The Hillcrest Flyover
Dr Rajagopal Soondron
The knell of our total freedom and peace is being heard; for the Hillcrest Flyover, inaugurated this week, will be welcoming fleets of vehicles in our vicinity.
Some 10 years ago the beautiful flower trees in the middle corridor of Hill Crest Avenue had to be felled to give way to better roads with a new roundabout at the crossroads with Tulips avenue; Sodnac had come of age. So we thought.
But with the coming of the Metro Express the Road Development Authority was forced to review the set-up in Sodnac, Quatre Bornes. The Metro would play havoc with the daily heavy traffic in the St Jean – La Louise Road; so, a flyover, the Hill Crest Bridge, was conceived to ferry traffic from the north and south of M1 highway into Sodnac and Quatre Bornes and back. The local residents, putting up with a lot of inconvenience, had suddenly seen their landscape changing beyond expectation.
We were awed by the infrastructural work done with so many of these massive heavy-duty vehicles removing the recent roundabout to make way for a wonderful bridge across the M1 highway.
Many of us have visited the site hundreds of times – out of curiosity or on our daily trip for our footing or jogging. In time of confinement, it was sad to see less of us there, though we saw a few who had dared to venture out into the pitch-dark night after 7 pm, far from the eyes and siren of the police – to keep body, mind and soul in one piece.
Now that the bridge is completed, we would love it to be declared traffic free zone! Oh! We are day dreaming. Jogging and trotting our children, kids and youngsters, donning their best sportswear, have enjoyed their mini scooters, tricycles, cycles on that new flyover; it was fun to watch them frolicking and gamboling around up and down hill — much to the apprehension of the elders. Young couples were happy to give their tots their first taste of real freedom, fresh air and sunshine of the vicinity.
Walking those wide roads on the bridge early morning, midday on Sundays, but mostly after 5 pm, be it summer, winter, sunny or raining, we watched the flow of traffic late afternoon heading south. Half-closing our eyes in the wintry cold dusk, as we looked north, we would discover a string of whitish sparkling diamonds from the slow-moving vehicles’ headlamps, while turning south we would be enthralled by a chain of rubies or sapphires as the same traffic tail lamps moved slowly towards the new Phoenix fly over.
Dreaming on the Flyover
Standing on the bridge some of us wondered what state of mind the car passengers are in as they head for home after long day’s work in the capital. Are they in a hurry to see their small kids and spouse? Are some already thinking of the dinner ahead or looking with apprehension for the coming confrontation with their better half at home? Are they back from some legal torturing sessions in the court of law in Port Louis; are they worried that their job is under threat as the unknown Covid-19 goes on harassing us? Who are those passengers and drivers – what are they thinking? And we wondered what could each of them tell us about his or her life history?
Sometimes we plunged into some reverie – looking with new eyes, awe and wonder — because at the peak of confinement we were quite miserable to witness the emptiness of the M1 high way, lifeless and mortally dull. We suddenly realize that we missed that routine activity which is so much a part of our life we had taken it for granted. The empty M1 reminded us that we are addicted to human movements and activities, which contribute to that sense of being really alive. Lockdown has taught us that our mind is tuned to function maximally in the presence of other human beings and interactions. Just as we had realized that the English Football league and the present Olympics are less appetizing and enthusiastic without people in the stands!
Looking west from the middle of the bridge we could see Candos Hill, les Trois Mamelles and Corps de Garde, with a timid Mountain Rempart top hiding behind the Hill. They looked majestic at nightfall as the sun goes biding us good night, while Venus would be twinkling and climbing up in the western night sky. What to say of those ever-amazing sunsets illuminating the western sky into a wonderful hue of pink, orange and pale golden yellow. And turning round we would be enthralled by the majestic range of the Port Louis-Moka range, with Le Pouce and Pieter Both seeming to be carved out from the sky beyond, sometimes with the thumb or head shrouded by some fluffy whitish cloud. Should we be late for our walk we would miss the sunset, but a cool yellowish full moon rising on the eastern horizon would amaze us; many women could hurry to admire her after their Purnima rituals at home.
That bridge somehow gives us a panoramic view of the whole of our island, as if we are in one of these copulas in a Futurescope; if only we could lie down, we would have a circular, globular view of the vast expanse of the blue-sky umbrella enveloping us on all sides at once. It’s as if we are seeing the whole of Mauritius at a glance.
Walking east beyond the flyover we come to the huge roundabout with a circular plot of land surrounded by some 22 quadrants all around it, like one of those zodiacal charts. We have gone round and round it happily and freely on our walk, but not for long.
And the Metro Express meanwhile!
The wonder and pride of seeing the new flyover is inflated by the Metro track that is being laid down just below and adjacent to the bridge; we would look on as we followed the progress being accomplished by the Indian workers on that track — keeping us dreaming of the day that we would travel from Sodnac to Port Louis or Curepipe. Some wondered and betted that our South Passerelle would be pulled down to make way for rail tracks ; we lost – for the architects had truncated part of the northern and eastern compound of the Dreamton Park so that the Metro would meander between that Park and the Passerelle.
We saw how a black plastic was laid on the dammed track to be covered by layers of fine and coarser macadam on which the rails’ lower crossbars were themselves laid; how the electric poles were erected north to south at about 75 feet apart; and we witnessed how the Indian workers went on working day and night. Meanwhile we kept speculating about the site for the Metro station. Now we are sure it would be just behind the old Port Louis bus stop opposite Shoprite/Winners area, not far from home. Two footpaths from Hillcrest will lead to the Flyover and end just above the Metro track. Many of us kids or seniors may come here to be witness to the changes brought about.
Moving with time
The days are already counted dear tots, kids, young couples, senior citizens. We will miss all those months of walk, of wonder, of fresh air from the South East, of those wonderful sunsets in the west and the full moon in the east – from that wonderful vintage site; and of those cool, breezy late afternoon trips that we enjoyed with impunity and total freedom in Sodnac. For the Hillcrest Bridge will soon be declared free for the four-wheelers. And regretfully… a no man’s land for us pedestrians.
Sodnac and Hillcrest avenues won’t ever be the same. Metro Express oblige.
A pity for us local residents.
* Published in print edition on 13 August 2021
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