L O G B O O K - by John Philp



MOUNTAINS OF LA REUNION


TUE 19 0CT - In the morning I surfed at Le Morne, one of the well known surf breaks on the island. The waves were good, around five feet and there was only six tourists surfing. They thought I was a local! The break reminded me very much of a narrow reef pass on the Coral Coast. The water was crystal clear and steep cliffs formed a backdrop directly behind the beach side Berjaya Le Morne Resort.

The ride back to the top of the island took over two hours as I had to catch three buses. The hassle was diminished somewhat when I was able to grab a wonderful hot curry and roti at the main bus stand at Port Louis as I ran for my last bus with my board under my arm.

Mauritius for all it’s similarities with Fiji can spring surprises. On the bus ride back to Grand Baie I was amazed when a mobile phone rang and the man next to me took a call from a phone inside his bag. That’s not something you would see regularly back home on a bus.

WED 20 OCT - At around 9.30am, as we had hoped, the tide was high enough for our safe passage out of the harbour, and once clear we motored two hours south to Port Louis to spend the night and clear customs and other formalities before departing to Reunion the next day.

THUR 21 OCT - Through the morning yachts arrived into the harbour at Port Louis - it was the yachts from the Millennium Rally arriving en masse. Tony was amazed when he was walking by then on the dock and a German guy called out, “Hey Philp!”. Turns out this sailor had left his yacht tied up to one of Tony’s moorings in the Bay of Islands, Lami and wanted to thank him for it. Then it was my turn to be surprised when as we motored out the harbour at 4.00pm someone radioed us from the dock asking for me. It turned out to be a Hawaiian chap I had surfed with in Suva. It was a shame not to have spent time with the group but we will no doubt catch up with them in Richards Bay, South Africa in three weeks time. So off we went out the harbour, hoisting the sails, headed for Reunion 100 miles to the south west.

The trip over was an absolute sleigh ride. It seemed as though all we had to do was heave up the sails, sit back and watch Tau slide downwind to Reunion at speed. The seas were relatively flat and we had no trouble averaging nine or ten knots into the night.

FRI 22 OCT - When I came on deck for my 4.30am watch rubbing my eyes and trying to wake up Reunion was already looming large in the darkness. I could make out the faint outline of enormous volcanic peaks sliding down into the ocean. Thousands of friendly lights twinkled in the half light. It’s a neat feeling sailing up to a mysterious island for the first time a long way from home.

As we closed with Reunion the island grew higher and higher until the pinnacles of it’s 10,000 foot peaks could be plainly seen disappearing into the clouds. From it’s center vast jagged peaks and deep valleys tumbled over each other and flowed down past settlements perched high on the mountainsides and straight into the Indian Ocean. It seemed as though every house was whitewashed, contrasting greatly with the dark primordial firmament.

The main port at Reunion is entirely man made - a large geometrical shape cut out of the rock, deep enough for container ships to make safe passage into. In one corner of this facility is a yacht basin into which we disappeared. After a long wait, entry formalities were dispensed with and we were free to explore the town nearby. Le Port is a low cost housing, port area in the north west of Reunion. Twenty kilometers north is the capital of St Denis.

SAT 23 OCT - While we are along side the dock at Le Port curious local people come by to look at the yacht. A couple of people we meet this way had been to Fiji. It’s great to hear ‘Bula’ called out at dockside instead of ‘Bonjour’. Yet another gentleman came by for a look and a chat (he lived on a yacht at Le Port), then offered us the us of his car for the time we were there. He seemed surprised when we thanked him profusely each day we returned the key.

SUN 24 OCT - The crew are invited to dinner at Jean Louis’s house. Jean works on a research vessel in the southern Indian ocean - iceberg and Penguin country. His wife made a wonderful Creole meal of beans and spicy savoury sausages and magnificent lobsters from Kerguelen Island. It was a hilarious meal because his brother in law came by later - drunk and equipped with only two words of English. ‘Co-operation’ - because he was trying to charm drinks from his brother, and ‘no problem’ when his sister kept saying his new wife of one month would be angry at him for disappearing from his home next door to drink with us. They showed us photos from the brothers wedding - he was outweighed forty pounds by his wife. I think there was going to be a problem when he got home!

MON 25 OCT - Christophe, a local French lad whom we had met in Mauritius, came by to take us for a days hiking. We drove a four wheel drive up a gravel river wash that eventually turned into a valley with shear cliffs of three or four hundred feet on either side. This was the entrance to one of the three ancient craters that make up the center of Reunion. The four wheel drive could go no further and we continued from there on foot. By about lunchtime we were 3000 feet up on a mountain peak in the middle of Mafat crater having made our way up a goat track, very severe in places, with breathtaking views of the vertical mountain outcrops on all sides. The only sound to break the tranquility were the tourist helicopters buzzing overhead.

We ate lunch at a funky restaurant at 2400 feet on the way down. Afterwards we were thrilled to meet the mountain post man on his rounds. Michelle had read about him in National Geographic. The postmans route is the interior of Reunion Island. He does this on foot walking all the goat tracks and it takes him a week or ten days to complete. He's probably the only post man in France who gets issued Nike hiking boots!

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