Swimming Pools, and Burning Cane Fields

People ask us why we don’t have a pool – we have more than enough space for one, they tell us.

The reasons are many:

  • We would never use it – as Alf says, there’s a gigantic pool (the beach) a scarce five minutes’ drive away, and we’ve never once gone swimming in the three years we’ve lived here
  • Along the same lines, a friend once told us that she doesn’t use her pool much as “in winter the water’s too cold, and in summer it’s like swimming in a bowl of soup”
  • We don’t want to contribute to the water shortages
  • Alf doesn’t want to clean and maintain it (and who could blame him!)
  • We, and our neighbours, have deciduous trees
  • We don’t have young kids (a pool keeps them entertained for hours!)
  • We’d rather look at this:

    Pool-less garden

    As usual, please ignore the weeds!

than this:

Neighbouring poolAnd finally: sugarcane harvesting season.

Ah, sugarcane.

As you drive around the island, it’s beautiful – tall and green, swaying in the breeze, and topped with pale mauve flowers, the fields seemingly going on forever.

Cane field in flower

But when they begin to harvest the cane, watch out.

I’m not referring to the huge trucks that block our narrow Mauritian roads as they crawl along, nor the mess they leave behind them, as unsecured bits of cane fall off the back of the truck.

No, I mean the burning-off before the harvest.

Burning cane fields

Photo from factsandetails.com

burning cane fields

Photo from meteomauritius.altervista.org

Whole fields are set alight, and no matter how far from the field you live, the black ash will somehow find that one window you’ve left open, and invade your house. It will also land on the washing you’ve just hung out to dry, and will sink to the bottom of your pool.

Or if you were the unlucky owners of The Grand Mauritian Hotel, land on the thatched roof, and burn down your hotel! Click here to watch a video of the fire. Unbelievable!

That particular fire may have gotten out of control, but the amount of smoke and ash generated is the same even when it’s a controlled burn.

Fortunately, we don’t live close to sugarcane fields, but even so, during the season, we’ll often get a smoky-smelling snow flurry, except the snowflakes are big and black. They land whole, then crumble at your touch and leave a big black smear. And our house will stink of smoke.

I’d hate to think of the effect the smoke has on asthmatics.

The government is trying to turn Mauritius into an “eco-tourism hub”.

Surely clean air should be part of it!

Maybe they think it doesn’t matter, as the bulk of the burning is done during the low tourist season, so hardly anyone will notice.

I keep hearing that it’s illegal to burn cane – I don’t know whether that’s true or not – but if it is, then it’s just one of the many things the authorities choose to turn a blind eye to.

2 thoughts on “Swimming Pools, and Burning Cane Fields

  1. I know the feeling, Winter is a dusty, ash-ridden time of the year for us too here in Mozambique. You may be interested to know that the reason they harvest cane in the Winter months is because the sugar content is higher due to it being dry. Guess it’s the same theory as a raisin – the sugar is concentrated! And also because during the rainy season/cyclone season – it’s a real mission to get the cane out with all that mud! But I hear you with the asthma – I have a couple friends on our sugar estate who really take strain during the harvesting months. On the other hand, sugar cane gives thousands of people an income. Guess there are always pro’s and cons depending on which side of the fence you stand.


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