Last Sunday, we did a very touristy and rather stupid thing. We decided to go up the Mount Choungui, known as M'lima Choungui. We'd seen it plenty of times from a distance, we have friends who've gone up it, and it was starting to seem as though everybody had gone up except us. So we dragged a friend into the bargain - Franck, he of the sailing boat, who had taken us out in his boat the week before to try out his new sail. He brought his 15-year-old son, and we all drove down to Choungui, all the while watching this mountain get nearer.
It's not a very high mountain, it's about 594m, a piddling little thing by French mountain standards. Unfortunately, for a good two-thirds of its ascent, it was almost vertical. The whole thing started calmly enough. We thought we would be the only ones going up the mountain today, but met a group of hikers after about two minutes and spent all the way up not so much with them as in the same place as them, making them freak out whenever they wanted to go up a particularly difficult bit by staying behind them, then stopping them coming down the easy way by staying in front of them and going down extremely slowly. Please bear in mind that we did not do this deliberately. When we started off, the track was full of wet leaves and big stones, so we step-stoned along until we reached a junction. Right was round the mountain - you may remember a blog post on that particular hike a few months ago - and left was up the mountain. Left it was. The track quickly went from basically flat and stony to a 45-degree slope with added roots, and finally, to an almost-vertical two-hand-two-foot-and-a-push-from-behind climb with unpredictable, badly-placed and rather worn tree-root handholds.
It took an hour to get to the top. Most of the climb was among plenty of trees, so the sun wasn't too bad, but when we got nearer the top, the trees gave way to red soil and stone tracks leading both left and right. This is where I believe we made the wrong decision. We clambered over stones and grabbed onto long grasses to haul ourselves up, and were bright red and sweaty when we arrived at the top. When we started going down again, we saw a gaggle of four or five girls, dressed in skimpy colourful tops and denim shorts, mincing up the other track with little white ballerina flats on their feet. Not a smudge of dirt or sweat anywhere. Humph.
Anyway, once we got to the top, the view was pretty amazing.
We had been hoping for silence except for the waves and the birds. No such luck. As there were all of a sudden twenty or so people atop the mountain, we were treated to a chorus of "Clemence, are you coming?" "Simeon, what do you think you're doing?" "Simeon, come away from the edge!" "Simeon, come here NOW" and so on and so forth. All the time there. All the way down, too. And down was hard work. Not quite as hard as up, but still slippery and unsure. Our friend Franck's son gambolled up and down easily, leaping from stone to root. Franck and Philippe clambered down fairly quickly. I, for some reason, took ages, going down extremely slowly, holding on all the way to whatever was nearest, alternately going down backwards and coming down like a 3-year-old might come down a staircase. I think I can hereby state that I am not a sporty person.
When we were at the bottom, we started looking for a good place to eat lunch, rice salad and bananas. "I know a place", says Franck, "and you should come and see it, it's a good walk along one of the southern "fingers" of Mayotte". So we got in the car - having carried lunch and drinks up and down the mountain - and drove to this wonderful place, which did turn out to be rather beautiful... if uphill. Which didn't go down favourably with the group as a whole. Franck took us to a shelter he'd built at the end of the walk, from which shelter we could see most of the south of Mayotte, as well as the M'lima Choungui from a distance.
Now, we can say "Oh, we did that at the end of our first year here, it was easy!".