Published: May 4th 2010April 7th 2010
Ocean and Coast Road
In Saint Pierre, we turned inland and started our ascent.
Continuing southwest from Mauritius about 120 miles, we arrived at our 2nd unscheduled port, Reunion this morning about 7:00am. Today, we signed up for a 10-hour tour called “Volcano”, a trip to the La Fournaise Volcano, so we had to get a quick breakfast and hop on the bus by 7:30 for a long ride.
Reunion is a French island with about 800,000 population located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. Administratively, Reunion is one of the overseas departments of France and one of their 26 regions, with the same status as those situated on the European mainland. It is the outermost region of the European Union, and due to its eastern location, it was the first region in the world where the euro became legal tender.
The Portuguese are thought to be the first European visitors, finding it uninhabited in 1635. The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louis, Mauritius. The French flag was hoisted in 1638 but it wasn’t claimed until 1642, and colonization started in 1665. Having had several names since 1635, it wasn’t named Reunion until 1793. It was renamed several times after that, including Ille Bonaparte, after Napoleon Bonaparte.
Our very French guide, Jean Paul. He was great!
Finally, in 1848 it regained the name of Reunion.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays and Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of Suez Canal in 1869 reduced the importance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.
The island holds the world’s record for rainfall in a 72-hour period, 154 inches as a result of Cyclone Gamede in March 2007 at the Commerson Crater.
Based on our observations as we drove toward the volcano, you could definitely see the French influence in the architecture. It was also a very clean island. Our guide today was Jean Paul, pronounced ‘John Paul’, as he said, named after two of the disciples. He was a kick…and had many stories, but sometimes with his very strong French accent, they were hard to understand.
Leaving the pier, we drove along the ocean and coastline road until Saint Pierre, where we turned inland and began our ascent toward the high plateau of the Plaine des Cafres, and toward the Grand Ferme. We made a brief pit stop in Bourg-Morat, where we will have lunch on the way
Cloud Over Plaine des Cafres
As we ascend, it is amazing to watch the clouds move into valleys. The tip sticking up is Piton des Neiges, the highest peak on the island.
back down and visit the museum. We passed a number of small villages, beautiful lush green pastures with cows, and forests up to the “Nez de Boeuf” at about 6,100 foot altitude with a view overlooking the Remparts River about 3,000 feet below. Our next stop along the way was a view of the volcano Piton des Neiges (3 millions years old) and is asleep. From here, extends the valley stretching 13-14 miles of geologic surprises! The gaping hole in the Commerson Crater is decorated with many weird and wonderful rocks. We then climbed to about 7,000 feet as we reached the Plain des Sables. It looks like the surface of Mars or the Moon. We then reached the Pas de Bellecombe, overlooking the La Fournaise Volcano, the main viewpoint on the Crater Bory, which rises in front of us to an altitude of about 8,000 feet. Piton de la Fournaise is a relatively "young" volcano (500.000 years old), and has 2 eruptions per year This viewpoint is on top of a 500 feet high cliff overlooking the volcanic valley which includes more than 60 smaller craters spread around the two main ones: Crater Bory and Crater Dolomieu. After this
Plaine des Cafres to the left of the last photo before the cloud moves in.
amazing experience, we headed back down the road to Bourg-Morat and had a nice lunch. We then visited the museum and took the long ride back to the ship thinking about the wonderful tour and experience. Our only disappointment was that we were hoping to see some hot lava! When we returned to town, Jean Paul gave us a guided tour that included a lovely church, City Hall and gave us time on the pedestrian street or walk around town.
There are more photos below