Had it been given a chance to talk, the Lion Mountain would certainly have narrated the 1810 Battle of Vieux Grand Port with the minutest detail. It remains the only dumb spectator around that witnessed the capture of the island when the British victoriously ousted French colonial powers.
Although it is not a well-known spot for tourists, we believe that a visit to our friend, the lion mountain, is a must after a tour of the Mahebourg Maritime Muséum; where lies interesting relics of the Battle of Vieux Grand Port. This would provide a chance to recreate the imagery and live again the battle once so valliantly fought by British and French soldiers. Among the soldiers were quite a few Indian ’sepoys’ who broke through the French defence line as easily as one walks through an open, unguarded door of a castle.
The path up the lion’s back is quite challenging and, at the same time, rewarding. It ends at an impressive viewpoint on the lion’s ’head’. The trail begins besides the police station at the north end of Vieux Grand Port. From there, a track leads inland ail the way towards the ridge. After some 100m, the track narrows through the sugarcane fields, steeping onto a rocky path.
The trail up towards the ridge takes you to a set of concrete steps, known as the ‘Cent deux marches’, often wrongly referred to as the ‘Champ de Mars* with reference to the horsee racing track of Port-Louis. The steps lead to a bunker, from where a footpath climbs through the forest to the top of the lions ’back’. Once here, you get a view out over the coast before heading inland to the peak itself.
Of the two paths, one leads down to the west towards Ferney and the other, the main trail, runs straight along the ridge and up over a rocky area to the peak.
Following the main trail, you will, so to speak, climb the lion’s back and shoulders, and at about three- quarter km, after a few scrambles over the rocks, you land onto the flat area on the lions ’mane. From here, you can admire the interior décor of the island.
After a little bit more of scrambling up to do, the path leads to a dangerous cliff. Making to the left, is a steep jumble of rocks, which can be climbed on after some 20m.
The path then finishes on a narrow ridge and, for the next 50 feet or so, the track continues from rock to rock and gradually flattens. The last few yards to the summit are an easy stroll.
From here, one gets a breathtaking view of the lagoon and the islets on the reef. Kilometres away, one can hear the Sound of waves brought by the well-known South East Trade Wind. To the north east, one can see the waves breaking on the ‘Ilot des Roches* which marks the north entrance to the lagoon and the Point du Diable where the old guns guarded the anchorage. To the south lies Grand Port itself, Mahebourg and, beyond them ,Plaisance airport.
The inland view gives a beautiful perspective of the wooded slopes of the Bambous and Creole ranges, Le Chat et la Souris Mountain. Behind are the central highlands opening to the Grand Port mountain range.
Another interesting feature of Lion Mountain is its flora. Trees such as bois benjoin, bois d’olive, bois clou and bois de fer, among others, are seen on the slopes .These species can also be seen on certain mountain ranges: Port Louis, Moka, Black River and Grand Port, among others, amidst other exotic and indigenous plants.
In fact, these types of forests were common in Mauritius before the arrival of man and was found at altitudes less than 250 metres with an annual rainfall of between 1000 and 2500 mm. Curiously, the route down, though smoother than the steep path of the way up, is quite tricky. Bounded by trees, the path is quite steep and slippery, at times dangerous. For the walk down, another two hours will be needed, but rest assured, the track improves as you descend and join the sugar cane paths that’ eventually takes you back to the Police Station. Get ready for the fun. And do not forget to bring along your camera to immortalize these highly adventurous moments!