Sunday, 23 November 2008

Beauport - Pays De La Canne

Wednesday (5 November)
We have previously visited Beauport twice but it is always nice to return, if only to travel on the only train that this island possesses! We would probably not have chosen to go so early (Bertie's sister Nadia kindly sorted our car problem by giving the girls a lift...and arrived at our place at 7.30am, groan!) but the webpage for Beauport told us that the train tour was either 9am or 3pm, so we went for the latter. We therefore weren't particularly amused when we arrived and discovered not only was it wrong and the train left at 11am, but the place wasn't even open! However, we took advantage of the opportunity to have a quick look at Port Louis and get a few family photos...

I love the colour of the Catholic church there - and this is a great shot which is becoming Mum's trademark!
Beauport used to be a sugar cane factory, one of several on the island (La Retraite - Baie-Mahault, Blanchette - Morne-à-l'eau, Gardel - Le Moule, Grosse Montagne - Lamentin, Darbousier - Pointe-à-Pitre, St Marthe - St Francois, Courselle - Le Moule, Marquisat - Capesterre, Rougeole - Petit-Bourg, Comte - Ste Rose, Bonne-Mere - Ste Rose). All of these are now closed with the exception of Gardel and Grand Bourg on the neighbouring island of Marie Galante, reflecting the decline in sugar production and the change in sugar production methods. Papy's father worked for the Gardel factory in Le Moule, driving a cart around for the Manager.

Wandering around Beauport gives you an opportunity to see the different machinery involved in the process and there are different information points as well as those funny machines that tell you the history, which I have only otherwise seen at the baths in Bath. The writing is all translated into english, but not the audio information unfortunately, and with the girls running around the place, we gave up on that! You aren't allowed to get too close to the machinery as the place has not been maintained as well as it might have been and it is rather dangerous!

The train used to run around a 50km or so track transporting sugar cane from the plantation to the factor. I learnt that after it has been cut, it has to be processed with 48 hours for maximum freshness, but this reduces to 12 hours if the cane has been burnt. This is one method of cutting the cane, and it surprisingly doesn't do it any damage. Now the train gives a nice 45 minute journey through the cane fields (increasingly being replaced by houses and offices) with a 15 minute stop at the station En Ba Bwa La (in the woods), where you get to purchase local sweet things, oh and chew on some cane of course!

It is also a great opportunity for some photo shoots!
Funny how I just couldn't get them both to smile at the same time!
Baby JoJo was enjoying his ride until the bumping bumping of the train sent him softly to......sleep! I love the way he dropped off clutching his bit of chewed up bread in his little fist! No the photo isn't the wrong way round, this was Bertie's thoughtful effort to make him comfy!What a lovely couple!
After the train ride we went for a walk around the sugar cane maze. Except it isn't really a maze, but full of lots of different varieties of cane. We saw plenty from PNG Mei-Li! Bertie gave us a lesson in cane; either you can cut the previous year's and leave it to grow again, or it is planted by laying a cane flat in the soil and then it grows upwards. About a year later, it will be ready to harvest (between Jan/Feb and June/July). If it isn't harvested and is left to grow, not only will it not taste so nice, but stems will start to grow out of the main stalk, as you can see on the left below. The factory also has its own windmill, which gives great views over the land and neighbouring islands. There aren't any working windmills on the island now, but we have previously visited one on Marie-Galante.Mum bravely made it up herself after babysitting for us.One very welcome addition is a playpark where the girls ...and Baby JoJo...had great fun.

LissaLou drove one of the exhibition trains
I think my favourite part was this lovely wooden carved swinging seat in the grounds, it was so relaxing sitting and swinging after all our walking around!

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