Le Morne Brabant


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Africa » Mauritius » Le Morne
August 25th 2015
Published: June 2nd 2017
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Today I've arranged to climb the Le Morne Brabant mountain. I'm told that my guide will be picking me up just before 7am. The breakfast buffet doesn't start that early, so I ordered room service breakfast last night by filling in a menu and leaving it in a box outside our room. It seems to be a bit late coming, so I set off to investigate. My investigatory journey is a short one. The menu is still in the box where I left it. I'm now pretty sure I won't be getting any breakfast, so I gobble down the only solid nourishment available - a packet of gummy bears from the minibar fridge.

Our guide's name is Yan, and he is an eighth generation French Mauritian. His accent is a combination of French and South African, which he explains comes from him having studied in South Africa for five years. We're joined by a Saudi Arabian couple who are also staying at Le Paradis.

We drive to the base of the mountain where we meet Nico our other guide, and the other members of our party. Yan asks us all to introduce ourselves. I break into a cold sweat. The last time I had to do this everyone laughed at me and repeated my name back as Dive. I concentrate really hard and try to say Dave in a posh British accent. It seems to work. No one laughs, although I do begin to wonder if maybe they're just feeling sorry for me.

Our party includes people from Sweden, Portugal, England, Germany and Mauritius, and there are about 15 of us in all. The Swedes are a young couple who only got married last week and are now on their honeymoon. They're wearing very cute matching tee shirts which their friends made for them. They're covered in love hearts, and emblazoned with "Just Married" and their names.

Yan explains that the mountain is about 550 metres high, but we will only be climbing to 500 metres. He says that they used to be able to take people right to the top, but when the site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 they had to remove some of the ropes that they needed to get up the last 50 metres. Entry to the top is now also prohibited due to its designation as a nature reserve. Yan explains that the first 250 metres climb will be a gentle hike along a jeep track around the side of the mountain. The last 250 metres will then be a much steeper scramble up rocks using our hands with the aid of some permanent ropes.

It's partly cloudy and looks like it could rain. Two of the English people in the party are carrying large unfoldable umbrellas. They're a bit hard to miss - his is bright pink, and hers is bright purple. I'm not sure they were paying too much attention to Yan's briefing; they look like they're off for a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll in Hyde Park. It will be interesting to see what they do with the umbrellas when they get to the bit with the ropes.

The scrambling section is indeed quite steep, and the ropes certainly come in handy to help us pull ourselves up. Parts of the track are slippery from yesterday's rain and there are steep drops off both sides to the mountain's base. Some members of our party appear to be struggling a bit and we have to wait at some of the stops for them to catch up. The English couple appear to have abandoned their umbrellas.

Two hours of hiking, climbing and scrambling later we reach our destination, which is marked by a steel cross. I can see why we can't go any further. There's a sheer cliff above us, and more sheer cliffs below us on all sides. The views are stunning. The scene's enhanced by the cloud, which is thin and fast moving enough for the sun to peek through occasionally. We can see the Dinarobin Hotel directly below us. The views of the wide turquoise coloured lagoon to the east and the cloud shrouded peaks to the north are particularly spectacular.

Nico points out a long straight channel across the lagoon which he says allows the fishermen to get their boats through the reef and out into the ocean. Prior to its construction the water was too shallow and a lot of the boats hit rocks and sank. He points out a white cross on a rock in the middle of the lagoon which is a memorial to the many fishermen who have drowned there. I'm a bit surprised that most Mauritian fishermen can't swim. If I was a fisherman here, or anywhere else for that matter, I think learning to swim might be quite high up the priority list.

Yan tells us that some of the plants up here aren't found anywhere else in the world. He points out an example growing right next to my foot which he says only grows on this mountain, and only above 400 metres. That sounds like a very fussy plant.

It's very windy. My hat blows off and I instinctively go to chase after it. I then remember that I'm standing on a tiny platform surrounded by sheer 400 metre high cliffs. Luckily the hat snags on a bush. I decide that I should put it in my pocket and sit down. I suspect that Issy mightn't be too pleased with me if I fell off a cliff and killed myself a couple of days before we were due to go home.

I heard several comments on the way up about how difficult the descent was likely to be, so there are nods of approval when Yan starts a briefing on how to do this safely. I'm feeling very happy up here, communing with the pristine wilderness, isolated from the real world. This feeling quickly evaporates when Yan's phone starts ringing midway through his briefing. Technology's great, but I can't help but think it would be good if it occasionally took a break.

The descent is very slow, and much slower than the climb. Every now and again someone dislodges a rock and we yell at everyone below to watch out. I'm glad to be near the back of the group.

Yan admires the Saudi man's running shoes, and tells us that he used to be sponsored to wear these same runners. He says that he was an ultra marathon runner and once ran right around Mauritius without stopping. This is 202 km, or about four and a half marathons. His current daily routine involves climbing the mountain in the morning, and taking people for long hikes in the jungle in the afternoon. No wonder he looks so fit.

The Saudi lady, who looks to be about 30, seems to have an American accent. She tells me that her mother is American. Her husband's name is Abdul, and he's quite clearly a native Saudi, so she must presumably be a Muslim if they were allowed to marry and live in Saudi Arabia. She says she grew up there, and has just moved back there again after living in the States for seven years. Yan says that this must be quite a culture shock, but she says she's now got very accustomed to moving between the two cultural extremes. She says she needs to wear a head scarf like all other women when she's in Saudi Arabia, but she just wears normal western dress when she's in the States. I see them later walking around the hotel hand in hand. She's wearing an off the shoulder dress, and her hair's down. I think they'd probably lock them both up if they attempted this in their homeland. I hope the Saudis don't have any spies here.

I get back to find Issy lying on the beach. I haven't been for a swim here yet and feel like I should, if only to be able to say that I did. The water's cold; not quite Port Phillip Bay cold, but chilly enough to not want to stay in for more than a few minutes.

It's been a long time since gummy bear breakfast and I'm very hungry. I
Climbers, Le Morne BrabantClimbers, Le Morne BrabantClimbers, Le Morne Brabant

If you look closely you can see some climbers in the middle of the picture.
order a Mediterranean pizza. The waiter warns me that this is a "white pizza". I've got no idea what this means, but I tell him that it'll be fine. I don't know why I do this. I think I've just got an aversion to asking questions because I think it'll make me sound stupid. It seems that a "white pizza" has a warm base, but all the toppings are cold, which is a bit different.

Our waiter tells us that the hotel is in a very good location because it's protected from strong winds, and it also doesn't rain too much here. The day before yesterday it rained here for most of the day, and it was quite wet yesterday as well. After lunch we go to sit on the beach again, but it's too windy so we retreat to our room. I think our waiter must have been talking about a different hotel.

I go through my now customary pre-dinner ritual of donning shoes and long pants, and we head off to the buffet. I occasionally try to speak to the staff in French. I don't know why. They all speak English. If they understand me, they occasionally speak back to me in French. I never understand what they're saying, so I just give them a blank look and they then respond in English. This is a waste of everyone's time and energy. As we go into the dining room I say "bonjour" to the waitress. She says "bonsoir" back. "Bonjour" means good morning, and "bonsoir" means good evening, at least I think this is what they mean. I also think this might be the waitress's way of telling me either that I have no idea whether it's morning or night, or that I've got no idea how to speak French. Either way I think she's probably decided that I'm not very bright.

The bill for the buffet and our drinks has been the same every night, but tonight it's the equivalent of about $1.20 cheaper. Issy says that tonight she asked for her whiskey to come without ice, which must be the reason for the difference. I think that we should go into business making ice here; I suspect it might be quite lucrative if we can charge $1.20 per cube.


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1st October 2015

I love the gummi bear breakfast and the hat blowing off. You should have been travel writer.

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