Hell Bourg, the most beautiful village in (African) France

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July 8th 2017
Published: July 8th 2017
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July 8, 2017 - Today I left Mauritius and flew less than an hour to reach Reunion Island. In that time, they still managed to serve a drink and a small snack, which I did not expect. I'd just had a chicken sandwich, as I did not have enough money to exhange my Mauritian rupees for euros, so bought a snack. I was just a few rotis-worth off. Ah well, the roti was good last night.

Reunion is a part of France, so it's not its own country. Everyone here speaks French, and most people speak Creole at home and in informal settings. Not many people speak English, so it will be a challenge, language-wise.

Reunion is known for it's mountains and three cirques, collapsed volcanoes. It is not a beach destination, but has one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. Impressively, 42% of its territory classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is so much to see here and a car would really be useful, but I did not feel comfortable renting one and trying to navigate on my own. That, combined with late planning and a need to book in advance, means I won't be able to see as much of the island as I'd like. The buses are good, but not very frequent, especially on some lines, so I decided to focus on the cirques for this journey. I wish I could see the volcano, but it's just not in the cards.

Immigration and baggage claim happened quite quickly - I think there were less than 30 people on the flight, and no other flight arrived at the same time. There was an info desk - thanks, France! - and I found out how to take the bus to Hell Bourg, where I'll be staying for three nights. Hell Bourg is a village in Cirque de Salazie, and was voted the prettiest town in France in 2000. It is a good area for hiking, as are all the cirques, so that will be my focus here.

From the airport, I had to walk a few minutes to get to the bus stop. It took about 40 minutes of waiting before the bus came, and then I was on my way. I took the E2 to St. Andre and then asked at the info counter for the bus to Hell Bourg. I was in luck - the #83 left in 10 minutes! From there it took about 25 minutes to get to Hell Bourg. It's quite a dramatic drive, entering the cirque. The vegetation becomes quite lush, it gets cooler, and there was waterfalls everywhere. Due to the elevation, and it being winter, it's much cooler here, with nights getting to about 50 F/ 10 C. Quite stunning. From the bus, I wandered around to find to my guesthouse. The husband speaks English, and showed me the room and explained breakfast. It's a cute room, but is cold with tile floors, and the bed feels damp from the humidity. It will be a cold place to hang out. It's also easy to hear the neighbors talking through the walls. There was no chair, so I commandeered one from the terrace area.

Once I got organized, I set out for the info office, before they closed for the day. The guy spoke English well, and helped me learn about different hikes in the area, when shops close, how to get places, etc. I went next door for a sandwich and then started a short hike to the Three Cascades. It was steep right from the start. Much harder than expected for my warm-up hike. But it was good and quite beautiful. It took less than an hour, and when I came back I took some pictures in town and bought some more water, some cookies, another sandwich for dinner and an ice cream. I can't cook here and didn't see much interesting for restaurants.

There's some festival or something similar happening in Salazie (town) this weekend, about 20 minutes away, so I may grab the bus to check that out in the morning. There are not many buses, so I'll have to get the 7:27am one. An early start again.

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12th July 2017

Not a lot of time in Reunion but it sounds like you have a solid plan.

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