The Other Mauritius – Still lost in the forest

We headed along the track further east, meeting up with the route I did from le Petrin.  But we decided we did not want to walk on the road, so again cut through the forest.  Forests often disorientate, and plantations are the worse.  Where you think those straight tracks would be easy to orientate, you often find they come to dead ends or are impassable due to waterlogging or fallen branches.  Worse still you think you are heading in a certain direction but imperceptible bends confuse your sense of direction.  A combination of a few of these small changes, and then coming to a junction where you fatally turn left instead of continuing straight on can take you miles from your intended destination.  We saw evidence that others had been through this way, but not human.  Along the side of many tracks were extensive excavation of the surface.  It was not as if someone had scuffed their shoes on the soil, it was almost like trenches were being dug to improve the drainage either side of the pathway.  But if they were trenches they were being placed in the most bizarre locations and they stopped as abruptly as they started.  Added to that the soil was scattered all over the place.  It eventually dawned on me that a hog had made these tracks.  I had heard that some wild boar still existed in Mauritius.  Introduced as a game meat they had been hunted in Black River for many years.  Now that Black River was a protected area, a national park no less, the boar were able to roam free from any predators.  But their impact was heavy – they grubbed up soil everywhere, demolished small shrubs and, so I heard, were quite scary if confronted when they were with young.  We did not see any although sometimes we heard noises off in the forest that our imaginations decided could have been a pack of boar.

The weather was dull and the forest muffled noises and helped to disorientate ourselves.  We occasionally could hear a vehicle, but since two roads were in this area, one to the east and another to the south, it was difficult to determine from which the sound was coming.  It did not help the southern road was not straight, and we actually emerged on to it much further to the east than where we wanted to.

It meant we had to dodge the traffic – although light it did increase as the morning went on.  The forest thins up here to a wild moorland, predominantly of this red guava tree.  We did find a track that was parallel to the road and were able to enjoy a more civilised walk for a while.  In theory we should have been getting epic views over the south of the island now, but the cloud base was low and a mist had formed below it.  When we finally reached the best view point in the whole park, the sun had started to burn away the morning cloud.

The Other Mauritius – Lost in the cane fields

The logic of the fields were that they formed a regular grid.  I could walk one direction, turn left, later turn left again.  One more left and I would eventually intersect my path and be able to head for home.  Mostly this worked well and every time I headed out this direction I would get more adventurous.  If I went east I would cross the Port Louis Rd and more fields would open up.  And I started to learn that each block of fields was not so monotonous.  Particularly close to the coast road, the fields had been taken out of production; some were wastelands of weedy vegetation but others were being built on, and ever more grand mansions were being constructed here.  But I also found out that the cane tracks themselves were not as regular as I had thought.  Once I had set out a little later than usual and as the tropical sunset was only an hour away I wanted to get as much in as possible, so I walked faster.  I went over the Port Louis Rd and continued east.  I knew if I turned north again I would end up in Calodyne and could make my way back along the road or shore path to the house.  I did so and found the track descending below the fields.  I was entering an abandoned quarry.  Beside the track were piles of rocks similar to the cairns out in the fields themselves, but I was getting deeper and deeper into a gully from which people had obviously excavated the faces.  Worse still, when I turned a slight corner, which itself was a surprising anomaly on the tracks in these fields, I found my way barred by a wall of volcanic rubble covered in creepers and shrubs.  There was no more track.  Even if I had been wearing better clothing, I doubt I would have made it over the pile of rocks without sustaining flesh wounds.  There was no alternative but to head back.  I realised some of the cane tracks not only were cul-de-sacs, but some did turn 90 degrees with no junctions.  On a short walk this could seriously lengthen your hike and with the sun setting and dogs howling in the distance, and my platypus water container in a landfill 30km away; I was not really ready to survive a night out in the fields.

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When the cane is high it is easy to get lost