Saturday, 29 September 2012

Whale-watching

I couldn't resist posting this photo of a humpback whale we saw today off Reunion's west coast. We saw a mother and youngster, and this is the mother's fluke.


Between June and October Humpback whales come to Reunion's waters from the far south to give birth and raise their young.

Useful links:

Friday, 21 September 2012

Domaine de la Réserve & Ste Suzanne lighthouse

Last weekend was the European Heritage Days, and on the Saturday we decided to visit two local sites: the Domaine de la Réserve in Sainte Marie and the lighthouse at Sainte Suzanne.

The Domaine de la Réserve is a former sugar cane estate comprising a main house and various dependencies dating from the late 18th century. It's not normally open to the public and this year was the first time it could be visited as part of the European Heritage Days.

Main house, Domaine de la Réserve

The main house is unusual for Reunion because there's no verandah on the principal facade.

side view, main house

Near the house is a cobbled courtyard around which are the former stables.

looking into the cobbled courtyard; stables at the back

old plough

My husband and I were particularly interested to see the old chimney. We have a solar electricity project and at one point it was jeopardised by our house's proximity to the chimney, as it classed as a Monument historique, ie a French National Heritage Site. In the end - fortunately for us - it was not a problem.


the famous chimney which nearly put an end to
 our solar electricity project!

old petrol pump

The surrounding grounds are quite extensive and one of the features you notice is a large cast iron basin, which comes from Bellemene, Saint Paul, on the island's west coast.

old cast iron basin

impressive thorns on the trunk of this palm

large Stag Horn Fern

The estate is still surrounded by extensive fields of sugar cane.


sugar-cane cutting season is from June to December

Next we headed a few miles down the road to the neighbouring municipality of Ste Suzanne to climb the lighthouse.

the cylindrical tower of Sainte Suzanne lighthouse

Built in 1845 it started functioning on 15th October 1846, and is the only remaining lighthouse on Reunion (another lighthouse located at Pointe des Galets disappeared in the 1970s due to erosion). It has been classed a Monument Historique since June 2012.

there are 88 steps up to the top of the lighthouse

The lighthouse is built 40 metres above sea level, and is 20.25 metres high. It was staffed until 1985, with keepers winding the clockwork mechanism every 4 hours. It  was automated in 1989  and fully restored in 1996.

lens in the lantern

It emits three white flashes every 15 seconds which are visible for 23 nautical miles.

looking north from the gallery

looking south; Bois Rouge sugar factory is visible to the upper left

picnic area at the foot of the lighthouse

old lens 

anchor in the gardens outside the lighthouse

The lighthouse visit certainly brought back memories - I think the last lighthouse I climbed was at Dondra Head, the southern point of Sri Lanka, three years ago.


Notes:

Coordinates of La Réserve: 20°54′00″ South  55°33′44″ East
Coordinates of Sainte Suzanne lighthouse: 20°54′05″South  55°36′07"East
Le Domaine website (in French): www.domainedelareserve.fr

Friday, 14 September 2012

Morne de St François & Le Brûlé


Le Brûlé is a district of Saint Denis located along a winding hairpin bend road between 600-1000m altitude. My husband grew up in Le Brûlé, about 1km lower than the main village, so it's an area I know well, although since my parents-in-law moved in 2001 I've rarely had reason to go back there. During the 19th and early 20th century the wealthy favoured le Brûlé for holiday homes due to its cool climate. Slightly higher up is a starting point for the hike up to the Roche Ecrite (2276m), Reunion's 7th highest mountain, but this was not our goal today.

Le Brûlé church (source)

We started walking from the village church (834m) up the road and path, until after 2km we arrived in the forest. From there we headed east about four more kilometres until we reached a viewpoint known as the Morne de St François (about  930m altitude), from where we had great views of the north and north-east of Reunion

Morne de Saint François signpost

At this point technically we were no longer in Le Brûlé, but in another district of Saint Denis called St François.

looking north-east across Ste Marie to Ste Suzanne

Ste Clotilde, a suburb of St Denis 

Saint Denis centre

Looking straight east we could see Pic Adam (1124m), which is an easily-recognisable crater found in the hills above Bois de Nefles, a neighbouring district of Saint Denis. (It takes its name from the grandson of Admiral Bouvet, a former governor of the Mascarene Islands, who was ruined after setting up an optical telegraph with Mauritius).

Pic Adam crater

We were surrounded by beautiful vegetation - wild camellias and azaleas grow particularly well at this altitude.

Azalea

Azaleas

wild orchid

On leaving the Morne we had to retrace our footsteps for about 700m until we joined a path that allowed us to head up to Mamode Camp, an area above Le Brulé where we had a picnic lunch.



After lunch we headed along another path known as the PreVallée, the highest point of our hike at about 1200 m altitude.

part of the Prevallée path crosses muddy ground

Tibouchina urvilleana / Princess Plant 

We didn't go to see the Cascade Maniquet waterfall because as we're at the end of the dry season there's no water to be seen there.


Afterwards we just needed to head down hill back to the church where we'd left our cars.

Map

All in all it took us about 7 hours to cover an 18km-loop at a leisurely pace (about 4km/h on average), including our stop for lunch.