Can you imagine driving your car up to the hills of St Paul, and then into a mysterious tunnel? A tunnel cutting deep into the mountain, running in a straight line for 8 kilometres and going all the way into Mafate?
You can’t? Well, this might surprise some people, but this tunnel actually exists! As part of Reunion’s water transfer project, the objective was to transfer water from the rainy east coast of Reunion to the dry and arid west coast, mainly to help agriculture. So, back in 1989, work started to dig three massive tunnels through the volcanic rock, at a total cost of more than one billion euros.
One tunnel runs from Salazie to La Riviere des Pluies, a second into Mafate and the third goes from the dam in La Riviere des Galets to Bois-de-Nefles St Paul. The next time you visit Mafate, and you see the face of Bob Marley graffiti’d onto the wall, that is where the tunnel opens.
As one of the lucky people who have visited, I can say it really was a magical experience. The gates opened, and the tunnel was just big enough for a small car. 20 minutes of claustrophobic darkness followed! When we reached the end of the tunnel, there was a service door. The technician who took us unlocked the door, and blazing sunshine hit us. Walking outside, we were overlooking the dam, surrounded by mountains and lush vegetation.
Unfortunately, it’s not for tourists. But the next time you hear someone say that you can’t drive to Mafate, you can tell them that they’re wrong!
the hills – les hauts
deep – profond
a straight line – ligne droite
actually – réellement
water transfer – basculement des eaux
mainly – principalement
to dig – creuser
billion – milliard
dam – barrage
gates – portails
to unlock – déverouiller
unfortunately – malheureusement