Mauritius is famous in the UK as a honeymoon and luxury holiday destination, so how come it’s now hosting an off-road triathlon? And given the glossy brochures showing amazing beaches, why is it using a small inland lake in the mountainous centre of the island?
Get Muddy is now in its third year – last year it was an official Xterra race with qualifying slots to Maui. The race is held on the Bois Cheri Tea Estate, which is well worth a visit anyway.
The swim section of the race is a three-lap affair overlooked by a restaurant where you get food and taste freshly picked tea in a variety of flavours. The views from the transition area next to the restaurant stretch all the way to the Indian Ocean some 20km down the hill. It’s the best transition view of any race I’ve been to.
The things that tourists in their five-star all-inclusive resorts miss when they visit this amazing island can be seen on the way to the race. Many of the locals have Indian roots, and the food smells and brightly coloured painted shops and the energy passing through the villages on the way to the venue is amazing.
It’s a quirky place. Onto the bike leg and you find yourself flying through the tea fields, rounding a corner into the path of a tea picker, carrying full bags the same size as her. She’s probably never seen a mountain bike before and has no idea what’s going on, but moving out the way would cost her time and money so it’s just another obstacle and part of the experience.
The race is the brainchild of Marie and Tim Cartwright. Marie is from Mauritius originally, but they met in the UK. Both are extremely sporty and Marie competed in triathlons in the UK, while living the rat race in London. One day they decided to give up the corporate life and come back to Mauritius. Sitting here typing this on their balcony overlooking the sea, I’m glad they made that choice.
Despite the perfect environment for sport, it certainly isn’t part of the local culture, and a huge part of Marie’s life is devoted to getting the local kids involved in sport. In a relatively poor country with high unemployment there is a temptation for local girls to earn money from prostitution says Marie, but her athletic club and weekly track sessions give the girls another focus along with self-esteem. It’s inspiring hearing of some of the lives she’s changed, and a far cry from working in the banking sector in Canary Wharf.
Onto the run in ‘Get Muddy’. Marie’s husband Tim is a keen trail runner himself and is very proud of the course, and rightly so. It is the standout part of the race for most people. 10km, so technical and slippery that only the first- and second-placed athletes could get under the hour.
One minute I’d be almost on my knee through a bamboo forest, or grabbing at any foliage in arms reach to get up yet another slippery bank, all the time cursing Tim. Then at the top of the bank you’d be greeted with an amazing view and all the pain would be forgotten for a moment.
This year the race was a South African whitewash for the men and women pro winners. Yours truly gave his best efforts to defend his title of 2014 but came second. Why not give yourself a new challenge soon. Try entering Xterra England to see what this off-road triathlon thing is all about, and then book a trip out to Mauritius for the 2015 race and get the whole paradise experience.
(Images: Jean Paul Le Blanc / Kerr Dinally / Gil Victoire / Bernard Le Court)
Did you race in Mauritius? Let us know in the comments below!