What is the Mafate Kabar Festival?

Categories Activities, Culture, Hiking, La Reunion
Beautiful mountain view when hiking to the Mafate kabar

So let’s start with the learning section of this article. Mafate kabar: “Kabar” is a Creole word that comes from the “Kabaré Services” from Madagascar.

Originally, it was the slaves who organized the celebrations in honor of the ancestors or to facilitate harvesting. They sang their sorrows and evils, by pining or accelerating the pace.

Today, on the Reunion Island, a Kabar became a musical and festive gathering, with in the lead, Maloya, but not only. Regarding Maloya, I can only advise you to go snooping on the web because there is a whole world to discover.

But the most interesting thing in this Kabar is that it takes place in Mafate.

Mafate is surely the best known natural circus of the Piton des Neiges (Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie), a real jewel on La Reunion. It is the only accessible only by foot or by helicopter. The disorientation is truly amazing !

Deux-Bras>Aurère, a walk in the park!

  • Ride for Aurère by Rivière des Galets :
    • Allow about 3 hours
    • Distance : 6.4km
    • Difference of altitude of 705m
    • Average difficulty.

From the western island, the easiest way for this trekking to Mafate is to start the path by Rivière des Galets.

Note that from the start, 2 different options:

  • The ascent of 12km of the river by foot (about 2H30), rather tedious and it must be said, far from being exceptional if we talk about the landscape.
  • Ride a 4×4 for the entire river for about 30 min to get to a place called “Deux-Bras” to start the real hike (One way: 7 € / person if more than 3 people – 20 € for a group up to 3 people – contacts at the end of article).

You’ll understand by my description that we have chosen the second choice, way more practical. For having already made the trip by foot, I can promise you that we won’t do it again !

Under blue skies and bright sunshine, we are 10 people on the deck of the pick-up, to play the tightrope walkers over the rivers we must cross on each side of the road. After half an hour paynig Indiana Jones, we arrive at a place called “Deux-Bras” (253m above sea level), the starting point of the hike.

Panoramic view of Mafate circus in La Reunion

From here, it’s a direct immersion into the wild

At the foot of the mountain, in the shadow of Piton des Calumets, some stones are carefully disposed in the river, inviting us to keep our feet dry.Be prepared because even if the first crossing is usually not a too wet passage, you are usually forced to soak your feet at least once during the walk. So for those who like to walk with dry socks, you’ll have to  pack  another pair or be prepared to play the game of shoes on-shoes off !

After 1 hour, we arrive halfway, a place called “La Porte” (270m), but no worry, the path is really not difficult, that’s a really gentle walk.

We keep on walking, passing through Source Cabris until we arrive at Cap Miné (650m) and there began the hardest part of the trail. It climbs a little harder than before in a serie of tight switchbacks, but there is nothing to fear, if you take your time, it’s not that hard…

After this part a bit more physical, 2H45 after boarding in the 4×4, we finally arrived at Bord Bazar (950m), just in front of the Piton Cabris.

Hiking in La Reunion to go to the mafate kabar

Once there, Aurère is in sight, the trekking is over, so we rest a bit on the picnic table to get some deserved biscuits. Now is the critical moment of choosing the bivouac location. Indeed, given the number of people expected, it will be the good old technique of first come, first served!

Arrival in Mafate, bivouac setting in Aurère

It is 11H and we realize that we are far from being first on site. You should know that in Reunion Island, camping and picnic are a near religious institution You just have to go around a picnic area on a sunny Saturday to understand it.

After realizing that if we want to have a nice place, we’ll have to jostle, we find a very nice garden. In bright sunlight, with shower and toilet, a thick carpet of grass suitable for a nap and a few cows around …

Only problem, it’s the garden of an inhabitant…

Without thinking twice, we’re going to meet the person to know if it would be possible to bivouac in his idyllic garden for a small fee. In fact, we missed the sign, but this gentleman already proposes to install tents in his backyard for 2 € / pers. An unbeatable price for a camping place and also first amenities!

Furthermore, with his wife, they propose coffee, « bouchons » (pork dumplings)  and samosas to eat a bit, what could be better!

Once installed, it’s time to discover the Aurère village, which has no more than 90 inhabitants. From here you’ll have no trouble finding places to enjoy the Piton de la Fourche.

Or, a little further, the majestic Piton des Neiges

It’s a very nice place, where you cross only smiling faces. Chatting is always easy and far from being forced. We meet locals, of course, but also metropolitan French people, Germans, Brits, the Kabar is getting more and more famous!

We go back to the camp to organize a small improvised aperitif. Keep in mind that the sale of alcohol is regulated and that from 18H. It is no longer possible to buy a single drop of alcohol on the entire site. So you either come with your own reserves. Or you stay sober, which is also a good option in a place like this!

Camping in Aurere for the Mafate kabar festival

The Mafate Kabar, a « can’t miss » event of La Reunion’s culture!

Maloya, reggae, ragga and good vibes.

The sun goes down and the music is getting more and more present, prompting us to follow her. We are ready to get into the mood of the Kabar. Fitted with our finest sweaters and our loyal headlamps (a must-have), we head towards the stage.

We finally arrive at the concert entry point. We must pay the right of passage (€ 7) to finally enter the arena. There, 2 scenes face each other, surrounding the audience in a real musical duel. The public is growing hour by hour. The atmosphere rises to the rhythm of reggae, rap, Maloya, ragga bands to reach its climax in the heart of Reunion Island night.

Local concerts during the mafate kabar festival

After dancing for hours, our legs gently remind us that they could easily enjoy some rest. We decide to listen the advice and to head for our camp.

On the way back, we make multiple stops to share a moment with groups of night owls who refuse to go to sleep.

A song around the corner, another stop to share a glass of « rhum arrangé » with one-night friends. Another to philosophize with a “gramoun” (old guy in creole). He takes advantage of this unusual attendance to provide his words of wisdom …

After all these stops, we finally arrive at our camp. A couple of jokes later, we sleep in one of the most starry skies it is given to see.

The hike back: Aurère descent towards Deux Bras

A few hours of sleep later, a light breakfast before the descent followed by a quick shower stop. There is nothing better than a morning shower with cool water to start the machine.

We package our tents to start the descent. By walking down early in the morning, we avoid trafic jams on the way back and the long waiting time to get a place in a 4×4. To finish the walk on a high note, try to book your return trip early.

We take our stuff and all our waste.

Indeed, as the « Met Ansanm Mafate » association organizing the Festival Kabar in Mafate says: “If you are able to come up with 1kg of goods how not to be able to come down with 300g of your own waste …”. A sentence to meditate …

Long story short, we begin the descent with a light heart and with big smiles on our faces. With just one thing in our mind. When is the next Mafate Kabar planned ?

Practical information

Deux-Bras => Aurère trekking overview

Elevation change + : 705 m / Elevation change – : 25 m
Start : 250 m / Finish : 930 m

0:00 : Deux-Bras, arriving from the city of Rivière des Galets (Route 1)
Climb up Rivière des Galets by crossing it several times (walkway subject to change depending on rainfall).
0:30 : Locality called “La Porte” (2 tunnel entrances built in height, both sides of the Rivière des Galets, and a large cable across the valley). Go left (inscription on a large rock) towards Aurère, Ilet Malheur.
1:00 : At the crossroads, a few meters after Source Cabris climb left towards Aurère. Another crossroads : climb left towards Aurère, Ilet Malheur. Cape Miné passage, in line with Piton Cabri (protective railing).
2:45 : Bord Bazar (oratory), end of the climb, take left towards Aurère.
3:00 : Aurère; 3 cottages, shops

Other useful info

  • After rains, the river trails are degraded and you  probably must get your feet wet to cross the river. So pack a pair of slippers or shoe replacement.
  • Take advice from your driver when you call to make an appointment.
  • In the rainy season it is advisable to put your stuff in a plastic bag. If you find rain on your road, your clothes in the bag will stay dry.
  • Car-sitting opportunity in the municipality of Rivière Des Galets. Ask the contact to your driver, he will help you.
  • Mafate is an exceptional, fragile and isolated place, please bring back your waste, mother nature will thank you.

Useful telephone numbers

  • PGHM mountain rescue: +262 (0) 2 62 930 930
  • Trail Info: +262 (0) 262 37 38 39
  • Weather: 0892 68 08 08
  • 4×4 drivers phone numbers:
    • TIMON: 0692 76 76 68
    • Thiburce RENATO: 0692 08 00 47
    • LEGROS ALAIN: 0692 82 86 36
    • THOMAS ALAIN: 0692 62 82 10

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