Thursday, December 15, 2016

Simon on the island of Reunion

Day 1:
I was leaving Saint-Denis heading straight to the south on some broad but pretty steep hiking path.
Quickly gaining higher ground I got a beautiful view over the city and the coastline, until finally the forest got thicker.
Passing the village of Le Brûle, where the local youth was having some kind of party, I reached the area of Camp Marmode in the late afternoon and set up sheler for the night.
Marmode is a leisure area on the border of the national park, which provides some wells and also prepared fireplaces.
I had a meal of rice & bread and went to sleep in my hammock.

Day 2:
The night was uncomfortable cold, and I realized thaht the jungle sleeping bag is on it's limits up here in the hills.
I made a strong black coffee to heat up myself and got ready to move on. At least the last-minute homemade alcohol stove is working great.
The terrain got even steeper today, with a lot of ups and downs. Finally, the decent into the valley of the Galets river began.

Day 3:
Getting to the bottom of the alley took me until nightfall yesterday, and my camp for the night was just the hammock between two trees on the edge of the river,
quickly thrown together in the darkness. Nevertheless, sleep was good this time, and today was a nice and easy hike following the river into the basin of Mafate,
which is still without a connection to the road network of the island and supplied fully by helicopters and people carrying their stuff over the mountains I crossed the last two days.
Passing the villages of Cayenne and Ilet de Beos, where I bought a bottle of ice cold Coca Cola from a little grocery shop located in a reed thatched hut by road. I found a nice spot for the night in a little pine forest.
Setting up hammock and mosquito net gest some kind of routine by now, and since the weather was good and no rain in sight I didn't setted up the tarp most nights.
A meal of lentils and sausages was prepared quickly and I later fell asleep to the sounds of drums and singing from the nearby village.

Day 4:
Today I went through the swampy rainforest in the Grand Sables area, realized the expected shelter place is no good and pushed on to the town o Hell Bourg.
I hitchhiked the last kilometers once I got out of the jungle into a more rural area and even got a neat and cheap accomodation in one of the typical creol wooden cabons. A hot shower and a hot meal served by the owner completed the day.
What I realized today is that the influence of the french goverment does not reach into the backcountry of the island, and fortunately also the french attitude is gone here. This is africa, and somehow I don't think that has to be bad.

Day 5:
I stocked up my supplys in Hell Bourg, mainly fresh fruits and cans of thuna. I also made the decision to bypass the Piton des Neiges (highest mountain on the island), because I'm doing already enough meters up and down every day.
(On a note, I returned two weeks later to the center of the island just to get on top of that mountain.)
For almost the whole day I followed a dirtroad that was created timber workers. I reached Camp Bebour, an old sugar cane farm that is abandoned now. A thick fog covered everything and the humidity condensated on the walls and clothing.
I assembled a makeshift bed in one of the empty buildings using parts of old üalettes and a loose door. I expected rain for the night so it was good to be indoors.

Day 6:
The weather was clear again the next morning. I hiked further south, and the rainforest opened up to a steppe-terrain with a few cattle farms in the wide open. On the horizon I can now see the vulcanious ridges of the Piton Fournaise.
While forcing myself up that ridge that seperates the vulcanious desert from the steppe, at arround 2000m above sea (consider the whole trip started at the coast)it got really sunny, and I realized that I left the clouds below me.
Seeing some of the huge peaks in the slowly setting sun above the ocean of clouds was an amazing view. I also marks how the area arround the vulcan got more and more sureal.
I started to run out of water when I reached the high point of the ridge, so I decided to continue the decent on the other side, into the desert, by night. I would sweat less and I knew the next cottage is not even a days march away.
After reaching the desert flat at arround 4 in the morning, I placed myself under some crippled small trees, rolled my sleeping bag out and napped for a few hours. The sky up here was amazing, it was a almost full moon and the stars
were so different from my home on the northern hemisphere. Thankfully, the lava sand was still warm from the heat it absorbed during the day. While gazing at the stars, I realized a strange red shine on the south-eastern horizon.

Day 7:
I was back on the trail by 7, crossing the desert towards the east and heading straight for the cottage. My waterbottles were all empty, and I now and then ate some pieces of the orange I had bought in Hell Bourg.
I reached the cottage by noon, gladly refilled my waterbbottles at the tap, andgot me a cup of coffee at the little tourists shop. There were a lot of tourists, and as i figured out, the red shine I saw last night was an ongoing eruption
of the vulcan. Which is an absolutely amazing sight. Seriously, it makes you feel small and hubmle. It is beautiful, yet intimidating.
There was a bushfire due to the eruption, and I decided to move to a safe shelter until the way to the southern coast was safe. Two hours to the north of the vulcan was a little hut next to a cattle farm, were I was away from the tourists,
had a steady supply on water through the waterhole on the farm, and the hut provided shelter.

Day 8:
It was stormy today, so I spend most of the time inside. Did some repairs on my gear, cooked 2 hot meals and finished "The Heart Of Darkness". I decided to dump my long trouser, because it was ripped beyond any chance of stiching it up.
Still had a short one and it will only get warmer the more I get towards the coast. I harvested all buttons for my swing kit though.

Day 9:
Time to move again. I'm getting bored and my supplies low. Not the rice and lentils, but the tasty stuff. I once again passed the vulcan and went back into the desert. The air was a thick mix of fog and cold smoke, and the view less than 100m.
I followed little rock piles that marked the way through the black vulcanic desert. From time to time I passed burnt down trees, and as the view got better I could see the black cones of smaller, long gone cold vulcans.
I spent almost the whole day crossing this surreal wasteland, and when I setted up the hamock for my last night in the outdoors, it was almost dark. I was back in the rainforest again, and the night was filled with the sound of unknown birds
and insects.

Day 10:
It started to rain last night and I had a mouse that chewed on my backpack. With the first daylight that got through the dense treetops I packed up my stuff and got back on the trail. It was only going downhill and on a few occassions, I could see the ocean again.
The jungle reaches almost to the shore, and once it opened I had the black cliffs of Cap Merchant straight in front of me. I walked out to the edge, stood there in the salty breeze, heard the thunder of the rolling waves and knew I have made it.
I crossed the island of Reunion.

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