Thursday, 17 November 2011

Back to Salazie

Although I've been to the cirque of Salazie many times (I even worked for nine years in a company located at the entrance to the cirque), this was the first time we'd been back there since we returned to Réunion after spending three years living in South Korea.

The word 'Salazie' is thought to come from the Malagasy word soalazy which means ' a good refuge', although I have also seen it explained as coming from salazane which means '(sentry) stakes'. I think there's even another explanation saying it comes from salazhon which means 'tripod for a cauldron' ... as you can see, nobody is really certain where the name comes from.

Salazie is located on the windward, east coast of the island which means it's the wettest of the three cirques (the other cirques are Cilaos and Mafate), and also the most accessible (Mafate is only accessible on foot, and the road to Cilaos is very long and winding). All the rain means the vegetation is extremely lush and green, as you can see in the photos, and when visiting you should get an early start as the cloud cover will generally thicken during the day.

see what I mean by lush vegetation?

When you enter the cirque the road leads to the main town of Salazie, called ... Salazie. There are some shops and restaurants here, but most people travel further into the cirque.

A few kilometres further on is the photogenic Cascade du Voile de la Mariée ('Bridal Veil Falls') which you can see on the other side of the road.

Cascade du Voile de la Mariée

A short distance after the falls there's a fork in the road, and you can either turn right to go to the village of Grand Ilet, or left to continue to the village of Hellbourg.

"view from a bridge"

Grand Ilet is mainly a destination for those planning to enter Mafate from Le Belier via the Col des Boeufs ('Ox Pass') hiking path. The village has a beautiful shingle-covered church, Saint Martin. On this day out however we were only going to Hellbourg.

en route to Grand Ilet

About one kilometre before Hellbourg is a lovely viewpoint called Panorama du Point-Du-Jour ('Daybreak Viewpoint').

part of the view from Point-Du-Jour

If the weather's good you can see across to Grand Ilet, and you will also see the magnificent 1352m-high Piton Enchaing which has a distinctive flat summit.

Piton Enchaing

Legend has it that a runaway slave called Enchaing took refuge on top .

passion fruit growing wild on a banana tree

Hellbourg's unusual name comes from Anne Chrétien Louis de Hell, a former island governor (1838-1841) and a man, despite his name! 

aerial view of Hellbourg (from Wikipedia)

In Hellbourg one of the most popular tourist attractions is the Maison Folio.

fountain in the Maison Folio garden

I was lucky enough to visit this traditional Creole house for the first time in 1993 before it opened to the general public two years later.

Maison Folio garden

Now it's a major tourist attraction in the village, with a wonderfully luxuriant garden of tropical plants which grow in profusion in the humid climate.

"Trompette la mort" flowers (Brugmansia aurea?)

Hellbourg has the distinction of being the only member of France's Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ('France's Most Beautiful Villages') located in an overseas department.

A house in Hellbourg main street

There are a couple of guétali in the village too. These are typically Creole pavilions in the corner of a garden, from which, in days gone by, the occupants used to observe passers-by without being seen themselves.

guétali of Barau Villa, Hellbourg

the former Hotel des Salazes, closed since 1988, currently awaiting renovation

Locally Salazie is well-known for its chou-chou...

chou-chou aka chayotte, christophine, vegetable pear ... etc (photo Wikipedia)

... which, when it grows, spreads as a vine over anything within its reach.

chou-chou vine

chou-chou vine

Bamboo also grows well in Salazie

Because of the landscape when you leave Salazie you notice a tall waterfall you didn't see when entering: Cascade Blanche.

Cascade Blanche - 640 metres high

This post is by no means exhaustive about Salazie - there are plenty of other things to see and do too: an eco-museum, a trout farm, visit to the Old Spa in Hellbourg alone, not counting good hikes all over (and in and out of) the cirque.

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