Monday, 27 February 2012

Aurere & the Sentier Augustave

The cirque of Mafate is one of my favourite places on Reunion Island, and Aurere has to be one of my favourite places in the cirque.

First a few statistics about Mafate - with a surface area of 103.5 km2 it's the second largest of Reunion's three cirques after Cilaos. It's lowest point is 115 metres (at the Rivière des Galets river bed) and it's highest point is 2991 metres (the Gros Morne). 


Bisected by the Rivière des Galets, everything on the river's right bank belongs to the commune of La Possession, and on the left bank the remaining third of the cirque belongs to St Paul.

All access, including for supplies, is by foot or helicopter - there is no road, but there are about 140km of hiking paths which allow inhabitants (and visitors!) to get about. 710 inhabitants live in about 10 different hamlets, known locally as îlets. Aurere is one of these îlets.

Starting at Bord Martin (1552 m) just after lunch on the first day, we hiked along a path I know well and which is called the Sentier Scout. As Aurere is at 931 metres altitude most of the trail head downhill over a distance of 8.45 km (although the ups and downs of the path mean you actually hike 318 metres uphill over its whole course). It took us about 3 1/2 hours, which is fairly average for the trail.

view of Le Port and Piton Cabri (1435m) from Sentier Scout

At this time of year, above 1000 metres the scent of Ginger Lilies (Hedychium gardnerianum) is very strong. Unfortunately there are so many that they are an invasive species, choking local fauna.

Ginger Lilies are known locally as Longose

Piton Cabri (left) with Aurere at its foot 

St Expedit at Plateau de La Salle

Ilet à Bourse (left) from the Sentier Scout

The Sentier Scout passes a place called La Plaque (890m) where there is a mountain gîte called L'Arbre du Voyageur and an intersection which leads to an îlet called Ilet à Bourse and eventually La Nouvelle. This was not our direction today however, and further on our path we pass through an îlet called Ilet à Malheur (840m).

Ilet à Malheur (red-roofed building is the church)

After Ilet à Malheur a footbridge crosses a narrow but deep ravine known as Bras Bemale (710m).

Bras Bemale, looking east

Bras Bemale, looking west

After Bras Bemale a steep but fairly short climb leads you to Aurere.

Ilet à Malheur seen from Aurere

Aurere has a population of 80-90 people and has a shop, a bar, and three gîtes: Georget Boyer, François Libelle and Charlemagne Libelle. For most previous trips we've stayed at the latter, but this time we stayed at Francois Libelle's gîte. 

accommodation, gîte François Libelle

the gîte, with Piton Cabri in the background

sleeping quarters

We had a lovely sunset which seemed to cover the whole sky.

looking east

looking north-west, Piton Cabri to the left

looking south-west, towards Maïdo and Grand Benare

The name Aurere supposedly comes from the Malagasy word orera, meaning "good earth". It was first settled in the 1780s.

centre of Aurere

The next morning we (unfortunately!) had to leave Mafate and return home (already!), but were able to return via a hiking path that we'd never taken before: the Sentier Augustave.

sentier in French means (hiking) path or trail

Although I've done a lot of hiking in Mafate I'd never taken this particular path as it was closed for many years (too dangerous), and only reopened a few years ago, while we were living in South Korea. It's been extensively renovated to make it safe for hikers.

leaving Aurere behind

The first part of the path is fairly flat, and follows a water pipeline, called the canalisation Augustave, which carries water to Aurere from the Augustave spring.

typical section of the path near Aurere

The following photos of Mafate landscape are probably my favourites from the hike:

sign next to the 20-metre long Marianne footbridge

another section of the path; there are also some ladders

small waterfall

an old bivouac next to the path

There are a lot of river passages in the second part of the hike, which also becomes steeper. The latter part of the hike (when going uphill) is through a gully called Ravine Savon. As savon means 'soap' in French you invariably think 'slippery' and the ravine might well have taken its name from this!

one of the many river crossings

In the end it took us about 4 hours to arrive back at Bord Martin, where we'd left our cars.

Finish (or start - depending in which direction you're hiking!)

cirque of Salazie seen from Bord Martin


There's not much information in English about hiking in Mafate but here's a few links which might come in useful:

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