Trail Running in Mauritius
Report – Seth Turner
I am lucky to be blessed with a very understanding wife, so when I asked if it was ok to go off and explore some local trails during our anniversary break in Mauritius, she said as long as I didn’t get lost or injured she would be fine with it.
There is a very enthusiastic trail running community on the island and a bit of prior research and a few emails before going got me in contact with some local trail runners who offered to arrange a guided run around the Black River Gorge area, a hilly, forested National park in the South of the island.
I met my guide Vishal who had just won their big 50k ‘Dodo Trail’ ultra and his nephew/translator Nilesh at about 6.30am at the entrance to the gorge and they explained the 25k route they had planned for us.
We were joined by another Brit, an experienced trail/ultra runner called Alan who had completed the Ultra-trail Snowdonia 100 this summer.
Vishal led us straight off into the forest and we were immediately surrounded by dense jungle where, without a guide, it would have been virtually impossible to pick out the trail. The only markings were occasional spots of paint on trees left by other runners and as the incline started to ramp up and the footing got increasingly unstable I realised we were in for a challenging day out.
The first 3k was more of a climb than a run and we gained over 600 meters during this with some sections at over 45% incline.
Using trees and rocks to help pull ourselves up the slope we hit the top after about 40 minutes to be rewarded with a beautiful view through the trees out over the Indian ocean.
Warm up done, the next section was more traditional single track through the forest, jumping tree roots and boulders and eventually coming out of the undergrowth onto a rutted jeep track. This followed the ridge line and gave great views down the valley to the Black River as it made its way towards the sea.
After a couple more kms like this it was back onto single track through more open scrubland that included several river crossings, wading and hopping over boulders to get across, all great fun!
Back into the woods we now started to climb again through dense forest, climbing over fallen trees and suchlike as we made our way up to the highest point on the Island at Grand Pitou. This climb involved sections where without using the installed ropes it would have been nearly impossible to make it up, but the 360 degree view from the top at 826 meters is one that will stay with me forever and was made all the sweeter by how hard we worked to achieve it.
After a really rugged overgrown couple more kms jogging along the forested ridgeline the trail started to decline as we came back down into the river valley.
During the perilously steep decent I admired the local runners enviable skill over the terrain, gliding over obstacles with quick light steps and instinctively picking out the best lines. Vishal made it all look easy while I floundered around behind trying to stay upright and not do myself an injury.
Having been on the trail for nearly 4 hours and with the temperature now reaching close to 30c the opportunity to immerse myself in the river when we reached the bottom offered much needed relief!
During the final km back to the start point Alan and I reflected on what a great challenging route we had enjoyed and how the terrain differed from that in the UK.
We thanked our hosts profusely and headed on our way tired but so very grateful for the experience.
Having just had a taste of the trails available in Mauritius and knowing what a keen and welcoming off road running scene there is there I would love to go back someday, as I really feel I only scratched the surface.
Being able to combine this with some of the best beaches and in the world makes it hard to find reasons not to go again.
SAC trail camp anyone?