Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hiking the Canalisation des Orangers

This week I did a one-day hike along the Canalisation des Orangers to La Porte via Les Lataniers. 

The Canalisation des Orangers is one of several entry points into the cirque of Mafate; it's the easiest way (read 'flattest'), but also one of the longest. 

first part of Canalisation des Orangers path (from Sans Souci)

Starting at about 500m at Sans Souci (part of the commune of Saint-Paul) we initially hiked along a rather  muddy dirt path, before rapidly arriving at the water pipe path itself and the entrance to the cirque (caldera) of Mafate.

sign marking the start of the cirque of Mafate

For safety reasons most of the time the water pipe is not visible, although occasionally it can be seen. Every year the pipe transports about 1.6 million cubic metres of water from the catchments of Ravine des Orangers and Ravine Grand-mère.

canalisation (water-pipe) visible on the path

Hiking the Canalisation des Orangers means walking along a narrow path (about 2 metres wide) at an average altitude of 700 metres. Although I'm sometimes subject to vertigo, I've always found the path is wide enough for me.

On the other side of the ravine we could see the village of Dos d'Ane.

Dos d'Ane

Far below we could see the Riviere des Galets winding its course.

Riviere des Galets

Having started early (6am) the sun was rising while we were walking, and we had great views as headed into the cirque.

heading into Mafate

We occasionally saw some papangues (circus maillardi; Réunion harrier) flying, and as with most hikes on Réunion, lots of spiders (called bibes locally) sitting in their webs.

Nephila inaurata (Red-legged golden orb-web spider)

In this northern part of Mafate choka are very common.

Choka, part of the Agavoideae plant family

I'd hiked the Canalisation des Orangers several times in the past, but always when leaving Mafate after a hike of several days. 

can you see the path? it's the line on the cliff face (right)

This was the first time I'd walked it for a one-day hike and heading into Mafate.

We often found ourselves higher than helicopters, which other than hiking, are the only other way of accessing Mafate.

looking down on a helicopter

another view of Rivière des Galets

looking back (can you see the people on the path?)

a tunnel along the path (the only one)
occasionally the rock face is bare, but mostly it's covered in vegetation

After several hours hiking and after the tunnel we started to see the îlets (hamlet settlements) of Mafate.

Cayenne(left) and Ilet aux Lataniers (middle)

Finally 17 kilometres and 4 1/2 hours after we started hiking we reached the îlet of Les Lataniers. Seven families live here, and the children go to school at the 'nearby' Ilet aux Orangers, a 1 1/4 hour hike away. It lies below the Crête (ridge) des Orangers (1360m), and there are three gîtes, and a shop/bar.

After a brief pause to buy a cold drink at the bar we carried on down to the riverbed, where we forded the river for the first time and then stopped for lunch, having hiked for nearly 6 hours already.

we turned left at this intersection

After lunch remained about 90 minutes of repeated river crossings (I lost count how many), as we had to criss-cross back and forth across the river to reach La Porte.

photo taken during one of the river crossings

No point in taking your hiking shoes off, you'd waste too much time!  Water levels can vary greatly according to the amount of rainfall there's been recently, but for us it ranged from low-calf to mid-thigh level, depending on where we were fording.

path marker near the river bed

looking towards Dos d'Ane

After a total of about 8 hours hiking (including breaks) we reached La Porte, from where a 4-wheel drive vehicle (ordered in advance) can pick you up, and for €7 take you to the small town of Riviere des Galets.

While waiting for our transport we watched a helicopter manoeuvring, picking up heavy supplies and flying them to some of the îlets in the cirque.

back to civilisation.

Useful link:
Wikiloc - satellite map of the hike

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Internations interview

If you are, or have been, an expat you may know the website Internations, whose credo is to “Make life easier for expats” by helping them to feel at home abroad, meet people and find information about their new environment.

One of the website features is the Recommended Blog section and this blog has recently been featured there (in the 'France' section) along with an interview which you can read here.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

My ABC of Travelling

If you read any other travel blogs, you may have seen this ABC elsewhere. In any case I thought I'd make my own contribution! 

A: Age you went on your first international trip:
Not sure that the Channel Islands or a day trip to France counts (!), so Switzerland for a month when I was 15, staying with a family.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
I don't like beer, but my husband tells me Belgian beer is the best. I've also sampled some good locally-grown wine in India, and local tea in Borneo, IndiaLaos, Korea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, South AfricaSri Lanka, and Malaysia.

C: Cuisine (favourite):
It has to be my Mum's, when I go home to Edinburgh!

D: Destinations, favourite, least favourite and why:
FavouritesTibet because it felt so different from anywhere else I've ever been to; South Korea because the people are so kind; and the Maldives, because it's one of the few places I keep wanting to go back to.
Least favouritesVietnam was rather a disappointment, as the people we met were not very friendly. And while I know Seychelles is a dream destination for many people I find that it's expensive, the locals are not welcoming, and while it's beautiful when the sun shines, the weather is very unreliable.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
Shouldn't this be under 'W'?! ;-) Three - seeing Halong Bay, the Taj Mahal and Mount Everest.

F: Favourite mode of transportation:
I do like trains - getting onboard is generally not too much hassle (unlike planes!), room to move around and stretch your legs, gives you time to appreciate the countryside you're passing through. I've taken trains all over Europe, and in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, Mongolia, India, China/Tibet and of course across Russia (see J below).

in a train, Sri Lanka

G: Greatest feeling while travelling:
When I'm diving somewhere new, for example Pulau Weh, Sipadan, Saipan, Cambodia, TaiwanSri Lanka or the Philippines.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
I live on a tropical island so heat is not really an issue for me, but Bangkok in June was hot (38°C) and felt it. It's one thing to be hot in the countryside or on a beach, but I hate feeling hot in a city. The coldest I've ever been was while living in South Korea, where -18°C is fairly common in January.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
I remember in particular one occasion in Taiwan when we'd taken a short taxi journey during which it started to rain. We don't speak Chinese and the driver didn't speak English but he opened the boot of his car and gave us an umbrella even though we would never see him again!

J: Journey that took the longest:
Without a doubt the Trans-siberian railway across Russia from Vladivostok to Moscow. Without getting off the train the journey takes almost a week, but as we made stops in Irkutsk, Novosibirsk and Ekaterinburg the journey took us two weeks.

provodnitsa, Trans-siberian

K: Keepsake from your travels: 
I like bringing back empty plastic water bottles which I use for a few weeks as a souvenir! If it's a country where tea is grown I generally bring back some of that too. And if there's room in my luggage - a nice coffee-table book. Jewellery is good too as it doesn't take up much room in your luggage.

L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Not so much one sight as several dive outings we couldn't do - the Langkawi dive operator who never turned up, the 3-day dive safari to the Similan Islands that was cancelled due to bad weather, the lack of water to dive the underwater part of the Great Wall of China, and the Hainan dive outing that was cancelled as they didn't have any English speaking dive guides that day. But if I had to choose one land-based sight, possibly Tam Coc in Viet Nam, mainly due to the attitude of the locals.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
I can't remember not ever having loved to travel. While I don't always like the more physical aspects of it - airports, and heaving around luggage - I love the rest!

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
I've been lucky enough to stay in many beautiful hotels, but in cities it's probably been the Park Hyatts in Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai, and resort-wise the Soneva Gili and Soneva Fushi hotels in the Maldives are in a class of their own.

view from the Park Hyatt hotel, Beijing

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?:
Not really an obsession, but I don't like people in my photos of landscapes or monuments. I'm capable of waiting quite a long time for there to be nobody in the photo. I've been told there aren't enough portraits or photos of food in my photos, so I try and make a conscious effort to take more of those.

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? 
Too many to count! My last passport was a 10 year passport with 32 pages but I filled it up in only 4 years!

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: Probably 'Penis Park' in Samchoek, South Korea. The legend says that a virgin bride was drowned here before her wedding night, and that afterwards the catches of fish dried up until one day a fisherman relieved himself into the ocean. The next day the fish were plentiful again, and the fishermen regularly started exposing themselves to the ocean, until finally they built this park with all sorts of replicas to pacify the virgin ghost. Also in Korea I've visited the toilet house and a hotel shaped like a boat.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful natural sites I've ever seen. Visiting Hiroshima in Japan was very thought-provoking too, and it's an interesting city to visit in its own right. The Tsingy of Bemaraha in western Madagascar is quite remote and difficult to get to, but well worth it when you get there. Not too sure if I should recommend Angkor Wat, as they say it's falling apart due to too many visitors.

Halong Bay

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while travelling:
If I'm in a city which has a good hotel with good afternoon teas I can't resist. I did this most recently in Delhi.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
Visiting the Taj Mahal in India!

U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Scuba-diving in Lake Baikal, living with the nomads and riding horses in Mongolia, (attempting to) climb(ing) Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, seeing a sun-fish (mola mola) while diving in Bali...

V: Visas, how many and for where:
Again - lots! The most recent is India. Surprisingly one of the easiest to get was the visa to North Korea, but I wasn't allowed to keep it. The most difficult/annoying to get was for Russia. Most numerous - Madagascar as I've been there three times. Oldest - Hungary, in 1991. The longest-lasting was my South Korean residency visa. Others are China (twice, both double entry), Laos, Mongolia, and Viet Nam. Visas on arrival include Hong Kong, Indonesia (twice), and Cambodia. (Follow this link for my tip on getting a Cambodian visa  the easy way).

my North Korean visa

W: Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where?
It's not wine, but you can't go to Singapore without having a Singapore Sling in the Raffles hotel bar! 

X: eXcellent view and from where?:
For natural landscape views Tibet was amazing - especially Mount Everest, but some of the views in Réunion are great too! 

Y: Years spent travelling?
Weeks and months put altogether I don't know, but when we were living for 3 years in South Korea we spent the equivalent of one year travelling around Asia! I once spent two months working in a summer camp in Vermont, and then 6 weeks travelling through 26 U.S. states - if that counts as travelling, it was my longest trip. 

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
Probably in Scotland, where if you go to a national rugby or football match, a sizeable proportion of the supporters will be wearing kilts. The football supporters are known as the Tartan Army.

Highland Games