South Atlantic Hikes
Time: 1.5 hours roundtrip. Difficulty: 2. In the rainy season the trail is slippery in places.
Trailhead: From Vauclin, take D5 toward Saint-Esprit. About 1.6 miles (2.5km) after leaving the town, take a right and follow the sign "Coulee d'Or." Continue 2.2 miles (3.5 km) to the beginning of the trail.
Using a crossroads still frequently traveled by religious pilgrims visiting a small chapel, this path will eventually take you to 1653 feet (504m), the highest point of on the southern part of the island.
The first part of the trail ascends past gardens of Chinese cabbage, yams, and onions, all growing in the shade of mango, apricot, and breadfruit trees. This slope is relatively steep; be careful when the soil is slippery.
The climb is paced by the Stations of the Cross, symbolically marking the path of the Crucifixion, where candles burn continuously.
Gradually you'll enter a more lush, thick area featuring sweet peas (not the climbing flower, but a shrub of the mimosa family), big-leafed manjack and swamp dogwood. After a 30 minute walk, you'll reach the chapel, the end of the Stations of the Cross.
Across several breaks in the vegetation you'll be able to see a great part of the southeastern coast, from the Caravelle Peninsula to the southern tip of Sainte-Anne, from bays to points and headlands.
Particularly outstanding is the bay of Simon to the south of Francois, where you might see a plume of smoke from one of the remaining distilleries.
You'll also have grand views of the point of Vauclin overlooking the town of Vauclin; the bay and point of Massy-Massy; and the islets of Francois to the north, surrounded by foaming coral reefs.
Return the way you came, or make the climb down by the eastern flank to the la Montagne district, a hike of about an hour.