We each picked a mismatching chair and, in a mixture of French, English and Creole, talked of fruits, mouche jaune (the ‘milky’ wasp larvae locals love to pan fry with onion and garlic) and family.
Grandchildren snuck out of their beds and came to sit on their mothers’ knees, or scrambled after a gecko on the wall. It may have been the chilli, or almost certainly the free-flowing rum, but contentment settled over the room like a warm blanket.
“God made Mauritius before making Paradise,” said Mirella.
She’s not wrong. This Indian Ocean island is a prototype paradise of palm trees and translucent waves lapping shores white as spilt sugar.
It’s a place where communities bear mottos such as ‘Village of Sincerity,’ ‘Village of Peace’ and ‘Village of Politeness’; where more than 55 varieties of mango grow; and where the flightless dodo once ambled, convincing foreign sailors they were drunk and seeing things, until these birds were nibbled into extinction by rats carried by the Dutch ships.
However, until recently, travellers looking for ways to break out of their hotel cocoons and spend time with Mauritians struggled.
Now a progressive new stay is changing all that. SALT of Palmar opened late last year on the wilder eastern edge of Mauritius, away from the touristy north and west, and I was eager to see how it could open up a side to the island far removed from its blissed-out honeymooners.