Tropical Travels Part 4

Day 6 of my stay in Mauritius – my last full day, and with it comes one of the biggest challenges: Pieter Both Mountain. My research had informed me that there is a via ferrata on the final two cliff bands, but it is hard to find any information on this peak aside from a list of companies that guide it.

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I drove to the wrong spot first, before getting directions that brought me to the right spot. A local who had climbed it 3 times offered to jump in the car and give me directions the rest of the way – an offer I gladly accepted.

He told me that the via ferrata used to be good, but wasn’t safe any more. He gave me his phone number in case anything should go wrong and asked me to tell him when I was back down, and if he didn’t hear from me, he would come looking for me. Hariss – if you somehow end up reading this, I really appreciate it, thanks man!

The peak is very steep and impressive from below. The summit looks like a precarious boulder ready to fall off, although it will probably still be there for a few hundred years, baring earth quakes or something similar.

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The trail is nowhere near as clear as Le Pouce, but is still easy to follow. I didn’t see anyone the entire way up – I was all on my own.

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There is some easy scrambling lower down, but as the gully narrows, the scrambling gets steeper and harder. The easiest line was also occasionally wet, so I found myself on more exposed dry lines.

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I have to admit that the reviews that this should only be done with a guide or by experienced teams are entirely justified. Don’t take this peak lightly, if you are going to try it.

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The gully eventually widens and the trail takes a very exposed line right to the saddle below the main summit.

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As it turns out – the via ferrata has been entirely removed, and seeing as I am not about to try to free solo a trad crack (especially since I will have to down climb it as well), I realised I was going to have to concede defeat on this one. As a view point, even the saddle near the top is well worth the effort – I could see most of the island from up here, with the peaks around Lion Mountain and the Chamarel region visible to the South, and everything from there through to the northern end of the island visible in the opposite direction. It seemed fitting for my last full day on the island.

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After filming a short video – I tried to walk over to the second summit, but it turned out that getting up would entail a very exposed and slippery line in thick vegetation. The saddle produced some lovely views towards the capital, and I was nervous about the descent – so I got some shots and moved on.

Because of the via ferrata, I had brought a 20m length of abseil chord, 2 locking carabiners, 2 slings and my harness. When I got to the top of the highest scramble, I decided I really should use them. The best anchor I could find was a bush that I could have pulled out with one hand if I wanted to. This worried me – for obvious reasons – so I tried to scramble down rather than abseil, although it was holding surprisingly well when I did load it a bit.

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To provide some context – here’s a photo looking straight down what I had to descend. The bit immediately below me in this shot isn’t the concern, the part just below that, which is near vertical and wet was the main reason for the rope.

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There was a bolt at this point, so I attached a sling to my harness, clipped into the bolt and disconnected from my rope. I then pulled the rope through and used the bolt to abseil the rest of the way (yes – I know, don’t thread rope through a bolt and always back up an anchor, but this was all that was available, so it had to do for now).

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After abseiling down the full 10m range that a doubled over 20m rope would allow, I was on the ground and was very relieved to put the rope away.

About 2 minutes later I was reminded that there was another one still to descend – but luckily this one had a large living tree to use as an anchor and was only about 6m high. So rope on, 2 munters hitched and soon I was on the ground.

The walk out from here was trivial, and on reaching my car I messaged Hariss to confirm that I was safe.

My last night in Mauritius would be at Grand Bay, so I proceeded to hit the main highway with a goal of picking up the northern tip of the island. It had been a few days since I last bagged a corner, so it was nice to get moving on it again.

I had to laugh at a road sign that said “left to The Vale, straight to The North”!

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I got my selfie at the northern tip of the island before heading to the nearby public beach for a swim. It wasn’t a very popular beach, with only about 10 other people on it – but it was one of the most scenic I had seen on the island.

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Numerous trees in the area were in flower, making for quite a sight.

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I found a local restaurant and had a lovely plate of fish and chips before heading on to Grand Bay.

My final accommodation had a freezer and was right next to a shopping centre. There happened to be a special on pistachio icecream, so I bought a tub. I knew I would only eat about half of it (yes, I ate half a tub of icecream in a single evening), but it was still well worth it. I have no clue why pistachio icecream is not available in South Africa.

I spent the afternoon chilling on Grand Bay Beach, which is a beautiful spot.

I had to spend the evening moving my things around in my bags so that I would be ready for my flight the next evening. Amazing how fast a week of holiday flies by!

Day 7

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Day 7 had a few simple goals:
– drive slowly around the east side of the island and stop at some beaches
– tag the eastern tip of the island
– summit Lion Mountain
– eat lunch at the restaurant my brother had recommended
– be at the airport by 6pm to return my car, plus my next flight

The eastern tip of the island was actually quite a nice spot. I sat there fore a while before moving on. With that I had the 4 corners and the highest point, so the 5 extremes of the island.

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I was in no rush, so I stopped a lot, took photos and slowly made my way around the east coast. I did have all day, after all.

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I drove past some cannons that had been placed on the island, so naturally I had to stop and have a look.

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After asking around a bit, I found where to park for Lion Mountain – my last summit for the trip. I chose my summits for many reasons, and in retrospect I feel I chose very well, but Lion Mountain is a gem of note. I only picked it because of how close it was to Blue Bay and the expectation of a view from this. It did not disappoint!

The climb is fairly easy, I went up the lower side, across the Lion’s Back, up the main summit (some technical scrambling required) to the main summit, and back down via the more direct line. This was as per a GPS track I found online, and was a great route.

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The descent was fairly simple. I met a team made up of a British lady and a Mauritian man along the way, but saw no one else. Of all the peaks on the island worth doing – if you are too nervous for Le Morne and want something easier than Le Pouce, this is the one for you.

I continued along to the restaurant I had heard so much about, and had a captain fish for lunch.

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It wasn’t even 2pm yet, so I made my way to Blue Bay. I couldn’t help but not that I had now come full circle on the island. Basically everything I wanted to do was done, any anything I hadn’t done was not going to be done on this trip.

I went for a swim (aware that a wet costume wouldn’t be so great in my bag – so I had a few plastic packets ready). I sat on the beach for a long time as well, just trying to relax a bit.

A joke that was 16 years in the making came together at Blue Bay. Back in 2002 when I was doing French at school, I was taught how to order pineapple icecream. It is one of the very few French phrases I know. So when I discovered the icecream truck had pineapple, I just had to buy it!

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Mauritius had been great, now on to part 2 of my holiday: Singapore

I got a photo of my car before heading to the airport.

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The guy who was supposed to collect it arrived 20 minutes late – which wasn’t great. But eventually my bags were checked, and I found myself boarding an Airbus A330 bound for the City State of Singapore.

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