For people who love trekking like us and going to Reunion Island, it is almost impossible to think about a stay on the island without thinking about Mafate.
But what is Mafate?
Mafate is one of the 3 cirques in La Reunion, a specific mountain geological formation. If Salazie has the specificity of being very green and wet (it is almost impossible to count the waterfalls going down from the high mountains); if Cilaos is well-known thanks to its curving road; Mafate is famous for being virgin of car. To access it, you can go walking or by helicopter.
Mafate has a particular place in the history of the island and in the heart of local people. Mafate is one of the symbol of slaves running away from their extremely bad conditions on the littoral. In the moutains and in the forest, they could easily hide and escape the inhuman conditions they were living in the plantations. Today, Mafate is the pride of La Reunion and a symbol of freedom.
Around 700 people live in Mafate. Most of them have today a tourism activity, offering simple accomodation and a beautiful dinner.
Mafate = more than 140 kms of path
Since 2007, Mafate is part of the national park. It means that its preservation is placed in the center of the preoccupation.
Mafate is an amazing resource for tourism and for local people. In La Reunion, this place is easily a break for a day or for a couple of days. To enter the natural site, you can more or less start from everywhere on the island. The most famous starting points are Cilaos (to reach the closest village of Marla) and Salazie (by Le col des boeufs to reach the closest village of La Nouvelle). But you can also start from La Possession or Maïdo. Every way has its own specificity and difficulty. It can be simple (more or less) or very difficult.
La Nouvelle is the biggest hamlet of the cirque. Almost 200 people live all year long. Most of them offer an accommodation service as well as a daily service like bread, grocery. Most of the supply comes from helicopter.
When we decided to go to Mafate, we chose “le sentier scout” going from Salazie (Col des Boeufs) to “Aurère” “Ilet à Bourses” or “Ilet à Malheur”. At the beginning, we had the plan to spend 2 nights and make a nice and long loop to come back to Salazie.
When the adventure starts…
Unfortunately, we had been impacted by the weather conditions. The same depression that offered us the opportunity to visit Bebour / Belouve, gave us (this time) a more difficult time in Mafate. Indeed, the rain started on Sunday and lasted until Tuesday / Wednesday. When we started to walk on Thursday, in spite of few clouds, we could see already an improvement in the near future.
The problem (if we can call it problem) is about rivers. After such a rain, they are bigger and wider. In the rainy season in La Reunion, it is also more probable than rain will arrive in the middle of the afternoon, even after a beautiful and sunny morning.
These 2 conditions together led us to change our plan during the trek. We initially planned to sleep in Grand Place (a beautiful dinner ordered the day before was waiting for us) but around 3pm, we faced a river (or gully erosion) that already became too strong to cross. The current was very strong and water high: impossible for us to cross and to continue the initial plan.
We had to come back and try to find a place to stay in Ilet à Bourses (the closest hamlet from this impassable river). Luckily, the guesthouse was empty and we could get a room for the night easily. We were a bit disappointed to not be able to follow our path but were quite happy to find such a beautiful place to sleep (the day after, we were even more happy to wake up and discover all the mountains around without any clouds. We were just speechless at the breakfast time). We could also walk around the village; meet some members of the Thomas’ family. They were resting not too far away from the chapel. They were also enjoying the view on the mountains around with all these clouds and nascent waterfalls.
The day after, after the breakfast, we decided to come back to Salazie and not spend another night in Mafate. The weather was really sunny and beautiful but we did not want to risk to face another river on our way without the possibility to find a plan B like in Ilet à Bourses
We took again the path, walking among Chouchou plantations, Filaos trees, and among this amazing nature, very green. We were just amazed about the nature around us, about the purety of it.
We went back home safely. We were just happy and we obviously promised ourselves to come back as soon as possible to continue to explore this wonder of la Reunion.
PS: here under a very good website for getting more information about trekking in La Reunion.