Mafate! Let’s Go!

We had been living in Reunion for about six months when a couple of my very special friends came to visit.

I was super excited to have the girls over and excited to have two weeks to do some island exploring with them.

In more than a week, we did heaps of stuff until Mafate was the only box left for us to tick. So us three girls sat down one morning with our guidebooks and maps and started to work out our mission into Reunion’s famous caldera. Step one, find accommodation.  Step two, figure out how to get there. In the end, we booked ourselves into a guest house in Roche Plate, where we could pitch our tents for the night.

And getting to Roche Plate? Well, that looked quite easy: straight across from Le Col des Boeufs. Not so far, by the looks of things. But what were all those tiny, red, squiggly lines on the map?

We found out soon enough! Those tiny, red, squiggly lines were a very impressive change in height! We literally hiked from the top of Mafate, all the way down into La Rivière des Galets, up and over Le Bronchard and on to Roche Plate! We did a hike with a height change of almost 2000m that day. Now if that figure doesn’t mean anything to you, let’s just say that it’s a hell of lot! A hell of a lot of going down and a hell of a lot of going up! It took us eight hours of hiking to get to our destination! And the worst part about it? We had to do it all over again in the morning! But second time round we all passed out from exhaustion and had little a nap on the grass in La Nouvelle!

The rampart from La Nouvelle down into the river is impressive. It’s steep, narrow and quite slippery at times. Not so good for the faint hearted or my old knees! Luckily some cords have been added to the path for you to hold onto.

So that was my first hike into Mafate and I have yet to meet someone who has taken that very same path. Quite traumatising! But the madness was soon forgotten and I was back in Mafate to explore some more.

Vocabulary

heap – tas
stuff – choses
to tick – cocher
map – carte d’un pays
step one – première étape

to figure out – résoudre
to pitch – monter
tiny – minuscule
squiggly – ondulé
impressive – impressionnant

change in height – dénivelé
figure – chiffre
a hell of a lot – énormément
down – vers le bas
up – vers le haut

worst – le pire
nap – sieste
steep – raide
slippery – glissant
madness – folie

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Raising Kids in Reunion

Having grown up in South Africa, I spent most of my childhood playing outside. We would spend hours in the garden around the house, climbing trees, making mud pies and building tents.  We would ride our bikes and play with other kids in the street. Summers were spent splashing about in the pool and holidays and long weekends were enjoyed down at the beach with family and friends.

South Africa has very sunny weather like Reunion, and even though it doesn’t have a tropical climate, it certainly doesn’t have cold winters like in Europe. So you can only imagine that I find the outdoor life we get to enjoy here in Reunion great for kids.

I love our regular trips down to the beach – playing in the sand, chasing crabs, swimming and watching the multi-coloured fish in the sea.  Mother Nature offers us such a fascinating classroom without the restrictions of four brick walls. I love the freedom my family enjoys while walking barefoot outside, with the big blue sky and elegant white-tailed tropicbirds above our heads. I love sitting in the motley shade of an old, wise tree!  The year-round picnicking and walking in the forests and fresh air are also a real pleasure.

Apart from the climate and natural surroundings, I also adore the fact that Reunion has such a multi-cultural society – a group of people that generally lives respectfully and peacefully amongst each other.  I just love seeing the kids at my daughter’s crèche playing together.  Kids from African, Indian, Asian and European descent all mixed up in the same activity, playing as absolute equals.  I hope that these little beings will not learn the prejudices that are so present in the world we live in today.

A mixed race society, unfortunately, wasn’t the case for me when I attended playschool at the end of the apartheid era. So these points all make raising kids in Reunion quite delightful.

Being far away from family, however, is not always so easy.  The grandparents are not around to enjoy the growing up and everyday doings of their grandchildren… or to lend a helping hand to sometimes exhausted parents!

And as you all know, travelling can be a very pricey affair from Reunion.  We have a huge travel budget every year.  Flying to mainland France and South Africa to visit family and friends during school holidays ends up costing us an arm and a leg. So as for everything in life, there are pros and cons to all the decisions we make.  The trick is to find a happy balance for a happy family!

Vocabulary

to raise – elever
childhood – enfance
to climb – grimper
to splash – éclabousser
barefoot – pieds nus

white-tailed tropicbird – paille-en-queue
motley – hétéroclite
wise – sage
year-round – pendant toute l’année
surroundings – environnement

a being – un être
unfortunately – malheureusement
playschool – garderie
delightful – enchanteur
to grow up – grandir

exhausted – épuisé
pricey – coûteux
during – pendant
to cost an arm and a leg – coûter un bras
the pros and cons – les pours et les contres

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Mosquito Attack!

We recently decided to get away for a few days.  After checking out various accommodation options, we booked ourselves into a cosy little bungalow with a picturesque tropical garden in Les Avirons.

We had heard just before making the reservation that there had been a couple of reports of dengue fever around Vincendo and so we decided not to head south on holiday, as we often do.  You see, my partner caught dengue fever when he was a teenager, travelling in Thailand with his folks.  And that is certainly not an experience he would like to repeat!

So off we finally went on holiday.  I was really looking forward to a break from the city and to being surrounded by greenery and some lush vegetation.  Being enveloped in nature has such a calming effect on the soul, don’t you find?

Well yes, normally! But I can tell you that it certainly isn’t very calming, not when you’re experiencing it in a cloud of mosquitoes!  Now, we spend a fair amount of time outdoors and have often been on little city breaks here in Reunion but we have never seen so many mosquitoes, ever! I’m talking about thousands of them, everywhere….

We were in such a state of shock when we first arrived that afternoon that we closed ourselves into the bungalow with all the doors and windows firmly shut.  There, we peacefully enjoyed the complementary welcome punch that was waiting for us on arrival.

With some careful manoeuvring we managed to keep most of our bloodthirsty little friends outside. After strategically laying out and lighting some mosquito coils, we eventually dared to venture outside.  Equipped with long pants and smeared full of mosquito repellent, we made it through our first evening there.

The endless smoke from the coils during our holiday seemed to have more of an effect on us though.  Those mosquitoes just dive-bombed through it to get to our juicy legs. And the whole saga started first thing in the morning at breakfast time already!  We certainly weren’t the only hungry ones around.

Heading down to the beach gave us a much needed break from those pesky mozzies.  With my hat on my head, my camera around my neck, and my legs full of mosquito bites, I really did look like a tourist fresh off the plane! Luckily there is no malaria on this beautiful island and hopefully the reports of dengue fever and Chikungunia will remain few so that we can venture off and enjoy some more crazy holidays like this one in Les Avirons.

Vocabulary

to get away  –  faire un break
cosy – (endroit) douillet, douillette
to head – diriger
folks – parents
to look forward to – avoir hâte de

surrounded – entouré
lush –  luxuriant
calming – apaisant
soul – âme
outdoors – dehors, à l’extérieur

bloodthirsty – sanguinaire
mosquito coil – spirale anti moustique
to dare – oser
pants – pantalon
to smear – étaler quelque chose

juicy – juteux, juteuse
pesky – embêtant
neck – cou
luckily – heureusement
few – peu

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Living in Saint Denis

We arrived in Reunion in 2011 with nothing but our backpacks.  As neither my partner nor I had a job, we decided that it would probably be best to settle in one of the bigger towns or cities.

Having read in our guidebooks that St Pierre was amazing, we headed south the moment we arrived.  From our little holiday studio flat in Le Tampon the first things that needed organising were for us to buy a car and find a place to live.

After contacting a bunch of estate agencies in St Pierre and responding to numerous flat ads online, we realised that our time was quickly running out and we hadn’t even managed to visit one flat!  Either fate was telling us something or there really were no flats available to rent in St Pierre that fell into our price range.

By that stage we had been up to St Denis a couple of times to look at cars.  After spending some time in the city centre doing touristy stuff, we realised that we actually felt better in St Denis than in St Pierre.  With that in mind we decided to get in touch with a couple of estate agencies in the north.  By the end of that week we had signed a lease to a flat in the city centre and bought ourselves a car. And it just so happens that five years later, we still live and work in St Denis.

It’s not like we haven’t considered moving but the pros of staying always outweigh the cons. Staying where we are means that we can stick to having one car between the two of us.  This choice is ecological as well as economical and walking is really good exercise. We are so lucky to not spend time in traffic jams.  We do most of our daily tasks on foot.

Now I’m not saying that it’s only peaches and cream.  St Denis is busy and noisy during the day and summers in our flat can get terribly hot.  And no, we can’t just pop down to the beach for a quick swim before or after work!

But here is what I do appreciate: I love the many well preserved Creole villas and their architecture.  I enjoy walking up rue de Paris to Jardin de l’Etat – what a little gem with its well-kept lawns and ancient trees.  And who wouldn’t enjoy eating an ice-cream on the steps of the cathedral on a Sunday afternoon overlooking the little square and the bubbling fountain?

So St Denis it is for the moment!  But who knows what the future has in store for us!

Vocabulary

backpack – sac à dos
to settle – s’installer
flat – appartement
a bunch of – un tas de
estate agency – agence immobilière

flat ads – annonces immobilières
to manage – réussir à faire quelque chose
fate – destin
to get in touch – contacter
a lease – un bail

pros and cons – le pour et le contre
to outweigh – être plus important que
to stick to – s’en tenir à
to be lucky – être chanceux
traffic jam – embouteillage

peaches and cream – chouette
gem – bijou
well-kept – bien tenu
lawn – pelouse
to have in store – réserver

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