The Other Mauritius – Pieter Both

At the end of the forest the scene opened up to the most dramatic hillscape.  I was looking at the second highest range of hills in Mauritius and the most impressive.  Although you could see these mountains from all over the north of the island, it was awe inspiring to be in the lee of these huge grotesquely shaped mountains.  In the distance was Le Pouce, or the Thumb in English.  Which if you put your digit in the thumbs up position looked remarkably like the saddle shape of the mountain before you.  The nearer one, Pieter Both, was even more impressive.  It rose sharply as a series of arêtes, making a pointed peak but balanced on the apex appeared to be a massive boulder; its base was certainly narrower than the centre.  I never managed to climb it; it was by all accounts quite a tough ask at the top, but what you saw was almost an optical illusion.  The top of the mountain is firmly affixed to the rest and although there are a couple of overhangs, this is not a boulder that is about to topple down onto Port Louis at the next earthquake. Pieter Both should be the highest mountain in Mauritius – its unique shape and prominence on the skyline was enough to give it the title, but in fact the highest location was at the other end of the island.

A large and somewhat dilapidated village lay in the valley beneath Pieter Both.  Many fields outside Nouvelle Découverte were abandoned and a vicious vine had sprawled over the ground, the walls, the broken down sheds and barns and almost onto the road.  The village looked dowdy; most probably the humid climate in amongst the clouds made maintenance of the houses a never ending battle against the moss, fungus and weathering.

By the time I came down to the little group of villages near the small town of Moka, the air had usually cleared and I was back in sunlight and more familiar Mauritanian terrain.  I usually had a few choices here.  Sometimes I would head south on back roads parallel to the motorway, other times I might veer round to the east and head back up that coast.  Or I might want to explore the conurbation in the centre of the island.

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