Travel Through Mauritius The Travel Show


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Travel Through Mauritius

As Mauritius celebrates its 50th year of independence, Rajan Datar travels to this Indian Ocean island to explore the legacy of slavery.


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Now on BBC News, time

for the Travel Show.

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Mauritius, a force of nature in the

middle of the Indian Ocean.

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Mauritius is marking the 50th year

of independence from British

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colonial rule, but the intriguing,

rich and sometimes dark story of

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this island nation goes back way

before then.

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On my journey I'm going to explore

the history of Mauritius. See and

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taste how multiculturalism works

here. That is nice. Go on a day to

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the races. Did we win? Did we win?

And visit a unique conservation

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project saving endangered species.

This island is so often labelled as

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just a luxury beach paradise, but

the reality is so much more

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fascinating than that.

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Mauritius, gorgeous beaches,

turquoise waters and lush

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vegetation. But the Cuban story is

just as awe-inspiring. -- human.

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This mountain on the south-west of

the island faces in the direction of

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Madagascar and the stands 555 metres

high. It's also at a 45 degrees

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incline. No walk in the park.

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For the likes of me, this is a

challenging climb, I've got to say.

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In fact, I think for anybody it's

challenging.

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Near the top I join a guy who's done

this climb up to three times a day

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every day pretty much everyday for

13 years.

Its volcanic.

This is

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volcanic rock?

It's probably from

the first eruption 10 million years

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ago. And actually it's very good for

climbing. Yeah, there's lots of good

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grip.

The mountain marks a dark but

symbolic chapter in the island's

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history, the days of slavery under

Dutch, French and British rule. This

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is where many escaped slaves called

the Maroons found refuge.

They could

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have a look towards Madagascar and

for them...

That's home.

That was

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home, that was the site and they

expected one day may be to build,

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like, a craft and go back home and

just to escape from this prison.

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Horrible.

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It's a world away up here from the

beach resorts that populate the rest

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of the island, but actually this

trek is almost a pilgrimage to get

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to the very hard of Mauritius

identity. There's a particularly

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poignant tale told about the Maroons

in what should have been their

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moment of celebration. When slavery

was abolished here in 1835, soldiers

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climbed the mountain to tell the

Maroons they were free, but the

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escaped slaves thought they were

being recaptured and instead chose

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to jump off the mountain.

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Why do you think this is so

important to the identity of people

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from Mauritius?

Because I guess it's

a unique story. It's part of our

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story here in Mauritius and it's one

of the only places we know of that

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somehow the slaves resisted to their

masters and for us, it's almost like

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a venerated mountain, a sacred

mountain, not only for the

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descendants of slaves but for

Mauritius is as well.

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After slavery was abolished, the

British brought in hundreds of

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thousands of so-called intention

labourers from India and China in

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what was known as the Great

Experiment. Today Port Lewis is the

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country's capital with its colonial

legacy and contemporary diversity

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everywhere to be seen.

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I'm about to get a personalised unit

for what this city and Mauritius

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offers in terms of its diverse food

and other wares as well. Hi, how do

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you do, nice to meet you.

Nice to

meet you.

So this is a food place

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here?

Yes.

But you'd never know to

look at it, it's pretty low-key.

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Yes, but it's pretty famous as well.

He's making some deep-fried pits,

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you can deep-fried almost

everything. He has this batter that

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he made, it's with flour, some herbs

and salt.

Richards may seem isolated

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in the middle of the Indian Ocean,

but it was actually nicely placed on

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the spice route which linked Asia,

Africa and Europe. -- Mauritius.

Now

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he's adding all the herbs you need

for the chilly bites.

Chillis. Are

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they strong chillis?

Spring onions.

There's a clear

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inference from Gujarati traders

whose forefathers came over from

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India in the 19th century but

there's a distinctive Mauritian

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accent to the food too. It just hit

me!

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Now, this is a multi- ethnic

multicultural multilingual multi-

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religion country, so Hinduism is the

majority religion but you've also

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got Christianity, Islam, Chinese

religions, Buddhism. It's all here.

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Where are we?

We're in a small

market that is made up of street

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vendors. All these people used to be

selling everything from clothes to

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food to electronic gadgets on the

street but that was illegal so the

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state gave them some spaces.

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Ca va? So this is after, he used to

be on a street corner in Chinatown

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selling dumplings with his father.

So now he is here.

Chinese --

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Mauritian?

Yeah.

This is the long

fish?

Yes, the long fish.

That is

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nice, that is really good. How many

will years have you working?

For

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myself, after schooling, nearly 50

years. 50 years!

The sheer diversity

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of food is one benefit of the

cultural hotpot in Russia's. Another

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is language, French, English and

Creole is all spoken here. And then

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there's music. -- Mauritius. Sega is

a rhythm and genre indigenous to

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this island. And this lady is known

as the voice of the Indian Ocean.

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Be distinctive drum is called the

Ravan, a home-grown incident that

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the. -- the.

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On the tiny island here Mauritius is

playing host to unique conservation

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project which takes us back to a

time five centuries ago before

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mankind ever set foot here. The

ecosystem of an island like

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Mauritius is extremely fragile, and

ever since mankind arrived in the

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17th century, that ecosystem has

been severely disrupted and that has

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led to the extinction of some very

important species like, for example,

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the dodo.

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The dodo lost the ability to fly

through evolution, because until man

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brought in predators, they didn't

really need to.

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Today the one remaining native

mammal to Mauritius, the fruit bat,

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can fly with elegant ease, but it's

not a great favourite for some, like

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fruit growers.

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So this is the Mauritius fruit bat.

It is a bat that is unique to

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Mauritius. It can travel for 15

kilometres, 20 kilometres, 40

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kilometres in one night. It's like

man that's got hands, but these

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hands here have been modified

amazingly to become a wing.

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It's an animal that can see very,

very well, despite what a lot of

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people think. They need to rest

during the day to save their energy

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because it gets hot in the tropics,

but at night, as it's getting ARC,

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they leave their daytime roosts, as

they're called, and they go out and

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they look for food.

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They will first of all eat fruits to

keep themselves alive, but also they

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will be dispersing fruits and they

maintain their own survival by

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maintaining the forests.

The larger project here is hugely

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ambitious and earning international

acclaim.

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We actually are recreating the whole

ecosystems. It's one of the few

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places on earth were we're not just

trying to save a few odd plants and

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a few odd animals, we're actually

piecing together as best as we can,

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it will never be perfect, but as

best as we can the whole ecosystem

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as it existed prior to the arrival

of man.

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Should we be frightened of this

animal, should I be frightened being

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this close to this animal now?

Well,

I'm not frightened of any animal, I

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don't know why anyone should be.

There are some countries where bats

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are disperses and carriers of

diseases but in Mauritius that's not

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the case. Of course where they are

carriers of diseases there are some

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precautions to be taken of course,

but that's not the case here. Would

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you like to hold the bat?

RU Sirius.

Yes, it will probably never all you

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a little bit if that's OK?

Nibbled

the?

It's claws are going to be

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quite sharp.

Wow. I can't believe

it. This is weird is all I can say.

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This is a magic moment.

I never

thought I'd actually find a bat or

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an animal like this vaguely even

cute, but you know what, it is kind

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of cute. And luckily not disease

ridden as it bites my finger.

No!

Do

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you want to fly off, shall we get

you to fly off?, men.

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Animals are central to Mauritius and

identity in more ways than one. Take

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this weekly ritual that has been

tightly wrapped up in Russia's

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culture, going to the races.

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The islands independence from

British rule was declared on this

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very racecourse in 1968. -- the

Champ de Mars, in 1968. Built more

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than two centuries ago, it is the

oldest racecourse in the southern

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hemisphere. And from the start, it

is very and was to bring disparate

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communities together. Oh, and to

satisfy the local's love of

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gambling, of course. And today,

there is one family who now dominate

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horseracing in Mauritius.

--

locals'. Actually, it was my

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grandfather who introduced a family

to horse racing. He was the first

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Indian to be a member of the

National Assembly of Parliament. And

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in 1904, he was a businessman. At

the beginning, he was a milk seller,

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but then he started doing business,

buying land and buying and selling

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land and property.

He also realise

that buying a race horse would allow

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him to mingle with the big cheeses,

especially French businessman, who

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ran the economy then, and loved

racing. Today is a very special day.

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It is the final, classic race of the

season, the Duke Cup. And a chance

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for this family to great history in

the national sport.

What has

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happened in that we have been able,

with a bit of luck, to win the first

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classic 's, and if we win the fourth

one today, we will be creating

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history. -- classics.

And we got a

peek into the paddock to meet his

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cousin.

I often see you on the BBC,

all over the world!

This is very

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much a family affair.

That is the

cup that we are looking for.

This

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one here? Can I touch it?

Anyone can

touch it before, but I want to touch

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it after.

Afterwards... This is

fantastic. I am getting a real

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insight, behind-the-scenes, with one

of the most important men in racing.

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Inside the jockeys' room,

preparations are under way. Down by

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the track, I can feel a sense of

occasion here. Here is where

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everybody gathers, rich, poor,

everyone. Whatever language or

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culture they are from, which ever

cultural group. And this is the

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first race of the day. I wanted to

get a feel for the passion for

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racing and gambling here. So I

approach a local punter.

Do you

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recommend any losses? A pink is one.

Number three, Rogue Runner, in this

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race.

Number three.

I am not sure.

There is my horse garment number

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three, Rogue Runner, and if I put

100 rupees on it, it says I will get

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six under Ruby 's back. Can I have

100 and number three, Rogue Runner?

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-- 600 rupees back will stop do you

like Rogue Runner? Is that a good

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one? And this is my horse. Rogue

Runner. I like his colours. LAUGHTER

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. Do you like number three? Number

three. Here they come. ? Ditty

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when!? It was very close, or one?

Number three one! At the last

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minute! Did

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-- did he win? At the last moment!

Yes! And now it is time for the

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climax to the season. The big one,

the Dukes Cup, at a time for the

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family to make history. They have

not left much to chance. They have

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three out of the 12 horses running,

including the favourite, written by

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the most successful champion jockey

in the race. Our man is in his lucky

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spot to win the race next to his

family. The favourite and there be

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hoping that is struggling. It does

not look good.

Let him proxy when!

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-- don't let him proxy when.

Until

from the outside another horse from

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their stable stars making ground. --

Dukes Cup. Ready To Attack is, well,

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ready to attack. -- NACRO one. --

starts. CHEERING. -- don't let him

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box you in.

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The family have done it and made

history. Now this is over, what do

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you feel? A sense of relief, almost?

Frankly, I don't get worked up

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before a race. You know, the people

around, and the well-wishers, the

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supporters, everywhere you go around

the island, you know, they just wish

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you well. I wanted to win that race

for them.

And in this 50th

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anniversary year of independence, it

seems that the people of this island

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have plenty to celebrate. During my

time here, I have seen a strong

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sense of nationhood amongst

Mauritian is, and also realisation

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that precious wildlife must be

protected. This is a relatively

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prosperous country, breaking free

from its complicated and sometimes

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shameful colonial past. And what is

exciting that right now, it is

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unique cultural identity is still

evolving and making so much more

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than just a high-end holiday

hotspot.

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As Mauritius celebrates its 50th year of independence, Rajan Datar travels to this Indian Ocean island to explore the legacy of slavery in Mauritius, to see and taste how multiculturalism works there, to spend a day at the the races and to visit a unique conservation project dedicated to saving some of the world's most endangered species.