This hike started on September 1st 2011 from the
village of Dos d'Âne and ended up five
days later in Grand Ilet, exclusively within the Cirque de Mafate, the most remote
and inaccessible cirque that was first settled in the 19th century by maroon
slaves, then later by poor white laborers.
The cirque is
entirely enclosed by mountains, especially tall cliffs, known as remparts, save
for the sole river exiting, the Rivière des Galets. The "îlets" are pieces of
more-or-less flat lands, on which the hamlets are located.
The Cirque is
entirely public property, managed by the Forestry service, from which the
inhabitants rent inexpensive concessions. There is no main electrical supply.
Inhabitants thus produce their own electricity using solar panels, and
occasionally diesel generators.
Hamlets have grocery
stores where staples can be bought from. Typically, these stores also provide
some limited bar and restaurant services. Many inhabitants have opened gîtes
(dormitories, WC and showers) where hikers can stay for the night, and often
dine, for a fee.
One originality of
Mafate is that there are no roads. Because of this, it is a major attraction
for hikers willing to experience some unspoiled nature as I did during those
very pleasant five days.