Friday, March 9, 2012

Montagne des Signaux


Le Morne de la Découverte, now known as Signal Mountain or Montagne des Signaux, stands at 323m (1058 ft) above Port Louis. It got its name from the French era signal-post built on the summit to guide the ships in harbour and which has now been replaced by an antenna farm.

Of all Mauritian mountains, Signal Mountain is the easiest to climb. Mainly, because it has a tarred road that goes up to the summit, which can be done on foot or in a vehicle.

So, how easy can it be?

PS. The dark version is here - Montagne des Signaux at night



To find out, 2 weeks ago, I woke up at 4 am & took the earliest bus I've ever taken to Port Louis. That was my street, early morning, pitch black.

I was at the foot of Signal Mountain at around 6.10 am, where instead of the golden light of the dawn, I got this...



Clouds! Just what was not expected after the week-long period of intense sunshine which resulted into February 2012 being one of the hottest months in history.



These photos are the reason why I'm always whining about cloudy weather. Taking photos in low-light is extremely challenging with most of the shots turning out blurred. Because it cannot gather enough light, the camera tends to increase its exposure time. Without a tripod, my unsteady hands cause too much vibration & it comes out all blurry.



That said, not all photos came bad. Like this one of Port Louis waking up on a Saturday morning.




The first part of the road goes in the opposite direction to the summit until we reach this U-turn.




The road to Montagne des Signaux is a popular walking/jogging track for local residents. There was not much of a crowd on that day but it was apparent to anyone that we were the odd ones out, tugging along our cameras & bags...


Time for a rest panorama. Nearly 150,000 people live in Port Louis.



Back on the route, we came across a grotto, which was very dark.




The weather wasn't just cloudy, there was also some light rain in the North. Which meant that my zoomed shots looked quite dreary.



Still, could be worse. This is a borrowed Nikon P100, a promateur bridge 10MP camera with a 26x zoom. It was released in Feb 2010, a year after my camera. It should be better in every possible way than my P&S, right?




Except it isn't. The colours look they have been washed out by a washing machine…




Nikon is famed for making some of the best low-light cameras in the world. When it comes to designing compact cameras however, they seem to forget this know-how.



Only the zoom is any good. Some souvals doing the rounds at Champs de Mars.



Labourdonnais Street. In my college days, I used to travel all the way from RCPL up to here… by foot. :)



The new Civil/Jeetoo Hospital. Once the premises of the Royal College...




Walking along with the clouds still chasing us.


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As we moved higher, our depth of field grew larger & larger…




Soon we caught sight of the antennas & then we came to the hairpin bend...





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What a fantastic view!


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The time was 7 am & it took us nearly 50 mins to get here. Normally, it's a short 30 min walk. With cameras, it took 20 min longer.



From up top, we could hear the noises of a city waking up - ships blaring their horns in the port, vehicles driving along on the roads, heavy machinery & construction works. Cars & buses that looked like toys. This was a Saturday, there wasn't going to be any traffic jam until much later.



This nice man filling us with the morning news. Actually, very few people stopped at this bend.



Given that the P100 was near useless & my friend's SX130 was on a trip to Africa, I only had my camera to take telephoto shots. To be honest, my eyes have a better "zoom" than what my camera can achieve.



Old Venus cinema.



RCPL with its new wing under construction.



The Cassis cemetery. Contains some of the oldest tombs in Mauritius.



The flyover being built at Caudan roundabout.



Caudan Waterfront.



The Bulk Sugar Terminal. There was a container ship entering the port in the background.



The motorway to the North. You can nearly see Coin de Mire.


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Still cloudy, with just a faint hint of the sun…




We continued our way upwards where there was a parking area & a few benches (which explained why everyone was coming here).


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The view on the Western side of the mountain.




Fort Victoria. & next to it the satellite receivers of Mauritius Telecom. That’s where your dial-up came from…



St Louis power station.



One of the new UBS buses! Don't like those. How can anyone travel while sitting backwards!



Pointe aux Caves lighthouse. It seems there was a smudge on my lens.


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The weather was definitely clearing up…



& now we come to the hardest part of our journey...



Climbing this excessively steep concrete road up to the antennas.




By the time we reached to the top, the one thing which I had been waiting for all morning finally came out - the sun.


Port Louis bathed in the magnificent sunrise.



Take a look at this photo from 1966… (from this post on Martian Spoken Here). You'll be surprise at how much land has been reclaimed from the sea. What was once Tonnelier Island is now a coal/fuel deposit.



Skyscrapers in 1960s? None. Not that these buildings can be qualified as skyscrapers by international standards…




Les Casernes was still here though & the Victoria bus station.


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& here's another panorama of the port at full telephoto.




None of us had the balls to go beyond the antennas, so we didn't go there.



Next to the concrete electric poles, there was also this ancient steel pole. It actually had rungs in it!



The long way down.



It was at this moment that an alarm sounded near the TV antennas. The man who was lurking around promptly sped away, having triggered the motion detectors. We took that as a cue for us to leave before we were wrongly mistaken for being the offenders (the security van came up quite some time later).



Corps de Garde.



Grand River North West & Cité Vallijee. & in the 1960s.




The current bridge, the old bridge & the aqueduct. Well, you’ll have to squint to notice them…




Back to the bend.



The West Leo, a Ghanaian drilling vessel that had been stationed in the port for a week.



This is what I had come to shoot. Sadly though, as it has been the case with most of my recent trips, it was ruined by the weather.



On the way down, we had an opportunity to notice the little things we missed on the way up.



Such as this fleur de lis on the road. Present on the coat of arms of Port Louis.


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Keep knocked? Huh?




But the most impressive of all were these... Piquant Loulous, i.e. Acacias.




If you ever thought of ditching the road & going for a climb in the wild (we did consider that shortcut for a moment), please drop the idea because the terrain is infested with these deadly trees.




Flowers on the road.





Ok… nice view.


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The Champs de Mars, where the Independence Day celebrations will take place in a few days…



& its tiny Ferris Wheel.



The Citadelle. Should make a trip there as well.



Bird! Taken by the P100, which was slightly better with the sun out.



The road wouldn’t end.



So which one is the tallest? I believe it isn't on this photo.



Marie Reine de la Paix.



The iconic Thien Thane pagoda, built in 1950.



Le Pouce.





The long way down was by far the hardest part of our journey. Because it was hot, very hot under the 9 am sun. Well, it's Port Louis! To make matters worse, we were on a tarred road with hardly any wind.





Finally, the parking area! Again, it took us nearly 50 min to get down. I entirely blame the cameras.



So that was Montagne des Signaux, one of the most accessible places to get one of the best scenic views of Mauritius. Unfortunately for us, the clouds & the rainy weather spoiled our photos. Which means there'll be a next time. One that'll probably be at sunset... :)

PS. Been there. Done that.


In the meantime, check out the video. 




Yashvin Awootar

Blaming the cameras or that's because I told you 25-30mins is enough? :P
btw, that's 25-39mins of hardcore walking, with no time for rest, sorry, panorama.

I learnt quite a few things out here, like the name of the "oil rig" as I always called it.
Montagne Signaux is one of the most relaxing places ever if you need to forget the stressful world. My fav place *but I have been a bit lazy the last weeks".

To end, here's my timelapse, from Montagne Signaux : a nice day!

Siganus Sutor

Yesterday evening, while going up Montagne des Signaux, one could see the full moon rising right in La Fenêtre, the cut-out in the mountain range's crest that can be seen on the left-hand side of this photo :
It was magnificent, and I just wished I had a tripod and a powerful lens...


I'll do the hardcore walking next time. :P

In addition to the sky, I also wanted to do a timelapse of the port activities/vehicle flow, but I'll need to wake up a lot earlier... :)


Didn't know it was called La Fenêtre. It must have been magnificent. Here's a photo I found on Facebook -

Siganus Sutor

It wasn't bad. And the funny thing is, as people kept walking towards the summit (basically towards the southeast for that stretch of the road), the full moon was hidden again behind the mountain, on the other side of that “window”.

Siganus Sutor

BTW, the cut-out that can be seen on the moonlit Facebook photo is not La Fenêtre, which is narrower, squarer and further to the left (as seen from Port-Louis). On your own photo it's on the left-hand side of the red metal post at the forefront of the picture.


I know, this is La Fenêtre.


Yes, it's the old railway bridge. I confused the terms "aqueduct" with "viaduct", which is what it is. :)

Is this the same bridge? The Grand River Viaduct for the Midland line?

Siganus Sutor

Carrot, I'm not sure it's the bridge shown on your illustration (I'd tend to say it isn't). If your read McMillan's Mauritius illustrated (1914), page 275 and further, you will see that there was an old and a “new” railway bridge.
The one that is still visible today is probably the new one, with its square masonry piers.
Piquant Loulous, i.e. Acacias.
I thought these plants were called campêche (Haematoxylum campechianum, which, I thought, had very hard and sharp thorns indeed, and yellow flowers, but I'm not too sure anymore.
If you want to do your sunset walk at Montagne des Signaux, Monday might be the day. Yesterday evening there was some pyrotechnical rehearsal at the Champ de Mars and I must admit that seeing some big rockets from above wasn't too bad. Given that you like the costly and noisy use of fireworks of course.


Yep, that's the "new" old bridge.

From the 4 photos, the top 2 are not acacias.


Thank you for this wonderful post. This brings back so many memories.

The beaver

 The old old RCPL was on Edith Cavell street before they moved to the west side of PL, somewhere beyond la rue Moka , isn't it?
Quite a few friends of my brothers and cousin, alum of RCPL were living on Labourdonnais including one minister's son and nephews IIRC. Brings back all memories and the time that they "ça ti le temps margoze" Kréol version of "Those were the days" and I got to know RCPL in the late 70's when I was taking private tuition in Physics for my HSC  from a teacher there .


 Yes, there's a photo of it in my RPCL post -



Hi carrotmadman, how did u know about the West Leo?  Are u so sure that it was the West Leo?


 Because West Leo is written on it.

Siganus Sutor

Yes, that's it. Windows® can sometimes be confusing indeed.

On the 1:25,000 map of Mauritius it appears as "The Window". (See here.)

Incidentally, the "aqueduct" (reddish metal bridge) you are referring to is probably the old railway bridge from which a train fell during a cyclone.

For the sake of it, two other Montagne-des-Signaux-related posts:


Dear Friend

Nice article and photos, can you tell me where the trail starts and how to reach it?

Can you do on the peak top past the antennas ?



Road starts here -!q=-20°+10.425'%2C+57°+30.006'


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