Sunday, 17 February 2013

Hiking from Dos d'Ane to Plaine d'Affouches

Last week I was looking across at Dos d'Ane from Ilet Alcide (see here), this week I was hiking from there! 

Dos d'Ane village, Le Port in the distance 

Dos d'Ane (literally 'Donkey's back') is a farming village in the highlands above the town of La Possession, at about 900-1000m altitude. From a visitor's point of view it is most well-known for Cap Noir and the Roche Verre Bouteille (literally 'Bottle Glass Rock'). Our hike started with a short walk from the car-park to the Cap Noir viewpoint, from where you can see the northern part of Mafate.

the northern part of Mafate seen from Cap Noir,
in the middle is Piton Cabris (1441m)

At Cap Noir we came across the photographer Luc Perrot, - I've already shared several of his amazing photos on this blog. Here's one of the photographs he took from Cap Noir:

© Luc Perrot

looking towards the Grand Bénare (centre) and the Maïdo 

looking west from Cap Noir

After that we quickly gained about 200m in altitude as we hiked up to Roche Verre Bouteille. Altough the rock is shaped like a bottle, it actually gets its name from the Reunion Creole term for "shard of glass".

Roche Verre Bouteille (slightly left of centre) (source)

If you're looking for a short hike once you're at Roche Verre Bouteille you can loop back to the Cap Noir car-park, we however were heading to Plaine d'Affouches along a ridge-top hiking path.

unidentified plant - flowers like jasmine, fruit like coffee

Despite recent rain the weather was magnificent and we had spectacular views across Mafate to the Piton des Neiges.

looking across Mafate, Piton des Neiges back left, Grand Bénare far right

close-up of Piton des Neiges

Affouche is the local name for Ficus densifolia, a plant of the fig family.

note the path steps to the left

We could see the town of Le Port far below.

view of Le Port from the hiking path

We saw quite a few Reunion Harriers (papang) flying, and a few tenrec hunters too, as the hunting season (mid-Febuary to mid-April) had officially just opened.

Terpsiphone bourbonnensis/Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher/Oiseau-la-Vierge

The closer we got to Saint Denis the thicker the vegetation became.

forest vegetation

After almost 9 km of hiking we finally reached a dirt track from where we had a good view of the Saint Denis river valley. 

Saint Denis river valley

Below us, at 700m, we could just see Ilet à Guillaume, a deserted hamlet which used to be a children's prison labour camp 1864-1879. About twelve children are buried there in a small cemetery.

close-up of Ilet à Guillaume

Afterwards we only needed to walk down the flat (but winding) dirt track. 

Three kilometres further on we stopped for lunch at a picnic shelter before being picked up by our transport and heading back to Saint Denis.

looking along the Saint Denis river valley to Saint Denis

one of many pic-nic tables next to the Plaine d'Affouches dirt track 

Plaine d'Affouches map

See also:

Useful map:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Hiking from Maïdo to Ilet Alcide

This hike started at 2000m, a little below the main Maïdo viewpoint. Shortly after you start you come first of all to the paragliding take-off site for Maïdo, then to the start of the hiking path that heads down into the cirque of Mafate.

start of hiking path into Mafate from Maïdo - 'only' 750m downhill!

Mafate was not our destination today though, a place called Ilet Alcide was. From the path turn-off we were able to catch a few glimpses of Mafate far below through breaks in the clouds.

Ilet des Orangers (forefront), and Grande Place (behind)

We could also see the town of Le Port on the coast, some 2000m below.

the town of Le Port

mock strawberry (left) and true strawberry (right)

In recent years the Maïdo area has suffered from several forest fires at the end of the dry season, and sometimes the effects can still be seen on the vegetation.

previously burnt bush 


We gradually headed downhill, the lie of the land meaning that we had to follow the path round to the left as there was a 1500m drop to the Rivière des Galets riverbed below us if we carried straight on!


dew-covered spider's web

We stopped for a short break at a place known as "Les Terrasses" where we had a view across the Rivière des Galets to the village of Dos d'Ane (which literally means ('Donkey's back').

Dos D'Ane, seen from across the Rivière des Galets

We also had a different view of Le Port.

Le Port

A little further on we finally reached Ilet Alcide, where we had lunch (there are two picnic tables). The lichen-covered wooden sign reads "Welcome to Ilet Alcide, inhabited from 1900-1944 by Clain Vincent Alcide".

wooden sign, Ilet Alcide

Today there are no reminders left of Mr Clain, who came here from Mare à Martin in Salazie to cultivate and distill geranium. Before him, in the 18th century, the îlet was inhabited by Mafouta, an escaped slave who gave his name to the cirque of Mafate.

Hydrangea, Ilet Alcide

small shrine, Ilet Alcide

strawberry guava ('goyavier') flowers, Ilet Alcide

After leaving Ilet Alcide and continuing downhill we eventually came to a sign indicating Sans Souci further down (Sans Souci is a popular starting point for the Canalisation des Orangers hike). We, however, also headed down but inland too, towards the cryptomeria forest.

Ilet Alcide/Sans Souci sign

The smell of Ginger lilies became stronger and stronger the further downhill we headed. 

Hedychium gardnerianum / Ginger lily / Longose

wild orchid

The Maïdo (along with Plaine des Cafres) is a place where cattle roam more or less freely, and we finished our 11 km hike at 1300m altitude with them watching us!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

Satellite map of hike route

See also:
Ilet Alcide (video)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dead sexy : book review

The blurb: American Kit Kincade believes women are little more than a life support system to an ovary. Shelly Green, pinstripe-underpanted, cultured, classical guitarist, thinks optimism is an eye disease and hates all men. The perfect pair? Yes, according to a 'Desperate and Dateless' reality TV competition. A computer has matched them - physically and emotionally - with huge financial rewards if they can survive their five-star honeymoon on the paradise island of Réunion. Kit and Shelly meet the day they are to be married...and it's hate at first sight. Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye opener.

You have to suspend your sense of reality to read this chick lit book. Apart from the outlandish plot with more twists and turns than a corkscrew, the author seems to have transposed Mauritius (with its insistent beach hawkers, plethora of aquatic activities, and islets) to Reunion, presumably because the latter served her story better. Effectively there's a freak volcanic eruption (from Piton des Neiges, not Piton de la Fournaise!*) and a lot of anti-French revolutionary activity, neither of which would have been possible on Mauritius

Most of the book takes place on Réunion, and it's a shame that one of the most racially mixed and harmonious places on earth is turned into a blacks vs whites battleground, complete with corrupt machine-gun toting policemen, just for the purpose of Ms Lette's novel. She also invents a downtrodden local indigenous population to suit her storyline. There are numerous other mistakes such as thunder and lightening during a cyclone, and the presence of snakes and mongooses to cite just a few examples. Possibly the best part of the book are all the one-liners, some funny, some corny.

Eruption de La Fournaise
Eruption of Piton de La Fournaise volcano (source)

If you do read this book but have never been to Réunion, please don't believe any of it!

* Piton des Neiges is a dormant/extinct volcano which last erupted 20 000 years ago, while Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.