Monday, 21 August 2017

13 August Leaving La Reunion

It was sad to leave Reunion and the wonderful people we had met in our time here, but the weather looked good for a fast passage to Ile St Marie on the east coast of Madagascar.
Our last week in the marina was spent on final boat preparations, final checks, weather checks, final shopping, last drinks with friends and an appointment with Les Douanes (Customs) for our clearance papers. There is no passport stamping in or out. With our Customs clearance paper, a passport and our ship registration document we were eligible to buy duty free diesel and petrol. The regular price for diesel was around 0.90 and we paid only 0.60 per litre.
With the last job done we cast our lines just after sun up on Sunday morning and motored out of the harbour bound for Madagascar and another chapter in our wonderful adventure.

4 August Hell Bourg

The thing to do on Reunion is hiking. We'd been south to the volcano, looked into Mafate cirque from the west side, now it was time to head to the east side of the island with the help of local friend Christine. When she heard we weren't able to rent a car because it is holiday season she offered us a lift on her way to work.
We left the marina at 6.30am with our walking boots and fleeces (mornings are chilly) and Christine drove us around the north and to the bus station at St Andre. We were early so there was time for a coffee and croissant at the morning market before catching the 8.15 bus to Hell Bourg, high up in the Cirque de Salazie. The journey on the bus was the first adventure. The road is carved from the edge of a gorge and winds up and up following the valley; to one side we had a rock face and on the other a steep drop to the river. There were waterfalls gushing from the rocks all along as the road took hair pin bends and crossed narrow bridges up to the town of Salazie and on to the higher town of Hell Bourg. We felt like we were in a ski village because the air is clean and cool and there is a lingering hint of wood smoke.
shrine at 3 Cascades

Cirque de Salazie

looking in to the gorge

Our first walk was up (what else but up?) to Les Trois Cascades, a good climb through the trees until we emerged on to a rock plateau with a stream babbling towards us and a white and blue shrine presiding above it. David 'Monkey Boy' climbed rocks to reach higher and found a further pool above the first, but we only found two cascades. What happened to the third?
typical Creole house
We walked back to town for our second walk which took us along the side of the valley for a full view of the cirque. This particular path is used by hill runners for their training. It rises 1,000m in 1km. Being neither hill runners nor in training we puffed our way to the half way point before returning to town for a nice coffee while we waited for the bus to take us back down to sea level. The ride down was just as good as the ride up and having someone else to do the driving meant we could both gaze out of the window like kids on a school bus.
From St Andre we took a bus to St Denis, the capital, changed and a then a bus back to Le Port and a short twenty minute stroll back to the marina.

Friday, 11 August 2017

27 July New dinghy, remodelled covers

It may seem we spend our days swanning around visiting the sights and going out for lunch but we do do boat jobs as well. Being in a marina means we are able to do the modifications we want to do on the RIB we bought in Mauritius. I remodelled the chaps, or protective cover, while we were in Mauritius but because we were using the boat every day we couldn't set aside three days needed to glue on a rubbing strake on the keel and velcro to the Hypalon to secure the chaps. Now we had the opportunity and set to work.
David's bad hand restricted what he could do, but we managed. He also fitted the wheels and transom brackets. The finishing touch was to add our boat name should it ever go 'missing' for identification. Someone once pointed out you could see who was not on their boat by the names on the dinghies ashore, ie tender to ….... Keeping this in mind we've put our name under the cover so we can prove it is ours should the need arise.

under seat storage

24 July Plaine des Sables, Reunion

The live volcano had been erupting for the last week and Joseph had invited David and I to join him and his family on a trip to the south of the island to see the area of Piton de la Fournaise and then lunch at their favourite restaurant.
La Fournaise, the furnace, volcano in the south east part of the island is reported to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world. There is a large tongue of lava which flows east into the sea called Grande Brule, the big burn. It's been smoking and spewing ash for a week. We saw the orange glow in the sky as we were sailing towards the island on Wednesday morning.
looking over Plain des Sables towards volcano
The main roads which follow the coast all the way around the island are good and fast, but as soon as you turn inland the terrain steepens, the roads become narrower and the bends sharper. We climbed up from the coast through prime agricultural land, plenty of cows and plenty of farms up to the unfertile, towards the upper limits of La Fournaise and a look out over Les Plaine des Sables, a moon like landscape of orange dust, flat, rocky at the edges and one road leading towards the car park closest to the volcano. Today we stopped at this view point to gaze across the expanse, but opted not to go further because the road further on had been closed for safety. Again we were at about 2200m and the temperature was cool enough for a light jumper – hard to imagine we are in the tropics.

As we descended the warmth returned. At the restaurant there was a small fire burning and a big crowd in for lunch. QG, Quartier General, is owned by Abu and his brother who come originally from Senegal. The welcome was warm, the food fabulous and portions large. Abu's trademark Senegalese chicken dish was already sold out so I choose a creole chicken dish, David black pudding. Chef Abu is a friend of Joseph and came to join us after service. David commented on Abu's hat, said he found it colourful and with that Abu jumped up and brought one out as a present for his English guest. I shall now insist David wears it when he makes our bread.
Joseph, David, Abu and me

A hat for a chef!

23 July Le Maido

Today was an idyllic, clear winter's day in La Reunion. Joseph, was taking his children up to a lookout known as Le Maido and asked if we would like to join them. Yes, we would we replied.
Reunion was formed by volcanic action; today there are three ancient calderas, so big that there are villages and walking tracks inside them. There are no roads in the Cirques as they are called and supplies have to be delivered by helicopter. There is still one active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise at the southern end of the island.
Cirque de Mafate (N)

Cirque de Mafate (E)

Eva, Eric, Joseph and David

Our journey up to Le Maido was on a steeply twisting road, many, many hairpins and narrow passing points, up through pine forests until we reached the rim and exceptional views. We were standing on top of the caldera looking into the crater and at the small communities which flourish on tourists hiking the trails in to and out of Mafate Cirque. This was a rare day of no clouds giving views all the way across to the other side. It is beautiful and it is cool. I can't remember when we were last at 2200m above sea level. It might be as long ago as our last skiing holiday.

We had lunch at a log cabin restaurant complete with a smoking wood fire. We could have been in the alps. A traditional creole dish of pork sausage with a tomato sauce, lentils and rice was the perfect choice on a chilly (for us) day.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

22 July Cat attack

Three days into our visit and Polly cat is behaving responsibly, not venturing far from the mother ship and not complaining when we keep her inside from dusk to dawn. This is part for her safety and consideration for our neighbours who don't choose to have a pet and may not be happy to have a strange one visiting.
Last night while we were having dinner we had all the door and all the hatches closed except for the one over the forward head which was covered by our upturned dinghy. Suddenly there was a flash, a dash of orange and Polly flying ahead of an invading ginger tom cat. I caught Polly. David grabbed the invader and put him out on the dock but the cat was reluctant to leave and David had to stamp his feet and shoo him away down the pontoon. But halfway along the pontoon the cat stopped, turned and leapt at David raking the back of his left hand with its claws and sinking its teeth in to the back of his right hand where it hung on swinging from his hand. It did let go and then it ran away leaving blood pouring from David's wounds.


There was one gaping laceration and other smaller hole and claw scratches. I washed them, cleaned with medical alcohol, added plasters and a bandage to keep all in place overnight. Next morning his right hand was hot and swollen. We were talking to our neighbour Joseph who when he heard the tale and saw the bandage insisted on driving us to see his wife who is a doctor. If it were simple she could clean and glue the wound. It wasn't simple. The wound was deep, infected and we needed to go to the emergency department at the hospital. Joseph insisted on taking us which was a big help because he could translate the intricacies of hospital check in.
twelve hours later and infected
The doctor's diagnosis was the small cut was the worst because it was a deep puncture wound. The larger gash needed a stitch and a drain to allow infection a way out, but he had been very lucky because the bite didn't sever the tendons. With a course of antibiotics for a week and the need for daily dressing changes we would need to defer our plans to work on the boat and to tour the island.
We were very fortunate to have Joseph's help. Apart from taking us to his doctor wife and to the hospital, he introduced us to Christine, a dentist, who lives on the boat opposite us, and a doctor and nurse who live on their boat on the end of our dock. Christine did the first dressing change on Sunday morning and then Dr Christoph and nurse Noelle took over the care.
It took two weeks, but David's hand healed completely and the scar will be a permanent reminder of our visit to La Reunion.

19 July Arrival La Reunion

The crossing from Mauritius was quick; we sailed into the wind shadow of north Reunion an hour before dawn so we drifted for an hour, me on watch, David sleeping until the sun came up and then motored slowly around to Le Port marina to arrive at 8am. The marina staff called Customs to let them know us and three other boats had arrived from Mauritius. Clearing in was quick and simple with Customs performing all the roles of quarantine, immigration and customs.

We were warned not to swim in the marina because there are sharks, aggressive bull sharks, which are seen in here. We had read surfing is no longer permitted in Reunion because of the number of sharks attacks and bulls, tigers and hammerheads are regularly seen around the coast.

After meeting our neighbour, Joseph who has a 50' cruiser, we walked into town to find an ATM for euros to a baguette and fresh salad and fruit from the weekly Wednesday morning market, stopped for lunch and then came back to Jackster for a siesta.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

13 July Mauritius island tour day 2 south east

Our second day took us south and east in search of waterfalls. Using Google Maps we followed the route through a village and down a narrow and winding road between tall sugar cane fields until we found a sign warning 'No swimming'. This was the inauspicious entry point to a beautiful waterfall called L'eau Bleue. We parked our small hire car amongst the cane and jumped a ditch into the field. In front of us was a line of trees atop a steep cliff and we could hear water below. We followed the path to the left and upwards until a side path through the trees lead us down to a pool of water. Looking up we saw the first waterfall feeding the pool at our feet and this tumbled down making the second waterfall. Returning to the top path we walked back to the no swimming sign and found the route to the lowest pool. Climbing down the steep path using tree roots for hand and foot holds and lo! We'd found the blue water – a very pretty place, tumbling water, a clear pool for swimming and green trees all around.
looking in to L'eau Bleue
Next item on Tour Jackster was Pont Naturel, a natural bridge on the south coast. The journey was as interesting as the view; we left the tarmac road and continued the last two miles on dirt roads between sugar cane plots to the coast. Here volcanic lava had reached the sea and cooled fast to form a rugged platform. Wave action had under cut the cliff to create a natural bridge. Le Pont Naturel.
pont naturel
Lunch was taken at a cafe in the coastal town of Mahebourg; a substantial biryani and chicken with a cup of tea made just for us. We walked along the promenade, tasted some very fine home made ice cream and met a party of special school children on a day out. All the children were hearing impaired and from less privileged families. We caught up with them and their London educated psychologist at a Coast Guard presentation. Sweet and generous Gary treated all the children and their teachers to ice creams and didn't mention it.
Mahebourg bay
From Mahebourg we took the east coast road all the way back to Grand Bay. On the way we stopped at Grand River South East (the village sign abbreviated to G.R.S.E) waterfall. You could take a tourist boat from the village to the base of the fall or you could park, where else but in the cane, and walk to the top of the falls to look at the tourists in the boats and the waterfall. The fall was pretty, the people watching addictive.
People watching at GRSE falls
Last call of the day and of our two days of exploring was watching the sunset at Cap Malheureux on the northern tip of the island. This is bay where the British navy landed in 1812 and chased the French out of the country. Which is why Mauritians use French for everyday and English as the official language of government and law. 
Cape Malhereux church

It's also a scenic spot to have you're official wedding photos taken.

12 July Mauritius island tour Day 1 south west

At the lake
Mauritius is much more than Port Louis and Grand Bay; with national parks, high peaks, waterfalls and beaches to see we shared a hire car with our good friends Jackie and Gary of Inspiration Lady and set out for a couple of days exploring the southern part of the island.
Our first day began with low clouds and rain as we drove up into the mountains. First stop was a sacred Hindu lake and temple seen through low clouds. Once a year there is a festival which attracts thousands of devotees – today it was just us, four tourists from Nepal, a few monkeys and the caretakers. The four lane road leading to it, parking for 200 coaches and hundreds of cars were all empty.

guardian of the road

waterfall through clouds
and without clouds
It was onwards from Shiva to the Alexander Falls. By now the rain was falling and the view of the falls obscured by cloud. Patience paid off when the clouds briefly drifted away to reveal the view. Carrying on from Alexander falls the road descended and the weather cleared and the next waterfall on our route was easier to see. We took a comfort break at the Charmarel rum distillery. A pretty place in a gorgeous setting, but having visited several rum distilleries in the Caribbean we opted to keep going to sights and experiences new.
intrepid explorers!

Charmarel rum distillery

By lunchtime we'd reached the south western tip of Mauritius and an ancient volcanic plug named Le Morne. The cliffs are said to be unscaleable, but, in the early 19th century escaped slaves were hiding at the top. Ignorant of the fact that slavery had been abolished, they panicked when they saw a troop of soldiers approaching and in despair threw themselves off the rock rather than be forced to be returned slavery. Today there is a sculpture park at the base of the rock to commemorate the plight of slaves. Hence the name 'the mournful ones'.
Le Morne and the sculpture park
We took our picnic lunch on a blustery beach underneath La Morne and after gratefully returned to the warmth of the car for the continuing tour.
Black River Gorges national park is in the south and west corner and the entrance we chose is up the road from the Black River marina. We parked near the visitor centre and picked a track which would take us up to a look out and return in about an hour and a half. Inside the forest it was green and cool as we walked down the track to the river where we got our feet wet crossing. And then it was climb, climb, climb up the track to the lookout for views across a gorge and out to sea. On the descent my walking boots had a breakdown – the sole parted from the upper and I finished the walk with the sole held on with the lace.
at the look out

river crossing

This was the end of our adventure for day one. David drove us back to Grand Bay arriving soon after the sun had set.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

1 July A day at the races

When we went to the races in Port Louis we left our dinghy at the Coast Guard dock.
There is a race meeting every Saturday afternoon during the winter at the Champs du Mars course in Port Louis. We'd heard about it from other cruisers and were interested to see ourselves (my family are keen followers of horse racing in the UK). With Jackie and Gary (Inspiration Lady) we caught the 11am express bus from Grand Bay to the bus station in Port Louis and walked through Chinatown to reach the course. For men the entry fee is Rp200 (£4.50), ladies free. Walking through the entrance we were given a cheerful 'bonjour' from a gentleman who introduced himself as Lalah, Controlee (or guest co-ordinator). As visitors to Mauritius he could offer us complimentary use of a box for the afternoon. Would we be interested? There was no hesitation in the round of yes pleases. It wasn't for our exclusive use, there would be others joining but so much better to be on the third floor, 100m from the finish line with comfortable chairs and a steward to bring drinks should we wish.
Champ du Mars course

the stands

1400m start
The first race was at 12.30 and I had plenty of time to buy a race card and talk a walk to find the parade ring. Jackie, Gary and David stayed in the box sipping a cold beer and watching the growing crowd. The course is not big. The setting is dramatic with the city and the harbour away to the west and volcanic peaks to the east. Half way through the afternoon Lalah came to see us to ask if we'd like to meet the General Manager and visit the parade ring afterwards. It seems people who are sailing around the world are a novelty.
David, Gary and I went and enjoyed a very nice chat. He told us this course is the oldest in the southern hemisphere, begun by the British at the beginning of the 19th century, and the third oldest in the world after England and Ireland. All the horse we were seeing today were imported from South Africa, many of the jockeys too, and the horses were stabled and trained at this track. I noted half the trainers were South African too. After our meet we went to the paddock and watched the parade before the next race. Gary choose the horse that was smiling as his winner. And the happy horse was the winner! Why read form books when you can read equine expressions?
It was a lovely day out; very different to our normal life as cruisers, a day to put on a nice frock and take time to enjoy a leisurely afternoon.