In love with all things natural and determined to broaden my horizons, I decided to take off for a few weeks.
28 September 2015 was then the date of my immediate departure to Saint Denis in the Reunion island. I covered 9,300 km on a ten hours flight to land on this small French island in the Indian Ocean. Our program included 15 days of active holidays with a group of eight people guided by a local guide. If you are wishing to have some adventure come with me to explore this jewel. I will take you through its hiking trails and we will also find some space for a few cultural visits.
Our first pier was at L’Ermitage les Bains, a resort on the west side of the island. We picnicked on the beach, at the margins of a lagoon, and experienced our first feeling of well being!
On our second day we drove through a small road along the sugar cane fields (which were higher than our car!) to reach the trail for our first hike that would take us to Bassin la Mer. This was our first encounter with the vegetation in the island. We had fun with the taro, whose leaves are hydrophobic. 2 persons, 2 leaves, a small amount of water, and a small improvised game starts! Happiness is in the simple things! After exploring the basin from below we climbed up to gorgeous views of the pond.
After so much joy, we headed to a visit of a vanilla cooperative where we had the opportunity to observe the process of fertilisation of the vanilla flowers. The pistil makes contact with pollen through an artificial process, with the help of men. Bees, usually in charge of this task in nature, live only in Mexico. By the way, did you know that vanilla is actually an orchid?
We spent the night at a cottage in Hell-Bourg, which looks nothing like a village of hell. The village got its name in homage to one of the Island’s governors. Located in the department of Salazie it is ranked amongst the most beautiful villages in France. This is the departure point for our first serious hike – the ascent of the ramparts of Bélouve. The weather kept oscillating between showers and some sunshine. The rain kept falling and it was foggy. With the belief that the weather would open up, we took a smaller trail to the impressive viewpoint at Trou de Fer. After a few minutes patiently waiting, the magic happened, the clouds disappeared and we were amazed at the sight of the huge waterfall.
The following day we took the road towards the extraordinary Cirque Mafate, the wildest and most isolated of the three calderas that make up the heart of the island. It isn’t connected by any road and can be discovered only by the most ancient of all means of transport: walking! We reached our cottage after three hours of walking, located at the Ilet de la Nouvelle. These islets consist of some isolated hamlets having only a few cases (Creole for houses). Electricity is generated by the sun, so each house is equipped with solar panels. The grocery store and bakery are supplied by helicopter. We felt disconnected from the rest of the world. Nestled in this peaceful place, with so much grandeur before my eyes, a feeling of plenitude invaded me. Could you imagine what it felt like to be sitting in the grass, contemplating those ramparts all around you and listening to the sound of nature? It was 6 pm, when night started falling and we still hadn’t moved. The beauty of light and darkness, was there before our eyes: a bright sky with a thousand shinning stars. We would like to be able to stop the time, so that this moment could last forever.
The next day, woken up by the rooster singing, we put on our sneakers and we went to Marla and next to the Grand Bassin, a small Eden nestled deep in the depression. There, we shared a beautiful moment of conviviality with the landlord, who opened up his kitchen and taught us some basics of the Creole cuisine. We found out that the Creole cuisine is a reflection of the island: refined, intense and explosive. Chili lovers, this is for you!
Close your eyes. Imagine yourself as an astronaut landing on the moon. You can open them now: you are at the Plaine des Sables. First view of this vast lunar expanse with reddish highlights. The road then gave way to a dirt track. The view was magnificent, on one side a sea of clouds, overhung by a pastel-coloured sky and magnified by the rays of the setting sun; on the other, the enclosure of the volcano. A magical and intense place, which filled us with emotion.
Before leaving for Pas de Bellecombe, we decided to take the trail to admire the volcano overnight. We were caught by this growing desire to see the eruption closer. We were amazed by the force of nature, only the roar of the volcano was audible. From far away, the lava flow looked like a city lit by lanterns at night. It was beautiful, I would have stayed there all night but the cold was beginning to numb my body.
We took the bus to reach Cilaos, a small mountain town dominated by the Piton des Neiges, located in the heart of the third caldera. We departed early in the morning to practice some canyoning! It is one of my best memories. A perfect activity to excel oneself, provided one does not suffer from vertigo, and to discover the island from a new perspective.
To conclude this trip, we stopped at the small outdoor Saint Pierre’s market, a festival of scents and colours. In one part of the market there were fruits, vegetables, spices and condiments. In the other part there were to crafts: basketry, jewelry and embroidery. We tasted several of the market’s products (chicken, samosas, pickles, coconut) on the beach of Etang Salé, a black basalt beach.
This small territory unites a large diversity of landscapes and cultures. It is for me one of the destinations in which one can experience a world trip in a few days. I am bewitched by the charm of this small piece of land. I am overwhelmed by a mix of emotions. I felt so well there, that something tells me, I will go back soon.