How to reach the start
First head for Saint Louis, then Cilaos. This road (the RN 5) is known for its many turns and the loop which made it possible to connect the two sections during its construction in 1931. It is also known as the road of 400 bends. Go through Cilaos and pass the church of Notre Dame des Neiges. After the old thermal baths, take the Ilet à Cordes road (D 242) which heads down to the left. Descend the few very tight bends, and after 4 km cross the bridge that spans Bras Rouge. Six hundred metres after this bridge, you’ll see a car park on your left. The trail starts 100 metres further along on the right. Avoid leaving your vehicle here overnight and go for the shuttle bus instead that connects Cilaos to Ilet à Corde (for timetables, inquire at the tourist office at Cilaos). You can also start the hike from Cilaos by taking the porters’ path and then the Bras Rouge waterfall trail. Allow two hours’ extra hiking.
0 km - The climb to Col du Taïbit is difficult (800 metres of height gained). Remember to take a good supply of water and some cereal bars. Leave the D 242 road and start climbing the steps at the start of the trail. The path climbs rapidly. This will be the case on much of the route.
0.3 km - You quickly gain altitude and the panorama over the Cirque of Cilaos begins to come into view.
0.8 km - This climb is quite steep and you arrive at the eucalyptus indicating the end of this first climb.
0.9 km - The slope is more gentle and you come to the junction for Ilet des Trois Salazes. It’s a good place to rest and refill your water reserves.
1.6 km - You continue the ascent up to the pass with a new climb, then you arrive at a gently sloping section where there is a junction. The trail on the right is marked Cap Bouteille, but you continue straight on towards the pass.
1.9 km - The slope is less severe and you pass Ravine Gobert, then the Ti Louis spring.
2.6 km - After another steep climb, you reach Plaine des Fraises. In season, the ground is carpeted with wild flavourless strawberries (fraises).
2.9 km - At the end of the plain, you continue on a new climb. The landscape becomes impressive. You can even contemplate the ring of Bras Rouge, the vent of the old volcano of Piton des Neiges.
3.1 km - The slope suddenly becomes steep, followed by a slight descent. You’re very close to the pass.
3.2 km - The gentle descent is short, and you continue on the last climb with Col du Taïbit in line of sight, accompanied by superb views on the Cirque of Cilaos.
3.3 km - Here is the oratory that marks the Col du Taïbit.
3.4 km - You’ll be delighted to have reached Col du Taïbit, after climbing more than 800 metres. Enjoy the fine weather to admire the view over Cilaos. In a few metres, you reach the viewpoint over the Cirque of Mafate which is above the start of the trail which goes down towards Marla. Then start your descent to Marla.
3.7 km - You come down first into an acacia forest.
4.1 km - You quickly reach a grassy area and you’d think you’ve arrived at a picnic area.
4.4 km - The slope is steep, and you zigzag your way down, then make the careful crossing of a steep rampart. The rock is hard, but be careful not to slip on loose stones. It all works out fine in the end.
4.6 km - After more tight bends, you pass near the spring below, then pass through the forest of filaos to finally emerge by the Marla reservoir.
5.1 km - The slope is less steep, and you arrive in the centre of Marla.