Mauritius – Petite Riviere Noir Peak (2,717 ft)
August 5, 2016
Day 1 – Fly Seychelles to Mauritius, climb Petite Riviere Noir Peak
Day 2 – Fly to Reunion Island
I found myself with an extra week to fill between climbing in the Caucasus with Matthew and meeting up with Katie in Madagascar, and I somehow figured out how to squeeze in three extra country highpoints in between. On my way from Moscow to Madagascar I’d already climbed the highpoint in Armenia, then stopped over in the Seychelles to bushwhack through the jungle to its highest mountain, Morne Seychellois. Next on the agenda was a 36-hour layover in Mauritius, which I figured would be plenty of time to climb Petite Riviere Noir Peak, the highest point in the country.
During my research I discovered that Petite Riviere Noir Peak is actually one of the easiest country highpoints in the world, both logistically and physically. There’s a short trail to the summit, with an easy paved road to access the trailhead, and no permits or other red tape to deal with. It’s also extremely popular with Mauritians, so I figured there would be a good chance the trail would be well-maintained.
On the morning of August 5 I flew out of the Seychelles, and a few hours later landed in Mauritius. It was extremely easy passing through customs, and once officially in the country I exchanged my Seychelles currency for Mauritius currency. The bills in Mauritius actually have dodo birds on them, which is pretty unique.
I picked up my rental car by noon and was soon on the road. Mauritius reminded me a lot of India – the people all look Indian and have Indian accents, the currency is the rupee, the scenery is full of lush forests and huge sugar cane plantations, and the roads are left-side drive.
I had just gotten a new maps.me navigation app installed on my phone, and tested it out for the first
time in Mauritius. It navigated me flawlessly from the airport west through New Grove and La Flora to Black River Gorges National Park in the southwest corner of the island.
I knew approximately where the trailhead for Petite Riviere Noir Peak was, and had seen online that
there was even a big boulder with a green trail sign painted on it. I was keeping my eye out for this marker, but started getting suspicious when the road started descending from the plateau in the park, and the forest gave way to houses and development. I passed a popular viewpoint out across the ocean, and then pulled over to check the map.
I had overshot the trailhead, and was almost to the town of Chamarel on the western coast. I turned around, switchback back up into the park, and eventually noticed the small trailhead I had missed before. There was indeed a small boulder with a green hiker sign painted faintly on it, and across the road was a gravel pullout big enough to fit two cars. One car was already parked there, and I took the second spot.
I was 3pm now, and with only a few hours of daylight left I hustled to get my gear packed for the hike. From what I had read, it was only a few miles up to the summit, so I packed light with just a water bottle, a few granola bars, and a rain jacket.
Luckily I had brought my hiking boots, because the trail started out extremely muddy, and never dried
out. The trail was nice and wide, and obviously well-traveled and well-maintained, except that it didn’t really drain water at all. Either that, or it had just rained for the past few days and was completely saturated. The mud was deep enough that I didn’t want to walk right through it because I thought I might sink up above the top of my boot. But it was often very difficult to pass around, because the undergrowth was extremely dense around the trail.
I ended up getting very muddy, and occasionally bushwhacked next to the trail. Two groups of hikers passed by on their way out, one group of four people my age, and later a family of a mother, father, and two kids.
The trail followed a ridge for a while, and eventually got so steep that there was a rope tied in between trees and bushes to help people get up. This was mainly because the trail was both muddy and steep, and difficult to avoid slipping on.
I pulled myself up the rope, and at the end of the steep part found myself on the summit. There was a huge bench to sit on, and panoramic views in all directions. The top was high enough that the only vegetation was small bushes, which didn’t obstruct the view. I could clearly see the ocean below me to the west and south, and I saw impressive waterfalls back to the northeast in the national park. I had
timed the summit perfectly to catch sunset over the Indian Ocean below.
I didn’t want to descend in complete darkness, so started heading down just after the sun set but while there was still enough twilight to see. When I got back into the trees I needed to use my headlamp, and now it was even harder to avoid the mud. I ended up mostly just walking straight through the mud in the darkness, and got back to the car an hour or two later.
At the car I spent 15 minutes using leaves to wipe off as much mud as possible from my boots, then started contemplating where I would sleep. I could have slept at the trailhead, but the car was just 10 feet from a moderately busy road, and every time a car drove by it would probably wake me up. Instead I started driving east back farther into the park, and after a few tries I found an excellent dirt road into the woods, with a pulloff on the side about a mile in. I folded down the seats and went to sleep as a light rain developed outside.
In the morning I returned to the main road, then drove down to the coast to try to find a beach to relax at. I had most of the day left in Mauritius and wanted to do a little sight-seeing. I found a public beach near Tamarin and washed off my shoes in the water. I then continued driving north up the coast, stopping in Albion to buy some lunch, then cutting inland to head back to the airport. I made it back by mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to catch my 5:30pm flight to Reunion Island.