Trailhead details: From the village you take the road toward the big church, before getting to the church turn right - West uphill, and just after the crest, you see a well marked trailhead on your left. The trail is kept clear, can be very slippery when it has rained (not advised by locals) and we were warned to “fait attencion” during hornet season of which we were, apparently, in the peak when we did the hike in February 2014.
After seeing only occasional, non aggressive hornets, we thought this was another example of people overestimating dangers* but in the week after we did the hike we met 4 different cruisers who were stung multiple times by hornets that they had surprised on the trail – with the large swollen bumps to prove it. So, it does happen. If you want to inquire about the status of the hornet situation when you visit, the word for hornet in French is pronounced approximately the same as the word “gape” (rhymes with tape).
The trail begins with a meander through evergreens, on a bed of pine needles, pine cones and ferns, making us NE Pacific people feel right at home. The trail splits (again well marked) to the left and as you gain altitude you are treated to occasional glimpses of the long skinny island of Rikitea and the many outlying islands – each islet a lush green drop in a sea of crazy blues.
As you near the summit you leave the trees behind and begin following a fin of rock which drops steeply to either side. Your footing and the stunning views compete for your attention until you reach a series of flat rocks perfect for a summit picnic.
The summit view is 360 degrees and with sunlight, spectacular.
We did the hike at the very end of raspberry season but suffered through the scratches of collecting the last of the hidden, far from the trail berries while on the descent – collecting enough for Carol to make a fresh raspberry pie.
With a leisurely pace, a stop for a summit picnic and a fair amount of time raspberry collecting, the entire hike took 3 adults and a teenager 4 hours. Most of the hike is in at least dappled shade but also on the non-windy side of the mountain. It was hot even though we started early in the morning and we drank a lot of water.
*Ahhhh, hubris. Carol was stung the week after writing this post, prior to uploading it.