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Monday, January 9, 2012

Corps de Garde

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Towering above the towns of Rose Hill & Quatre Bornes is Corps de Garde, which at 720m, is the 5th highest mountain in Mauritius. After conquering Le Pouce, Lion Mountain & the Black River Peak, I was looking forward to my last hike of 2011 on a mountain with a very comfortable slope & a nearly flat summit.

How hard can it be?

 

Hence last year, I mean 2 weeks ago, the 3 worst explorers of all time plus one more met in Rose Hill. That reminds me, I’ve never described our team members before, so here goes:
1. The camera owner, IT support, map reader & model carrier.
2. The trekker, Swiss knife specialist & spotter.
3. The driver, backup camera owner & tripod carrier.
4. The village idiot.

From Rose Hill, we travelled to Camp Levieux, a suburb at the foot of Corps de Garde.

 

Where we were in for a shock.

 

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Goats!

 

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Cows!

 

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We were in a clearly lawless region that looked more like a farm than a town. (Yes, people have been murdered here!)

 

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The start of trail is found after the bridge, at the very end of the suitably named Avenue Cretin. Edit: Because you have to be an idiot to litter the river! See this post - Offense canal.

 

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You can walk further along the road until after the crematorium where you reach a trail that ascends with the slope.
Or take the shortcut that starts near the electric posts.

 

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Which is what we did. Or rather what we did on the return journey because we couldn't find the path at first.

 

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So we started climbing in the general direction of the mountain, guided by the herd of goats grazing on the flank. The trail up to the rock is a popular one for afternoon walks, but beyond that it's mountain-climbing territory.

 

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As we neared the herd, they moved away, led by the formidable Goat King of the Mountain Rock.

 

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& this was the view of Rose Hill as seen a few metres from the foot. So far, the weather had been great. Cloudy with some sunshine.

 

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The path turned into a gully as where we had to climb on rocks. You do not simply walk into a shortcut, eh?

 

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Plane!
Just about every plane that comes from the North flies over Corps de Garde. If you're lucky, you can see several planes in an hour. Unfortunately, on the day we were climbing, they decided not to fly. In total, we saw or heard only 4 of them.
& for the first time ever, we didn't see any helicopter flying below us. :(

 

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As we climbed higher, the terrain became steeper & the views got better.

 

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With every step we made, new landmarks started to appear (through my friend’s superzoom camera).

 

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Bagatelle.

 

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The Albion lighthouse at Pointe aux Caves.

 

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Temple on hill. The Mont Roches Murugan Malaye Kovil Sangham.

 

I've never ever seen so many buildings in my life!

 

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A few more metres...

 

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& then we were on top of the slope giving us an impressive view of the other side of the mountain.

 

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If we had taken the longer route, we would have reached this rock further down below.

 

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La Ferme reservoir, it didn't look that dry.

 

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& that's not landfill as initially thought, but La Chaumière Compost Plant.

 

We rested for a while & then resumed the ascent.

 

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The sun had already disappeared & menacing clouds were appearing...

 

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So far, the trail had been totally exposed to the weather & it's only here that we found ourselves under trees.

 

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Trees with very colourful leaves!

 

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Once past the trees, we found that we had reached the gigantic perched rock.

 

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Just under its shadow was the rocky ledge dropping sharply to the ground.

 

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We rested for 15 mins…

 

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… taking various photos of our surroundings.

 

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Bee hovering on a plant. That’s what happens when your camera takes a photo 1s after you press the shutter!

 

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Candos hill.

 

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The rock had small openings that served as nests for birds. Not some exotic birds, just your common pigeons.

 

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A better view of La Ferme reservoir.

 

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On the other side of the rock, we finally got a decent view of Corps de Garde. Look at those trees on the mountain side!

 

Stunning!

 

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A few metres from the rock, there was a massive gully. I dropped a stone & couldn't hear it hit anything.

 

Because I was making too many stops for taking photos (& rest), the others decided to stick to our unspoken brotherhood code & promptly left me behind.

 

That gave me the opportunity for a world first - a video of how climbing Corps de Garde feels like.

 

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& that was by far the easiest part of the mountain.

 

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From here on it's all rock'n'climb.

 

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I had to hurry because the grey clouds were coming at an incredible speed. There’s nothing worse than being caught in the rain while still climbing. Not that I’ve ever experienced it…

 

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I think you might have realised it by now, but Corps de Garde is a lot more basalt that roots & mud.

 

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It felt vastly different compared to the other mountains I had climbed.

 

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Rock climbing is very hard if you are short, which fortunately I'm not. Still, working those rocks looking for handholds & footholds is very tiring.

 

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The summit wasn't very far off as I could see one of the others.

 

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A shade of rest…

 

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… while I admired the fauna.

 

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It was a good thing that the weather was cloudy, the lack of trees meant there were no spots to hide from the sun.

 

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As I pushed myself for the final climb, just 20m from the summit, disaster struck.

 

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Oh, my bag! BROKEN!!! It has survived only 5 mountains!

 

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The man with the one-shouldered bag finally reached the summit where the laughing hyenas were waiting for me.

 

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Still, could be... Wow!
I certainly wasn't expecting that. If you at look at Corps de Garde fom the East, you'd think it looks flat at the top. As you can see, it isn't.

 

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It took me 2 hours & 30 mins to reach here. & all I got was this lousy weather. Here’s what it looks like on a perfect day.

 

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Despite the dark clouds, we had no immediate threat as we were above them.

 

Trois Mamelles, Montagne Rempart, Tourelle du Tamarin & Le Morne.
The clouds dashed all our hopes of taking great photos of the scenery. This would be the first time that I would have no postcard-worthy photo. :(

 

The video of the summit.

 

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From above, we saw many things apart from La Ferme...

 

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Ebene Cyber Towers.

 

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The MCB’s new HQ. Verdun-Trianon link road in the background.

 

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Flats.

 

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Cascavelle.

 

& under Montagne St Pierre, La Ferme Power Station.

 

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Corps de Garde, like Le Pouce, is renowned for having several unique species. Among them, this tree caught my eye, especially the very peculiar leaves.

 

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Ruins of probably a geodetic marker.

 

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Photoshoot...

 

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Oh yes, we would have loved to go to very end as no one with GPS tracks had ever gone beyond the summit. There was certainly a trail behind the hand of rock as you can see in the photos in this album.

 

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However, we had to postpone that for next time, the risk of bad weather being too great to explore uncharted territory & given that there was a 2nd part to our journey...

 

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The descent – I had to do a makeshift knot for my bag & pray for it not to break.

 

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We were fortunate it hadn't rained.

 

Yes, Captain Slow was abandoned once again!

 

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As I ploughed my way downwards, the clouds started clearing out.

 

& I had a good view of Port Louis. Can you see Coin de Mire? Well, neither can I.

 

The gigantic rock appeared something totally different from here.

 

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Obviously, it's only when we were descending that the weather gets better...

 

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Doesn't it look like a face? Someone with a massive chin/lips & a mohawk... The flag is a recent addition as you can see from these two photos from 1977 & 2007.

 

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As we went into the forest of many colours, we found something very unique!

 

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A gecko! The Mauritius Ornate Day Gecko. You don't see these nowadays outside of Casela. & apparently it has a detachable tail. (See this amazing NatGeo pic!)

 

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Another one!

 

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By the time we were out of the gecko-infested area, we met a group of tourists on their way to climbing Corps de Garde.

 

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We could only curse our fate that while we natives had to deal with the cloudy weather, the tourists would be enjoying sunshine! :(

 

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By this time, we were very tired & preferred to take the shortcut instead of the long way via the doorway to heaven.

 

That was the last panorama I shot…

 

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... as I had to prevent myself from slipping on the sand-like gravel!

 

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Finally... Having spent the whole day on rocks, I welcomed the sweet smell, the crunchiness & the softness of grass.

 

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The goats! How much can they eat in a day?

 

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At last, the road! What a journey that had been!

 

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Corps de Garde had been a worthy adversary. To be honest, it wasn't very hard, compared to previous climbs. What I took away from this climb was that for the first time, I felt that I had climbed an alien environment. The basaltic rocks looked like frozen lava, hardly tainted by time. The lack of trees exposed us to the elements. However, what I was most disappointed with was the cloudy weather. That ruined our photos, but it gives us the incentive that there will be a next time, where we will go to the very end.

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In hindsight, the cloudy weather had saved us. Because, the next day after the trip, my arms felt like it had thousands of invisible scratches. After consulting with my friends who had the same symptoms, we came to the conclusion, that we had in fact been... sunburnt!
So as it has been the case with every mountain we had climbed in 2011, here as well, we learnt a very valuable lesson - if you are going trekking in the summer, please do bring some sun-screen!

The 2nd part of the journey? I’ll let you guess as it appears in one of the photos. It's Albion, the Pointe aux Caves Lighthouse. ;)

 

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13 comments

Inf

Great shots, esp. the one with the plane.

The panoramas give an idea of how beautiful Mauritius is.

Yashvin Awootar

@Carrotmadman6 : Much tempted to follow you for your next adventures (if its on weekends of course).

carrotmadman6

We still can't decide where to go next... :(

Yashvin Awootar

Just keep me updated ;)

Siganus Sutor

"The start of trail is found after the bridge, at the very end of the suitably named Avenue Cretin."

It looks as if the canal had been cleaned, to some extent...
http://mauricianismes.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/offense-canal/

carrotmadman6

Horreur!

I didn't see a lot of litter at the foot because I think they moved out to another place...

carrotmadman6

Led Zeppelin has also been cleaned up! :)

Siganus Sutor

Yek! (Not a very pleasant view...)

It was like a "dépotoir" even next to the crematorium at Camp-Levieux:
http://mauricianismes.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/crematoire/
(See right-hand side of crematorium on last picture — actually all around it.)

But in one of your posts we already mentioned the fact that the surroundings of crematoriums are often like dumping grounds, no? (I remember another particularly dirty one north of Triolet.)

carrotmadman6

It still is. :(

Siganus Sutor

I hope you were careful while walking next to the cliffs. I have an uncle who fell from that mountain more than 50 years ago, after a piece of rock went down with him. But at some places it's very tempting to sit down on some sort of overhang and gaze to the city below, with all the noises coming up to you.

carrotmadman6

No, we were very careful. The trail up to the very end of Corps de Garde looks more dangerous. :)

Caki

Oh ! I located the street where I live :O :D lol. Awesome pictures !!! Keep it up. 

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