From the top of Le Pouce one can see almost the entire circumference of Mauritius.
The hike up takes barely an hour and a half, beginning in a field of sugarcane and ending atop a grassy summit just big enough for a picnic blanket. The peak, which resembles a thumb (hence its name) is part of the Moka Range and is 812 meters in elevation. Standing at the top and looking out over Port Louis, the country’s capital, one can spy the famous Champs de Mars Racecourse and vessels going in and out of the harbor.
Spin 360 degrees and Snake Island and Flat Island will float into view a little ways to the north, then Pieter Both will emerge to the east (a peak which looks like a little cloaked head, named after a Dutchman), then more mountains wrapping around the south, and endless ocean all around. A volcanic eruption millions of years ago left behind the island’s jagged assortment of peaks. Charles Darwin also once stood atop the Thumb—the scientist-explorer made his own visit here in 1836. Path signage hasn’t improved much since then, but it would be very difficult to get lost. There’s also a trail that continues from the town of Moka along the edge of the thumb and ends up on the outskirts of Port Louis, if one is seeking out some dim sum or Burger King.
Located 1,200 miles off the southeastern coast of Africa, Mauritius is a mere 30 miles long and 29 miles wide; you can drive anywhere within about a half-hour. The island is named after a Dutchman, the people all speak French and a French Creole, and the school and government systems are British. Mauritius calls itself both a “paradise island” and “rainbow nation”; it is home to people of Asian, European, and African decent, the majority of its population being Indo-Mauritians. The country became independent from Britain in 1968.