Cirque de Mafate

(Marla, Trois Roches, Roche Plate, La Nouvelle)

Location: center of the island
Features: huge mountain valley, waterfall, river, gorges

Cirque de Mafate is the driest of all three Cirques of La Reunion. It can not be reached by car, only by feet or helicopter and no streets exist. It is therefore a hiking paradise although it can get quite hot during the day. During our 7-day-hike through the Cirques we spent three nights in the Cirque de Mafate, specifically in Marla, Roche Plate and La Nouvelle. The following sections describe each hike between the single villages.

Cilaos - Marla

To reach the Cirque de Mafate starting from Cilaos, Col du Taibit (2081 m) has to be crossed. The best option is to take the bus from Cilaos to the trailhead (just tell the bus driver "Col du Taibit"). That way you shorten the distance between Cilaos and Marla by about half. The first part of the ascent is quite strenous and steep but soon you'll reach the plateau Ilet des Salazes from which on the trail ascents more gradually. Cirque de Cilaos might be in the clouds during the hike but as soon as you cross the Col du Taibit you almost certainly come into great sunny weather, so don't worry about misty weather at the Cilaos side. From just below Col du Taibit (on the Marla side) you have a beautiful panorama of the Cirque de Mafate plus you can already see the final destination Marla.

view into Cirque de Mafate (click to enlarge)

Marla itself consists of just a few houses and although the travel guide mentions an epicerie (small grocery store), I couldn't really find one. However, the accomodation there is quite good. They offer double and four bed rooms and the restrooms are in good condition.

Marla - Roche Plate

The trail from Marla to Roche Plate runs parallel to the river bed of the Riviere des Galets almost from the beginning until you reach a place called Les Trois Roches. This is the most idyllic place we've seen on our tour through the three cirques. It's a perfect picknick spot because it has lots of sun, a waterfall, a deep gorge and lush vegetation. We almost spent three hours there, eating lunch, reading and just relaxing. This place is really a highlight!

Les Trois Roches

Behind Les Trois Roches the trail becomes pretty boring...a steady up and down until you reach the village Roche Plate. This is by far the worst place to spend the night until you've booked a room in the newly built mountain hut just behind the actual hut. This old mountain hut is just a rat hole with wooden windows, slimy disgusting beds and restrooms which haven't been cleaned since world war II. Absolutely disgusting! Plus, when I eventually found the landlord, he was absolutely drunk and could barely speak. I can not recommend that hut at all. If it is not possible to book the other hut (which really made a good impression to me) you better avoid Roche Plate.

short stop on the trail to Roche Plate

Roche Plate - La Nouvelle

On the maps there is still a trail (GR R2) which directly connects Roche Plate and La Nouvelle. However, this trail has been destroyed by a cyclone a few years ago and not been reestablished until now. So the only way to go to La Nouvelle is to hike the same way back to Les Trois Roches and then take the trail to La Nouvelle shortly behind Les Trois Roches. It's a short but steep ascent to the Plaine aux Sables and then a rather flat trail until you reach the capital of the Cirque de Mafate, La Nouvelle.

La Plaine aux Sables

The accomodation in La Nouvelle was the best one we came upon on our 7-day-hike through the Cirques. It's already comparable to the usual Chambre d'hotes in larger villages around the island. Good services, good food and a good selection of different products in the epiceries.

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