Why? Family commitments in the UK mid October. It became abundantly clear after our passage from the Seychelles to Madagascar that to take pressure off trying to meet a deadline and getting Pipistrelle safely to Durban in the timescale (it was already mid-September), it would be best if Elaine left in Nosy Be before the start of the coastal hop along the west coast of Mada. Thus the decision was made and simplified because crew (Peter and Ute) were joining anyway to sail with us.
How? By air – but this turned out not to be as straightforward as first thought. With its reputation for badly maintained aircraft, not departing/arriving on time, if at all and its nickname ‘Air Maybe’ Air Madagascar was definitely not a preferred option. Based on the island of Reunion, and thus French owned, Air Austral however is reliable, with international flights and what’s more flies direct from Nosy Be to St Denis. But with both airlines, an onward flight booking was necessary. Not an easy task with unreliable internet connections in Madagascar! So after much walking, talking, phoning and other deliberation flights were booked with Air Austral to Reunion and Air Mauritius to Heathrow.
When? 48 hours after we had made the decision, which very much focused the mind! So bags were packed and off she went on the flight that Peter and Ute arrived on!
Where? Destination Les Avirons towards the south west of the Ile de la Reunion.
Who? As we weren’t going to be sailing to the island on Pipistrelle, this was the best alternative to visit Marc and Anne-Marie, friends who have lived and work there. In fact Elaine has known Marc for over 40 years and is godmother to their son Tristan. Unfortunately she missed him by about 10 days as he had already returned to university in France. But his sister Meryl was still at home for a few days. So – a reunion in Reunion!
Elaine was made to feel extremely welcome and enjoyed a two week stay ‘en famille’ at their lovely home in the hills above L’Etang Sale. Having the use of one of their cars meant she travelled around to places she had not previously visited (she’s been twice before!) on this wonderfully diverse Departement Outre Mer of France with its very French and Creole flavours and history. That was when she wasn’t just sitting on the terrace admiring the scenery and tranquility of the garden or on a beach.
Here some highlights:
After St. Denis the capital, St. Pierre is the largest town. The entrance to the marina here can be tricky in a swell.
Driving through St. Pierre towards Le Tampon and on the windy steep roads to the Plaine des Palmistes the temperature plummets by over 10 deg C and sun gives way to mist and rain. The Maison de Villeneuve, built in 1927 is part of the Domaine des Tourelles where the first house was built in the 16th century. Dropping down the serpentine road to St. Benoit on the east coast, the climate changes again with sunshine in pretty St. Rose and St. Anne.
Nestled between two ‘rivers’ Entre Deux is a commune in the hills above St. Louis where the tourist office offers guided walking tours of village. Very attractive ‘cases créoles’ typical of the island with their interesting architecture and history are well worth the visit.
Telling the story of sugar cane and lands, its refining, the people, the slavery and society as well as the history of the island of ‘Bourbon’, visiting the Matutina museum in St. Leu was a great way to spend an afternoon.
Though it had been planned to go to see the still erupting Piton de la Fournaise, rain stopped play and by the time there was another opportunity, the excitement was over, the road around the south of the island closed to traffic while the clearing up process began.
After a fortnight it was time to say adieu to Marc, Anne-Marie and this beautiful island – it has to be Elaine’s favourite – and fly on to England.