If you have only just started – in the prologue you will already find some information about the island and its formation!
In Cirque de Mafate, the R2 meets the R1 or R3 several times – if you have more hiking days available, you can include one or the other “detour”. This was our route (classic R2):
- Day 1: From the Mamode Camp hiking parking lot to the Gîte de la Roche Écrite
- Day 2: Across the Plaine des Chicots to Roche Écrite, back to the gîte and to Dos d’Âne
- Day 3: Descent into the Cirque de Mafate to Îlet à Malheur (via Aurère)
- Day 4: Îlet à Malheur to Grand Place Cayenne (via Îlet à Bourse and Grand Place)
- Day 5: Ascent to the higher Îlets in Mafate: Roche Plate (via Îlet des Orangers and Îlet des Lataniers)
- Day 6: Marla (via La Nouvelle)
- Day 7: Cilaos (via Col Taïbit)
- Day 8: Rest day
- Day 9: Ascent to the Refuge de la Caverne Dufour
- Day 10: Summit day Piton des Neiges, then long descent to Bourg-Murat
- Day 11: Ascent to the Gîte du Vulcan
- Day 12: Ascent of Piton de la Fournaise, visit of the crater
- Day 13: Descent to Gîte de Basse Vallée (and the next morning the last two hours descent to Basse Vallée)
- Day 14 – 17: Rest and good food in St. Pierre, St. Gilles and St. Denis
In the following elevation profile the strong ascents and descents are well recognizable, as well as the highest points of the tour: Roche Écrite (2,276 m), Col Taïbit (2,081 m), Piton des Neiges (3,070 m) and Piton de la Fournaise (2,632 m – the highest point is not accessible, however, the trail ends a little above 2,500 m). Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Track Lustwandler.at.
A tip: Don’t just book away, but check beforehand whether all the accommodations on your route are available in your planned schedule. Especially the two huts at the volcanoes are often booked out very early, especially on weekends – but then they seem to be released again, so we met someone who booked the Caverne Dufour only a few weeks before the trip, which was booked out for us months before on that day.
You can find the OSM map online at https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=13/-20.9323/55.5119&layers=C, for the contour lines it is best to switch to the “Cycle-Map”. For your GPS device or planning with Basecamp you can download the map at http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl.
On the smartphone (iOS) we tried OsmAnd this year. The project is based on Openstreetmap and you can download elevation data and use the maps offline with a very inexpensive subscription (which you can only subscribe for the duration of the tour, approx. 2 EUR).
In general, the trails are in very good condition. The marking is very good throughout, the routing clear. One follows the white-red marking of the R2. Fog and clouds are frequent, however, the paths are usually easy to see or they lead so narrow through the dense vegetation that you could not deviate left or right anyway.
In any case, caution is advised: When wet, some paths can become very muddy and, if the slope is steep enough, very slippery. Many trails are crisscrossed with roots that are not only tripping hazards, but also very treacherous when wet, especially downhill. Some paths lead exposed over a ridge or along a slope. This is quite wildly thematized in some articles and we were a bit concerned regarding some sections of the route. On site, we have then found it not bad, also there were in some cases very good protections in the form of ropes and small ladders. We will briefly describe the key sections for you on the individual days, so that you can gain an impression for your tour.
With about 45 minutes delay we meet our driver in front of the building. The starting point of our hike could be reached by public transport, but it is relatively tedious: from the airport to St. Denis and then with Citalis line 12 (St. Denis/Gare routière – Bassin Couderc) and further with cab bus 12a (Bassin Couderc – Aubanc or Val fleuri). The cab (booked in advance at home) costs 70 EUR. The ride goes first along the coastal road and then up a narrow and winding road.
By the way, there are two places where you can start the tour, I didn’t realize that when planning our tour. I expected the hiking parking lot Mamode Camp at 1,200 m from various reports for the only starting point. However, on the map you can see that there is also a trail from “La Providence”, at about 100 m altitude, so you could do a good 1,100 additional meters of altitude on the 1st day.