Set in the gorgeous Valley de Ferney, the Ciel Ferney Trail Run offers you the chance to experience the indigenous biodiversity of Mauritius inside the 200-hectare nature sanctuary.
Having already planned a holiday to Mauritius and looking for somewhere to do a hike, my husband and I stumbled across this race quite by accident and, as fate would have it, it was taking place the day we landed. This was an opportunity that we just could not pass up. So a quick flight change later, we submitted our race entries online and were on track for the race.
The race offers 37km, 20km, 10km and 8km options, as well as a 4km run for the kids. With the “in for a penny, in for a pound” attitude, we opted for the 37km. I have to give credit to the organisers for one of the best ideas I’ve seen on a run. The bottom of your race number features the route profile with periodic distance markers, so you know what’s coming next on the route. It’s also upside down, making it easy for the runner to read.
Bright and early on day one of our holiday, we headed off. The race begins with a lively gathering of runners at the Valley de Ferney. For those of us who don’t speak French, the subtle nuances were over our heads but the energy and excitement was still infectious.
The gun goes off and you head into the sugar cane fields with the sight of headlights bouncing all around. The easy running however is short lived as the first mammoth climb looms ahead at around 6km. Dropping down a gear, we began the slow but steady climb, first up a grassy bank and then through a few kilometres of thick forest. The exertion is all worth it though as you reach the top of Lion Mountain and catch a glimpse of the sun rising over the bay – the first of many magnificent views on the route.
The downhill to follow is steep and very technical as you head back down into the Mauritian rainforest. This becomes the theme for the race – mammoth climbs followed by steep downs. There are four mountains that you’ll climb on this route but there are enough runnable sections between the climbs to make up some time.
The scenery of this race is just beautiful. At some points you feel as though you’re running through the set of Jurassic park. After trudging through thick and humid forests, you’ll emerge into open plains of green grass. As nature lovers, one of the highlights for us was catching sight of the enormous Mauritian Flying Foxes (fruit bats) gliding from tree to tree overhead.
I fully admit that there are times when my road running tendencies come to the fore, and the thought of wet shoes is one of those time. However, by around the 3rd stream crossing with attempts to hop from rock to rock, I realised that it was best just to embrace the trail running spirit and storm straight ahead into the stream. It’s quite a freeing experience and I am now converted to the ways of the trail runner. There are no major rivers on the route though, but you’re unlikely to make it through with dry shoes.
After you pass the final climb, there is a long runnable descent to the finish line. If you have anything left in your legs, here’s your chance to finish with a bit of glory and make up some time. When you reach the finish line, you’re greeted by a vibrant atmosphere and music in celebration of your race victory. There are beer gardens to numb the pain and food stalls to recoup your energy levels. Your race entry also includes a traditional lunch in the runner’s hall which will get your recovery off to a good start.
Make no mistake – the Ciel Ferney Trail is a tough race. My Garmin registered just over 2000 meters of elevation for the 37km of the race. But it’s a fantastic race and experience. This race is an opportunity to enjoy a side of Mauritius that the average tourist will miss. Lush forest, waterfalls and magnificent mountain views.
My advice for those who are considering this run is to approach it with the view to enjoying a day out in nature. Take in the scenery, snap a few selfies along the route and earn yourself a good excuse to spend the rest of your trip on a sun lounger, cocktail in hand!
Denise is a road runner at heart with a new passion for the trails. She has completed 7 Comrades Marathons, numerous standard and ultra marathons and is starting to add the ultra trails to her list as well.