Au Revoir La Réunion.

It’s true, it’s official. We are heading home. 5 days later and in some ways not soon enough. Last meal together at the beach and the island says her goodbyes in the form of tropical tears : The skies open to a downpour that feels like monsoon 2

But does not stop the beach goers

Later we head out to the airport, our fingers crossed, holding our breath, hoping that our flight takes off in time.

Andre.

REDEMPTION GOES THROUGH “ HELL BOURG”

One by one the families are heading home. During the night those traveling to the Pyrenees left. A trip we probably might still do this summer. Others left as the day went by. Slowly, the house feels emptier even if there remains 11 of us.

To redeem our losses we finally rented a new car and headed to the famous valley of “Hell-Bourg”. Another amazing trip through marvelous landscape.

The road rises along deep gorges covered in lush green flora. The steep slopes lend themselves to dozen of waterfalls that gives a feeling of Jurassic Park. The area was the hiding place of escaped slaves in the early 1800 and to this day remains difficult to reach. I find it hard to describe the savage beauty of the place lost in the mist. Rain showers and fog alternate with the sun piercing through the clouds, revealing the high mountain tops cutting patches of blue sky like giant saw blades

Indeed the trip,forced upon us by the airlines delay, became a redemption in itself.

“ just when I though I was out” —— Oh well stuck in garden of Eden.

Mayhem at the airport, flights after flight are offered in one instance only to be cancelled a few hours later. After the 3 rd cancellation, each times affecting our various connections, the final offer is a trip back Sunday night connecting to our flight to NY. We had to abandon our 4 days trip to the Pyrenees to sister. We are all on edges. So many of us, 12 in total have their plans absolutely wrecked. Yesterday was nuts yet I managed to ride and not surprisingly meet somebody who knew a friend of mine from my childhood we rode together for a bit and that was the highlight of my day.

I swear he looks like Jack the Bike Yogi in USA.

To make best face against misfortune we are trying to rent a car. (Not so easy) and a bike for sure. In the meantime we are staying in a gorgeous villa next to Patrick’s on the shore.

For the final: The mighty Maido

It stands above the coast, often much like Olympus, hidden in the clouds , the mighty Maido is the island most famous point lookout and according to the local cyclists the longest , cruelest climb in the whole world. At 40 km long and rising from the sea to 7480 feet, the ride traverses some amazing terrain. From the sugar cane fields of the lower slopes, the primeval forest with wind bent trees reaching across the sides of the winding road to make a welcome cool tunnel.

At the top we found the crowds admiring the most spectacular view of the shore line on one side and the panoramic view of the grand Cirque de Mafate and the villages lost 3000 feet below

There no pictures to render justice to what the eyes experience as we stand on the rock face edge and look down. The feeling is akin to the Grand Canyon experience minus the sense of length ,of course, yet thrilled by the depth and by the greenery of the terrain. In some way What amazes here is the difference between the millenium slow grinding of the rocks by the water in the Grand Canyon compared to the brutal rock carving resulting from repetitive volcanic eruptions. In the end as often when confronted with earth beauty we stand amazed, bewildered and humbled all at once.

A fitting farewell to an island that has touched our hearts in many ways.

Perhaps in a strange goodbye, the Queen Mary II cut across the the horizon in the Indian Ocean sunset

Sea voyage and Air France’s strike

The news reached our email folder in the middle of the night. Air France had cancelled our flight back to Paris, disrupting our return and forcing major rescheduling of plane connection to Lourdes, last night accommodations, and car rental. All done frantically before dawn in my case and as the day went on for the rest of our group.

To show good face against misfortune and thumb our noses at French Strickers we maintained our plans to enjoy a gifted boat ride in search of Dolphins

The captain was eager to show us the spot were we could admire the dolphins and the giant turtles. The later very hard to photograph. He succeeded in style adding the possibility to jump in the water since according to those in the know, sharks do not bother swimmers in deep water where dolphins attack them mercilessly. We believed him and dove.

One by one. Yours truly being the last to take the plunge.

The dolphins must have laughed. We heard some pretty special noises from them

The sea voyage continued for awhile as we picnicked and drank rum cocktails.

Sunday is ride day in La Reunion

From the first day when I got the bike, I was told ” Sunday is the day if you want to test your legs with the locals” and so, even though we had a busy schedule, I was ready.

Ready actually meant ” be on the bike at 5:30 AM and head down to the next town in to the meeting point.

I must give credit to the local drivers,they give respect to the cyclist. Imagine. 5: 30, really is the time when clubs let out and boisterous, fairly inebriated bands of youth head to where they plans to end their night capers. I saw and heard plenty but , mostly, they did not trouble my pre-dawn riding.

At the meeting point 10 miles from my house, I quickly met the local crews. About 50 riders or so, excitedly head out on 40 miles ride that would include a 9 miles climb.

Riding with the group along the shore was not a problem. I knew from experience that half the group included racing level riders and the rest pretty much equalled the type of riding I am accustomed to handle.

Even the terrain was not unfamiliar since I had covered these road before. The group organizers who invited me to join the ride described at the start where and how the trip would take place and I knew that for sure I would not be able to keep up with the climbing pace. I was right. Just before the road turned to head up the slope, half the group decided to return along the shore. The rest took a nature break and I alerted the leaders of my intention to do the climb, and went ahead.

I started climbing at my usual pace, I knew that soon enough the group would come blasting by. I heard the swoosh of the pedals before I felt their presence: three riders, climbing smoothly at an harrowing pace, passed me like if I was standing still. Fast, for sure, but was humbled me was the gears they were pushing: huge. The rest of the remaining group eventually passed me, albeit more slowly. At time I had the illusion I might be able to keep up with some as they swept by me, but soon would realize the futility of such presence and settled for watching them disappear at the switchback further up.

Eventually, the “Voiture Balais” ( AKA sag-wagon) drove by, driver honking and staff guy hanging out of the front window, shouting encouragements, while at the same time inquiring on my state. I am sure i probably looked ghastly, breathing heavy lumbering up the sharp slope. I refused their offer to ” help me , a little” and watch them drive away to catch up to the group.

At the major intersection I knew I had to make choice: right, the road continued up for another 4 miles to swing south away from my final destination. Left the climb was short, although a little steeper, but in the general direction of the hours. The car was there position to let me know some had gone right, others had pressed on for the longer ride. I let them know what my choice was, thanking them for a most enjoyable and stimulating event before heading home by myself..

I waited all week for this chance to ride with the locals. The club ” Les Rois de la Pedale was a treat for me

As fast as I could, I headed home where Sue was waiting because we had planned a rest of the day long tour of the shrines illustrating the history and mores of the island Tamil community on their ” Tamoul Nadir ”

I will write more about that later

Tranquille! Tranquille

Saturday market was today’s main attraction and we made sure to go there early. I didn’t take too many pictures and Susan got busy souvenirs shopping.

The heat was quickly very oppressive and we made sure to rush back to the AC shelter of our house for lunch, and the welcome relief of a plunge in the pool before siesta.

As the afternoon wore on, I went on a solitary bike ride along the shore.

THE CRATER IN FLAMME

Yesterday, Friday the 13th was the day we planned the day long visit to The Piton de la Fournaise, The island famous active volcano . Since last week, it has been in eruption and the usual lookout points are not open to the public.

The road to the top rises along older volcanic canyons, now covered by green tropical forests. The lodge at the top sits at 2370 meter high, and is like a lunar landscape, totally barren.

Since we were not allowed access to the crater a group of us walked a 3 hours hike in the forest below.

Testing my legs on a bigger climb: Les Maques

Long ago, when slavery dictated life in the island for laborer forcefully brought to La Reunion from Africa . Runaways slaves and newly emancipated laborers mistrusting the intentions of their former masters settled in the beautiful, albeit inaccessible, valleys of the dormant ancient crater on the protective side of the active volcan and below the towering slope of the island highest peak. These fertile valleys , cut off from the ever growing population below did not have any roads connecting them to the coastline towns but for one easily defended climb.

This is where I tested my legs today. The road to the Maques in the cirque of Cilaos. Unbelievable. I did half the climb, starting from the shore line. It rises over 7800 feet of which I climbed 4400 until I was stopped by the cold fog. Temp was 86 degrees most of the climb , hotter at the coast level, much too cool inside the fog.

At the village the caravane of cars scooped me up to the point lookout for a family picnic In the tropical forest.

We came down by car . I didn’t want to try descending the narrow road to the coast .

Tomorrow we are leaving earlier even than today in order to head for a whole day long excursion to the active, presently erupting, volcano of Piton de la Fournaise. We hope we will be allowed very near.

the end