Cirque de Salazie: losing the trail and accidentally climbing a mountain!


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Africa » Reunion » Cirque Du Salazie » Hellbourg
June 21st 2013
Published: July 11th 2013
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Day 3: Cirque de SalazieDay 3: Cirque de SalazieDay 3: Cirque de Salazie

Piton D'Enchaing
Day 2: Caverne Dufour to Hell-Bourg

via Piton des Neiges & Cap Anglais

duration: 7hr, 11km, 600m ascent, 2140 descent

Back at the Caverne Dufour, the trail to Hell-Bourg (six hours) runs north across the saddle and skirts the rim of the Cirque de Salazie, passing through giant heather forest. It’s a bit of a mud chute, so watch your
footing. After 1¼ hours you’ll reach a whitepainted cross at Cap Anglais, from where there are excellent views over the Cirque de Salazie. Take the GR R1 variant straight downhill from here to the southern end of Hell-Bourg (2¾ hours), emerging near the stadium. Instead of getting straight to Hell Bourg from Cap Anglais, die-hards may choose to walk along the Cirque rim through the lush Forêt de Bébour-Bélouve. Just beyond the turn-off, the trail begins a series of slippery ascents and descents through a marshy area of heather forest. Then it enters an enchanted tropical forest, with primordial ferns and huge trees draped in sheets of moss. Around three hours from Cap Anglais you’ll reach a radio antenna on the lip of the Cirque. This point offers spectacular views over Hell-Bourg and plenty of photo opportunities. Following the gravel forest road for another kilometre, you’ll come to the comfortable and beautifully situated Gîte de Bélouve . If you’ve got the time, you could overnight here and the following day take a side trip to the Trou de Fer viewpoint before hitting the bright lights of Hell-Bourg. The final descent to Hell-Bourg from the Gîte de Bélouve takes around two hours. Cut
through the garden of the gîte and bear left at the lookout. You emerge in Hell-Bourg near the town hall on Rue Général de Gaulle. Treat
yourself to a meal and a hot shower when you arrive!

Since we hiked the Piton the day before we, after a quick breakfast left the Caverne Dufour to start our way to the Cirque de Salazie. The trail early on is littered with frost, I thought it was cool as they are fine crystalline needles when you step on them they fall apart, well that was my amusement of the day as the trail gets harder and harder, lots of rocks litter the route and yup mud chutes here and there but we managed, we got to the Cape Anglais cross at about an hour,
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Hellbourg from Cap Anglais viewpoint
not bad. We rested for a bit here and enjoyed the magnificent view before us, we saw the sign for the Forêt de Bébour-Bélouve route, right on the trail is slippery and plus I don't feel like going the extra mile today as my boots had been given me problems, my blister, fully taped up is acting up again, so we chose to go downhill and follow the sign straight to Hellbourg.

This trail is difficult, it's downhill, and steep switchbacks with lots of rocks, some are slippery and it went on for maybe 1 1/2 hours but seems like forever to me, my knees were buckling, only consolation is mostly it is within the forest canopy, you see lots of fern trees and birds and some odd fruit trees. we ended up in a small stream where I rested my weary knees. Then the trail goes inside a cryptomeria forest, these trees are not native to Reunion, someone planted them here, the forest is beautiful but the trail is slippery as the sun does not get through the canopies completely, any moisture usually stays, tree roots line the trail in some parts making it hard to walk, I
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dinner at Chez Alice, classic Creole recipes,yummy
slipped several times, and there are some mud chutes, we would drop rocks on the mud so we can tip toe to the other side. I believe it took 45 minutes to get out of the forest and then same as before, the darn trail becomes sharp swithcbacks again some very steep, I was on my bum most of the time, I was spent by then, I can see the town of Hellbourg but it takes ages to get there. We finally emerge on the side of a stadium, but no signs on how to get to town center so we keep walking until we are out of the stadium, walked downhill and somehow found the main drag. Our hostel is uphill from the main street, I lag behind, my legs are done.

There was some party going on, someone was singing and lots of people having lunch outside, we made our way to the reception desk and Muriel helped us out settle in. La Mandoze is a nice hostel/gite, we are on the dorm beds, nice showers and clean toilets and they have wifi too. The owner was the one performing some Creole music, and the guests we
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start of trail from Caverne Dufour
just here for lunch. We decide to get our own lunch, a late one as it is by now 2pm, they have siesta here in Reunion from 12 to 2pm I think, so you'll be lucky to find an open place to eat, we remember a restaurant open in one of the streets while looking for the hostel, we found it again it's called Chez Alice and food is superb, typical Creole curry, their curry here is mild so I love them, they always serve with generous amount of rice, and usually also comes with an apertif on the house, the people there were nice, we can't understand each other but they made us feel at home. We came back here again for dinner later. The town is quiet, not a lot of hikers, we walked the streets and we saw beautiful houses, with fruit trees, and the ever present chouchou vines. We paid the tourist office a visit for some maps, and bought some more food and snacks, I entered a souvenir shop, the Indian owner asked me if I am from Indonesia, maybe she thought I was from Madagascar...




Day 3: Hell-Bourg to Grand Îlet

duration: 5hr, 11km

Start this day’s walk by taking the track at the end of Rue Général de Gaulle in Hell-Bourg to the thermal-bath ruins; this track connects with the Îlet-à-Vidot road, which will take you to the small parking lot in Îlet-à-Vidot, where the asphalted road ends. From the parking lot, a dirt road descends into the valley, reaching a turn-off on the left to Trou Blanc after about 500m. Ignore this turn-off and continue straight ahead, passing a turning on the right to Piton d’Enchaing. The track ascends rather uneventfully for the next 1½ hours, crossing several ravines, before skirting along the edge of a large plantation of casuarina trees at Le Grand Sable. The trail then drops down to cross one of the tributaries of the Rivière des Fleurs Jaunes. There’s an excellent bivouac on the far bank where the trail to Le Bélier (a GR R1 variant) strikes off to the right through the woods. Allow about three hours from Hell-Bourg to reach this point.

Like the instruction says, head towards the Thermal baths, we were a bit confused at first but found the trail and ended up on the ancient baths, it's now in ruins, then we cross a stream below it and followed the trail through a few bamboo forests, somehow it ended up on the main road which we followed for a bit, the big road terminates on a bus stop but the dirt road that was mentioned was now asphalt which added more confusion for us, but we kept on, hoping we are on the right track as it is all downhill passing through houses and veggie plantations, mainly chouchou.Suddenly we saw a sign for Piton d’Enchaing, it goes down steeply and then levels off, crossing a steel bridge and through the forest then up and down big road, when we caught sight of a vast chouchou plantation, there was a big trails signs, we took the right to follow Piton d'Enchaing as the directions tells us, after 5 minutes we lost the trail amongst the chouchou vines, one guy working there pointed where the trail is and we followed it, an hour later the trail disappears, we sat and rested here and I tried some guava fruits growing on the trail, then we have to make a decision, take the big service road or follow a
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scenery from Cap Anglais viewpoint
small trail, we found there is a trail marker on one of the rocks hidden by shrubs on the small trail so we went this way, and slowly the trail goes up and up, again my knees are bothering me, this 1 1/2 hour hike was brutal, slippery and muddy, only consolation is the jaw dropping scenery facing you, every time I rest which is every 15 seconds, I take a photo, now more than halfway through I was beginning to doubt if we are on the right trail, I can't confer with my buddy as he was ways ahead of me and he kept going, tired and severey exhausted I reached the top, found Reza eating. We both looked at each other as if to say, this can't be the trail!!Now we discussed what to do next, we are atop a mountain! Aren't we supposed to take some road?? We deliberated for awhile then decided to head back down and retrace our tracks, somehow we missed a trail marker, We got down in 30 minutes realizing we are losing precious time, my feet are killing me, the blisters are raw, I can feel it but no time to stop now.

Luckily we met 2 French hikers and they have a guide book and when we asked them if they know the trail to Grand Ilet, the girl's eyes lit up, you are on the wrong trail! You just climbed Piton d'Enchaing!!I nearly collapsed in disgust. Listen, she says, I know where you guys got confused, I did this trek last week, she proceeded to give us direction to head back where the chouchou plantations were and turn left on the sign, and follow the sign that says Le Grand Sable. So we retraced our tracks,found it, but we lost 2 hours already! It's noon now we have get going. We followed a big dirt road that keeps going up steeply, this one is a killer for me again, I stopped and attended to my blisters, by now I lost Reza, the darn trail then goes to a savannah type terrain and then inside a forest and we ended up to a very beautiful trail inside the forest full of casuarina trees, then it gives out to a trail lined with goyavlet trees and the fruits are just falling on the ground, I took my time here and savor the soury/sweet fruits, it's tangy and delicious it wakes you up and gives you a little bit more energy to continue on.

The trail then headed past a fast flowing stream/waterfall, we saw some workers, trimming the trails, the guys are having a break next to the waterfall playing cards, I nearly fell in as I crossed hopping on rocks, recollected myself and went on my way. This part of the trail was hard for me, it started going up again, then we saw a service road with cars parked, and some people harvesting goyavlets, I thought we must be closer now, wrong! The trail kept on for another hour and a half, 7 hours since leaving Hellbourg, my knees hurts, damn boots! I am not one to give up, as much pain as I feel, I kept on and we finally arrive in the town called Le Bélier , the trail ends in someone's backyard, we walked to the main road from there and followed signs to Grand Ilet,LP says the road goes down but we keep going up! So we checked with a local dude on a bike and he pointed us exactly to where we are going,about half hour following the road going up a steep hill, we ask passers by to be sure once more if we are going the right way, until finally we saw a sign for our accommodation, gite Jean Robert, which was not in the heart of town, we are in fact still above it, the map is confusing, we just happened to be on the road and passed a sign that's how we found it.

The owner is such a nice guy, he told us he spoke more Creole than French and no English but welcomed us wholeheartedly, we are the only guests. The room was nice with hot showers, his house is beautiful, when we arrived the main gate is being repainted. We opted for dinner in house as we don't feel like walking down to town anymore, he served us some fine Bordeaux wine and some lychee appertif, lots of stories and excellent food, carri chicken and the ever present suasages but cooked different from what we see in every restaurant, and quiche with chouchou vine, rice was flowing as well. This was our best meal so far. Mr Robert entertained us, he charaded telling stories about
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cemetery in Hellbourg
how when he was young he would caryy supplies to La Nouvelle(our next destination) barefoot, and with a simple lamp/torch would walk the tricky trail at night and make it there in 4 hours, He also climbed Piton de Neiges 4 times, he pointed it to me outside, and as well as names of other mountains around us like the Piton D'Enchaing, the one we climbed mistakenly today!

The night is cold but we have blankets in the room, we slept pretty well,we put our boots outside cause they smell so bad by now, woke up to a foggy day, we had a quick breakfast and said our farewell to our kind host, we tried to pay for the meal but he said it is already included when I paid for the room.


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Cryptomeria forest
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goyavlet fruits on the trail


Tot: 1.209s; Tpl: 0.191s; cc: 8; qc: 37; dbt: 0.0309s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb