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Published: July 13th 2017
July 13, 2017 - I decided today to try to get to the third and final cirque, Mafate. From Cilaos, it's a 20 minute bus ride to the start of the hike, and then a six hour round trip walk. I got to the bus station at 7:25am, for the 7:30am #62 bus. It was already waiting, as were a couple other buses. There were many people waiting, so I thought they were waiting to get on, but then I realized the bus was nearly full. It is a small bus, almost a large van. I got on, paid and thought I had to stand, but there was one seat left. A lot of people on the bus were climbers, and had all their gear with them. I thought they might be going to the same place as me, but when I got off, they continued on. I was in the back of the bus, and was worried I would miss the stop, since I didn't know exactly how far it was. The bus stops are pretty easy to read, but being in the back made it harder to see them coming. I noticed when we passed one stop before the
one I wanted, and kept my eyes open. I clapped when I saw the right stop. Another couple also clapped and called out, and the bus stopped. These became my new friends for the day.
When we alighted (I don't think I've ever used that word in a sentence), we talked about the hike and I decided I would hike with them. Phil is from England and Yen is from Malaysia, and they live in Singapore. We started the hike - uphill, of course - and it was clear that Yen is a slower hiker than I am. I realized early on that if I stayed with them, I probably wouldn't make it into Marla, the closest hamlet in Mafate. It required climbing the crater of the old volcano wall that separates the two, and then climbing down again to reach Marla, on top of the reverse for coming back. I quickly decided I was enjoying the conversation and that these two were really interesting, so I was ok with not making it into Mafate, as long as I could see it.
About 30 minutes into the walk, we came across a little hut that looked like a
coffee shop. It was unmanned, but had two types of tea available, and accepted donations. It was pretty cool. We stopped and had some tea, and then continued on. At some point, we also came across a team setting animal traps. It turned out they were trapping feral cats, in order to protect the native wildlife. The cats were originally brought in to eat the rats that had been accidentally introduced to the island, but studies have shown that their diets also include about 20% birds. This is how native wildlife goes extinct, especially on islands, so it was good to see them working to remedy the problem.
We ended up spending about 3 hours climbing to the top, and arrived around 11am. We would have been very pressed for time to try to get to Marla and back in time for the bus at 3pm, but maybe could have made the 4:43pm bus. We all agreed not to try. The views were beautiful from where we were, and there is not anything in Marla to see, it is just for the views. Instead we sat down and ate. I had only had half an orange for breakfast and
a snack bar on the way up by that point. I didn't have lunch, only a couple more snack bars, as I'd not had time to go shopping for a sandwich in the morning. Phil and Yen had a nice bread and cheese, and they very kindly shared with me. They even offered me one of their chocolate snack bars and it was delicious. It was quite cold when we sat down, and my hands started to freeze a little. We were just over 2000m, having walked up 800m. But we found a spot in the sun and warmed up. Here there were also two viewpoints, and both were great.
While we were sitting, we met a young couple from England. They had made their hiking plans before realizing what the terrain was like, and they each had two backpacks with them, like I do when I move from place to place. Only they had had to carry their bags much further, and up and down hills. They were pretty tired and I felt bad for them. When we left to walk back down, they walked with us. It was a nice group, and we had some good conversations.
We arrived at the bus stop with time to spare, and we waited. And waited. And waited. We gained a new friend, a German Shepherd. We had seen him with people on the hike, but they must have had a car and left him at the parking lot. Eventually, it was clear that the 3:08 pm bus was not coming. By this time, the clouds had moved in and it was getting colder. We eventually decided to start walking, since we were cold and weren't sure that the next bus would come (it was scheduled to arrive at 4:43pm). The sign said it would take two hours to reach Cilaos, but I think that was for the hiking trail. We walked the road back, and it took just over an hour. The dog came with us. We got to the tourist information just before they closed, and we all had a question to ask. I asked about things going on in town tomorrow, as it's Bastille Day, the French National Day. It's like the 4th of July. I was not super clear about her answer, but I'll check it out to see what's on. I may or may not
take another short walk. I feel somewhat done with hiking right now.
Eventually I said goodbye to my new friends and started home. Delphine went to St. Louis today and was planning to come home in the evening, so I wasn't sure if we would have dinner together or not, so I grabbed a sandwich and some more water. I tried to take the dog out for a quick walk, but at first she wasn't interested, and then I couldn't find any grass for her to pee on, and she was being harassed by another dog, so we just came in. When Delphine came home, she heated up the leftovers from last night's soup and I shared some with her. It's good to have some veggies.
A very long day today, but a good one. I think I will sleep well tonight.
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