Early one wet and windy day recently we started our hike at La Grande Chaloupe, a small village belonging to the municipality of Saint Denis, and located alongside the Route du Littoral coast road. Despite its size Grande Chaloupe holds an important place in local history as thousands of slaves, and later indentured workers, passed through the lazaret quarantine located here.
|former train station, Grande Chaloupe|
In 1878 the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer et du Port de la Réunion (CPR) was created, and for the next 3 years workers built the 10 km of tunnels between Saint Denis and La Possession.
|an over-ripe fruit from a sandbox tree, Grande Chaloupe|
The whole railway ran from Saint Benoit to Saint Pierre and was inaugurated in 1882. Grande Chaloupe was one of the stations. The CPR stopped operating in 1963, but since 1988 an association called "Ti Train" has preserved the railway heritage at Grande Chaloupe.
|The remaining steam locomotive at La Grande Chaloupe:|
a Schneider 030 T type 88
Today though our aim was hiking, not culture or history, so we set off in the direction of the Chemin des Anglais, a paved track which connects La Montagne to La Possession.
Built in the 18th century on the orders of the government official Honoré de Crémont, it was designed to improve communication between Saint Denis and the island's west.
|the paved Chemin des Anglais|
In 1810 the English invaders, having landed near Saint Paul in the west, used the path to attack Saint Denis, and since then the Chemin Cremont has been called the Chemin des Anglais.
|Looking back down at the Route du Littoral and |
Grande Chaloupe from the Chemin des Anglais
Grande Chaloupe valley is home to one one of the last surviving low altitude dry forests, and plant and animal species in this area are particularly endangered.
The vegetation consists of species adapted to high temperatures and low rainfall: few examples remain on the island, and Grande Chaloupe is one of the finest examples.
After coming to the end of the Chemin des Anglais we arrived on the tarmacked road at the village of St Bernard.
|at Saint Bernard|
|Agarista salicifolia, known locally as bois de rempart,|
is endemic to Reunion, and extremely toxic
After a short walk on paved roads, we then got back onto the hiking paths and crossed an area known as the Colorado, which is a nature park located ≈300-700 metres above Saint Denis.
|a panther chameleon, known locally as an endormi|
|waterfall, seen from Colorado|
|weather radar station, Colorado|
Once we had crossed the Colorado we then had just under 4 km to hike down to the stadium in Saint Denis known as La Redoute.
|path to La Redoute|
The Redoute stadium is the arrival point for Reunion's famous Grand Raid cross-island ultra marathon, which takes places every October, and the 15 km we'd just hiked are the final kilometres of that race. We of course were not as tired as those who've just completed 170 gruelling kilometres!
|La Redoute stadium, seen from the hiking path|
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