can be found walking to the crater from their place of residence, whether it is in the early hours of the morning or in the afternoon.
Basically there are the morning walkers and the afternoon band, though a few people do go both in the morning and afternoon. It is a fact that the ‘atmosphere’ at both these periods of time is different. At least for the morning walkers who are there in the afternoon as well, it’s mostly for a leisurely stroll, a chitchat with friends while sitting on the steps near the kiosk at the entrance or on one of the several benches facing either the crater or the open landscape of blue skies and the yonder ocean. There are days when the horizon blends with the sky and it looks as if the ocean and the sky are but one – and one can make a philosophic-scientific argument that in absolute terms this is in fact the case.
Down on terra firma though, it is sufficient to feast one’s eyes in silence at the expanse that spreads out there towards infinity, and then close them to reflect on our infinitesimal minuteness in this cosmos which is our source and our berth in both life and death. Even if such a flight of free-wheeling thought does not come to one’s imagination when contemplating the vastness in front of one’s eyes, one may just enjoy the physical beauty. But it is nevertheless impossible not to have one’s bosom full of peace and calm after some time spent up there and feeling part of something infinitely bigger than one’s little self – a feeling that comes naturally, without any active thinking being needed.
If only for that, we Mauritian citizens need to protect and preserve Trou-O-Cerfs from any attempt at predation of its natural advantages, and not allow any further creeping appropriation that will mar the beauty and obstruct the view from up there which, I must reiterate, is absolutely a unique one in the island. If anything, we must consider ways of value-addition for those who wish to come there, and that can also bring in some income. I am thinking of the municipality placing a telescope, for example, as is to be found in many equivalent vantage points at touristic spots in several countries, which is coin- activated and allows visitors to soak in the panoramic view even better.
There are other ideas that can be discussed, such as glass panels containing displays of the history of TOC, of the flora there and so on – such as are found in national parks in the US, but of course scaled down appropriately.
For now, we breathe a sigh of relief, and hope it will last very, very long!
- Published in print edition on 20 November 2015