July 9, 2017 - Today was quite the day. Most of the time when I travel, I've done a lot of planning and know what I will do most days. There is some flexibility, but not as much as you might think. Yesterday, when I arrived in Reunion, I thought today I would do a long hike and tomorrow I would do another long hike, to Cirque de Mafate. This is another collapsed volcano, and you can only get there by walking. There are villages there, and there are 100km of walking trails, but no roads and no cars. Supplies are brought in by helicopter, but there are people who live there who have never seen a car. From Hell Bourg, I could walk there and back in about five hours. But after talking to the tourist information guy yesterday, I realized it's not that easy. The hike actually starts from Col de Boeuf, which I thought was close, but would actually take me three buses to get to. And I would have to get the first one at about 6am. They are not frequent, and the last bus coming back left earlier than expected, followed by a three hour wait
for the next bus. It just seemed crazy. So I decided to try the hike from my next destination, Cirque de Cilaos. This will be a longer walk, but I think I can leave from the town directly.
The information guy also told me about the festival going on in Salazie town, twenty minutes from here. I saw part of it yesterday as my bus passed through. The part that got my attention though, was when he mentioned a special deal on helicopter flights. Fifty euro for ten minutes to see Trou de Fer waterfalls. Quite a good deal. On Sunday, there are not many buses, so I would have to get the bus at 7:27am. And that's what I decided to do.
To stop the bus, instead of ringing the bell, you have to clap your hands. It just seems so ridiculous. I saw it yesterday, but luckily someone did it for my stop. There were not many people on the bus, but I didn't worry about missing my stop, as it's the only other town in the cirque. I arrived in Salazie just before 8am and walked around a bit. People were setting up for the
festival - really, it's just a few booths, but I asked around to see where I could find the helicopter stand. Eventually someone spoke English and showed me where the table would be set up at 9am. And they did arrive, just before 9am. I was not the only person waiting by then. It worked out that I made it on the first flight of the day, at 9:30am. I walked to the helicopter with a woman named Karine and her daughter, who were also doing the same trip. We ended up talking, and she spoke English. Hooray!
The pilot also spoke English, and he is from Brittany, in France. He saw me next to the window, behind him, and there were three others next to me. The woman and her daughter sat in front next to the pilot. It took a minute for the helicopter to warm up and then we were off! We flew through the cirque, right next to the walls of the volcano. It felt like you could touch them at times. We did two loops of the waterfalls and then headed back. It was all very exciting and beautiful. And that hike, from here,
would take me 6 hours! This was my first time in a helicopter, and it was very cool.
But the day just kept getting better. I walked back to town with my new friend, and she invited me to her parents' house. She lives on the coast, in St. Pierre, but is visiting her family in Salazie. I met her parents, her sister, her brother, and her nephews. One of them, Mattheo, speaks English well, due to gaming. He's 13. They offered to drive me back to Hell Bourg, rather than wait for the bus at 1:30pm, and show me some things along the way. They brought me to a lake where families picnic on the weekend. We walked around that area for a while. They also walked to me to the ruins of a thermal bath in Hell Bourg, which I had planned to see today. It was really nice.
Then they asked me if I wanted to see the volcano! This is the volcano I mentioned that I wanted to see but wouldn't be able to, without a car. It's one of the best things to see here, and I was going to miss it. They
suggested I come to their house for dinner tomorrow night - they will pick me up at 6pm - and then they will bring me home. The following day, when I was meant to spend all day taking at least 5 buses to get to Cirque de Cilaos, they will drive me to the volcano and then to the town where I would only have to get one bus to Cilaos. It's just so incredibly kind. It will be more fun, I'll see more, and it will save me time. If it all works out, it will be great.
When they dropped me off, I walked around a different part of town, took some pictures, and then came back to eat a sandwich I made at breakfast. Afterwards, it was only 2pm, so despite having had an 8 hour day already, I went on a hike. The shortest one that I hadn't done yet was 3 hrs long, so I went for it. I had no idea what the end goal was, just the name and where to start. Basically, I walked steeply uphill for an hour an a half. I wondered what could make this worth it, while
I was covered in sweat and breathing hard. Then I got to the top and saw the views. That is why.
In the cirques, it's like being in a bowl, and everything is up. Now, I was looking down from the top. It was very cool to see. And that place there was a gite, or rustic guesthouse, to stay in. There must also have been a road up, because several people were up there, and most did not looked like they had hiked. I had some water and a couple cookies, looked around, and then headed back. It took about an hour to get down, but that time passed much more quickly. I am such a goofy hiker. I just keep stumbling my way uphill and then downhill, but it is more pronounced when I come down, as I'm going faster and it's less controlled. What a goof.
The best news was when I got back to town, the sandwich shop was still open. I was sure, since it's Sunday. I ordered a ham and cheese baguette with butter, and ate it back at the guesthouse, outside in the garden while chatting with Jeroen. Simple, but so
My room is still cold and damp, and last night I added another blanket. It is humid here, and even my quick dry underwear did not fully dry in 24 hours. I'm worried my hiking clothes won't dry overnight, and think I may use the hairdryer on them a bit. It worked for the underwear. I can't deal with all my clothes being wet all week. I wish there was heat in the room. That would help dry everything out, and make me feel less miserable. But it is dark and cold outside, too.
So, a simple turn of events - hearing about the helicopter - may have significantly changed the course of the next few days for me. It's amazing how things work out.
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