Lifesaving tunnel

Lifesaving Tunnel Along Martinique’s Grand-Rivière to Le Prêcheur Hiking Trail

The middle of the Grand-Rivière to Le Prêcheur Hiking Trail is the last place you might expect to find any kind of man-made anything in Martinique. This is the island’s most grueling and rewarding trail. The trek covers 10 miles, much of it uphill. Over the course of the five+ hours generally required to complete the one-way trek, expect to climb a cumulative total of 3,000 feet spread over four steep and densely-forested peaks. Indeed, this hike is no joke!

Still, I found myself chuckling a bit when I took it on in March of 2019. The reason: the curious tunnel pictured above.

I was three hours into my Grand-Rivière to Le Prêcheur hike… and struggling badly. Carnival festivities the night before in Fort-de-France, plus J’ouvert tramping at dawn had me much the more worse for wear. At this point I had already (barely) tackled two of the four steep peaks. This third one, though, felt like it would do me in.

It wasn’t so much the height (elevation: about 330 feet) of the third peak that almost killed me. It was the steep, STEEP incline. 

The trail seemed to run straight up from Trois-Bras River. My entire body strained with each step; my legs shaking, cramping, screaming for relief.

(Note: The Trois-Bras River is a prime spot for canyoning and chasing waterfalls in Martinique.)

Salvation came in the form of this tunnel. Strategically carved through the mountain, it made a nice passageway to the decent. The extra bit of climbing I avoided was a lifesaver, making it a bit easier to complete the hike.

The tunnel dates back to the French colonial days in Martinique. Back then, the hiking trail of today was a road linking the villages and plantations of Grand-Rivière with those in Le Prêcheur. As such, the tunnel is wide enough for a carriage to have passed through back in the day.

The old colonial road between Grand-Rivière and Le Prêcheur also linked Martinique’s west coast with its Atlantic side via the island’s wild and unforgiving most northerly highlands.

Today, no such road exists here; just the trail, the same untamed natural wonders, and the most remote man-made tunnel anywhere in the Caribbean.


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