02/11/2015 – Exploring La Reunion

Wednesday also threatened rain but, undeterred, we set off to visit the Cirque de Salazie, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally the island was created by the eruption of Piton des Neiges, now dormant for about 30,000 years. Three large craters collapsed, rivers cut twisting gorges through the rock and the cirques are the remnants of the craters. Two have roads twisting and climbing to the villages established in them, the third, Mafate, has only footpaths leading in. This latter one is a mecca for walkers with accommodation available, needless to say we didn’t visit it! Not unusually, we were in the outside lane when the very poorly sign posted exit sped by but, according to the map, the next turning was an alternative approach. It was until they closed the river bridge for rebuilding! We did, however, find a road leading up to a view of the Cascade du Chien, quite a big waterfall, and further to a viewpoint. By this time the rain had started falling quite heavily so there was no point in walking to the viewpoint as the visibility was poor. ‘Road ’is perhaps a misleading description; yes it had a concrete surface most of the way up, but it was a single carriageway shared with sugar cane lorries and buses! It was also almost continuous hairpin bends. Once we descended to the main road we went back to find the Salazie road. As expected it was very twisty, with many very high waterfalls. Salazie itself was a bottle neck but Hell Bourg was quite a pretty village. There was no point walking to a viewpoint because the rain, though intermittent, had seriously affected the visibility. We returned to Le Port via the road between the two volcanos, Pitron des Neiges and the active Piton de la Fournaise. Thursday morning we set off to visit the Cirque de Cilaos with, allegedly, the twistiest road of all even though it is classified N5 and coloured red on the map unlike the minor road to Salazie or the track to Cascade du Chien! The road was a fantastic feat of engineering, including tunnels, single track sections and one 270 degree turn, rising so you pass over the road you approached the turn on. The sunshine made a big difference to our enjoyment of the cirque. The village of Cilaos was very pleasant, with some interesting shops. The speciality of the village is a form of embroidery known as ‘jours de Cilaos’, it is very intricate and I’m not sure my eyes are up to it but I bought a book anyway. The tourist office recommended a viewpoint 10 minutes drive away, it didn’t disappoint. Below us on separate plateaux you could see the several small hamlets, all around the peaks of the mountains rose up above us. It was stunning. Back at Le Port we went to a Halloween Party at the café/bar, the food was very good and the variety of costumes amazing. The downside was that Immigration were expected at 6.30 the next morning! We were up in time, they were late, so we set about taking the genoa down and pulling the jib up instead as we are expecting some head winds. The genoa refused to drop, the swivel was jamming on the forestay, a problem last experienced when we picked up our last boat in Corfu in 1993! That furler had screws holding the sections of foil together and they did have a habit of coming loose. The Seldon one has rollpins and one had slipped out slightly. Now we know where the two I’d found on the deck at different times came from! We got the sail down by transferring the halyard to the head of the sail instead of the swivel then John went back up the mast to knock the pin back in when there was no load on the forestay. Mission accomplished, the jib was then raised and rolled away. The rest of Friday was spent doing boat jobs and returning the hire car before the Skippers’ Briefing. Earlier on Friday we had received an e-mail from Rally Control in Cowes stating that the leg to South Africa would be non-competitive, suggesting that the slower boats should leave as early as possible but that the faster boats might benefit from delaying their departure in an effort to avoid the worst of the headwinds expected south of Madagascar. We left the dockside at 0900, an hour earlier than originally planned. La Reunion is a lovely island which we have thoroughly enjoyed, not just because it is France with baguettes, good cheese etc. Sadly the weather wasn’t all we might have wished but that is in the lap of the Gods. Joyce

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