Are you bored with Iceland already?
Though that’s virtually impossible, I guess, let’s break the routine of fire and ice by fire and sun :).
We visited Réunion in November last year. It’s different, not a typical holiday destination, as compared to the neighbouring Mauritius (which we visited as well).
We often decide on our next destination by googling pictures of the country and if there is “the spark”, it’s decided. Réunion offers great variety of activities – hiking the mountains, diving, walk the active volcano… For us “the spark” was pictures of caldera of Piton des Neiges, now long extinct, and we knew that’s the reason we’ll be going there.
The only direct flight from Europe takes off from Paris. As we live in London, we took it via Dubai and Mauritius. The price of flights depends on luck of course, flexibility and how long in advance you book.
Planning the trip
We can’t recommend Lonely planet guide high enough, it also includes Mauritius and Seychelles in one book. The Czech television stories in Objektiv (travelling programme) and the website of traveller Lucka Radová were also great inspiration.
Let’s get to the point
We finally got to Saint-Denis, capital of Réunion after overnight stay in Mauritius. We hired a car at the airport as in reality it’s the only option how to effectively travel around the island, especially if you want to explore the mountains.
Welcome to the tropical Europe
As Réunion belongs to France, the currency is euro. And the prices are european too. In comparison to Mauritius, where the only truly expensive part is the flight, if you’re not staying at 5* resort, here you can’t save too much. The first bit is the car rental. At the airport, you can find all well-known international companies and in the city also the local ones. In any case, book ahead and online.
When to go
Colder and drier months are May to November, warmer and damp are November to April. We were there in November and it was warm and dry and damp as well :).
So we rented a car and drove to the Piton de la Fournaise. The only active volcano on the island is situated in the southeast and the road is full of serpentines.
On the way there we picked up a hiker, who was speaking French and we didn’t, but we soon found out that he worked at the mountain challet in the Alps, so we were able to have a chat in German. Unfortunately, not a long time ago, there was an eruption, therefore we couldn’t hike straight to the crater, but it would be so worth it. Moon land.
On the way back a beautiful view of the mountains floating in the clouds appeared in front. Unbelievable. It makes you to stop every now and then and run out out of the car and yell and jump. Or be silent and try to absorb all the beauty around. I don’t know, if it’s even possible to express it with a photo but I hope so.
We found accommodation for the first night via airbnb. We needed something close to Mafate, a caldera where we wanted to hike for three days. It’s worth it starting early morning there as later it usually becomes cloudy. The same clouds we were enjoying from above and as you can imagine you can’t see anything from underneath. We found an amazing place – Lodge d’Eden.
We arrived late evening and were greeted by great owners who offered three course meal to us. In the morning we got guava for breakfast, straight from the tree :). We also bought local vanilla products from them as they participate on local vanilla farming.
Cirque de Mafate trail
If I mentioned before that the roads were curvy on the way to the volcano, more sensitive characters might not survive the road to Mafate. There is even no space to stop at the side of the road and leave your already eaten breakfast behind. In Mafate we left the car at the parking lot and headed to use our feet only for three days. We booked accommodation in advance in these mountain challets. The other option is to take the tent or hammock with you, but we thought gîtes de montagne were perfect, in addition you get dinner and breakfast for a small fee and you meet other hikers. So the dining experience was very international.
In Mafate we hiked via La Nouvelle to Roche Plate, where we spent our first night. Often people walk this part in two days but as we started early in the morning, we had plenty of time to make it. So, to put it right, time is one thing and energy in your feet another. We basically descended from the top of the valley to the river at the bottom and climbed back on the other side.
About 50 year old lady passed by with a comment not to worry, it’s not far away. Achy and tired, we managed to get to the challet and after quick dinner we fainted into the bed.
One of the advantages of accommodation under the roof = you will avoid this type of roommates.
Next morning we headed to Trois Roches waterfall.
There are three citizens altogether – one man and two cats. The guy has a small stall here where he sells homemade lemonade, honey and grows lemons, bananas and lichi nearby.
The cats take advantage of the tourists begging for food but as we found out, they are quite fussy and wouldn’t touch a biscuit, only cheese. From Trois Roches the trail continues to Marla, the village with the highest elevation in Mafate.
On the way we met wild goats who were grazing on the steep hill. We had to overcome that steep hill too, straight after we jumped over the river after a group of seniors.
In Marla we found our challet and went to taste local beer Dodo.
For dinner they served creole speciality again – grilled chicken thighs,sausages in tomato sauce, rice, lentils or beans, followed by homemade cake. Previous evening we tried to play vegetarian but we were served canned tuna so we didn’t try our luck again.
Wake up call again at 6am, not to let the clouds destroy our view too early. Today the sky is cloudy since the morning though and we know that the forecast is about to come true. We were leaving to Réunion with a view of rain and cold, totally unprepared for hot weather so I had to buy flip flops after the arrival not to boil in the trainers. But today it’s here. Thankfully we have only the last bit of our trail ahead and tomorrow we’re leaving to Mauritius. Poncho ready and off we go.
At last it’s not too bad, constant rain caught us at the parking lot only. We managed to get a beautiful view on Marla and the valley before it all disappeared in the clouds and rain.
The day is not over though. We are driving towards Cascade Niagara, that looks quite dry
and then to Bassin Bœuf, natural swimming pool with the waterfall on Sainte Suzanne river, recommended by the locals.
Nobody is here, only two of us, maybe because it’s raining every now and then but it has no impact on the temperature.
As we are leaving and jumping over the stones in the river towards the shore, we can hear increasing rumbling and roaring from behind. We turn to the waterfall and that dribble of water is changing in front of our eyes. It multiplies and in few minutes the water is flowing and flowing, the river is huge. What a bit of rain in the mountains can cause… We can be only grateful we’re not under the waterfall like we were 10 minutes ago.
Réunion left a great impression. We didn’t have time to include helicopter trip that takes you over the cirques early in the morning when there are no clouds and you see all that beauty from the bird perspective. We also didn’t include any water activities because we reserved Mauritius for that as it has nicer snorkelling spots, not to mention the sharks ;-).