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Hikes near Gourbeyre
Le Houelmont

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Time: 2.5 hours, one way, to visit the summit of Houelmont. Difficulty: 3-4. Trail not marked, but not too tough; take water. Trailhead: Depart from Bisdary, located in southeast Basse-Terre. You end up on the coast at the Marina de Riviere Sens.

To reach the starting point, take the old national road tying Basse-Terre to Gourbeyre and, after Blanchet, turn right toward Bisdary. About 400 meters farther on, at the end of the tarred road, veer left, then quickly to the right. Park on the first service road wherever you find space.

Stretching in front of you at the foot of le Houelmont are the green pastures of Bisdary, one of the great dairy farming areas of Basse-Terre.

Follow the service road that climbs a small valley crossed by the Ravine Blanche. Lots of interesting flora beautifies the beginning of this hike; notably, the Saint-Jean liana, a vine with clusters of violet stars, and the savonnette wood with its mauve flowers in July.

Fifteen minutes after departure, you will reach a fork. Take the right and cross the Ravine Blanche. The trail climbs steadily and soon reaches an area planted in bananas, a few scattered royal palms, breadfruit trees and rose apples, whose fruits are delicious.

At the next crossroads, continue right. You are now at an altitude of about 300m. A bit farther, through the mahoganies bordering the trail, you will see a part of the city of Basse-Terre and above, Saint-Claude. You'll reach the hill in about 40 minutes.

On the right, a trail of about 20 minutes goes to the summit of le Houelmont, which peaks at 428 meters. Along the way you'll notice on the left a small steep path; this is only a cul-de-sac which ends at a pool. Your trail, bordered in spots by small ferns, now cuts through a mahogany forest, creating a pleasant and shady setting.

To return to Bisdary without retracing your steps, continue on the same path almost to its end, where a trail forks off at a right angle. All in switchbacks, this new trail veers to the right; in about 10 minutes, it descends to become even with a fig tree with lots of branches. The trail continues into the rocks of a very steep ravine. This route is rather strenuous.

The trail then takes a 90-degree turn to the right, and 100 meters farther on, makes another 90-degree turn, this time to the left. This last departure is barely visible.

Ten minutes later, you leave the new trail on your left, then come into a clearing near the farmlands. Finally coming out onto a service road, take a right to return to your departure point.

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