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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trois Mamelles

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Strictly speaking, it should be 1 Mamelle because we climbed only one of the 3 breasts...

The last time I had climbed a mountain was Corps de Garde, last year. Hence 2 months ago, thanks to the GPS tracks provided by fitsy.com, I ventured towards my first trek of 2012.

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Time to get back in the game.

 

GPS Visualizer  Google Maps output

The start of the trail starts at Bassin, near Palma. While following the Phoenix/Beaux Songes link road, turn left towards Bassin at the only roundabout.

 

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The road towards the mountains is pretty much unmissable.

 

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Unless you're using Apple maps for navigation. Most of these "roads" are not driveable. Certainly not the one below which actually cuts through the mountain. Even Google maps has non-existent roads, but not to the same extent as Apple maps.

 

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I would recommend leaving your vehicle at the houses near the first bridge before following the track.

 

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Plus, there’s a tap at the place of worship next to the river bank, which you'll eventually need after the climb.

 

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The J.Nehru/Holyrood road is a very busy one. Keep a watch for the sugarcane lorries barrelling up the narrow road.

 

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After leaving the 1950 bridge over Rivière Bassin, there'll be some more bridges up ahead.

 

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Spooky. Did someone die here?

Perhaps a coincidence, but were we to take the suggested Palma road in the GPS track, we would have probably come across a body

 

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One side of this bridge was built in 1953 and the other was completed in 1958. Can’t believe people were so lazy back then.

 

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Yet another stream under the shadow of palm trees.

 

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At the end of the road, there were some warehouses storing heavy machinery.

 

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& a checkpoint for a private road used by Medine Sugar Estate. The fields in this region as well as the mountains all belong to the Medine S.E.

 

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Amidst the coming & going of the sugarcane lorries, heavy machinery were at work clearing the land for a residential project.

 

The path to follow was straight ahead.

 

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The iconic Montagne du Rempart, most commonly seen from Tamarin.

 

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& the Mamelle we would be climbing, the centre peak, at a height of 666 m. You read that right. 666 m according to the atlas I have. Some books report it as 629 m. Looking into the GPS trail file, it was 675 m.

 

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Up ahead, we came across yet another religious shrine.

 

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Mauritians pretend to be very religious. Yet, the same cannot be said for their grasp of grammar.

 

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More nearly dried streams. All of them eventually end up as Rivière du Rempart.

 

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Having emerged from the clump of trees, we could now ponder on the monumental climb that lay ahead of us.

 

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Oh, the things a photographer will do…

 

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… to get a picture while…

 

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… putting himself at risk.

 

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As we trudged along, we met a group of cyclists going the opposite way. I’ve always wanted to do one of these bike trips. Well, one day…

 

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Although mechanization may have taken over sugarcane harvesting, there remain plots of uneven land where manual labour is still necessary.

 

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In my childhood, that was how I remembered the harvesting season. The workers (using that special ladder) or very rarely, the machine, would load the carrier and the Bedford truck would pull it onto itself.

 

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At this point, my map reading skills failed me & I couldn't decide where to go next. So I grabbed my N900 & fired up the GPS tracking to follow the trail.

 

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It's very easy to get lost in these parts, especially when the sugarcane hasn't been harvested and where every other turn looks the same. Our journey till now had been a steady climb and as we were nearing the mountain, the road turned rockier.

 

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The start of the mountain climb was supposed to be around this boulder, but I couldn't locate it.

 

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After taking a short break to stabilise the GPS signal, I discovered it was only a few metres away.

 

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The entrance was indeed very well hidden & easy to overlook with so many trees & bushes in the way.

 

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The track looked very much like the one on Lion Mountain - barely used & unkempt.

 

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Alas, that meant we had to forge our path through the low-hanging branches and treacherous boulders. More than once, we got stuck or bashed our heads in the branches.

 

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The GPS signal under the trees wasn’t great. Fortunately, the way was indicated by blue markers spray painted on rocks.

 

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Our first rock climb of the day, with one of my pixelised friends taking photos of my plight.

 

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The view on Bassin/Candos.

 

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Not having hiked for months, the climb was brutal, for me.

 

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Made even more gruelling with the sun shining overhead and no wind coming through the trees.

 

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Of course, I had to stop time and again to take a rest panoramas.

 

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The trail was peppered with aloe plants, mostly the Mauritius Hemp, useful to hoist ourselves. As my hands painfully discovered, some of them do come with thorns.

 

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As is always the case in these adventures, I usually lag behind because I take too many photos. Which often means the other two moving ahead, losing the trail & going off in the wrong direction.

 

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& that was exactly what happened here. They were attempting to climb a rock facade...

 

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... while the trail was up ahead. Definitely the worst explorers in history.

 

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To be fair, the path at this point had narrowed down to a few feet, with a deep gully just a metre away.

 

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Just a plane. To give you a break from these monotonous green photos.

Incidentally, Trois Mamelles (like Corps de Garde) is near one of the waypoints used by air traffic for landing procedures. Namely IPL13 & PLS31.

 

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Back in the undergrowth.

 

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We were now approaching the shoulder of the mountain, between the middle & west Mamelles.

 

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Up this high, the view was mind-blowing.

 

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On the other side though, we found an even more fabulous sight of the South-West regions.

 

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The savannah-like regions of Bon Asile, Magenta & Yemen stretched for kilometres before us.

 

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Suddenly, an unknown cry repeatedly pierced the winds. We saw a monkey & fruit bats hovering in the forest canopy, but we couldn't figure out the source.

 

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I can confirm it wasn’t a deer. We saw none of them. Nice mirador.

 

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The two Mamelles lay on either side of us.

 

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However, only one of them can be climbed. The climb from here looked pretty straight-forward.

 

Or so we thought.

 

As we climbed higher, the scenery became even more spectacular.

 

Obligatory video.

 

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So far, we hadn’t encountered any difficulties.

 

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Until here, where the path narrowed with nothing on either side and a rock wall to climb.

 

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To my utter shame, even with the rung in the rock, I had to call one of the explorers who were stuck ahead to give me a hand to hoist myself up.

 

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& then I discovered why they were stuck. The blue arrow indicated the way & right in the middle was... a wasp nest.

 

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Yep, in that hole. & we didn't bring any fire with us. No matches, no lighter, no magnifier, no steel wool...

 

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After debating for a while, the other two decided to go further to the left & climb from there. After unsuccessfully attempting that detour, I had no other choice but to sneak past the wasp nest.

 

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So much ado about nothing - the wasps didn't even care.

 

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That was instantly forgotten as I saw what was ahead.

 

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By far the most terrifying part of the climb. Only the rock to hold as I had to feel my way around that rock shelf.

 

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With the void just one arm length away.

 

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Further ahead, there was only 30 cm of space allowing single file movement.

 

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If you overcome this part, the rest of the climb becomes a lot easier. But only if you build up the courage necessary to overcome it…

 

A short rest to slow down our heart rate & stem our adrenaline rush as we admired the landscape.

 

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We resumed the climb, stopping briefly to admire these steps carved by nature.

 

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The summit was well within reach.

 

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Just a few more steps…

 

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First!

 

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Oh my…

 

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Breathtaking!

 

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Literally.

 

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Wait, what? Aliens!

 

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Having set off at 8:10, it took us nearly 3 hours to reach the summit at 11:17. 2h 18 min spent on the climb.

 

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Worth every second of it. For this.

 

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A 360º bird’s eye view of the island.

 

Paradise on Earth, etc, etc…

 

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The plains of Bon Asile, Magenta & Yemen. & to the left, the Tamarind Falls.

 

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This is where the Sept Cascades are found. One of the remaining areas of Mauritius which we haven't explored yet.

 

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Le Morne & Montagne Tamarin are another of them. The haze at this altitude was very bad. All these photos had to be lengthily post-processed.

 

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The East Mamelle. With almost no clouds, we were getting roasted up top, even with the copious amount of sunscreen. Not a complaint, just an observation. I’ll take sunny over cloudy any day.

 

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Curepipe. Trou aux Cerfs to the right. The Bambous mountains far behind.

 

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Piton du Milieu. & Vacoas.

 

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The Holyrood road that goes up to Glen Park.

 

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Bassin. Those colours are unreal.

 

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& those textures.

 

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Corps de Garde and Candos Hill.

 

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The area being cleared by Medine SE.

 

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The path we had taken to reach the foot of the mountain.

 

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The one thing I hadn’t mentioned until now were the Paille-en-Queue birds circling around us throughout the entire climb. The White-tailed Tropicbirds were very hard to capture, even with focus-tracking.

 

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Pigeons! Every single mountain we’ve climbed so far, we’ve come across them.

 

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Montagne Rempart, which definitely looks climbable. & the nipples on the third Mamelle.

 

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Our peaceful observation of the vistas was interrupted when we noticed a group of 3 tourists also making the climb. Later on during our descent we would come across another couple. When did the mountain become so crowded?

 

That was our cue to start the journey downwards. While we waited for them to reach the top, I took this video.

 

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After spending 1h 20 min on the summit, we started down. (& in case you’re wondering, none of the tourists had been stung by wasps.)

 

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While I was dreading going by the rock shelf, it wasn’t scary at all. Probably because we had already done it once. Or that climbing down is a lot easier than climbing up.

 

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Well, not really. The only difficulty I had (once again) was at the rung. Because I couldn't see where I had to place my foot, I had to let myself be guided by my friends. It turned out to be easier than expected.

 

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Going further down involved more crawling than climbing down. & a lot of groping at branches, shrubs and plants.

 

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A necessary stop. Because… what a sight!

 

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Well, time to get back to the track. There was still a long way to go.

 

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By this time, the climb had already exacted its toll on my body and each downward step strained every last muscle.

 

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Not to forget the lack of wind in the dense foliage.

 

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At last, rays of light pierced the forest, as a portal appeared to announce the end of the climb.

 

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Time taken - 1h 45 min. Not bad.

 

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Our agony wasn't over; we still had to go through the rocky sugarcane roads.

 

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The workers had disappeared. Probably because of the sun. Even we couldn’t wait to join the shade of the trees.

 

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Even though we longed for a splash of water, these stagnant streams weren’t very appealing.

 

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We had one last stretch of land to cross before we could rest. & this is where we encountered a new difficulty – the sand-like dried earth seeping though our shoes.

 

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Finally, civilization.

 

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What a climb that had been. In terms of difficulty, I would place Trois Mamelles in the same bracket as Corps de Garde. Mostly because of the uncovered nature of the terrain. But slightly more difficult due to some parts that required climbing with the utmost concentration. The reward though far exceeds the efforts – the spine-tingling landscapes. If only I had a CPL to remove haze, all these photos would look twice better. The lesson I learnt that day is to always keep a matchbox or lighter with you. You may never know when you’ll need to start a fire. & some old clothes to burn if you expect to encounter wasps.

To sum up, don’t climb Trois Mamelles unless:

  • You have a GPS device to follow the track.
  • You bring rope & fire.
  • You have proper protection against the sun.
  • You are a goat.

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Yes. Of all the things we saw that day, this was the biggest surprise of all. A goat climbing Trois Mamelles alone by jumping on the near-vertical rocks. Wow!

 

Related:

10 comments

Robert Fitzjohn

> This is where the Sept Cascades are found. One of the remaining areas of Mauritius which we haven't explored yet.

I disagree, you still have to do all the tracks I posted, and then do those which are not available yet, eg: Camizard, Moka Range, Mt. Blanche etc...
 You need to take the time to study through our bible, Mts of Mauritius, a climber's guide to find opportunities :-D

But thanks for the write up, it's good to have a fresh perspective of the track. I had to do it alone so had other preoccupations on my mind.

carrotmadman6

Let me do the known ones first.

Uncharted territory comes later. :)

Siganus Sutor

Spooky. Did someone die here?► I'd tend to see it as part of an arms' race between religious zealots, catholic and hindu shrines trying to outnumber each other, one putting his own mark in reaction to the other's territorial claim. What a holy place Mauritius is.

Nitish

Incredible!! I would love to go there one day! Your article could be useful! And yeah, that goat was probably wondering the same thing about you guys! "How the hell did humans get up here?!"

Siganus Sutor

Touzour 3 mamel mem ? Sa post-la pankor fer piti ??

carrotmadman6

 Lego-Darth-Vader-man is a bit jetlagged right now, but will be back in business very soon. :)

Siganus Sutor

Jetlagged? Has he been travelling to Mars by any chance? Or to another galaxy?

carrotmadman6

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carrotmadman6/8448251356/in/photostream

Siganus Sutor

Wow! that's quite a ride! Did Legoman/DarthVader — who is not made of silicon I believe — go there for a job interview?

Ashveen Ram

Nice! Very bandwidth-demanding blog but worth every effort. Thumbs Up!

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