The air is thick. The steep trail through the rainforest is obscured by mist. While you’re covered—make that drenched—with sweat. But you continue hiking up Mount Ntingui. Everyone says that the hard trek is worth it.
Mount Ntingui overlooks the south coast of Anjouan. The rough trail began at Lake Dzialandze, a secluded and serene spot that smelled like clovers, vanilla, and ylang-ylang. Anjouan is actually the world’s leading exporter of the latter’s oil, which is used in many perfumes. So by scent alone, you could have stopped at the lake and been quite happy.
Anjouan is an island in the Comoros. Like the rest of the Indian Ocean country, the pearl of the Comoros was founded and ruled by sultans for hundreds of years, before the French arrived in the late 19th century. First they protected the island against Zanzibar, and then they annexed it. Anjouan has joined and seceded from the Comoros numerous times since the country’s independence in 1975. It continues to be autonomous right now.
You arrived in Mutsamudu, the largest town, to find narrow streets and an ancient citadel. The island quickly turned rural just outside of the city. As you headed south, you saw decaying Arab plantations, women carrying heavy loads of firewood, and trees drooping with ripening bananas. You reached the lake and paused longer than you expected. Then you started hiking toward the cloud-covered summit.
You’re fine until the clouds begin to part. As the trees become thinner and the sun becomes hotter, your patience wears thin. You’re agitated and grumbly by the time you reach the top. Your bad mood doesn’t last long, though. As you look around, you can see the three islands of the Comoros, lots of little islets, the turquoise water of the Mozambique Channel, and the endless Indian Ocean beyond that. You now have two reasons to catch your breath.