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La Réunion – a four day walk in the Cirque de Mafate

Day 4 - Marla --> Col des Boeufs

Leaving Marla early on a crystal-clear, cold morning, with the sun not yet above the jagged peaks to our right, there was for once a totally cloudless view across to the panoramic vista of the Col des Boeufs and the Col de Fourche.

The Gite de Marla, Cirque de Mafate, Ile de la Reunion, September 2009

The Gite de Marla, Cirque de Mafate, Ile de la Reunion, September 2009
(c) Mat & Niki Adlam-Stiles

In Marla, we'd stayed at the fairly new and very colourful gite met as one enters the village. It's known as the Gite de Marla, but our booking voucher stated it was the "Maison Yolande Hoareau" so again it took us some time to find the correct place (and again, food was served in a building a short walk away)!

A simple, clean twin room with shared facilities including decent showers in a separate building cost us EUR 36.

Others we spoke with highly recommended the Gite le Trois Roches, run by Sylvio Begue.

We'd at least managed to persuade Mme Grumpy to provide breakfast the next morning, though we did consider EUR6 per head for a bit of stale bread and a cup of Nesquik or not-so-fresh coffee to be rather steep. Without it we'd have starved though, as the boulangerie was shut and there was nowhere else to buy provisions for the day's walk!

A gentle amble along the base of the sheer cliffs soon brings the walker to a beautiful river, its banks swathed in arum lilies with their pure white flowers and golden spathes.

There are numerous easy river crossings to undertake on day 4 and each one has its own charms.

Gradually climbing towards the col, every so often you can look back and see Marla in the distance, its multi-coloured houses glittering like a handful of gems cast randomly upon bright green baize.

Arum lily in bloom near Marla, Cirque de Mafate, Ile de la Reunion, September 2009

Arum lily in bloom near Marla, Cirque de Mafate, Ile de la Reunion
(c) Mat & Niki Adlam-Stiles

Approaching the Col de Fourche from La Nouvelle, Cirque de  Mafate, Ile de la Reunion, September 2009

Approaching the Col de Fourche from La Nouvelle
(c) Mat & Niki Adlam-Stiles

Distance is covered easily now, and you'll recognise when you are again in the gorgeous, Tolkienesque Plaine des Tamarins, and once you reach the junction that you made note of on the way out, you may think you've seen it all.

But return via the jagged profile and narrow pass of the Col de Fourche and you have yet more scenery to enjoy, including a very pleasant final stroll through managed forest.

When you've walked the perimeter of the vast, extinct Mafate volcano, it has a very, very profound effect on you. Having slept for three nights in perfect silence, enjoying total blackness and zero light pollution apart from the myriad stars above, there's little temptation to see tarmac again. When you've swum – however briefly – in the cold, clear pools in the river at the foot of a 1000m-deep ravine with nobody for miles around, it makes you acutely aware of the power of Nature. This walk is a life-changing experience, and you certainly won't be disappointed.

Safely back at the car, you'll know you've achieved. Savour the moment, then move on to the next adventure........