Signal mountain is probably the easiest mountain top to reach in Mauritius.
Even though the road is tared up to the very top, it is closed off to vehicles so you can walk happily without being bothered by any traffic.
Reaching the top of Signal mountain will reward you with a magnificent view of Port-Louis and the north on one side and of the western coastline of the island on the other.
To reach the Signal mountain parking, you need to drive right up Labourdonnais street and up into the parking. Alternatively, you may drive in front of Marie Reine de La Paix until you reach that very same parking.
The walk up Signal mountain has been called a health track and is very popular. On most mornings and afternoons it is very well attended by both walkers and joggers of the area, a little like the Trou-aux-Cerfs in Curepipe.
The walk has a constant medium slope to the top.
The first part of the road is actually done facing the mountains with Le Pouce mountain right in front as well as La Fenêtre.
The vegetation around is not really luxuriant and I’m guessing there might be fires at times when the weather is very dry.
Lots of Acacia trees, so beware of the ‘piquant loulou’ that might roam on the side of the road.
While still a bit low on the road, we started to pinpoint some landmarks like the Champ de Mars and La Citadelle.
Marie Reine de la Paix could also be seen quite clearly behind us.
On a clear day, the view of the north of the island goes up to Gunner’s Quoin.
Throughout the road there were some funny markings on the road at regular interval. They had Roman numbers, letters and a lily flower symbol on top. Not sure what they meant exactly, probably some way to mark the distance.
A much more reliable way for distance are simply to follow the wooden signs indicating every 500m rather!
At about a fifth of the way up, the road makes a sharp u-turn bend to carry on walking towards the mountain top.
There are some fancy exercise equipment at the bend…
…and I, of course, had a try to see what it was like!
At the time of our visit they were in pretty good condition and from the couple of twists and pushes I did, I’m sure they can provide a very good work-out if you put your heart into it!
However, the equipment to do pull-ups was way too high for me so I didn’t get to try that one out. Only tall people get to do pull-ups on Signal mountains!
After that little interlude, we were back on track for the rest of the way. On the right, throughout that second stretch of road, Port-Louis can be glimpsed at throughout the trees.
About half way through, there was a nice touch of color with some purple bougainvillea growing on a fencing. I’m not really sure of the purpose of the fencing as the mountain slope doesn’t seem much steeper there. I might be mistaken though.
From the photo above, you also have a glimpse of our target ahead, the building on top!
The road carries on in that same direction nearly to the top, up until a second sharp turn in the road.
This is a very nice viewpoint to make a stop and relax a little.
Port-Louis harbor is straight ahead.
At that point, the mountain top still blocks the view of the west coast.
We then carried on to the very top. A nice area with benches is maintained for a well deserved rest after the walk up.
There are some more exercises equipment at the very top and even though they don’t look as fancy as the ones we saw earlier, they definitely seemed more popular.
Even though I’m guessing that Signal mountain had a prominent role in the marine movements during the French and English occupation of the island, nowadays it only serves to send (or receive?) signals from the huge antennas at the top.
Stories have it that during the French occupation of the island, someone would go up everyday to scrutinize the horizon. He apparently had a gift to sense boats that were not far from the Mauritian coasts. Two or three days after he ‘spotted’ them, boat would come in the port.
Another story says that in the 1930s and 1940s, a big white ball would be brought down from a mast at noon everyday, so that people could align their watch to the time. Messengers would shout “Boul in tombé” (The ball has fallen) so that people would know it’s noon.
Not sure if those stories are true, and I certainly couldn’t spot any boats at the horizon… but one thing is for sure, the view is mighty nice!
Update: I came across this podcast from Futility closet explaining in great detail how the French engineer Etienne Bottineau seemed in fact to be able to predict the arrival of boats. The first 17 minutes of the podcast talks about him and his strange gift, although to this date no one knows how he actually did it.
From the top you have also quite a nice view of the western coastline of the island and of part of the inward towns.
I didn’t really manage to get a good photo of the western coastline with the lowering sun facing me (and me not quite knowing what settings to change on my camera!). For more photos of Signal mountain, go to carrotmadman6 photoblog where you can read about his walk up signal mountain by day and by night, along with plenty more landmarks and descriptions.
As we had taken a slow and casual walk up, we still had some stamina left to climb up the last stretch bringing us to the highest point of the mountain.
After taking a couple of minutes to appreciate the view, we were on our way back the same way we had climbed up.
On our way back down, we could actually see the (nearly) whole path on the side of the mountain.
There was actually quite a lot more people going up while we went down and we realized that once the sun was low enough, the mountain provided a nice shade on the path. The locals seemed to know this, whereas we didn’t and started a little too early to take advantage of that shade.
As I wasn’t as focused on Port-Louis as on my way up, I also noticed some other things on the way down, like this grotto on the side of the road.
And before we knew it we were back at our starting point… which was now ‘the end’!
From the parking, as we glimpsed a last time where we had been only a little while before, we saw that the sun was descending on the other side and it was time to head back home.
The whole road up is about 3 kms long and goes up 323 meters. As we were walking very casually, with many (many!) photo stops, we reached the top in about an hour and a half, but I’m guessing that if you walk up at a fast pace or a slow jog, it should only take about forty to forty five minutes.
We also had children with us, the youngest being 5/6 years old, and they managed the walk up and down without any difficulty, so don’t hesitate to bring the kids along when you go.