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The Mauritian Highlands

Mauritian Highlands

The unappreciated jewels of tropical islands are their highlands, away from the reefs and the crowds, where the breeze turns cool and the only sound is the call of the birds. Twice we ventured upward, regretful that this wouldn't be the trip where I get to hike into deep wilderness with compass and backpack.

The first was to the Le Val Nature Park wilderness northwest of Lion Mountain. We crossed a few stream beds where the water must run several meters deep during rain storms; dark volcanic rubble polished round and smooth by the running water glistened in the afternoon sun, but for now they were dry. From the hilltop (300m) the view was outstanding: green and rumpled, as far as the eye could see.

Even more impressive was Black River Gorges National Park, a wildlife refuge and protected area, where we had a close encounter with a wild animal. In both areas it was fun to imagine hiking up to a precipice to study the harbors, peeling a sharp eye for black-rigged tall ships and the white sails of incoming vessels.

The Mascarene Islands aren't well known by their collective name, each island having long ago successfully marketed itself individually. But Réunion, Mauritius, and Rodriguez are indeed related, having been created when the African tectonic plate passed over a volcanic hotspot. It's hard to imagine from oceanside, but climbing up into the highlands gives you a look around at an island's rumpled peaks, and it's easier to understand the volcanic pre-history of an island paradise.

It was also fun just to enjoy the scent of pine on the wind, and the bird song from the trees. And to our delight, there was plenty of both.


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