The iconic Pieter Both mountain! Geographically, this ‘monument’ forms part of the Port Louis/Moka Range of mountains and is practically an emblem for the island. The uniqueness of its appearance having a boulder-type rock standing proudly on a peak is just magnificent, and by mentioning ‘icon’, this picture is even representing the island Mauritius in tourism logos. And that even fits perfectly, to say the least. At 820m high, the Pieter Both is the second highest mountain of the island and is named after the first governor general of the Dutch East-Indies after the latter died on the island after a cyclone at sea in March 1615.
Well, its been months and months that I’ve been planning to hike this mountain and due to the high wedding season of the previous months I couldn’t find a date. Only recently, this October that I set off one early afternoon towards the village of La Laura with my two sis-in-laws in view to conquer this so-talked-about mountain. A few days before I gathered some info about the hike and from other hikers point of view it appeared to be rather demanding but I better experience it myself and see. Before elaborating on the hike I would somehow like to clarify that this adventure can be split into two sections; novice & expert hiking.
The difference lies mostly in the fact that the expert side includes hiking up to the utmost part and on the ‘head’ with the help of equipment, whilst the novice part would end the hike rather on the shoulder. I’ve heard some amateurs achieved the head section unequipped but after completing this adventure I would say it’s very risky. In my first attempt, the shoulder is the target.
So the path starts up at the far end of La Laura, at Pieter Both road and continues straight towards the mountain without much difficulties in a rather open terrain. After some 10 minutes leisure walk the interesting part starts when entering the overgrown area where trees begin to define the pattern. At this point the path ascends rather steadily since the overall climb resumes in a rather short but steep sentry. Yes, the distance from ground to top is shorter compared to most mountains BUT is steeper compared to most. That would be covering a height of 820m over a 1km path! Now do the maths to know the vertical distance.
This means that you will spend most of your time genuinely hiking and this picture is very similar to hiking the Trois Mamelles mountain. If your are not update to date with a physically fit lifestyle then probably this will result in several regular stops to catch up with your breath… After some 30 minutes more the most interesting part reveals itself (in my opinion) where a continuous climb over some rock wall and thereon some slippery dry soil makes this hike even more demanding.
Managing through that comes another stretch of easy path which leads directly below the shoulder and what can be said to be the top part for amateurs. The breathtaking view reveals a 360 degree coverage over the island and its different regions, including the Port Louis harbour, the aeolian farm of Roches Noires, Creve Coeur, St Pierre and the hazy south.
After some 30 minutes spent admiring everywhere and taking lots of pictures, it was time to hit back in reverse. This steep ascend will now be equivalent to a steep descend! But nothing to fear, getting down took less time that going up since the only effort would require not to go too fast downhill and not to exert too much strain on the knees. Another 45 minutes later we were already where we left the car at the bottom and on our way back home.
To sum up, this hike was only up to the shoulder, somewhat below the head section and averages to approximately 2km distance both up and down (meaning, going up is only 1km) but the steepness of the path requires some effort and can give the impression of a lengthy hike. Going up only takes approximately 1h30 minutes in a rather leisurely pace and some resting time in between, and some 1 hour for getting down. The average difficulty level is rated ‘Medium’ in my opinion with only the last vertical ascent rated as ‘High’ due to the slippery soil.
I think this mountain can be attempted by any one as long as being accompanied by someone who has experience with this type of terrain (frequent hikers). During this hike I was accompanied by my two sister-in-laws; the youngest one was at her first hike of her life, and she managed easily with some minor help.