Cirque de Mafate: final days of hike to some stunning scenery

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Africa » Reunion » Cirque Du Mafate » La Nouvelle
June 23rd 2013
Published: July 19th 2013
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Day 4: Grand Îlet to La Nouvelle via Col des Boeufs

2hr, 4.5km, 520m descent

Tip: avoid the slog back uphill to Le Bélier and up the route forestière (forest road) to the Col des Boeufs; alternatively, take the bus from Grand Îlet to Le Bélier and on to Col des Boeufs car park just below the summit ; if there’s no bus when you set off, it’s easy to get a ride up there. Thus you’ll spare yourself a rather monotonous section. From the Col des Boeufs it’s an easy 2½- hour hike to La Nouvelle. This is the same as the first day of the Haut Mafate walk, crossing the atmospheric Plaine des Tamarins and descending on the far side to the village of La Nouvelle.

After a simple breakfast of baguettes with butter and jam we said our goodbyes to our good host Jean Robert and slowly made our way up folling the main road back to Le Belier, it branches off and we followed the sign to Mafate, this is a big paved road that goes up the hill, we walked it for about an hour before arriving at the beginning of the trail to La Nouvelle, some people will cheat and get a ride all the way to Col des Boeufs, where there is a parking area below the mountain and you can catch the trail from there. As much as I am hurting, knees, feet and all, we want to finish the whole trek walking every single trail.

So we followed the trail and it goes up slowly its foggy and you cannot see the valley below and a threat of rain, it started to rain but luckily we got to the forest right then, there are some muddy bits, the trail is again beautiful, green and lush but long! Then we passed a casuarina forest again, we can see tall cliffs everywhere and from a distance the parking area at Col des Boeufs. We climbed up the cliffs then at the top we rested and had a snack, then from here downhill again on slippery rocky trail, then we emerged amongst the Plaine des Tamarins, the scenery is awesome, the trail is now surrounded by Tamarin trees, they look aged and ancient, from here we met a lot of hikers coming from La Nouvelle, plenty, the most we have seen
DAY 4: Cirque de MafateDAY 4: Cirque de MafateDAY 4: Cirque de Mafate

a well deserved cold one
since we started from Cilaos. Eventually we caught sight of La Nouvelle, it's very rural, quiet and isolated, no roads lead to big towns, and there are no signs to our accommodation, Relais de Mafate, though it is a small village we are tired and frustrated that there were signs for other places but not ours, we sat down in one cafetreia/restaurant and had lunch. The kind woman who owns the place directed us to our gite.

There we 4 guys having bourbon beers in one table and 2 of them were limping, at least I am not the only one with problems! So after our meal we set out following a small trail to get to the gite, we went around could not find it, asked people and directed us to a group of bungalows, that is our gite, no sign no nothing. We have tp wait for it to open so we sat at the veranda at the reception building, sat next to us were a couple from Switzerland, they told me later they did Piton de Neige, exactly the same route as we did on days 1 and 2 but they were sore the 3rd day they cheated and took the bus to Hellbourg, and from there took another bus to the Col de Beoufs parking lot and walked to here. I took off my boots to air my feet, blisters all over, then comes the reception guy, checked us in and offered dinner as well for I think 20 euros each we took it as we cant be bothered looking for a place to eat tonite.

We were put in a dorm which was nice, it's very clean and tidy, the sun is still strong at 3pm, i washed some of my mingy clothes and dried it in the huge boulders outside. I went for a walk and this doberman followed me around as I take fotos. I see some more hikers arriving from different trails. We had some beer to pass the time by, the clouds started rolling in in the afternoon and seems like going to rain but did not but dinner time it was foggy and cold. They served us chouchou, chicken, and of course apertifs, it was a fun night of chatting with fellow hikers, thre were only 8 of us. We said our goodbyes to the Swiss and went to bed.

Day 5: La Nouvelle to Cilaos

8hr (or 6hr to the D242), 12.5km, 620m ascent,

870m descent

This final day will take you back to the modern comforts of Cilaos, passing through some stunning countryside on the way. The first section is a fairly easy two-hour walk to Marla, beginning with a steep descent into the Ravine Gérien and passing some nice views of the Cirque. Be sure to ignore the trails signed off to ‘Marla par passerelle’ and to the ‘Plaine aux Sables’. Marla consists only of a few houses, but the
village shop sells snacks and drinks From here, ignore paths off to the right for Trois Roches and Roche-Plate, but keep heading south towards the reservoir. The trail ascends steadily towards the obvious low point on the ridge, reaching Col du Taïbit in about 1½ hours. If you
reach this viewpoint early in the morning, there are magnificent views over the Cirque de Mafate, and down the Cirque de Cilaos to
St-Louis and the coast. The trail (GR R1/R2) descends slowly to the plateau at Îlet des Salazes where you can treat yourself to an invigorating tisane (herbal tea), before dropping steeply through drier country to cross the D242 – the Îlet à Cordes road – after about two hours. You could always pick up a lift or a bus to Cilaos here, but die-hards should continue across the road and descend into the valley.
The trail divides just beyond. The easier and prettier option is to take the right fork, following the GR R2 along the west bank of the Bras des Étangs. It crosses the river near the Cascade de Bras Rouge and then climbs gradually to come out at the Thermes de Cilaos. From there you can take a shortcut up the Sentier des Porteurs for the final ascent into town. Depending on how you feel, you could stop off at the spa in Cilaos for a massage, or hit one of the restaurants in town for a well earned Bourbon beer

Next morning after breakfast we set out, I am ready for this, it being our last hike, 8 hours to Cilaos, without cheating. The trail was easy to find, and easy at first, crossing some creeks were tricky, the rocks are slippery, Great views of the lciffs around, then maybe after an hour we arrived in Marla, a nicer quaint village smaller than La Nouvelle, it is surrounded by high mountains, well same as La Nouvelle but somehow more spacious, I wished we stayed the night here instead, a few hikers are getting ready to move on, there were a few camp sites and gits and they look nice, next time I hike, I will definitely stop here for the night. trying to get out of the village, we kind of lost the trail again and I have to ask again where is the trail to Cilaos, a young lady pointed us to the right one, and oh boy, now it's all upwards! Gladly my knees are a bit better now and the blisters are well secured, non stop hike up for about an hour, we met a lot of people going down to Marla, I stopped and chatted with a nice older Mauritian couple, full gear on, they said they will camp out somewhere, they have all they need, tents and all, good for them.

At the top, we rested a bit again and a bit confusing again as no signs for Cilaos, but what goes up, must come down so we followed the trail on the other side, going down, just for assurance I ask people hiking up the trail if we are going the right away, oui, oui!! was a nice response!Through beautiful forests,we followed the trail down, a lot of hikers are coming this way now, very busy hike, we finally made it to the GR R1 road and lots of cars parked there, we sa wa bus pass us by but we are determined to walk all the way through, so we followed the trail sign that goes behind the road guard fence thing, back in the forest again, this took about a good 2 1/2 hours all terrain, forest, scree, dry grass, etc. we skirt around the cliffs in the area, we can see the church in Cilaos but we seem to keep gething farther than closer! Patience paid up though after crossing a river, we knew we are near, but we ended up on a side trail in town rather than right at the thermes! we did not know if we missed a trail but at least we made it back finally! Had a huge lunch and beer and shopped for booze souvenirs to bring home then back to the gite and collapsed in bed for some needed rest, I can't believe I made it, 5 days of hiking, injured, hobbling, but sheer determination paid off, Reunion is such a beautiful destination and if you are a hiker, you hit the jackpot here! Definitely coming back for more!

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