Classic Camera Collectors Club
Informatif website of Frank Lakiere
La Réunion is a very small island in the Indian Ocean and it is a French department (DOM = département Outre-mer).
Its nearest neigbours are the better known touristic island of Mauritius and somewhat further away you have the island of Madagascar.
La Réunion is in fact the top of a long-since dead vulcano, the Piton des Neiges, with its top reaching some 3000 meters above sea-level.
Next to this vulcano there is a still very active one, named Piton de la Fournaise (2631 m). This is one of the most active vulcanos in the world with an outburst every 2 to 3 years. Because the Piton de la Fournaise is a vulcano of the Hawaiian type with very liquid lava, it is a very impressive but not so destructive vulcano. In La R&ecaute;union the Piton de la Fournaise is just called "the vulcano".
DAY 1 (saturday 6 sept 2007): Antwerpen - Saint Denis
Not many charters are flying directly to La Réunion and most are flying only from French airports.
It is advisable to book your flight long beforehand. We have booked with Air France (approx. 900 EUR pp) and this includes a ticket for the TGV Brussels-Airport Charles de Gaulle.
At 08.00 we take a taxi to the railway station of Antwerp en from there we take the train to Brussels, where we change to the TGV.
At our arrival in Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport we have to take the bus to the Orly airport. This is an hour on the périphérique around Paris> When we arrive at Orly we can check in and have some 2 hours to spend looking around Orly airport.
The Boeing 737 leaves on time for an 11 hour flight. Luckyly the seats are only taken for one third and so everyone has plenty of space to lay down to sleep.
In the time-zone of La Réunion it is 2 hours earlier than in Western Europe and so we arrive around 05.30 in the Roland-Garros airport of Saint-Denis. We get our luggage and take a cab to the Rue des Sables where we arrive around 06.30 at the Pension des Sables.
Naturally everyone is still fast asleep and all we can do is walk a little further to the beach and admire the sunrise over the Indian Ocean, tired but satisfied that we are finally there.
When the island awakens we take a room in Pension des Sables, that was recommended in Lonely Planet. Most of the times you can depend on the Lonely Planet guides but this time they are very wrong! This pension is rather cheap (20 EUR) but you get also very little for that price: a room with just a double bed and furthermore no furniture. Blind walls with only one little window that looks out on the passage.
To avoid having a jet-lag we first try to sleep for a few hours but around 10 o'clock we are awakened abruptly. The manager of the pension, a young man, is a great music lover, especially of very loud music. So his music installation plays as loud as it can. We decide to go out ASAP and to come back as late as possible. The pension des Sables is certainly NOT to be recommended.
As we have the intention to go across the island in 2 weeks we have a little tent, a sleeping bag and an air-mattress with us.
But we decide to sleep in a gîte once in a while. Therefore we go to the Tourist Board in the rue Pasteur for more information. They tell us that the best place to book the gîtes is at Maison de la Montagne.
So we walk to the Place Garriga, where we arrive just at the moment that the office is closing. The Maison de la Montagne closes on saturday at 12 a.m.!
So we hurry back to the Tourist Board. The people there are very friendly and they try to make reservations via the internet.
That is faster said than done, but in the end - after more than an hour of trial and error - we finally have some reservations on paper.
The rest of the afternoon we stroll along the busy streets of Saint-Denis. We have a look at the Petit Marché (= little marketplace), a colourful market with vegetables, fruit, flowers and stuff for tourists.
Of course we go to find out about local beverages and we drink a kind of lager from the local brewery Bourbon. The bottles have an image of a dodo bird on the label. And so if you want to drink this beer you just ask for a dodo.
The difference with the regions in southern France are not so big. That is of course partly because the language and the culture is French and the religion is mainly catholic, although there are also a lot of muslims and hindoes.
The clothing is mostly western and the cars you see are very recent models of European, Japanese and American manufacturers. So Saint-Denis doesn't give you a culture schock like you have when arriving in for example Kathmandu.
In the evening we go to the restaurant Les Jardins du Maroc and have a nice oriental meal.
DAY 2 (sunday 7 sept 2007): Saint Denis - Mamode Camp (1200m)
Sunday morning 09.00 o'clock and Saint-Denis is still asleep. We are lucky that the bakery around the corner is alreay open. So we can have croissants and coffee for breakfast and we take some bread and cheese for the road.
After this the heavy work begins!
The rue de Paris, the most important street of Saint-Denis, leads us to la Providence. At the Jardin de l'Etat, a botanical garden, we have a little rest and a coffee on a terrace and then we say farewell to the "civilised" world.
We follow the waymark to the Office National des Forêts and soon we are on the way to le Brûlé.
The mountain path is well marked. The sun is burning on our back and climbing the sometimes steep path through the woods is hard work.
Our guidebook tells us that it is only 6 km to le Brulé and that should take us around 2 hours. But we are quick to learn that we shall exceed this. We soon realize that it takes us around 50% more time than what is mentioned in the guidebook .
So after 4 hours (3 hours hiking + one hour stop to eat and rest at noon) we reach le Brûlé, where the local youth is playing pétanque on the square next to the church. According to the guidebook there is a shop and a restaurant. We ask the people at the square and they tell us that the shop is closed on sundays. And since the restaurant is in fact part of the shop it is also closed. That means that we cannot have a cold beer now nor warm food for the evening.
The only thing we can get is drinking water at a tap on the square.
After a rest we go on in search for a place to set up our little tent. And it is not so easy to find a camping place. At this point the GR2 is a rather busy asphalted road and camping next to it doesn't seem very attractive.
At around 18.00 h we reach Camp Mamode, a touristic place where there are many picnic places in the woods.
Here we finally find a place for our small tent. For evening meal we have some dry biscuits and water.
A bit later the sky darkens and it begins to rain. So all we can do is get in our sleeping bags.
Today we have walked 7 hours and climbed 1200 meters. We are tired and listening to the pouring rain we ask ourselves what tommorrow will bring.
DAY 3 (monday 8 sept 2007): Mamode Camp (1200 m) - Plaine des Chicots (1830 m)
We don't sleep well at all. The whole night it kept on raining but it finally stopped at sunrise.
We have a quick breakfast with bread, dry sausage, some biscuits and water and then pack our things and go further on the GR2.
The road now enters the woods. The trees are still dripping after the abundant nightly rain.
There also is not one place where you can have a rest on a bench. And it gets worse when it starts raining again. The path is muddy and very slippery. We walk carefully, but our clothes are getting dirty and wet, and we are cold to the bone.
Around 11.00 we arrive at the gîte of Plaine des Chicots. A gîte de montagne has certain rules and one of these is that everyone has to leave the hut at 10 a.m. and the gîte opens again at 3 p.m.
Here the manager or "gardien" is keeping strictly to this rule. So we are not allowed to enter before 3 p.m.
We try to find some shelter on the patio of one of the huts and get a little warmth by sitting close together.
Our expectation of the weather on a tropical island was very different from this!
For lunch we have some biscuits, a muesli bar and water.
Some minutes before 3 p.m. we may eventually enter the hut and we can take a warm shower. It finally stops raining and in the sunshine we enjoy a few hours of really warm weather. The trees in the vicinity of the gîte are covered with very long moss. It is called Beard of Saint Anthony ("Barbe de Saint Antoine").
Somewhat later a French couple shows up, followed by a Swiss couple and a single Italian.
For dinner we have a punch with rhum, soup and then a 'carry' with chicken. This is a standard menu for all the gîtes, although it normally also includes a bottle of wine. After the dinner we talk for an hour or so and then we go to sleep early.
DAY 4 (tuesday 9 sept 2007): Plaine des Chicots (1830 m) - Dos d'Ane (930 m)
During the night it has been raining again, but in the morning the sun is there! After breakfast (a paquet of biscuits, jam and lots of coffee) we are on the move again. The path is first going through woods with very large spider webs (like cart wheels) over the path and in the centre of the web you have a very large spider. It is a bit creepy.
And with all the rain the path has lots of very slippery places...
Around 10.00 we stop to eat and rest at an open place in the woods. The sun shines and we have a nice view on the surrounding mountaneous region. And then suddenly the fog is coming and it becomes thicker and thicker, until you can only see a few meters ahead. Today this is an advantage because further on we have to follow a small path on a high mountain ridge. At the right side of the ridge we have the Plaine d'Affouches several hundred meters deeper and on the left we have the Cirque de Mafate. And the ridge is very small indeed! As I am afraid of heights I would feel miserable in this place, but with this fog I cannot see the deep abyss on both sides of the path.
We pass this narrow ridge without difficulty.
Later in the afternoon the mist dissappears and after some more ridges we can see Dos d'Ane far below us.
It is quite a long and steep descent before we reach the little village and have a beer at the hotel-restaurant "Le Pilon d'Or" . The owner is a very nice guy. And with the not very positive experience at the gîte yesterday we decide to stay at this hotel.
It will cost us some euros more, but for that we have the luxury of a room with bathroom and clean linnen. It all becomes even better : after a walk in the vicinity the owner surprises us with a dodo and fresh deep-fried "samoussas", a kind of little loempias. Very tasty!
The Dinner is traditional carry with duck, beansoup, rice, salad and a dodo.
DAY 5 (wednesday 10 sept 2007): Dos d'Ane (930 m) - Aurère (910 m)
We both have a rather restless sleep and at 07.00 we are up for breakfast. This time no biscuits but fresh bread.
Half an hour later we leave this nice hotel. The owner shows us a shortcut to the GR2 and there we go back on the road again.
Next to the church the GR2 is marked with a big waymark with lots of information. It especially draws attention to the dangers: small and slippery path, danger of dizzyness, parts with ladders,... I am not reassured by all this!
But we are here and we will go on.
The path first descends steeply. It is more clambering than walking and we are progressing at about half the speed of our guidebook. The sun is shining high in the sky. Although we are on the shady side of the road, with all that clambering, we get warm and sweaty.
At several places the path is indeed very small. At these places an iron wire is fixed to the wall to give protection against falling. And sometimes there is a second wire on the side of the ravine.
There also is a steep ladder to climb but all in all the obstacles are not difficult.
At noon we eat and take a long rest. And we arrive at the Rivière des Galets around 1 p.m.
This place near the river is called "les Deux Bras" and the path now broadens and slightly ascends, but later it becomes steeper and steeper.
The sun is now right above us and shines on our back. It is really hot and we decide to have a rest under a tree and to stay there until the clouds will come. In the meantime I use the agaves as a support to dry my socks.
There is something unusual about the sun. As we are in the southern hemisphere it follows another course than we are used to. Like in Europe the sun rises in the east and descends in the west. But the highest point is at noon in the north!
Once the high clouds form a screen that protects us from the direct sunlight we go further. We have to descend to cross a little river and after that there is a very very steep climb, with lots of iron wires to hold on. We take a little rest after this climb and half an hour later we arrive at Aurère.
We drink a dodo in the local shop and buy some food.
Aurère has several gîtes, but only the Gîte Libelle François is open. The French couple that we met in Plaine des Chicots also arrives here later in the afternoon. They have followed an other route via la Roche Ecrite. As we all like to have a seperate room to sleep we set up a plan. Nathalie will tell the owner that we already met earlier but that I snored so hard that she didn't close an eye that night. She then asks if it is possible to have a seperate room.
And it is O.K. Both couples get a seperate hut. The rest of the evening is nice: lots of punch for dinner, a very nice carry with duck with a bottle of wine and then home-made cake for dessert.
DAY 6 (thursday 11 sept 2007): Aurère
The weather is brilliant but after yesterday's climbing party we decide that we need some recuperation. So we insert an extra day to rest. The gîte itself is O.K., the food is very nice and furthermore we have the possibility to drink a dodo in the shop closeby.
In the afternoon we go for a walk on the 'sentier panoramique' where we have indeed a panoramic view of the cirque de Mafate. We also telephone to the gîtes where we have booked for the following days to postpone our arrival. That is no problem since there seem to be very little hikers for the moment.
So tonight we are the only guests and the menu is more or less the same again : punch, carry with chicken, wine and cake.
At night the moon is much higher in the sky than in Europe. With full moon it is amazingly bright in the middle of the night.
DAY 7 (friday 12 sept 2007): Aurère (910 m) - Ilet à Bourses (890 m)
This night it has been raining lightly. It was more like a dense mist of very small raindrops. But the morning starts sunny. We first have a short and easy walk to Ilet à Malheur. In the mountain regions there are a lot of places called 'Ilet'. This means 'small island' and it alludes on it that these places are isolated and inaccessible. Even now the difficult mountain paths are the only roads in this regions. All trade traffic is done by helicopter. These are on La Réunion like the trucks for the interior transport of goods and even people.
To Ilet à Malheur is but a three quarter of an hour walk. In the little local shop we buy some cooled soft drinks and after a short pause, we begin the long descent to the river. We are lucky to walk in the shadow side for in the sun is it really very hot. By the river we have to cross a small bridge with a danger sign that it may be used by one person at a time only. And when we are at the bottom of the ravine we have to climb up on the other side, so this means with the sun burning down on us. We climb on a narrow ledge zig-zag upwards against the wall. On many places there is a steel wire in the wall for safety. It is hard labor!
After one and a half hour we finally reach the top and we rest for a while in the woods. The Piton Cabris is the highest mountain top around (1450 m) and he dominates the entire valley. When we reach the gîte we don't have to wait until 3 p.m. to enter. So we immediately take a delicious, but reasonably cold, shower. Later on we discover that this kind of showers furnishes warm water as you keep a knob pushed in for a while. Next to the gÎte there is a small 'bar' where they serve cool dodo.
We telephone to Cayenne to shift our reservation to 1 day later and in the evening we eat (you can guess it already) carry with chicken.
DAY 8 (saturday 13 sept 2007): Ilet à Bourses (890 m) - Grand'Place les Bas(530 m)
Around half past six we are awake and after the breakfast, we go for an easy walk to Grand'Place les Bas, also called Cayenne. It is a short walk with little height difference. We must descend and ascend a ravine only once.
In the valley near Grand'Place les Hauts somewhere in the distance someone has set its music installation so loud that the whole valley is full of music. Around 10.30 we arrive in Cayenne where we can access our room immediately.
The gÎte of Cayenne is beautifully placed on the edge of a ravine, hundreds of meters above the Rivière des Galets. There is a big terrace with reclining chairs and so we just lay in the sun and talk about what we will do the next days. We hear that the way to Roche Plate is rather difficult with a very very steep and dangerous climb at Mafate. The manager at Cayenne also tells us that the weather in the interior of the island is very bad. It rains heavily in the region around the Piton des Neiges and there is little hope that the weather will change in the coming days.
But the coastal region of Saint Pierre and Saint Gilles has nice sunny weather.
After some careful thinking we decide to change the route : from Cayenne we will walk to the coast and then go to Saint Gilles and Saint Pierre. From there we will go back to the interior and at Bourg Murat we will reach the GR2 again.
It is rather easy to come to Cayenne from the coast, because you drive by car until 'les Deux Bras' at the Rivière des Galets.
From there it is only a 3 to 4 hour walk to reach Cayenne.
In the weekends lots of people make this trip and so in the late afternoon it becomes rather crowdy. For the first time we have dinner with a large group of around 20 people.
DAY 9 (sunday 14 sept 2007): Grand'Place les Bas
Today is Sunday and the weather is brilliant. Before noon we descend to the river and we walk in the practically dry river bed. Afterwards we climb up again and have lunch and a little nap.
We also look around in Cayenne village. It is not much of a village : only one street in the middle of fields with corn, bananatrees and bamboe. At the edge of the wood the street is blocked and a sign forbids to go further. Due to land slides this road is too dangerous to use.
So we return and go to the only bar in Cayenne. We drink a dodo and buy some chocolate.
And while sitting there in a nearby tree we see an olive-green spectacle-bird. In the local Creole language this bird is called 'Z'oiseau vert'. It has the size of a finch, is olive-green and it has white rings around the eyes.
This bird is an endemic species (that means that it is only living in La Rèunion) and it is protected. Nevertheless later in Saint Pierre we see a shop where you can buy these birds for 42 EUR/piece.
DAY 10 (monday 15 sept 2007): Grand'Place les Bas (890 m) - Saint Gilles (zeeniveau)
After a good night sleep we get up at 6.40 and we have a breakfast with bread, jam and coffee. We already know the descent to the Rivière des Galets as we did this yesterday without our backpack. It takes us almost an hour to reach the river which we follow until the place called les deux Bras. We have been here already last wednesday on our way to Aurère. From here on we have to cross the river several times on stepping stones. The water is not deep but you have to be careful not to step in it. Walking with wet shoes is not a pleasant thing to do.
The road in the middle of the valley doesn't protect us from the burning sun. And although it is rather foggy all day it is also very warm. By noon we arrive at the village called Rivière des Galets. This village has a litlle store where we can choose from several kinds of cakes an we can also buy a cold dodo. After a rest we go further down the road to the coast.
We still have to walk for one and a half hour next to a very busy road to reach La Possession.
There are many holiday houses to let, but there is no hotel at La Possession. So we have to go further to Saint Gilles.
By bus it is only half an hour from La Possesion to Saint Gilles, which is the most renowned coastal town of La Réunion.
We check in at the hotel Ancre Marine in the centre of this little town (48 EUR/night breakfast included). We first take a shower and the go out to find a good place to eat and tonight it will not be the usual chicken carry !!
There are lots of nice restaurants in Saint Gilles. Finally we decide to go for a tropical salad as a starter and then have a spaghetti bolognese.
DAG 11 (dinsdag 16 sept 2007): Saint Gilles
During the night is has been storming and there also was a lot of rain. The morning is still windy and cloudy but the temperature is around 18°C. And with a little bit of sunshine the temperature soon reaches 25°C.
Outside the coast there are coral reefs that are battered by huge waves. All around there are pieces of coral, broken off from these reefs.
At noon we take a little nap and then go and stroll along the little harbour.
Normally we would have been in the gîte Caverne Dufour now and it was planned that tomorrow we should climb the Piton des Neiges. But in the local newspaper we read that inland, around Cilaos, the weather is very bad with lots of rain. We have a nice sunny afternoon here in Saint Gilles.
And in the evening we go to one of the nice restaurants to have a tasty dinner...
DAG 12 (woensdag 17 sept 2007): Saint Gilles - Saint Pierre
The morning is very sunny. The weatherforecast in the paper Le Quotidien predicts another rainy day for the centre of the island and some rain for the southern region.
Despite this forecast we have to go further south for we absolutely want to go to the vulcano.
The bus to Saint Pierre takes almost 2 hours because it follows an very curvy inland road.
Saint Pierre seems to be somewhat bigger than Saint Gilles, with a port for pleasure boats and a few shopping streets.
The hotel Le Nathania is situated close to the port and reasonably priced at 35 EUR/night for a room with a bath.
In the afternoon we stroll through the town and from here we can see the Piton des Neiges in the distance. The dark clouds are a sign that the weather is bad over there.
DAG 13 (donderdag 18 sept 2007): Saint Pierre - Bourg Murat (1560 m)
Today we have to leave the coast and go inland again. Straight through the island there is a road from Saint Pierre to Saint Benoit. This is the Plaine des Palmistes and it is a region with agriculture and farming.
Halfway we stop at Bourg Murat and check in at the Hotel du Volcan. Nearby there is an interesting museum (le Musée du Volcan) but we visit it at the time that several schoolbusses unload their load of teenagers. So it is rather busy but still we learn a lot about vulcanos and especially about the Piton de la Fournaise.
Later in the afternoon it is rather sunny but the evening is cold and damp.
That is not very promising for tomorrow...
DAG 14 (vrijdag 19 sept 2007): Bourg Murat (1560 m) - gîte du Volcan (2230 m)
Contrary to the expectations it is a sunny morning! Not really warm but nice.
In our guide the walk of today is described as climbing 1000 meter, descending 250 meter, walking time 5 hours 15 min.
We already know that we are much slower and so we hope to do it in approximately 8 hours.
First we have to take the bus to bring us to the place where the GR2 crosses the main road. From here the GR2 follows a path next to a military camp. At this very moment they are exercising because we clearly hear the noise of shooting in the distance.
When we finally reach a farm we have to leave the road and walk along damp meadows.
The path is very muddy and we have to climb dozens of times over the barbwire between the meadows.
It is raining and in the open field a very cold wind blows. The misty rain is freezing cold. This is not very tropical but the scenery is beautiful with lots of flowering white arums along the path.
After some 3 hours we reach the Piton Textor (2150 m). This is a picnicplace. In bad weather like this it is deserted. There are large covered barbecues. We try to make a fire and get some warmth . But the wood that lies around is too wet to burn and after some unfruitful attempts I stop trying.
Here in the open the wind blows even harder. So we quickly eat some biscuits and an energybar and go on. Now the path becomes more stoney and several times we cross the road from Bourg Murat to the the gîte du Volcan. Sometimes a car passes and though we could eventually try to stop it and let us drive to the top, we decide to go on by foot.
We pass the Bois Ozoux and reach a little chapel, the Oratoire Sainte-Thérèse (2410 m).
According to the guide we must have a stunning panoramic view and see not only the vulcano but also the river Rivière de l'Est and the Plaine des Sables. What we actually see is rain and fog that limits the view to some 20 meters!
We take a little rest before going on. First we have to descend along the edge of the ravine. It is rather steep but good for me the view is limited by hte dense fog. I don't think this is a happy experience for people with vertigo.
Hereafter we reach the Plaine des Sables and then we have to leave the GR2 and follow the path to the gîte du Volcan. It takes about half an hour and so we get at the gîte around 5 p.m.
First of all we drink a dodo and ask the patron about the weatherforecast. Last week has been very bad with lots of rain, fog and cold weather but the weather will improve and so it may be rather good tomorrow.
When we made the reservation, we were told that this gîte has only dormitories. Nevertheless I ask the patron if it is possible to have a separte room. He says that there are no two-person rooms but if we pay extra we can have 'the bungalow'. In fact this is a little building that stands alone in the garden. It has a two-person bed and a small bathroom. The walls are covered in red velvet and the roof has a fabric with a leopard-skin design. Really a romantic love-nest and that only for 50 EUR a night, breakfast included. Of course we don't hesitate to take it!
DAG 15 (zaterdag 20 sept 2007): Gîte du Volcan (2230 m) - Piton de la Fournaise (2631 m)
Today will be the absolute 'moment suprême' of our journey : the walk to the peak of the vulcano.
Because it is said that the view from the top is best in the morning we set our alarm clock at 5.30 a.m.
But what a disappointment! The sky is full of thick clouds and it is raining gently. The days before we have had similar weather and thus we know from our experience that there is nothing to see in such circumstances. We decide to go to sleep again and see how the weather will be later.
At 7.30 we go to have breakfast. Here we meet the Swedish couple that were at Plaine des Chicots on the first day of the walk. They have made the journey along the Piton des Neiges and Cilaos. They have had bad weather all the time. Yesterday they went to the Piton de la Fournaise and this also has been a big disappointment. This is their last day and they have to leave around 9 a.m. to go to the airport at Saint Denis.
It was a good decision in Cayenne to leave the interior and go to the coast!
At around 8 a.m. it is still raining a little bit, but when we reach the Pas de Bellecombe (2311 m) there is only some fog. To go near to the vulcano you have to descend some 100 m of stairs until you reach the Enclos Fouqé, a vast region between the Rempart de Bellecombe and the vulcano.
Now and then the fog is breaking and then you can see parts of the landscape.
Close to the Rempart de Bellecombe there is a small stand-alone vulcano, called Leo Formica. It is like a big heap of gravel and it has originated in 1873.
When we come closer to the Piton de la Fournaise the landscape ressembles a moonscape. At first there are still some small crooked shrubs but in the end there is only lava in different forms : very beautiful streams of rope lava (called pahoehoe) but also little craters and grots, like the Chapelle de Rosemont, that is almost halfway.
From here on it gets steeper and it is still a long climb tot the top.
The trails of fog and the vague light give a very mysterious feel to the landscape. We are really impressed!
From now on we meet people who have started earlier and they are already coming down.
These early birds had rain and very thick fog during their way tot the top. So they have missed the mysterious conditions that we saw when the fog was slightly less dense.
The sun now breaks through and with it comes the heat. When we reach the top it is already hot. We can look straight into the Bory crater (2631 m). Normally you can walk around the top and see another crater, the Dolomieu. But it is temporarily forbidden to go there.
The last eruption of the vulcano was only a month ago (22-23 aug) and part of the wall of the crater has collapsed. A young photographer has fallen down and was killed. So for the moment this part of the vulcano is closed because too dangerous.
From here you have a panoramic view on the vast plains at the foot of the vulcano and on the Rempart de Bellecombe that surrounds this plain like a 100m high wall. We stay there a while to enjoy the view and then go back.
We have no complaints about the weather : even the fog around the vulcano was there at the right moment. When we went back the fog had gone and with it the mystery that made it such an impressive experience.
We agree that this day has been the culminating point of the whole trekking.
DAG 16 (zondag 21 sept 2007): gîte du Volcan (2230 m) - Basse Vallée (610 m)
Because we read in our guide that the path to Basse Vallée can be very muddy we ask the patron if he knows anything about the conditions. We fear that it may be very difficult with all the rain that has fallen the last week. After a telephone call to the gîte in Basse Vallée we are reassured. The conditions are reasonable and it doesn't rain there for the moment.
It is also possible to leave with one of the cars but we decide to persevere and start the descent.
Our guide tells us that it takes 7h30 and that we have to descend 1780 m and climb 140 m. So we know that it will be a long and tiring day.
First we follow the edge of the Remparts de Bellecombe and now and then we can see the vulcano through the fog. After an hour we come at the crossing near Foc-Foc (1480 m). One road leads to Le Tremblet but because of the recent eruptions this path is closed temporarily. So we go to Basse Vallée, a path through bushes of flowering small shrubs and with the Piton Lardé at the horizon. Later there are woods of tamarind trees where we take a rest.
Here we see several "Z'oiseaux vert" but also a bright red little bird that we name "Z'oiseau rouge".
When we come to the Vall"e Heureuse ("Happy Valley") the conditions become even more wet and muddy. The guide tells us that this will be a 4 hour walk and so we assume that in these conditions it will take us some 6 to 7 hours.
The path is very slippery and sometimes there are deep muddy pools. In one of these muddy holes I slip and hurt my Achilles tendon. That does not help our descending speed.
In the end we reach the crossing of the GR2 and the Sentier Jacques Payet. From here we have an excellent view on the Happy Valley. At this precise moment it is spanned by a monumental rainbow.
We stay a while to admire this view and then go further along the steep edge of the valley.
The path is now overgrown with wild blackberries and prickly plants and seems to be used much. And as so often in La Réunion, when we reach the bottom of the valley we have to climb the other side. There also is a 10 m cliff that we have to climb on a broad ladder but then the path becomes less muddy. It now leads us through a woody area to the gîte where we arrive around 5 p.m.
DAY 17 (monday 22 sept 2007): Basse Vallée (610 m) - Saint Benoit (sea level)
This is almost the end of the trekking!
After breakfast we follow the shortest way to the sea and after a 2 hour walk we arrive in the village of Basse Vallée. On a terrace next to the bus stop we enjoy a cold dodo. And when we are on the bus to Saint Benoit we know that this marks the end of the trekking through La Réunion.
In Saint Benoit we stay in a little hotel at the seashore. From our room we see the Indian Ocean. In the sea lay big blocks of lava. And on these rocks we see small fish that jump in and out of the water. The locals call these fish "bichiques" and it seems to be a culinary speciality. When the high water comes into the rivière de l'Est these little fish flow up the river. Here they are caught in bow nets that are placed in the mouth of the river.
From Saint benoit we also go to Bas-Panon and visit the vanilla cooperative and have a nice meal in their restaurant.
The circle is closed when we are back in Saint Denis. With a Boeing 737 of Air France we return home.