Sign up your free travel blog today!
Email: Password:
Our Blog Our Photos Our Diary Our Movies Our Map Message Board

Buy Gift Voucher

Skiing in retirement
17th Oct 2014 - 30th Oct 2014 - Skiing in Africa 2014
On hiking in Reunion

"The hardest thing I've ever done, but alive to tell the tale: just" D.K. Thornhill

Armed with trekking poles (DK X 2: SS X 1), filled rucksacks and lunches for 2 days we took an expensive taxi half way up the 1700m hill to the first night's stop.  The day had turned to rain by 10:00am and we set off into the misty moisty forest.

A few hours later as the clouds broke we arrived at the gite too early to check in.  So off to the viewpoint we went - disapppointingly this provided views of clouds and not much else.

More fun was the prospect of a portaloo WC and shower, and a cosy bunk bed in the dorm. A meal of smoked pork kari, rice, lentils and cake and a night disturbed by snorers marked the end of day 1.

Day 2 started at 6.00am as the early risers broke camp, while we enjoyed the delights of breakfast of jam, biscottes, coffee / hot choc and a return to the viewpoint where we were able to peer timidly into the craters and across to the far peaks.  By 11:00 we were en route to Dos d'Ane (yes - donkey's back); mostly downhill through primary forest of tree ferns and other exotics, including tiny orchids and chirruping birds.  It was a memorable day's hike in fine weather with stunning views towards Mafate before we dragged our weary selves to Les Acacias B&B (fortunately finding a Dodo shop in the village).

Days 3 - 10 followed a similar pattern.  The photos provide more detail, but essentially our day goes like this:

06:00: awoken by other hikers fussing and shuffling around in the gite

06:30 - 07:30: breakfast: invariably bread, jam, coffee / chocolate / tea

07:30 - 12:30: hiking away from gite towards next gite on paths up and down, sometimes across a river

picnic lunch: bread, salami, cheese, tomatoes, onions, peanuts (wine on occasion)

13:00 - 15:00: hiking towards gite away from last night's gite - yep, on paths up and down, sometimes across a river

15:30 -  16:30 check into gite: allocated bunk in dorm with snoring German or French people. On good days get own room

16:30 - 18:30: chill out with a Dodo / Kindle/ pipe. Queue for shower (not always available and not always hot)

18:30: start lurking for dinner

19:00: dinner with convivialite. Rhum /  punch then soup or salad: followed by kari, rice, beans/lentils with piment and cake to finish

20:00 French people scurry off to bed while the only 2 English people in Reunion play Bananagram and talk with nice German people (if available)

21:00: lights out

21:00- 05:30: Communal snoring

Next: News from Abyssinia
Previous: From Africa to France in 3 hours 15 mins.

Diary Photos
17th Oct 2014  So, we begin in the rain
Having taken a taxi the first 1, 100m up the hill, we are in the rain

17th Oct 2014  Cloud forest
On the trail to first overnight stop

18th Oct 2014  Gite du Roche Ecrite
Somewhat a work in progress: note the portaloo and portadouche

18th Oct 2014  View from Roche Ecrite
On the morning of Day 2 at 1, 900m the viewpoint over the Cirque de Salazie

18th Oct 2014  Tree Ferns
The ferns are not really that big - Debs has shrunk overnight

18th Oct 2014  View into Cirque de Mafate
We are due to cross over to the far peak - hopefully

18th Oct 2014  Hobbit hole
A small figure suddenly appeared from out of a small hole

18th Oct 2014  Cirque de Mafate
A typical view of Reunion from the GR2

19th Oct 2014  Sunbathing Boots
Seems this is what you are supposed to do with them at the end of the day

19th Oct 2014  Begin day 3
Ready to shoulder backpacks

19th Oct 2014  A Tricky Step
Look Ma, no hands!

19th Oct 2014  Into the Cirque
We have to get to the other side of the mountain en face

19th Oct 2014  No Snakes - but Ladders
Sometimes up - sometimes down

19th Oct 2014  River Galet
Days 3-4 follow the course of the river

19th Oct 2014  Entry to Mafate
The whole island was once the dome of a vast shield volcano. The collapse of lava chambers formed the starting point for the creation of the 3 "Cirques". Rain-induced erosion did the rest

19th Oct 2014  Islet de Cayenne
Night-halt at end of Day 3. There are no roads into Mafate, so the villages are accessible only on foot (or helicopter)

19th Oct 2014  Creole-style gite at Cayenne
Our room on the left. During the evening a cat crept in, cra**ed and crept out again. Actually, it just stole the cheese. True. Until the late 17th century Reunion was uninhabited. Initial colonisation was from France and Madagascar, later by slaves from East Africa. When slavery was abolished in 1848 indentured labourers were brought in from India and China. All these factors led to a cultural melting-pot, with French dominating but with input from Malagasy, Portuguese, Tamil, Gujarati and Hindi origins. This led to the development of Réunion Creole culture, traditions and way of life

20th Oct 2014  View up to the Maido
Day 4 hike is just 3 km on the map. It took us 8 hours. Reason? Lots of ups and downs

20th Oct 2014  On the up
Jury is still out on whether up is better/ easier than down.

20th Oct 2014  Wild swimming
Yes, I did go in as well

20th Oct 2014  View up to Roche Plate
Our destination for the night is up there - somewhere

20th Oct 2014  Happy feet 3
No prizes for guessing who these beauties belong to

20th Oct 2014  Dodo spotted
Who said the Dodo was extinct? We knocked-off plenty

20th Oct 2014  Convivialite
Typical evening scene in a gite. Later it will be communal snoring

20th Oct 2014  Time for a tipple
Rhum is served in the gites. Usually as an aperitif. Many different varities are on offer - coconut, pineapple, banana, you name a local fruit, they turn it into rhum. All based on ample local supply of sugar cane. Marvelous! Chin chin

21st Oct 2014  Piton des neiges
Highest point on the island at 3, 030m and due to be conquered tomorrow - or is it the next day? Can't remember

22nd Oct 2014  Marla
Our final overnight in the Cirque de Mafate. Mafate is named after a runaway slave and sorcerer who sought refuge here. He was killed in 1751 by a hunter of runaway slaves. True. We did not encounter any hunters on our visit. Also true

23rd Oct 2014  Cilaos
Cilaos is a town in the middle of a Cirque of the same name. This is a view from our gite (end day 6)

23rd Oct 2014  Gite de La Roche Merveillouse, Cilaos
We paid between 19 and 24 euros/ night each (depending on whether it was a dorm or private room) Dinner and breakfast was usually about 25 euros each. So, not super cheap

23rd Oct 2014  Cilaos from 2200m
Took us about 4 hours to climb up here from down there

23rd Oct 2014  Gite du Caverne Dufour
The base for everybody who wants to get to the top of the Piton des Neiges (inc us). Very basic facilites: no hot water; no showers: only 2 semi-functional WCs for 50 people. Wonderful!

23rd Oct 2014  Summit of Piton des Neiges
Most people arise at 3:30 am to walk up from the gite to see the sunrise. Not us. Oh no. Taking aview on the weather, we opted to beat the crowds and go up in the afternoon. i.e we climbed 1, 800 metres up and 500m down during this 10 hour walking day (day 7)

23rd Oct 2014  Reunion summit selfie
Happy faces at the top of this modest peak

23rd Oct 2014  Piton des neiges cloudscape
Yes, snow has been recorded

24th Oct 2014  Grand Raid signing
Day 8. Our route co-incides with that of the Grand Raid. This is an annual "ultra-trail" race that crosses Reunion in the opposite direction to ours, using many of the same paths. This year there were 2, 200 entrants, and we met most of them today, coming the other way. As it was also raining this meant the path was churned to mud and our progress was much slowed by having to stand aside as groups of 30+ sweating lycra-clad thin people pushed past us. The race is 150km, goes up and down 9, 000m and was won by a French bloke in 23 hours. Yes, non-stop, through the night, no sleeping. (him, not us)

24th Oct 2014  Faire le stop
We came down from the Piton des neiges in the rain into the pastures of Les Plaines des Cafres. The last 3 km was along the road. Debs decided hitching this bit made sense, hence we find ourselves in the back of a sheep-farmers pick-up

26th Oct 2014  View across Les Plaines to Piton des Neiges
Rest day of saunas, hamams, museum of volcanoes and rest and grilled meat is over. Today its up to the rim of the Volcano - Piton de La Fournaise.

26th Oct 2014  Mobile Pharmacy
Day 9 and it's up the active volcano - Piton de La Fournaise. Debs is tucking into a heady mix of painkillers and anti-inflamatories. Yum Yum

26th Oct 2014  Memorial to a lost guide
During our rest day we visited the spanking new high-tec Volcano Museum. We learned about the demise of a former mountain guide, who lost his life on the Volcano. Today we pass his memorial.

26th Oct 2014  Mad Max 2
Well, that's the description given in the guide book to this part of the Volcano

26th Oct 2014  Route marker on the Volcan
Debs, not quite sure if she's coming (from Bourg Murat) or going (to Gite du Volcan)

26th Oct 2014  Lava Flows
A break in the mist and clouds reveals an exciting contrast in landscaps

26th Oct 2014  Yellow on grey
Amazing , what grows out of lava rock

27th Oct 2014  From Gite du Volcan
Dull, gloomy, misty when we arrived...bright and sunny in the morrning

27th Oct 2014  The Volcano
Piton de La Fournaise (2, 600m) is one of the world's most active volcanoes - erupting on average every 9 months. Last eruption was June 2014. Today was a quiet day. It's possible to hike up to the rim of the crater - but not that's not for us. Instead we can look down into the 'enclos foucque' - which sounds quite rude if you say it in a Franglais accent

27th Oct 2014  Rim of the foucque
Lots of lava to be seen

27th Oct 2014  Forgotten Forest
Day 10 is a long downhill stumble. First across barren lava , then into ericaceous scrub and finally into this magical primary forest. The magic is a bit worn 'cos its raining hard and treachorous underfoot

28th Oct 2014  Vanilla Pods
Vanilla is derived from these types of cultivated orchid. In 1841, Edmond Albius, a slave who lived on Réunion discovered at the age of 12 that the plant could be hand-pollinated. Albius’ manual pollination method is still used today, as nearly all vanilla is pollinated by hand. After Albius’s discovery, Réunion became for a time the world's largest supplier of vanilla. French colonists used Albius' technique in Madagascar to cultivate vanilla, and Madagascar remains the world's chief vanilla producer. When slavery was outlawed Albius left the plantation and later died in poverty having served 5 years in jail for jewellery theft. Sad, but true.

28th Oct 2014  GRR2 marker
It says the beginning - but for us its the end!

28th Oct 2014  Faire le Stop 2
End of the walk - but its 120km back to our hotel. No bus for 1 1/2 hours, so a-hitching we go. 2 hitches and one bus ride later and we check back into our hotel at 13:00

30th Oct 2014  Reunion ariel
We woz there
Diary Movies

View from Roche Ecrite


Heli drop

Piton des Neiges summit

Piton de La Fournaise

On the walk out

555 Words | This page has been read 37 timesView Printable Version