Reunion



October 1 - Bienvenue a La Reunion

After an easy overnight passage, La Reunion hove into view. Like Mauritius, Napoleon lost Reunion, but France regained it in the treaty with England, so today it is a little semi-tropical piece of France. The island is steeply volcanic, in fact hosts one active volcano, and reminds us of Hawaii. Dave had pre-arranged for space for us with the Le Port des Galets harbormaster, but we arrived to a full house. Le Port is a small marina at the end of a long cut. Coordinates are 20 56.4498 S 055 16.9812 E if you want to google our location. We came in with wind on the stern, Dave reversing all the way down, little room to turn around, and had to raft up as the marina is packed solid. Fortunately Taipan and Kuheli caught our lines, and we landed with no damage. No drama, as they say down under. Other boats are also coming - being thrown out of Mauritius for October, as the World ARC rally is coming. So it will get even tighter here... We may share a car hire and see something of Reunion.

Baraka is rafted up at Le Port des Galets.

Looking back toward the entrance.


October 8 - Tourists a La Reunion

The Wednesday market in Le Port is delightful - lovely fresh produce, spinach, strawberries! Each morning I blend up a smoothie with yogurt, bananas, lime, and strawberries, or make a Bernie's Best, egg scamble with sauted spinach, feta, and bacon. And the bakeries! We shared a week's car rental with Priscilla, and checked out the market at St Paul, more touristy than Le Port's. In St Denis we visited the tourist office to book lodging near the volcano, Piton de Fournaise (furnace) for one night. We joined Priscilla for a 2 day road trip, circumnavigaing the island, then driving high on the saddle to La Plaine des Cafres where we stayed in a decent motel, Auberge La Fermette, for 40 euros. Up early, we drove the rest of the way to Fournaise, then hiked 7 hours to the cauldera, down 500 meters to a crater floor, then across it and up the other side to the rim of the active crater. It looked tame now, but as recently as 2 years ago dumped floes of ahi across the trail we hiked up. Dave says next time we hike so far we'll train for it! Beautiful day, and we now understand why Reunion is a great travel destination.

We also found several large groceries nearby. Foods, especially French goodies, are reasonable. We are stocking up on cheeses, sliced ham, soups, and cask wines.

Big topic continues to be the South Africa passage strategy. All are feeling anxious to get this next one over with.

Dave plays at the St Denis market.

The St Paul market is along the seafront.

Little Orca braves the same oceans we do.

We share a car rental with Priscilla.

The entrance to St Pierre marina on a calm day.

St. Pierre marina.

Switchback could be in the Alps.

We hike down to the crater floor.

Then hike across the wide basin.

Tom has energy to spare.

Then we climb again...

...warning signs...

...tell us to stay on the trail...

...or else!

We make it to the rim...

...of the active crater.

Not much happening today.

On the way down we find vent holes.

End of the hike is the 500-meter climb back up.

Fun day, hiking across one wide crater to reach the active caldera. Last eruption was in 2010. Today it was not even smoking.


October 12 - The Road to Cilaos

With an early start, we drove south to St. Pierre, then took the road inland, climbing up steeply to the Cirque de Cilaos. The center of Reunion is a collapsed volcano peak, that was cratered by blasts and water into three "cirques", each with it's own valley and rim. The overhead map looks like a 3-leaf clover. We ascended on a two-lane road that often turned without warning into a single lane, up over 400 hairpin turns, white-knuckle driving. On the turns we'd sometimes encounter a bus or truck, doing back-and-fills to make the turn. A couple blind one-way tunnels added to the drama. We finally popped out into a gorgeous valley, with the town of Cilaos perched on a ridge, surrounded by craggy peaks, a really splendid 360 view. It's amazing to us that this small island can host such alpine scenery.

This morning 3 of the boats we have been travelling with embarked for South Africa. We feel a bit bereft, watching them go, but will wait a few more days for hopefully a slightly more comfortable ride. Meanwhile the first tropical storm of the year is closing on Mauritius, though should not touch us here. We're keeping an eye on it.

Elevation map of Reunion shows the Cirques as a 3-leaved clover, center, while the volcano still active today is on the east end of the island.

Cilaos is tucked high on an alpine plateau.

Cilaos wine celler sign.

400+ hairpin turns are the price of admission.

Wednesday market day at Le Port.


October 14 - Gob-smacking Mafate

With Estrellita in the rental car, we got an early start up to Mafate, the most interesting of the 3 cirques, partly due to rugged scenery, and partly due to its isolation. The valley floor is dotted with small villages, inaccessible except by foot. A few supplies are delivered by helicopter, but the terrain makes road building impossible. The same terrain makes this cirque a hikers paradise. The tiny villages on the valley floor host "Gites", backpacker bunkhouses, allowing hikers to trek from village to village, then up over the rim to other cirques for the bus ride out. We drove just to the rim for the gob-smacking view. In all our travels, this was a highlight for natural beauty. Mafate was named for an escaped slave/sorcerer who was tracked down and killed in the valley. A couple centuries ago, blacks escaping from slavery made their way to the cirques to establish these tiny outposts.

Hungry for lunch, we drove on the St. Pierre along a windy road that traversed the ravines. On the way we happened across a parapente launching high above St.Leu. Several hundred parasailers unfolded their colorful sails, straightened strings, and launched themselves with a running start off the hillside. Beginners went tandem, strapped to the instructors. At any moment many dozens were in the air, as the long drop to the ocean beach far below gives a very long glide. Glorious to watch. Dave wants to try it if we stay longer...

But we are starting to watch the first tropical storm of the year, headed slowly this way, due to arrive later this week with little wind but torrential rain. It may be time to move on. We are talking about jumping off tomorrow, for the 12-day or so passage to South Africa. The boats underway are motoring in light winds and flat seas.

Mafate...

Far below tiny villages dot the valley floor.

The hamlet of Oranges is the first hikers reach.

Then trails lead to other villages.

Mafate...

Insurance paid up?

We find the parapente launch site high above St. Leu.

And watch hundreds of parasailers launch.

Beginners are strapped to an instructor.

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