Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mountains & Volcanoes

The moment you see this island, its volcanic heritage is brutally obvious.  Geologically younger than the other Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Rodrigues etc), Reunion is aggressively sloped, with level country only around the shore line.  There is a lot of flat land, however those flats are almost all tilted, being the long extended lower slopes of the mountains, and covered with sugar cane.  As you move higher into the mountains the sugar cane disappears.  Scattered dairy farms eventually give way to pine forests and then the rugged beauty of Reunion becomes evident.

Hiking trails are everywhere, the mountain villages are peppered with guest houses and it seems everyone escapes to the cool climate and staggering beauty of the hinterland.  Driving into the hills requires patience and perseverance, with hundreds of switch backs and hairpin bends and many one-way road sections.  The narrow one-way tunnel sections were a new experience - reversing out of those would be a nightmare.

We were lucky to meet a sailing family from Reunion  - Patrick, Valerie, Greg & Jonathan Lange - when we rafted alongside their boat in Port Louis, Mauritius.

They promised to entertain us in Reunion, which they certainly did.  Within 48 hours of our arrival Valerie Lange had us hiking through the dark across a massive lava flow to see the currently active volcano.

Right here I have to pause and make some facts very clear.  Firstly (on the plus side), Ley has always wanted to see a volcano - it was very near the top of her bucket list.  Secondly, we are not really keen or practiced hikers.  Finally, we were both carrying injuries sustained on our passage from Chagos to Rodrigues, and our mobility was questionable.

So we agreed to go when smiling and affable Patrick said the walk was "only 30 minutes or so".  Of course when we reached the end of the access road Valerie (also smiling) announced that it was "only a 90 minute hike each way".  Tricky understanding these French speaking Reunion people - it must be the language.  We just couldn't turn back .... and are glad we didn't.

No We Were Not This Close - This beautiful Image Was Taken On The Night We Were There

At 2631 meters above sea level,  Piton de la Fournaise is the world's third most active volcano.  Rugged is clearly an understatement here.  Stunningly beautiful is all we can say. For more images click here

New Life In The Old Lava Flow
We hiked in to the crater rim in the late afternoon, along with several hundred other masochists, and stayed until after dark ... the hike back across the rough black lava field with no moonlight was "interesting".

Temperatures were dropping towards zero, a real shock to our systems.  Of course we didn't have enough warm clothing.  Valerie supplied "trail food" - sausage and cheese of course - and we used our Pelican waterproof flash lights for navigating. In fact it wasn't really a tough walk, and it ticked another one off Ley's bucket list.  Our thanks to Patrick and Valerie for sharing their spectacular island home with us.
Valerie & Ley Before The Cold Night                                                    



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