Thursday, 1 January 2015

Seychelles, La Digue, Grand Anse Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain: one hill of 70 meters which you must climb in each direction

Please forgive the bad pictures, screenshots of videos and pictures of pictures!

For more running routes, see Route List.

If you died and had earned a trip to heaven, it would have to look a lot like La Digue. This little island in the Seychelles is a tranquil haven, 10 square kilometers peacefully lapped by the Indian Ocean waves.
Grand Anse: if this isn't a great destination, what is?
It has everything heaven really needs: one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, boulder-strewn Anse Source d'Argent. And it has jungles full of lush tropical splendor. It has wildlife-reserves for the huge Seychelles land tortoises and for birds of paradise. It has an east coast with one secluded beach after the other, rolled over by a never-ending onslaught of giant waves. It has an old vanilla plantation, where you can see the employees drying the vanilla beans in the sun outside the old barn. And there is spectacular sea life to be discovered by anyone who puts on a snorkel and a pair of fins, and jumps into the water.

There aren't many people on La Digue, which helps: it has a scattered settlement along the eastern shore, with a total population of 2,000 people.

When I first visited the island in 1992, there were basically only ox-carts on the dirt roads. Now cars are allowed, and the roads are paved. But tranquility still reigns, if occasionally rudely interrupted by a passing car. Most people, locals and tourists alike, ride bikes down the narrow, one-lane roads.
View from La Digue, near the wharf
A hilly ridge, covered by jungle, rises up from the center of the island. The only signs of human activity up there are the mobile-phone masts, which are cleverly disguised as big palm trees.

Tourism has increased in the last years, but give credit to the Seychellois that they don't allow huge hotels on any of their islands. Here on La Digue, only a few clusters of guest houses have opened up in the last decades. The people of the island are not inundated by the tourists, and the feeling on the streets is one of an intact community.

Like the rest of the Seychelles, La Digue was settled by French deportees and their African slaves, and their descendants still populate the place.

For runners on La Digue, there are several interesting runs, which follow most of the real roads on the island. This route takes you out to Grand Anse, on the uninhabited southeast coast. This means going over a pass with a gain of 70 meters in each direction, but it is well worth it, with its jungle and sweeping beach-horizons.

The start of the run is at the wharf, the center of all activity on the island, in the main settlement of La Passe. Actually, all three La Digue routes will start here.
La Digue harbor at the wharf
The Grand Anse Route
So now, point yourself south, and head past the few little stores and some small homes and guest houses along Anse la RĂ©union. After you pass Gregoires store, at the 1-km mark, the road ends at a crossroad. 
The fork in the road: turn left!
Here, you can either turn left towards Grand Anse beach, or turn right and continue southwards along the west coast to Anse Source d'Argent. But that beach, perhaps the most beautiful in the world will be the destination of another run. For now, well turn left and head to Grand Anse on the wild east coast.

You're now going past more island homes, with the Veuve Nature Reserve along the right side, which provides a home to the few remaining Black Flycatcher birds-of-paradise. About the only sounds in the street are those of the chirping birds.
Heading up the road to Grand Anse
At the end of the bird reserve, the road ends, where you turn right, following the signs for Grand Anse, and running southeast.

At the 2.5-km mark, the road starts heading uphill, and you'll gain 55 meters over the next kilometer. You're heading up over a pass through the island ridge.
On the way down the hill towards the beach
At the top of the hill, you'll head downhill again for almost a kilometer, through a wilderness mix of boulders and greenery. This is the most beautiful part of the run, the way every island getaway should be.

The paved road will end just before the beach, but keep running straight along the dirt path through the hibiscus and palms until you reach the sand at the little beach restaurant there.
More jungle on the way down to the water
Grand Anse, like all the beaches along the east coast, is a crescent of sand between two natural levies of boulders stretching out into the sea. The waves can be big here, and there can also be a strong undercurrent, making the swimming tricky. Still, it's worth jumping into the water to cool off, before turning back. Just dig your toes into the sand and hang on with each wave!

There are little trails heading north and south from here to the adjoining beaches beyond the stone levies, if you want to explore a bit (Petit Anse to the north and Anse Marron to the south). There are some great views, but the going is slow, with climbing over many boulders.

Now head back towards the wharf again. If you want to see some different scenery on the way back, at the corner where you would turn left at the Veuve bird reserve, you could continue straight on the backroad, running past a variety of guesthouses. It eventually curves to the left and joins the main road right at the wharf.

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