Gosh, it has been a long time since we last did a blog update! We ended our last update with us leaving Rodrigues for Mauritius. We had a good sail, enough wind and not too bouncy. It was another fast crossing and we arrived in Port Louis, Mauritius within 2 days on 6 July. Clearing in was fairly painless and we then moved to the Caudan waterfront. This is a rectangular basin on the waterfront and is the only 'marina' for yachts with a reasonable draft.
This was where we were going to leave the boat while we visited the UK. It was not possible to book so it was a matter of finding a spot when you arrived. Our first berth was towards the exit of the basin and we got a lot of wash. The chafe on the wall destroyed 2 of our mooring lines and ripped our fender covers. We were eager to move further in before we left. Unfortunately, this meant we had no choice but to stay in the marina the whole time as if we left we would have lost our space. On the up side we were in the centre of town and within walking distance of supermarkets and the big central market.
We had 2 days touring the island with friends Ken and Iloo from Antares. The first day we went to the national park. Its pretty but due to the wet weather we could not do any walking, not that it was possible to find any of the trails! Instead we visited a rhumerie and had a very nice lunch. The second day the weather was even worse with torrential rain and it was very cold. We visited a tea factory and then found another rhumerie for a not so good lunch.
On a better day, we did hike in the hills behind Port Louis and also visited a traditional restaurant for lunch. Otherwise our time was spent working on the boat and getting ready for our trip home.
We flew to the UK on 27 July. It was a good flight with lots of movies to watch. Then we had a very hectic month visiting friends and family and spending time with the Grandchildren. In between this we were buying all the parts we needed for the boat!
After our return to Mauritius on 1 September we got the boat ready to leave for Reunion. This was a 1 day sail and we arrived in Reunion on 6 September. It was another fast sail with no dramas. There has been a foot and mouth outbreak in Rodrigues since we left so Reunion confiscated all meat, dairy products, fruit and veg. The staff came on the boat with shoe covers which they then disinfected before throwing away as they left, and then they disinfected their shoes. At no point did they disinfect our shoes or feet or even ask us if we had any hiking boots, completely illogical! At least we have not had our wine bonded as we did in Mauritius!
Our stay in Reunion got off to a good start with Ken and Iloo taking us out for lunch. Other cruisers gave us lots of information on walks on the island so we eagerly started planning our stay. Tourist information in town were very helpful booking accommodation for us and finding us a cheap hire car. We planned a weeks trip around the island after a few days in the marina sorting things out. This gave us time to go shopping and buy lots of French cheese and re-stock the freezer. The supermarket was very expensive, more expensive than the UK, so lots of things we just could not bring ourself to buy. Unfortunately, fruit and veg is one of the things that is expensive. Living on French bread, cheese and pate though not healthy is reasonable!
The island is dominated by 3 cirques which are old volcanoes. They are very picturesque with lots of mountains, waterfalls and valleys. Our first walk gave us views over the nearest cirque called Mafate. It was graded an easy walk but still involved climbing ladders! The following day we did a harder walk graded 'sportif'. It was 12km with lots of clambering and climbing over boulders.
Monday morning we set off on our trip. First stop was a drive up to a lookout over Mafate called La Maido. We got some wonderful views of the valley. Then we drove a forest road south down the west side of the island before climbing up an extremely windy road to Cilaos. We have never seen so many hairpin bends. Driving was hard work especially when the locals driving the other way think they are the only people on the road and drive as if they are on a rally track!
We were supposed to hike up Col De Taibat an 830m climb but when we got up the following morning it was raining and very grey so we had to abandon it. So we went back down all the hairpin bends and headed to Bourg Murat with a stop for a short walk. We were staying 2 nights in Bourg Murat so that we could hike to the caldera of Piton de la Fournaise, the only active volcano on the island. The volcano had decided to become very active just before our visit. It had an eruption on the north slope so the area was closed off. We did drive to the parking area and see the eruption at night which was quite spectacular.
With a day spare we found another hike. This one was 17km and was listed as taking 6 hours with 800m altitude gain. The start of the walk was on the Plain de Caffres through a lovely moss forest. Then we entered the forest de Bebour where the walk got harder. We spent 2 ½ hours climbing through the forest clambering over trees and rocks with very few markers and no signposts. We were just thinking we were lost when we found a sign for the next track. Thinking we couldn't climb any further the path then proceeded to go up and up. We were walking in the clouds most of the time and could see very little. Eventually, we did start to descend and just as we despaired completely, we got back to the car. It was such a relief. The walk had taken us 7 ½ hours with only a 15 minute break for lunch. We were covered in mud and very exhausted.
Having exhausted ourselves, the following day we just drove to Hellbourg which is in the cirque de Salazie. We were staying in gites which are like old fashioned British guest houses. We were at a 1000m and it was very cold but there was no heating so we sat in bed reading with our coats on!
We did a shorter walk in Salazie just 4 hours and then moved on to Grand Ilet. This was up in the clouds again and cold. There was a heater in the room but it wasn't put on until 6pm and was then turned off again overnight! The owner was a little old lady who served our food and then stood watching us with her hands folded until we had all tried the food and told her it was good.
Our next adventure was a 2 day hike into Mafate staying at Aurere. The hike had a lot of ups and downs. Having done lots of difficult climbs I (KB) managed to fall flat on my face over a tree root. This was about half way through the walk so we continued at a slower pace as my knees were very bruised. We arrived in Aurere at 12.30 and had lunch. We couldn't get into our gite until 3pm and my legs were staring to seize up so we decided to walk back while I could. The route back was supposed to be an easier route.
It started off that way with a pleasant walk through the forest and then a narrow path part way up an escarpment. Then there were steps and ladders to climb and then we started to descend to the river. After that the walk got worse. We were clambering over boulders along a river bed and crossed the river on stones multiple times. It was all up hill but we didn't seem to be getting anywhere. All around us there were huge cliffs and we could see no way out of the valley. It was getting late by this time and we were wondering if we would find the end of the trail by night fall. After 3 hours we did find the road and more importantly the car. We were both very exhausted (again!!) and very relieved. The walk had taken 8 hours, it was 18km and had a 1300m altitude change. The adrenaline had numbed the pain in my knees but once we stopped they seized up and I have spent 2 days hobbling around!
After a 2 hour drive with lots of hairpin bends again we arrived back at the boat. It was so nice to be home and to be warm again!
Our last adventure was today. On the recommendation of Jean and Matt from Superted we went on a microlight flight over the 3 cirques. We each had our own plane with just us and the pilot in each one. It was a great view and very exciting, really glad we did it.
Now we are getting the boat ready to leave for Madagascar on Thursday. This should take about 4 days to the northern tip and then we will slowly make our way down to Nosy Be where we will clear in.
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com