Today was a “getting our bearings” day – a chance to explore and get a sense of the island. A vibe check as the kids say.
We started our day off with coffee and fruit overlooking the ocean. So that was ok.
After a suitable amount of flopping about, we walked about a mile to a fruit seller, and then to a bakery. Then we walked back past our Airbnb to scope out the butcher and a convenience store. So, we’ve got the local basics covered. Everyone has been incredibly friendly, but it would definitely be nice to know French.
Mid-morning, we set off for a hike about an hour’s drive away, north of the town of Saint Joseph. One of the major criticisms of Reunion is the traffic – yesterday was fine, but today we got to experience that firsthand. There’s really only one road around the island, so it can slow to a crawl, or come to a stop entirely if there’s an accident. It also winds its way through towns, so while some of it is just like any modern freeway, other bits are a lot more sedate.
One of the real highlights of the day was the last bit of the drive up to our hike. The road winds up and up, following the course of a river. And for mile after mile, there were families hanging out on the river, having picnics and parties. We’re assuming this is a Sunday thing.
As the road got higher, the switchbacks started getting incredibly steep, with plenty of single lane bridges and blind corners. We eventually made it to the trailhead and got on our way. There were plenty of folks out hiking – family groups heading on strolls, trail runners, and lots of dogs. About an hour of hiking got us to our destination – a very pleasant flat clearing along the stream. We had a picnic and watched other groups doing the same. We’d intended the hike as an easy introduction, but if we’d been up to it, the trail continues for another 7 hours up a mountain. Not today.
Winding back down the mountain, we stopped at the Trou Noir waterfall, a stunning panorama of waterfalls. I couldn’t resist getting the drone out.
By this point, it was about 3:30pm, and we decided to squeeze in one more hike. I’d been looking at a really neat hike which involved following a river up a steep and narrow valley. I’d decided that we probably wouldn’t be able to do it, as in the rainy season it can become dangerous (one of the reviewers mentioned being neck deep in water, holding a backpack over their head). However, it doesn’t seem like the rainy season has hit with full force yet, so we decided to give it a shot.
The hike started at the top of the valley, so we had about an hour of descent to do to reach the river. Many ankles were rolled on the very steep, rocky path. But the payoff was worth it – a beautiful river setting, with all kinds of cool igneous rock. A few groups were hanging out in the stream, just floating around. We made our way upriver, switching to our water shoes after a bit so that we could do stream crossings. Even though it’s a shallow river, the current was very strong, so crossings took patience and careful foot placement.
Eventually, we turned back to avoid being stuck in the valley after sunset. The ascent was very sweaty, but we made it right as the sun went down. We’re back at the Airbnb now, having soaked in the hot-tub and eaten a whole wheel of camembert for dinner. Not a bad life here on Reunion.