Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 3 Reunion

We awoke to another sunny day and are going to head south down the east coast. While driving through St Denis back streets trying to find our way onto the freeway I got a little stressed trying to negotiate the traffic! I kept going and settled down when we found the correct road. Down the freeway through St Benoit and our first stop is St Anne where turning a corner in the road we came across this incredibly ornate church. We got out of the car and were a little stunned by the heat.  At the entrance to the church there was a little stall selling religious souvenirs and books, passing under the scaffolding (the church was under repair) I was struck by the stench...eww mold and stale wee. In we go and it is a fairly plain unadorned interior until we went into the side chapel of St Therese...WOW the painted plaster work was rather over whelming.

Next stop was the Suspension bridge over the l'Est river. This bridge was completed in 1894 and decommisoned in 1979.

After leaving St Anne we came to Piton St Rose where after a major eruption in 1977 the lava wiped out most of the town. One had to go looking for the areas without regrowth.

We headed off the main road to visit Anse du Cascades where the waterfalls come down the hillside to the bay.

We had not organised our lunch before siesta time so we stopped at the first restaurant we came across..."Belle Air". There were a few tables of customers sitting inside the open floor length windows...the breeeze being very pleasant on such a hot day. Lets say it is just as well we were not in a hurry as we arrived at about 1215 but did not get our main course until around 1330!! For 18 Euro we could have entree and main course so chose this option to check out local cuisine. Mike had Beignets au Fruit du Pain (battered bread fruit) served with chilli sauce and I chose Gratin of Fruit de Mer. Sounds exotic...was in fact unidentifiable seafood in white sauce, Mike's choice tastier. Main course I chose Cari Poulet...local curry chicken and Mike had Poulet au Vanilla, these were served with rice, lentils and rougail (chilli salsa). Again I made the bad choice, dry and mostly bones, Mikes chicken was caremilised with the vanilla and meatier. We decided against dessert or coffee as the afternoon was slipping away. As we left another customer sitting outside having a cigarette wished us Bon Journee! Merci. As we were getting into the car a man on the side of the road queried where we were going in french...quickly the woman who had wished us bon journee explained to him that we spoke again he asked in perfect english this time where we were going and where we were from? We had a short conversation before heading further around the coast toward St Phillipe. We came across lava flows dating from 1998 to 2004 all with varying stages of regrowth.

This little guy was representative of a lot of feral dogs we saw wandering the island. They were all scrawny and rather slow, we were amazed not to see more lying on the side of the road as they took no notice of cars!

At one point we could see steam coming off the was raining at the time but something under there was still hot!
We stopped in st Phillipe at an artisan bakery and bought a baguette, then down the road to the local fruit and veg shop to get a tomato and a couple of bananas for our tea.
By this time is was 1630 and time to head back to St Denis for the night, we decided to take the back roads in the direction of Foret du Mouravain and headed up into the hills through fields of sugarcane. Here as all over the island the gutters are extremely deep and wide to cope with the tropical downpours.

We climb quickly up into the clouds which have been sitting on the hills all day. The road is steep, twisty and narrow no one else is silly enough to come this way except a few cyclists! They ride everywhere even on the freeways! We see lots of signs warning of the danger of flooding and not to cross any ford if there is water over it! All the fords we had crossed so far were dry then the rain hit us, visibility was down to about 20 metres at times which made the driving rather treacherous! We crossed a couple of fords that now had water gushing under them. A 4 WD passed us and wagged his finger at us in warning...we soon found out why as the water was over the road and flowing very fast. Time to turn around and take a different road home.

We found a better road down to Piton St Rose and made it safely back to the freeway
and home to our hotel in St Denis by 1800. We were both exhausted from our days travels so lay down for a thing we know it is 2015...time for a tomato baguette and banana for tea. Next we download photos and check the email.
We had done some washing and hung it in the bathroom before leaving but with the door closed all day it was still quite damp so we brought it out into our room to dry off over night. Tomorrow we head around to the west coast to stay in L'Hermitage des Bains at La Vacoa.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 2 Reunion

We woke to brilliant sunshine and after breakfast headed south to Hell-Bourg which is in the Salazie Crater. I am driving and feeling quite comfortable driving on the righthand side of the road, we stop for gazoil and have a chat with the service station attendant, his english is good enough for me to ask him some directions to get to Hell-Bourg. No problem follow the highway to St Andre turn right, head for Salazie and keep going. His instructions are perfect so down the freeway we go getting up to speeds of 110km! We hit St Andre only to find the market in full swing and the main road through town closed off. So a slight detour through the back streets til we manage to get past the market then back on the road headed for Salazie and Hell-Bourg. This is where we start to hit switchback roads and incredible scenery, lush greenery coming right down to the road and cascades flowing off the hills also down to the road! 

First gear is required many times as we hit sharp steep corners. Arriving in Hell- Bourg we parked the car at one end of town and proceeded to explore. Walking down the main street Rue General de Gaulle. We stopped to buy some postcards and stamps wandered past some old creole buildings that have been restored down to the far end of town where we found a statue called "the Soul of France" which we had read about. She has had a few incarnations and quite an checkered history.

On past the statue we walked through a small park where council workers were working hard to keep the lush vegetation under control. As the park was on a steep bend in the road one worker was on the lookout with his airhorn ready to sound if any cars were coming down the hill as they were also trimming the roadside verges.  Back up the hill to the shops where we bought ourselves a sandwich ...baguette avec jambon et fromage. It was only 1130 but everything closes at 1200 for  2 hours! We then went into the fruit shop for a nice fresh banana as we were about to leave a tropical shower came down and we were caught briefly til it passed. On our way back to the car we got sidetracked down a street where we could see a magnificant mountain covered in cloud. We wandered down toward the mountain watching the cloud lift, on our way we passed the local church, watched massives spiders sitting in their webs high above the fences of the local houses and saw incredibly beautiful plants of many varieties. At the end of the street we came to the local cemetery which was a like an exotic garden. Here we saw one of the enormous spiders close up.

After we left Hell-Bourg we went down the coast again hoping to find a spot famous for its many waterfalls but we took a wrong turn and ended up on the beach in St Benoit. This was not a problem as it was just another new place to explore. We had a brief stop to eat our second baguette ( forgetting when we got them at lunchtime in Hell-Bourg that one sandwich is actually a full baguette). The beach such as it is was really lots of rocks and creeper growing over everything. We also spotted Vacoa trees..what here at home we would call a Pandanus tree.

We were both getting rather tired by this time so decided to head back to our hotel in St Denis..only to get caught in peak hour traffic:(

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 1 Reunion

Our first day in St Denis dawns grey, wet and thundery! Breakfast in the hotel dining room is a lavish spread washed down with coffee and tea. We have free access to a WiFi connection so check out some maps of Reunion over breakfast.
We obtained a small map from reception of St Denis and the young man pointed out the best way to get into town from the hotel. We drove down the steep hill, starting to appreciate now why we had had trouble finding the place last night. The city is built on the hillside which is scarred with ravines hence following a straight line from A to B requires you to go up, down and around to get to your destination.

We found a multilevel carpark with an incredibly narrow entrance so I drove around the block again to check it out a second time before entering! I managed to negotiate the driveway and parked safely...phew.
First stop was the Grande Marche...which was full of souvenirs most of which we would have been unable to bring back into Australia as they were wooden or of natural fibres. The only thing we purchased was a large bottle of water. It is extremely humid and we were dehydrating rapidly. While we were wandering around it started to rain heavily. Down Rue Marcechal Leclerc one of the major shopping streets.

Come midday and everything closes up for a couple of hours so we wandered around stopping to look at the main Mosque Noor-e-Islam, a couple of Chinese temples, a Hindu temple then later the catholic Cathederal St Sauveur.

We found the local Petite Marche much like Queen Vic market back in Melbourne, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, live poultry, spices, flowers etc. Tropical fruits and vegetables we did not recognise alongside familiar ones were the order of the day.
We walked down to the waters edge along Boulevard de l'Ocean. Lots of rocks no sand here.
We walked up Avenue de Victorie passed the war memorial and Ancien Hotel de Ville back to the car and home to our hotel to put our feet up for a while before dinner.