Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Reunion - 2012/10

Reunion on the Indian Ocean,  200 km from Mauritius i 700 km from Madagascar  is part of France, so ID card is sufficient to get there and you don't need to worry about the vaccinations. The flight from Paris takes 10 hrs. The winter, from May to November, is dry and temperature around 25 centigrade. The summer, December to April, is wet. The beaches are not as impressive as in Mauritius but there is spectacular scenery and lots of walking tracks - in other words it's ideal for the active holiday. The island is small, 70 x 50 km but the roads are twisted and steep therefore we were extremely surprised to discover that we done 350 km before we got to the bottom of the island.

Reunion population it's called Creole - there are mixture of French, African slaves, Chinese merchants that arrived here in XVII century and Indians who arrived here as a workforce after the slavery was finished. French is official language of the island but Reunion Creole is used as everyday language.
The cultural mixture is reflected in the cuisine, the specialty is bat curry but we couldn't find it in the restaurants.

The scenery is truly spectacular so we will keep the blog short and instead attache few photos. 

The most spectacular walking tracks are three trails: Cirque de Salazie, Cirque de Cilaos and Cirque de Mafate. It takes 3-5 days to walk each of them stopping for a night in the remote villages. We couldn't do that as it was last minute trip for us and we didn't get time to get our walking/sleeping kit together, therefore ended up doing one day trips.

After overnights 11 hrs flight we spent whole day sleeping in St Denis, the capital of the Reunion Island. We found the town disappointing with few impressive colonial buildings surrounded by the new development. The restaurants seem to have a very nice ambiance but were very iexpensive, therefore our first day passed sleeping and eating take away pizza.

On the second day we woke up early and headed to Salezie, where we aimed to go for a short walk to the view point but ended up doing all they trail La Belier parking - Col de Fourche - La Nouvelle - Col des Beufs (part of the Cirque de Salezie). Our moods improved and we knew we are in the right place for us and it's going be great holiday.
On the way back in the evening we stopped at Hell Burg - very laid back village.

Next 3 days we spent on the West Coast, in Entre Deux - the place we've stayed was spectacular with the swimming pool, great deco but a bit too far to the attractions we wanted to see (but because we've booked late everything else was busy). 
On Sunday we went to Grand Basis (known as well as lost valley) - the incredible view point, almost like the opening scenery in the Jurassic Park film. Sunday for the locals is family time, all families flog to the picnic spots since early morning arriving with the cars full of portable grills and lots of food. There are many stalls not selling souvenirs but fruits and food - we loved it.
But admiring the view was not good enough so we decided to walk down - don't ask us why. The village at the bottom was ok but not spectacular and we had to do 600 m on the very steep ascent which took us over 2 hrs and then we needed to climb it back up. The view from the top was much nicer.

The biggest attraction of the island is volcano Piton de la Fournaise, which last erupted in April 2010.
First we've drove 30km watching forest changing into tundra to arrived at Plain des Sable parking with the moon like landscape, shaped by the magma without any flora. This was beginning of 5hrs = 14km returned hike to the crater rim. We started descending 527 steps till we arrived to uneven lava field. We've enjoyed the day, although I guess after visiting Lanzarote so many times and climbing Vilarica volcano in Chille (active volcano with the ice cap at the top with smoke coming out from the crater)  we were not as impressed as other travelers 

Out next stop was Cilaos at altitude 1,200 m at the bottom of not active volcano Des Neiges 3070 mnpm - the road there was very twisty, only 33km but according to our travel guide 422 bends - going out was a bit scary as we had semi trust in our rented car so we concentrated on the road rather than scenery and on way back when we were much more relaxed we couldn't admire the view as it was foggy and rainy.
Once there we decided to do there Col du Taibit trail, 4.5hrs return, where the Cirque de Mafate and de Cilaos meet. On the top we had 2hrs nap and our own picnic (we not likely to forget the gigantic avocados from the loacal market we eat there for lunch). And then the clouds arrived and it was time to go back.

Last 3 days we spent in the beautiful wooden bungalow with the ocean view in the middle of the fruit plantation - we could easily get used to to such a luxury

Mike couldn't resist some mountain biking and went for a mountain biking from volcano Maido at altitude 2200m  to Saint Gilles. He finished in one piece with only one crash and few scratches on his hand.

Our time in St Gilles included doing nothing, being lazy,  walking and sun bathing on the beach, The water was warm and clean but unfortunately the beaches were the only thing getting the island down a bit, a bit too gravely and rocky.

On the last day we went to Maido view point, part of the Circle de Malafate, We couldn't get to the top as the road was too narrow and lots of cars were parked on the both sides (it was Saturday and many families came here early to get the best spots for the picnic)  - so we ended up walking last 4km. By the time we arrived to the top the clouds disappeared and we could see the blue sky.
Once we were there, the island biggest sport event was just passing through Mafate (which could explain so many cars parked) Grand Raid - this is off country run across whole island, 162km mainly on the mountain trails. The best athletes can finish in  24hrs but most needs much more time.

10 days in Reunion passed quickly and relaxing. We found the Reunion interesting and different, it's very french island with only few people speaking English and quite unspoiled (McDonalds and Starbucks didn't manage to concur it yet). It is a great place to visit if you enjoy walking and want to go away from the big city chaos. Interesting that Reunion is only popular with French and not well publicises in the rest of Europe.

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