The day I climbed up Le Pouce mountain
Overlooking Port-Louis the capital city, Le Pouce, “thumbs up”, boasts its importance over the string of green peaks across the island. In Mauritius, many mountains carry names according to their shapes and Le Pouce is one of them. With John acting as guide for that day, I was easily convinced to take up the bet… and off we went aiming towards Moka for a fun exploring morning!
Turquoise lagoons and green peaks
Today, I woke up before the birds, eager to discover this side of Mauritius unknown to me.
“There are always two sides to paradise, the lagoon is only one! If you carry on swimming all day, you’ll end up like the little mermaid!”
That was John’s playful//mischievous voice. I met him early on the beach in Calodyne, a few weeks back and ever since, he never stopped talking about the beauty of those green peaks. So today is D day! Swapping my bikini for a pair of baskets, off we go, leaving behind the beaches of the north coast, aiming towards Moka and its iconic mountain: Le Pouce.
Hiking in Mauritius!
A smile on his face, at 6 :30 sharp, John picks me up in his old brown 4*4. I noticed he has changed his famous dodo flip flops for a pair of good walking shoes.
“How are you today dear cousin? First, we’ll stop in Grand Bay to eat breakfast (delicious local snacks called “gajacks”) that ought to give us some strength for the climb up!”. Well worth the stop! What I must also tell you, is that here on the island, everyone is related to everyone else and it’s not surprising to come across a few cousins on a day out! There is even a very popular sega song called: couzin, couzine… Hence my new name!
We hit the road towards Port Louis. 7:00 o’clock, the traffic there is already very busy. As we aim towards Moka, we leave behind the hustle and bustle of Port Louis. We drive along the river Moka, there are fewer houses and nature reclaims its rights. 7:20, we reach our destination, park the car, ready to start the climb… the Pouce is patiently waiting for us, I look up and suddenly felt dizzy… will I make it to the top? “Are you ok cousin? Ready? You mustn’t worry, 10 years old or even younger kids make it to the top. It’s a family outing! No problem, trust me.”
Winding path, lush vegetation and green plateau
I haven’t much option so right from start, I decide to trust John. The path is wide and stony, I’m very cautious at the beginning not to twist my ankles but as we progress, I forget my apprehension, immerged in this lush vegetation, the atmosphere is almost magic! “No need to go to Reunion Island to hike. Like its sister island, Mauritius is also a volcanic island with some interesting climbs, a lush tropical vegetation and very many indigenous plants.” Palm trees, eucalyptus, jamrosa…John knows them all and generously shares his knowledge, stopping here and there to point them out to me. Slowly the path gets narrower and the vegetation less dense/scarce. We come to a cross road and John teasingly says: “Shall we carry on/keen to carry on, or you would prefer to go down and aim towards Port Louis?” Indeed, the left path leads to Port Louis and the right one goes up to the top. No chickening out…we carry on climbing, the vegetation is different here, guava trees and pretty longoses, they look like colourful candles… “Native to the Himalayas, northern India and Nepal” says my guide. I’m a bit surprised to see this type of vegetation here in the Indian Ocean but I shouldn’t: Isn’t Mauritius at a crossroads between East and West? We carry on and a little further the paths widens as we reach the green plateau.
No “rapture of the deep” here… Rapture of the summits!
First stop, time to breathe and enjoy the majestic scenery below… Well worth it…. On our left Port Louis, the harbour, the race course and Chinatown… unfolds before our eyes. Opposite we have the “thumb part” of Le Pouce teasing us! So close/near and so challenging! No need for crabs says John, nevertheless I need my hands to help me over those last metres to get to the top. A last effort, avoiding the void below, watching my steps in case of slippery stones, I grab John’s helpful hand to pull myself to the summit, the ultimate goal! We’re standing at 812 metres above sea level, a few square metres of flat mountain to take a few steps and enjoy the panorama…
Here, it’s not only Port Louis and the harbour, but the whole island stretching at our feet, a full 360º the contour is perfect. I could just sit here and map out Mauritius and its surrounding northern islands: Flat Island, Round Island, Snake Island and Coin de Mire. The entrance to the harbour is spectacular, easy to understand why Port Louis was chosen as the capital city and main harbour by the French when they first settled. The nearby peaks are a good illustration of the volcanic past of the island. I now feel the urge to explore them: The Lion mountain guarding Mahebourg and the Pieter Both, second highest, with its rock sitting on top. John’s voice brought me back to reality: “The wind is picking up, time to go down”.
Under the spell, day dreaming, hardly listening to my guide,… The climb down is quick. We reach the parking lot, the 4*4 is waiting patiently, I climb into the passenger’s seat, a slightly different person, freer and more daring! In those two hours I have discovered another side of paradise, learnt a new page of history…
“You were right John, the lagoon is magic but Mauritius has even more to offer”.