There is always something that will capture your attention while driving on the motorway of Verdun-Ripailles. There are gorgeous greenish landscapes, with sugarcane fields, hills, and plantations around. But most probably, your eyes will never miss it. It is Pieter Both! Let's discover this iconic mountain further.
The Moka Mountain Range
Pieter Both is located in the beautiful village of La Laura and Malenga. These two villages are famous for their peaceful atmosphere, surrounded by a nature enriched with flowers, vegetables and indeed mountains.
At the beginning of the 1850s, a sugar mill was founded in La Laura and it was known as Pieter Both or Chateau Tremblant. The name changed to La Laura in 1859 and the sugar mill was active until 1920. Today, only a few ruins remain. Do check the post on all remaining sugar mills' chimneys as well. On the other hand, Malenga is reputed for its fantastic sightseeing which offers a view of the Pieter Both's front facet and the North. It has a kiosk to relax, connect to the village of Crève-Coeur via a long concrete stair, with more than 375 steps. The path of the stair is also a track of the Moka Trail running event.
The mountain forms part of the Moka range erupted from volcanic activities approximately 8 million years ago. The Moka mountain range is composed of other popular peaks like Ory, Berthelot/Junction, Le Pouce, and two lesser-known peaks next to Pieter Both namely, Grand Peak and Grand Glacis. Moreover, Pieter Both's height is 820m, which classifies it as the second-highest mountain in Mauritius, just behind Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire. Do check out the post on the top mountains in Mauritius to climb.
A Dutch Admiral
Even the mountain is famous in Mauritius, many people do not know how it got its name. The origin of the name is derived from a Dutch Governor, Pieter Both, who was born in 1568. Pieter Both was the governor of the East Indies from 1610 to 1614. During his mandate, he governed few nations such as Timor, Jakarta (Batavia), and others.
After his governorship, it was General Gerard Reynst who took his position to rule. Pieter Both decided to visit Mauritius with four ships, alas, the team was caught in rough weather on the West coasts. Some of the ships drowned and the one for Pieter Both was among them. In February 1615, he died in the sea of Flic-en-Flac in a terrific storm. There is a misconception for years that his ship failed at Tombeau Bay, but this has been disproved in the 1970s, when his shipwreck was discovered near Flic-en-Flac by a group of divers, along with numerous objects. Few of them are displayed in the National Museum at Mahebourg.
Climbing Pieter Both...
There is only one common track to ascend the mountain. It starts from La Laura, near a football playground. The track is rocky and gradual steep, most of the time covered, thus, protecting you from the scorching sun.
On the way to the top, there is a first boulder, easy to climb and then another technical boulder, extremely slippery during rainy weather, vertical and manageably climbable on the left side. A rope will help a lot at this part, but not necessary if you are getting some supports from someone, by grabbing your hand to climb. After that, the path becomes steeper, quite difficult until you reach a spot called the "shoulder" by local hikers and trekkers. This spot offers breathtaking views and is sometimes windy. It is where most active hikers stop their adventure on ascending the Pieter Both. Some persons continue further and halt on the site where to climb to the peak.
Regarding the peak, it is highly recommended to wear proper safety equipment such as a harness, helmet, and ropes which meet the essential requirements of mountaineering certifications and standards. Rock climbing skills will help tremendously to reach the top but are not the main requirement if you are going with a group of accredited mountaineering guides, as they will surely help and support you. A normal hike until the "shoulder" can take up to 2 hours one way. It varies if you will climb to the top. Pieter Both is rated among the most technical mountain in Mauritius, hence do bring a sufficient amount of water and energetic foods.
Below are few testimonials from hikers and trekkers who ascended to the top:
"Having climbed Pieter Both more than 30 times, I've experienced a drastic degradation on the mountain landscape. To appreciate its iconic view, one has to go through technical progressive climbing experience, which I've seen many tried to do without proper hiking gears, knowledge and assistance which lead to few injuries and lost. I would just recommend all beginner nature lovers, those willing to climb Pieter Both, to get some advices first and always be well-equipped and accompanied by someone for their own safety and others."
- Jamal M.Tawsiq (TAWS XPLORATION).
"Pieter both has always been my dream mountain. The hardest and most iconic mountain in Mauritius. I've climbed it 24 times without any equipment even it's not advisable. You'll go through 2 gullies where easy climbing moves are required. Real difficulties start as from the shoulder and you need climbing gear alongside a qualify guide to reach the summit! Do not attempt if you have a fear of height or when there's rainfall as the rocks are very slippery."
- Kaushal Sooklall, alias Sonu Nightingale.
"Definitely I recommend it at least once in a life time, with a well-equipped group and on a good weather condition. Thrilling and well-deserved adrenaline experience mainly near the summit. Be very cautious, heavy rocks falling from the cliffs near the shoulder parts due to weathering. I had experienced a huge rock falling which could lead to death in my last hike."
- Shenaz Napaul.
From the testimonials by experienced trekkers, it is crystal clear the mountain is facing severe degradation due to erosion, just like most of the mountains in Mauritius. Hence, day by day the track to ascend to the peak is changing to a more complicated and difficult achievement, in fact dangerous, which can lead to injuries and death. This is why it is better to be accompanied by fully accredited guides, specialized in mountaineering events.
Climbing to the peak of Pieter Both is becoming more challenging, but what about the first person who ever done it? The first climb to the peak was successfully achieved by Claude Peuthé on September 8, 1790. He was accompanied by his slave, who acted as a porter as well. They both carried different rope sizes, arrows with metallic sharp accessories, and other equipment. They managed laboriously to reach the top. Claude Peuthé had to use arrows at many attempts before finding a way to climb the summit. He described the "shoulder" enriched with endemic plants at that time and even some were on the peak. He put a French flag on the top and he had to drill the rock with a sharp tool for that.
Furthermore, it was always believed that Captain Lloyd and his officers, who among them was Henry Keppel, were the first climbers of Pieter Both. However, that was contradicted when they guessed someone was already there before them while reaching the peak and they discovered later it was the French, Claude Peuthé. They placed a British flag on the summit.
In 1885, a group of mountain climbers installed clamps to easily ascend to the peak. Those clamps were renewed in the 1970s by the Special Mobile Force. Certain of them are still on the rock but have been badly rusted and not appropriate to count on.
The Deadly Lightning Tragedy
On January 1, 1971, a group of nature enthusiasts decided to spend the new year on Pieter Both. They started at the same track and while reaching near the summit, they encountered heavy rainfall. Few of them found refuge in a small cave in the rocks and all of a sudden, a thunder with a flash of bright lightning occurred. It happened so fast, just in a flash and unfortunately, one of the members, Cadress C., fell from the top to the nearby ravine. As the weather was extremely rough and they were tired, shocked, and desperate, they spent the entire night on the mountain. On the next day, they came down and the Special Mobile Force started the search for their friend.
A Popular Legend
Folklore and legend have been associated with various places in Mauritius. Certain mountains have even been named based on their physical structure. For example, Le Pouce's peak resembles a "thumb", the Lion mountain looks like a lion is lying down and Pieter Both is no exception in this aspect.
A legend from the end of the 19th century has been transmitted through generations until today. It is about a guy, whose name was Santaka, who was going to his village, La Laura, and decided to take a rest near a tree, next to a giant rock. To his utter amazement, he heard some laughing sounds close to him and when he opened his eyes, he saw gorgeous fairies. The fairies came and told him he was special to possess such a unique superpower, that is, seeing the unseen. They warned him if he ever revealed what he saw, they would turn him into a big rock on the mountain. Santaka did not keep his secret from the villagers. Finally, he was turned into a gigantic rock, which is on the very top of the mountain.
Of course, this is just a legend...
A Mountain To Consider
If you are physically fit, not afraid of height, active in hiking, do add Pieter Both to your list to climb. If it is your first time, consider a qualified guide for the event. To conclude, there was a debate whether Pieter Both has been wrongly named. As mentioned above, Governor Pieter Both did not die at Tombeau Bay but near Flic-en-Flac, so, there was speculation that he did not see the actual Pieter Both mountain first, based on the distance and location. Certain scholars think, he saw Rempart mountain because that is the only peak he could see from Flic-en-Flac, which also has a steep summit. Well, the mystery continues.
Guy Rouillard (Histoire des domaines Sucriers de l'Ile Maurice).
Allister MacMillan (MAURITIUS: Illustrated - Historical and descriptive commercial and industrial facts, figures and resources).
AUTHOR: Ali J (Administrator)
PUBLISHED DATE: April 10, 2021
LAST UPDATED: September 1, 2021
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