I became aware of this trail after conducting research on excursions in French Guiana. “Molokoi” means “land turtle.” That suits me well, given my hiking pace! I had noticed with astonishment that the majority of hiking trails in French Guiana were very short, a maximum of 2 to 4 km, which contrasts completely with what we’re familiar with in mainland France. I didn’t have a clear explanation for this: impenetrable vegetation? Difficulties with marking the paths? Overwhelming wildlife and thus too dangerous? The heat and humidity limiting longer hikes? Just to reassure us, the lodge reservations everywhere emphasized being cautious: hiking in pairs, not straying from the main trail, if a tree blocks the path, only one person goes around it, and at the base of the tree (some are 40 meters tall, so not easy to maneuver around with dense vegetation) to avoid getting lost in the middle of nowhere. From the perspective of mainland France, all of this seemed quite concerning. So when I learned about the Molokoi trail, 18 km through the tropical forest with an almost inevitable stop at 11.5 km to sleep in a shelter, I thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. But a lingering worry stayed with me. So, I watched a few videos on YouTube to assess the situation. There were actually very few, 3 or 4. Through the videos, it was evident that it was challenging, but the exact reasons weren’t clear.

This preparation through the videos, however, turned out to be crucial because we set off perfectly equipped, following the recommendations of the local guides. I would advise you to always do this when you’re going a bit further than Auvergne. Multiple visits to “Au vieux campeur” (an outdoor equipment store) and online orders for specific gear were lifesavers. Sometimes I would think, “You’re exaggerating a bit”: a machete? To clear the path in areas where nature has taken over? No, it must be well maintained! A filtering water bottle for river water? After all, we’ll have enough water for 2 days in our bags! A poncho to protect us and our bags from tropical rain? But come on, it’s not going to rain! It’s August! Headlamps? Now that’s just ridiculous! 11.5 km! We’ll arrive before nightfall! Well, I’ll take them anyway since they recommend having them. Just ideas from city dwellers disconnected from the local reality.

How can I put it?

French Guiana is not mainland France! The excursions here are not like those in the Alps or the Pyrenees where you have networks almost everywhere. Here it’s a constant 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The slightest effort causes you to lose liters of water. We started with 3.5 liters each in our bags. It only lasted us halfway through the journey. Without the filtering water bottle, we would have been in trouble. Cramps were already quite present, but that would have been the height of it! The headlamps: without them, we were forced to stop in the middle of the jungle, away from the shelter, and set up our hammocks with mosquito nets in the middle of nowhere, waiting for daylight. In the tropical forest, it gets dark at 6 pm… The tall trees block out daylight.

When I think back to all the things I hesitated to bring and that turned out to be absolutely essential, it gives me chills. All of this allowed us to transform what could have been a nightmare into a magnificent experience in the tropical forest where we never felt in danger. We felt exhausted, and cramped up everywhere, and our backs were a wreck (10 kg on our backs isn’t easy in these conditions), but happy.

Aside from this planning that did occupy my mind quite a bit, once we were on the trail and knew we were well-equipped, we felt at ease. However, the numerous elevation changes along the path made the journey difficult, both uphill (cardio) and downhill (slips). The 10 kg backpack didn’t help, especially over the kilometers as fatigue set in. Cramps were always underlying, even quite present, but I had mineral salt bars to counter them (bought in mainland France). The atmosphere was incredible, the sounds of insects (especially the local cicadas that sound a bit like a jew’s harp), and the birds constantly chirping, except when it starts raining. The landscapes were stunning, with occasional creeks allowing us to cool off and clean the mud off our shoes (and more) since it was present all along the path (even though it was supposed to be the dry season). The end of the first day was very tough with the arrival of tropical rain, which slowed our progress as the ground became extremely slippery. Falling and getting injured was out of the question. It was impossible to contact anyone (no signal for 20 km), and we hardly crossed anyone on the trail. So every step had to be well thought out. We ended up using the headlamps… Quite impressive when you’re in the tropical forest, alone, and in the rain.

When we arrived at the shelter, we met another hiker who seemed surprised to see us come at that hour (we had started way too late in the morning: 11:30 am, while everyone else sets off around 9-9:30 am at most). We exchanged stories about hiking, the route to Cacao the following day, and French Guiana… all by the light of our headlamps. A beautiful moment of exchange!

Then we set up our hammocks (lots of laughter!) and got some sleep, somewhat restorative.

The next day seemed simple: 7 km compared to the 11.5 km we had covered the previous day, but that didn’t account for the accumulated muscle fatigue and lack of training… (for me, as my son was training for the Paris Marathon).

So, the end was just as complex as the beginning, but the numerous creeks gave us renewed courage and freshness.

Upon arriving in Cacao, I stupidly thought the first car would stop to take us back to our car 26 km away, where we had parked at the beginning of the trail, in a place called Coralie. I was also ignoring the fact that hitchhiking at the edge of the tropical forest is difficult. Cars are sometimes ambushed by fake hitchhikers! We didn’t know that… After 45 minutes of trying, we couldn’t find a car. And nightfall was approaching again… Fatigue, once more!! There was no way we could walk the additional 26 km after what we had already endured… So, I approached some workers who were packing up their equipment, seemingly leaving Cacao to go home in their truck.

We explained the situation, and they kindly drove us back to our car! Hallelujah! Later, they told us that it would have been very difficult for us to find a vehicle to hitchhike on the side of the road. Here, at the edge of the Amazon rainforest, fake hitchhikers position themselves to make cars stop, then groups armed and hidden in the forest ambush the vehicles and the drivers once they stop. Since drivers can’t tell if they’re alone and well-intentioned, no one stops! So, we could have ended up walking the 26 km, in the dark…

Moral of the story: we won’t pick up hitchhikers!! Sorry, guys.

In short, it was a magnificent experience, exhausting (I don’t have the 22-year-old stamina of my son, who managed the journey much more easily than I did, lacking that kind of training), but we did it, together, with its share of difficulties, fatigue, and even exhaustion (for me), but also beautiful memories of this unique experience that will be etched in our minds forever. It was both a physical and human experience.

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2 Responses

  1. Hello Corinne et Anthony,

    Quelle belle aventure que vous vivez. Vous êtes vraiment courageux.
    Merci de nous faire partager cette aventure incroyable en pleine forêt d’Amazonie.
    Hâte de voir vos photos.
    Bonne fin de vacances de découvertes.

    Prenez soin de vous

    Bises à tous les 2


    • Merci Béatrice ! Il y a encore tant de choses à dire… Sur les animaux, la faune, la vie ici et l’histoire de la Guyane !!
      Regarde notre article sur Les Bagnes en Guyane. C’est un passé sombre de la France que je ne connaissait que très peu à travers Dreyfus, Seznec et Papillon
      Corinne et Anthony

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