I had just woke up in the Johannesburg airport hotel after successfully climbing to the highest point in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Botswana over the previous week. For once I was in no rush to leave my hotel as the flight to Mauritius wasn’t until early afternoon and the airport was only a 10 minute drive away. I had a relaxing morning and was able to have the free breakfast included with the hotel this time. Jam and marmalade on toast for starters then a few sausages and fried egg toasted sandwiches with tea, coffee and few orange juices for good measure. I then caught the hourly free shuttle bus to the airport but upon my arrival, the departure screens didn’t display my flight?
I had a walk around the terminal but all the screens were the same, I noticed that they were only showing domestic South African flights. I double-checked my tickets and walked towards the other terminal. There was one last screen and a few separate check-in desks, I thought it best to have a look and saw my flight was on there thankfully but had been delayed by 1hr 30 mins. I was already due to get to my hotel in Mauritius late but I now needed to contact them to say I was going to arrive even later and decided to ask to use their own private transfer they had offered me previously to guarantee I would get there. I was pleased to receive a quick reply via WhatsApp. But wasted credit in the process as it hadn’t connected to the airport’s wifi. I confirmed the airport pick up so all good. In the meantime, as I was delayed I had a cheeky Wimpys as I would now be arriving later than planned.
I eventually boarded and got the window seat that I had requested at check-in. A couple who were from Manchester and Yorkshire sat down next to me. I had already detected they were English from the talking and laughing in the aisle as an old man was faffing with his bag and blocking everyone from getting past. They had taken a year out from work to travel the world. It was a fun flight, We had a few beers and were generally being a bit loud and disruptive. Stopping the French people in front reclining their seats was a particular highlight. The flight took 3hrs 20m, We landed around 40 minutes ahead of our predicted flight time but still about an hour later than supposed to be due to the delay. Upon entering the airport I filled in both arrival forms and joined the back of the queue. There was only our flight in there but it took over an hour to process and I was one of the last ones to disembark. I was due to be picked up at 22:00 and it was 22.10 when I finally got to the front of the queue.
I didn’t want to miss my transport to the hotel so I rushed towards the meeting point. Just as I turned a corner and could see the automatic doors for arrivals a security guard walked towards me and asked to see my passport. I thought for fuck’s sake! I really didn’t want to miss my transfer but he was clearly in no rush at all as asked my purpose for visiting Mauritius. I explained but of course, it made little sense what I was actually doing there compared to the usual tourist. I explained again and he looked as if he thought he had rumbled me by asking “So how will you climb this mountain?” “What is it called?” and “What route will you take?” His mistake was of course that these were details I was very familiar with for my climb. I quickly said, “Piton de la petite rivere noir, It’s 828m and then zoomed into my GPX trail on my phone along with showing him paper copies of the route I had printed out. I don’t think he knew quite what to say, All he said was “I will scan your bag” I said yeah no problem at all. He started frantically flicking through looking at the stamps in my passport and said “Botswana and Eswatini? Why have you recently been there?” I said “To climb to the highest point and showed him my pictures from those climbs. Still looking bemused he said okay, thank you and waved me on.
I jogged towards the arrival doors and scanned all the people there who were holding signs, looking for my name but it wasn’t there. I checked again and headed outside, No joy. It was now 22:25, I assumed he must have already waited long enough and left so I text the hotel owner who I had messaged earlier. Upon rereading my text maybe I wasn’t overly clear that I was here right now so I clarified my position with another text. Then a few minutes later a man appeared at the main door holding my name. It was her son who had picked me up, we chatted, he spoke good English and we soon arrived at the hotel. The owner was nice and she showed me all around her hotel and pointed out restaurants and suggested ideas of what I could do in the area. But I had one simple reason for being here and that is the high point. I explained the reason I was here but she pointed to a hill a few kilometres away saying this is highest. I corrected her but she said it was a nice climb. I headed to my room and to fell straight to sleep. It was after 23:00 and the forecast for the following day had said cloudy so I had decided to have a chill and beach day then hit the high point the following day as the weather looked much clearer.
After a great sleep, I knew I could just chill today without smashing my feet further or getting sunburnt. I popped into KFC which was directly below my hotel room for a late breakfast and then onto the promenade and pier to look at the views. It was a bit cloudy as the forecast had said but the sea was lovely and blue. From there I headed to an ATM as I had dashed past them all at the airport in order to meet the transfer shuttle. After getting enough cash for some food and the taxi I popped into a local supermarket for a few refreshments. Then I headed to the main bus station located directly opposite my hotel and waiting for a bus to Blue Bay. A film crew were lurking about and started shooting by the bus I was waiting on and then came onto the bus which was interesting. It took about 20 mins for the bus to fill up and fill up it did. It was rammed before we left, We dropped a few people off and then, even more, got on followed by more and more. There must have been 80+ on the bus as I peered at the sign stating 60 max. It took a while due to constant stopping and starting to get to Blue bay but I could already see from several coves we passed by that it would be worth it.
By the time we arrived about 100 people got off. There were many locals there being a Sunday and lots of people listening to music, eating and drinking with ice cream vans and the lot. I took some photos and videos and wandered away from the crowds along a more secluded stretch of beach. I spent a few hours relaxing and just watching the sea, fish and locals before heading back to the bus. It was quite empty this time and hardly stopped on the way back to the hotel. I had another KFC but saw there veggie burger range which was yummy and only £2 for a large drink large fries and burger. Fantastic. I headed back to my room and sorted my gear out for the climb the following day along with the gear that I needed to wash if there was time afterwards as the owner has free washing facilities available. I contacted the owner on WhatsApp to organise a taxi as it was only 40km to the trailhead and I would prefer 3 hours to get to the top and back at a comfortable speed as I would be travelling light. She said she had spoken to her nephew who owns a taxi company and it would be 3000 ~£60 and take 1hr45 just to get there? I said she must be mistaken as it’s only 40km away and my phone says 40 mins in light traffic so an hour maximum. I said I was expecting closer to 2000 and she said the lowest he would go is 2500 so I reluctantly agreed. My plan to have an early night was interrupted by the Kosovo vs England game at 21.00 local time so I found a stream for my phone that worked using the free KFC WiFi from downstairs that they leave on all night 👍 England won 4-0 and I then went to sleep having arranged a taxi fr 08:00 the following morning.
I woke up just before my alarm at 07:00, freshened up and finished packing my bag and sorting out my gear for the climb. The taxi turned up at 08:00 as planned but I could see from his phone on the dashboard that it said the time to the destination was 1hr30m. I asked him where is that to and he said the mountain? I asked him to zoom out and it was to a viewpoint almost twice as far around the other side of the mountain and realised that’s why she said it was that far. I said no its only 40km away and pointed to where I wanted to go on his phone. He phoned his boss who said it was okay. I thought there’s definitely no way I’m paying 2500 now ile just hand over 2000 on the way the back and even then I think I’m being very generous. We set off, popped to a garage to fill up and then we hit the motorway. We passed several junctions before he suddenly slowed down quickly looking confused. I thought here we go! I’ve seen this so many times and they always say yes it’s ok they know where they are going when they don’t. He assured me he knew. But then looked at my phone and said you have GPS? I said yes and guided him the rest of the way to the trailhead.
It was refreshing to hear a taxi driver admit it and ask for assistance and took the uncertainty away so a win-win situation as I took the most direct route. We started climbing higher and reached the trailhead in around 50 minutes. I said I would be back here in 3 hours at midday. I set off and maintained a good pace along the road until I saw a painted stone and board that depicted the actual start of the route along with an info sign regarding the area. The trail was very well defined and maintained, cutting through dense vegetation and bamboo creating a corridor like a maze that headed up into the mountains. There were many tree roots on the way but as it was dry these made excellent steps although I imagine very slippery in wet conditions. The route gained and fell several times before reaching the first high point along the way. A few nice views peeked out as I continued to the right, climbing gradually with more intermittent views through gaps in the still dense vegetation.
It was warm and humid despite still being relatively early in the day. I continued upwards, the going was easy enough and then a big lump of a hill appeared. I thought wow and humm haha! The summit was only a few hundred meters away by line of sight so it was gonna be a bit steep. It certainly did get steep, there was a fixed rope leading up a sandy channel with several other fixed ropes overlapping as it became steeper still. It certainly would have been more difficult in inclement conditions but still proved useful due to the sandy terrain. I looked back after reaching a large tree with large exposed roots where the ground had eroded away from, that the last section of rope was securely tied around one of the biggest roots. That climb had taken me well above the canopy with a fantastic view of the South and West of the Island. The stunning blue waters looked great. I took a few photos and looked upwards, it was not as steep my I certainly wouldn’t have fancied sliding down where I had just climbed. I turned to the right took a few pictures and carried on, Before I knew it I was standing on the highest point in Mauritius.
The was a once multi-coloured bench on the summit is now quite weather-worn and an there was an old pole that I assume once had a sign or flag depicting the high point. The views were 360 degrees panoramic. And as I was now close to the South West coast those waters were stunning. I stood on the bench to get a better view, I spent 15 minutes on the high point before returning back down the steep fixed ropes the way that I had climbed up. It was quite easy to descend whilst I was still admiring the view on the horizon. I was soon back once again under the canopy and following the well-defined route through the bushes back to the other high point at the far end of the ridge. As I knew the taxi was waiting I jogged down the rest of the route onto the main road, then about 400m to where the driver was waiting. He was quite surprised to see me and said “already.. you must be strong”. I thought there is no way I’m paying 2500, So by getting back to the hotel within 4 hours will certainly justify me just giving him 2000 instead of 2500 and that would be that.
It was a pleasant journey back and most importantly a chance to cool down. We got back to the hotel at 12.15, it had taken 4 hours. I gave him the money and said thank you and jumped out and nothing was said so I went into KFC for another veggie meal. I then headed back upstairs to freshen up and wash all of my dirty gear so I would have a completely new set ready for the last week of my trip. The owner had a washing machine and airer that was free to use with free washing powder and detergent too so that was a big help. I had spoken to another hotel guest the previous day who said it had taken ages for his clothes to dry in his room due to the humidity so I took mine onto the roof and sat with them for 2 hours to dry before taking them back to my room for the evening just to be sure. I chillaxed for rest of the day. The owner messaged me on WhatsApp asking what time I was leaving the following morning and for me to remember to pay for the shuttle transfer. I only had enough cash left for either a taxi to the airport or to pay her. So I would have to walk to the airport which would take about 1hr40 mins.
After a good sleep, I headed downstairs at 04:25 where the woman was waiting for me as agreed. I gave her the rest of my money and she asked how I was getting to the airport. I said I was going to walk, she said no no.. I will take you. So she very generously drove me to the airport and I complimented on how good her place was. Her husband had a stroke recently but she had shown over the last few days how despite I imagine it being a very difficult time she was doing a great job. After finishing some drink and nibbles at the airport I still had a few extra hours to wait for my flight to the Seychelles. The airport was empty but well air-conditioned so I listened to music and relaxed before heading to what would turn out to be a very interesting final high point of my African journey.