The last postmen of the peaks

A co-production of Cyril Abad & Eugénie Baccot.

The cirque of Mafate, one of the three calderas of the French Reunion Island with Cilaos and Salazie, is a deep valley of more than 1000 meters surrounded by immense cliffs and steep peaks that have been home for nearly two centuries to the descendants of the “maroons”, slaves who fled the sugar cane plantations.

The community of 700 Mafatais lives here, almost self-sufficient, in the middle of palm trees, banana trees and giant filaos. But there are only two ways to get to the circus, by foot or by helicopter. Every week, René-Claude and Cyril, the two letter carriers of Mafate, walk the 140 kilometers of paths that crisscross this timeless region to deliver mail and small packages.

René-Claude can walk 20 km a day with 15 kg of letters on his back. His route, a loop of a hundred kilometers, takes between 3 and 4 days. As for Cyril, he completes his 27 km journey in the southern part of the caldera in two days and at a steady pace.

Their mission in these remote and hostile territories is to accomplish the first mission of La Poste, as part of the universal postal service, namely the delivery of mail. Every week, they deliver and collect letters from 300 households in small villages, each more inaccessible than the next.

René-Claude and Cyril have an essential role in the life of the Mafatais, they are bearers of good and bad news and provide small services such as writing letters.

On these two postal circuits considered as the most difficult and longest in France, it is said here that the letter carrier always rings twice, to avoid leaving with his heavy burden.

Reunion Island, France – January 2021