Monday, August 20, 2012

There's me on the stairs, the 1751 old volcano on the floor in front of the huge new  volcano. 

We rented a car for the weekend and it coincided with Barry’s birthday so off we went on another adventure. We drove along the south shore of the island then halfway up the east side before turning west and driving up to the middle of the island where the volcano is located, the top being over 8,000 feet.

Our first discovery was a lovely waterfall; we left the main road and wound through innumerable switchbacks across three narrow one way bridges and happened upon a lovely pool about 200 m below the falls, scrambling along the boulder on the bank we saw the horseshoe shaped falls. The east side is where the previous lava flows from the volcano have flowed into the ocean.
Barry with the car we rented in front of a fairly recent lava flow.  
The years of the flows were posted and there have been eruptions regularly in the last 50 years.  It was interesting to note the differing amount of flora that accumulated, a huge difference being perceived from the most recent eruption in 2007 and some lava that had been left in 1957 but even in the space of 10 years the difference in the amount of plant life was astonishing.

We came across a suspension bridge that was no longer in use.  We strolled along taking lots of pictures and took one look over the edge and figured out why they chose to close it!!!
The cable holding up the bridge, YIKES!!
As we drove up towards the volcano the fog closed in.  We had come up out of the main area of the switchbacks and were driving along a relatively flat plain.  The fog became very thick and we were crawling along about 15-20 km an hour, cars appearing with very little warning, the visibility was down to about 5 meters in places.  Thankfully we eventually came out of the fog and drove along in bright sunshine above the clouds for the rest of the way to the volcano.  One of the viewpoints was from a long high cliff top. There was a big flat wide plain, with very little vegetation, that the dirt road stretched across; it reminded us of the Dempster highway.  Once we crossed the plain we came to the volcano, we went and had a good look in case it was clouded over the next day.
Notice the switchback road in the foreground partly in the shadows.
We stayed at a gite or a rural house, what we would have called a backpackers hostel. There was a central building where there was a bar and served the meals.  They had about 4 of 5 cabins where there was a bathroom, a small sitting room and numerous bedrooms.  The room we stayed in was quite tiny and had 2 bunk beds stuffed in it, with very little room to move about.  We shared the room with a single English male and a single French woman.  It was not quite the romantic double bedded birthday treat I had imagined. The view was stunning though and we sat out on the balcony before dinner and shared a bottle of red wine and some nuts.  The evening meal was quite tasty; there was a soup and a creamed cauliflower entre then curried pork and a fish stew for the main dish as well as small slices of cake and the local rum liqueur for dessert.  Remembering we were over 7,000 ft high it was quite chilly, there was no heating in the cabins so I was very glad for the four blankets they had provided.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny and we set off for the volcano.  There was frost on the ground and I had socks, longish pants, a shirt, a sweatshirt and my jacket on to start the hike.  At first you went down a huge set of stairs over the edge of a cliff to the floor around the volcano.
A lava vent
The inside of this volcano
Notice the new darker lava flow. 
The path across the flats consisted of painted dots on the lava.  There were numerous vents along the way and a small volcano that had erupted in 1751. The walking wasn’t too bad, mostly on fairly flat smooth lava, occasionally going across newer jagged black lava that was a bit tricky to maintain your balance on.  Once we reached the base of the volcano we wound up and around to the opposite side to where the view point was.  This volcano is currently dormant on the surface, there were no bubbling pools or rocks being spewed up over the edge, but the hole was over a kilometre wide and over 400 m deep, a truly impressive hole in the ground.  Thankfully the interpretive signs were also in English so we were able to find out all sorts of interesting facts. Once again we were above the clouds, so although we could not see the surrounding mountains we enjoyed a clear view of what we had come to see.  Barry said this 5 hour hike was easier on his body than the last one we did.
We drove back down the mountain passing through the band of clouds again.  It was not nearly as thick as before and we were thankful.  It was a Sunday and we encountered lots of Reunionaisse as the locals are referred to, enjoying the day with a family picnic.  We had a lovely lunch in a local café we found and afterwards sat and sipped our coffee’s in the accepted leisurely French manner.
We are planning to head to Madagascar in the next few days.  Once we leave I will try and post our position daily so check on the link called “our position” to check where we are.  We are going to sail up to the north end and spend our time cruising along the west side, out of the prevailing winds.  We will be sailing with at least one other boat so once we arrive will have company in the anchorages.  Theft from yachts has been a problem there so we are hoping to discourage them by being in the company of others.
The marina, look at the whitecaps, and the surf, it blows like stink here most days,
we are glad of the seawall and the protection it offers.