Sports

It’s All About Balance

Ask my partner what his favourite sport is and he will, without a doubt, respond “Slacklining”. For those of you who aren’t sure what this sport is, you might have seen it on the beach. It’s a flat webbed line that is set up between two anchors (for example: two trees) and then individuals, such as my partner will then balance and walk across it, or try to do certain tricks such as sitting down with their legs crossed. But it doesn’t just stop there, there are many categories, including: highline (a slackline set up, for example, in between two mountains), jumpline (instead of walking across, the slacker performs tricks while bouncing on the line) and waterline (slackline set up over water) as some of you may have seen in St Gilles in front of the waterfalls.

When we first arrived in Reunion Island, four years ago, my partner would set up his slackline on the beach, which would result in many stares and looks of surprise, there just weren’t that many people doing it here. There were even times when random people would break out in applause when a slacker would accomplish a difficult trick.

As time went on the slackliners on the island formed a small community, which eventually grew into a slackline association. Nowadays when you go to the beach there is a slackline set up every 20 meters, and you see everyone from children to grandparents testing out their balance. However, many of the die-hard slackliners tend to stick together, organizing meetings, events, and installations, sharing a passion that they all have in common, that of balance.

Slacklining on the island has evolved, just as the slackliners continue to evolve testing slacklines that are more and more challenging, longer and higher each time.  Just last year a well-known slackliner from France, Nathan Paulin came to Reunion to break the Highline world record and crossed 403meters on his second try! He has since, broken this record and crossed a 1km Highline in France. Highlining isn’t just about the slackline, it’s also about the installation which requires lots of equipment and some rock climbing know-how, and there is also the mental aspect of getting over your fear of heights, the one time I tried a highline my brain somehow missed out on the “you are safe, you’re wearing a harness” messages I was sending to it, and I was frozen with fear, I couldn’t even attempt to stand up on the line as I was hanging on for dear life.

Connected to nature, the rush of adrenaline, working every muscle in your body as you attempt to fight the urge to topple to the ground, and just like many things in life slacklining is all about balance.

Vocabulary

webbed line = sangle
balance = équilibre
tricks = figures
waterfalls = cascades
to stare = fixer (du regard)

applause = applaudissements
to form = former
to grow = se développer
nowadays = de nos jours
die-hard = fervent

to stick together = rester ensemble
well known = bien connu
world record = record du monde
to cross = traverser
rock climbing = escalade

know-how = savoir-faire
fear of heights = peur du vide
harness = baudrier
to hang on for dear life = se cramponner de toutes ses forces
to topple = tomber

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Try to Come Back in One Piece

There are two types of tourists, those who book five-star hotels and spend their days sipping coconut punch while tanning on the beach, and there are those who travel to experience every last sensation possible. My sister-in-law falls into the latter category, and even though she is now a pro (having visited the island three times now), I will never forget her first time here.

She arrived with an itinerary planned out for her fourteen days on the island: Piton des Neiges, catamaran, the volcano, Mafate, mountain biking, horseback riding, ULM, and of course a little time to enjoy the beach.

Hike number one: Piton de la Fournaise and to add excitement to the hike everyone decided to jog all the way back, so as they jogged across the lava all of a sudden my sister in law lost balance and fell onto the jagged lava rocks, she was bloody and bruised but nothing serious.  The next thing on the itinerary would continue as planned.

Mountain Biking in Maido’s lush forest, since they were seeking an adrenaline rush, they didn’t bother with the beginner trails, and after a few minutes my sister in law was on the ground, bleeding from new wounds which were inflicted when the bike hit a rock and she hit the ground.  But like a champion (and without much choice) she jumped back on the bike and finished the trail.

The next day she woke up sore, and sadly Piton des Neiges was canceled due to the injuries sustained on the mountain bike. So, they decided to take it easy for a few days on the beach instead, nothing can go wrong in the lagoon… right? Wrong! More blood as the coral reef took its revenge.

So with all these dangers around us, we decided to get off the island and relax for the day on a catamaran.  The day was going perfectly, sipping coconut punch and laying in the sun, we were finally living life without danger! As if it couldn’t get any more perfect, dolphins surrounded our boat, and we tried to slip into the water without making a splash to get a closer look, when all of a sudden we were in the ocean surrounded by a pool of blood… Everyone immediately forgot about the dolphins and struggled to get out of the water as fast as possible.  My sister in law had sliced the entire palm of her hand open on the boat.

“Reunion Island- l’île intense” had really lived up to its name on this first visit. As she boarded her plane she had a few extra bruises and a couple of new scars that would always remind her of this beautiful island full of extreme adventures.

Vocabulary

to sip = siroter
to tan = bronzer
latter = dernier
itinerary = itinéraire
mountain biking = VTT 

horseback riding = équitation
to jog = trottiner
jagged = coupant
bloody = ensanglanté
bruised = couvert de bleus 

lush = luxuriant
adrenaline rush = montée d’adrénaline
wounds = blessures
inflicted = infligé
sore = avoir mal 

injuries = blessures
to slip = glisser
to splash = éclabousser
to struggle = lutter
to slice = trancher

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The Fourth Cirque

Ask anyone, just ANYONE, the question: ‘How many cirques are there in Reunion?’ and everyone, I mean EVERYONE, will say ‘three?’

Wrong! There are four. You have probably only heard of Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos. This is because the fourth cirque, or ‘caldera’ can no longer be seen as it was completely filled up one day by a massive eruption of lava. And what is its name? It is called Cirque Des Marsouins. Marsouin means ‘porpoise’ in English, but you won’t find any of those here… And where is it? Well, it is located between Salazie and La Plaine des Palmistes.

Hang on”, I hear you cry! “That’s the Forests of Bébour and Bélouve!” Exactly. Over 150,000 years ago, our lovely Piton des Neiges was warming up for her swansong, preparing to give one final explosion of sulphurous ecstasy! Turning the taps on full flow, the vast crater was filled up to the brim with molten rock, fire and brimstone. This explains why, when you come up to the Col de Bébour, the wonderful panoramic view shows a forest which looks completely flat! And you’re standing on top of what used to be a towering cliff!

It might seem like a long way to drive – but if you live in the south, it is only one hour from St Pierre, and if you’re in the north and you fancy some exercise, the drive to Hellbourg only takes an hour from St Denis. From there you can hike up to the wonderful Gite de Belouve with its stunning view over Salazie, and the short walk to the famous Trou de Fer. While I’m on the subject of the Trou de Fer, I would formally like to invite everyone in Reunion to stop translating it as ‘The Iron Hole’. This means nothing! The French word ‘fer’ here does not mean ‘iron’, but ‘horseshoe’, because of the U-shaped configuration of the many waterfalls. Granted, ‘horseshoe hole’ doesn’t sound much better, so why don’t we go for ‘Horseshoe Falls’? Please pass this information on to EVERY helicopter pilot you know!!

Anyway, coming back from our horses to our porpoises, I have to admit that the Cirque des Marsouins is the one part of the island that I have explored the least, and just looking at the names of places and hikes to do there is enough to get my running shoes and camelback on! So, I’ll see you in the Cirque des Marsouins – may the Fourth be with you!!

Vocabulary

anyone = n’importe qui
everyone = tout le monde
wrong = faux
no longer = ne plus
to fill up = remplir

located = situé
between = entre
to hang on = attendre un instant
to warm up = s’échauffer
swansong = chant du cygne

taps = robinets
to the brim = à ras bord
molten = en fusion
brimstone = souffre
flat = plat

towering = gigantesque
to hike = randonner
stunning = éblouissant
granted = effectivement
anyway = (ici) bref

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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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Poulet ou Poisson?

My travelling from South Africa to Reunion was my first international travel experience as well as my first time on an airplane. So the entire process at the airport along with how everything works on board was unknown to me.

After already having offered myself and my carry-on up to a very confused South African Customs Officer at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport out of fear of being arrested for any reason whatsoever – I was really hoping to not have to face any more public embarrassment.

As I took my seat in the front row on board the Air Austral flight, I noticed two boys on the opposite side of the aisle. Looking like flying in Comfort Class is part of their daily commute to school – I decided that I would just do whatever they do. So we put on our seat belts and settled in for the take-off.

Just after 11:00 am, a few minutes after boarding, the air hostess came out with glasses of juice and champagne flutes filled with, of course, the real thing. I had never had champagne before and was very excited to be starting off my French experience in style. However – I had one question – are we allowed to drink yet?! Now, in South Africa, if someone wants to know whether it is an appropriate time to have a drink, we have an Afrikaans saying which translates to: “Has the Boeing flown over yet?”. Not having anything to do with actual aircrafts – the saying sounded in my head. All I could think was “Oh please, please, please let her offer champagne to someone else first!”. Already feeling out of place being, apparently, the only non-French speaking person on board, I did not want to top it off with frowned-upon behavior. To my great relief, the champagne was accepted by another adult before the air hostess reached my seat and so I had my first taste of actual champagne.

Later on, too busy staring out the window at my last view of the country I have never left before, I did not notice that everyone had already set up their trays for lunch. As the two boys were offered their meals, I frantically tried to figure out how to set up my tray without appearing completely clueless. With little success, when the question “Poulet ou poisson?” was posed to me – I had to say “Non, merci” out of fear of more public humiliation. Also, I had no idea what “poulet” or “poisson” was.

At least during my return flight next year I will know that I am being offered a choice between chicken and fish. The tray, however, will remain a mystery.

Vocabulary

arrested – arrêté
daily – quotidienne
commute – trajet
whatever – tout ce que
however – cependant 

appropriate – approprié
actual – réels
apparently – apparemment
to stare – regarder
tray – plateau 

meal – repas
frantically – frénétiquement
to figure out – comprendre
to appear – sembler
clueless – désemparés

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P*tain des Neiges!

Here is a story about my recent trip to p*tain des neiges!

I’m sorry,I mean Piton des Neiges of course. The highest point in the Indian Ocean standing tall at 3069 meters high.

So, on the14th and 15th of April, a bunch of friends and I decided to embark on a journey of self-discovery and endurance.We started hiking on Saturday at around noon after a hearty lunch of bread and cheese and off we went. For an hour and a half, we climbed slowly but surely.It was a hot day though, so water levels were going down quite quickly and we were desperate to fill our bottles up somewhere. The mountain took mercy on us and after a while we found a beautiful natural source of what looked like nice, clean water to drink from. We figured beggars can’t be choosers and off we continued.

The walk was going well, we were singing marching songs and playing games to keep morale high. After thirty minutes, despite everyone’s tiredness, it seemed people were less eager to walk at the back; they all seemed to want to go quicker. Struggling at the front, I couldn’t understand why, until I ended up behind the majority. It seemed something else had joined our group… A stomach bug… And it was leaving its potent mark in the air…

Before I knew it, we were all covering our noses with our hands the rest of the way to the gite, trying to reach toilets as quickly as humanly possible. Some of the group didn’t make it that far, they sacrificed their pride for relief in a bush, but for the lucky ones, and I use the term lucky very lightly, we managed to get to the gite before it was too late.

I won’t go into details, I wouldn’t want to put anyone off their dinner as they’re listening to this, but I will just say what I have learned from the experience:

First of all, on a long hike, bring extra bottled water, some baby wipes, and don’t trust a source just because nature is beautiful. Also maybe avoid eating cheese beforehand. Oh, and flatulence, much like a strong wind behind you, will help you up a steep mountain.

Interesting side note: In our room that night,each of us partook in an involuntary game of musical beds. But that stays between you, us and the mountain.

Vocabulary

bunch – bande
hearty – copieux
slowly but surely – lentement mais surement
to take mercy – avoir pitié
beggars can’t be choosers – il ne faut pas faire la fine bouche

to keep morale high – garder la motivation
tiredness – fatigue
to be eager – être pressé
to end up – finir
stomach bug –  problème de digestion

pride – fierté
relief – soulagement
bush – buisson
to go into details – entrer dans les détails
to put someone off – dégouter qqn

baby wipes – lingettes
side note – détail

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Let’s Dance!

In New York, we have a saying that « white girls can’t dance! » There is nothing racist about this statement. It’s just a given fact. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, but I am not one of them.  This cliché was pretty much invented for me.

Thank the heavens, for techno, house, electro and their easy beats. Even I can bounce my way across the dance floor.  For a while, I thought “I got this!”

Fast forward to my first trip to Reunion Island, to meet my husband’s family. We’d gone out dancing before, in Mainland France, and that had worked out fine. The atmosphere and music was similar enough to New York’s, to make me feel at home. However, our first family event in Reunion, equipped with a DJ, made me very humble. I stood there with my mouth gaping, watching women and men twirl and shake their bottoms, effortlessly. There were specific dance steps involved, not just bouncing to a beat. Complicated, tie your feet up in knots moves, that I was convinced were taught since birth.

I will admit, that I tried studying the way Creole women were swaying their backsides, wanting to understand how to get that Maloya boogie into my step. My only saving grace is that mostly, Maloya, is a dance you do independently or with a group of friends. I couldn’t make anyone fall or stumble with my mishaps. I look even more like a pro, when I get invited to parties, where the dress code is the traditional Maloya dress. A little skirt waving and the local look is pretty much guaranteed, for the most part. I still have a way to go, until I get those booty shakes down right. It’s just not part of my genetic make-up. But I’m getting there. The right partner can help too. Wink Wink.

But nothing could prepare me for Sega dancing, for couples. This requires a tempo that was beyond me, for nearly ten years. I just couldn’t get the footwork or the hip synchronization down. In fact, I was quite certain that I was going to break an ankle trying. It made me remember watching my parents, doing their nifty, 50’s dancing, at weddings, when I was younger.

Luckily, once I gave up trying, like lots of things in life, I finally succeeded or sort of. I found that by closing my eyes, looking only at my 1.90M, husband’s chest, I could give up following the steps and just be led around the dance-floor. Sega is a dizzying but wonderful dance to me now and I no longer beeline it out of there when I hear it.

Vocabulary

to bounce – rebondir
fast forward – avancer
gaping – bouche ouverte
twirl – tourner
shake – secouer

bottoms, backsides, booty – popotin
tie up in knots – faire des nœuds
swaying – balancer
boogie – danse
mostly, pretty much – la plupart

stumble – trébucher
mishaps – mésaventures
way to go – de la route à faire
to get something down – perfectionner
genetic make-up – constitution génétique

wink – clin d’œil
nifty – coquette
sort of – presque
to give up – abandonner
to be led – être mené
beeline – ligne droit

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Beginner’s Luck

Often when asked the question “what’s your favourite sport”, I really want to answer “snorkelling”. But I have been corrected many times, snorkelling apparently does not constitute as a sport. I would be lying if I said that I liked swimming, I’m not really in love with swimming, and public pools gross me out. I just like seeing fish, and sometimes when I swim really fast it feels like exercise. After all, part of the definition of sport is: an activity involving physical exertion and skill. So, breathing through a snorkel without fogging up the mask demonstrates skill, and following fish around the lagoon completes the physical exertion part, so there we have it; my favourite sport!

With that being said, since coming to Reunion I practice my favourite sport as much as possible (since I didn’t have many chances to practice in my hometown Toronto) and I would like to think that I know the lagoon, especially in St Leu, like the back of my hand. I have seen octopus, moray eels, boxfish, lionfish, even squid!! I thought I had seen everything there was to see without venturing beyond the coral barrier.

However, my in-laws came on vacation last November and within a week of being here my father-in-law came back from snorkelling in Trou D’Eau and announced that he had just been swimming with a huge ray! I was green with envy, why haven’t I gone swimming in the lagoon with a ray? I jumped in the water right away and went searching for the ray.  But as luck may have it, I came back disappointed; the ray was nowhere to be seen.

A few days later my sister-in-law went snorkelling in St. Leu, while I stayed on the beach.  What a mistake, she came back excited telling us how she had just spent fifteen minutes or more swimming with a turtle! I have swum with turtles before, but not in the lagoon in St. Leu. I was jealous for the second time that week.

So, I started wondering why I had never seen these big magnificent creatures in the lagoon and visitors who have only been snorkelling a few times were finding them with ease? I came to the conclusion that either it can all be chalked up to beginners luck, or my in-laws were pulling my leg. They did happen to forget their underwater camera both times.  Ever since then, I have kept my eyes peeled, looking for turtles or rays, or maybe I’ll just have to settle for a visit to Kélonia or the Aquarium in St Gilles.

Vocabulary

snorkelling – palmes, masque, tuba
to gross out – dégouter
exertion – effort
fogging up – buée dans le masque
to demonstrate – démontrer

that being said – ceci dit
hometown – ville natale
like the back of my hand – comme le fond de ma poche
octopus – pieuvre
moray eels – murène

boxfish – poisson coffre
lionfish – poisson-lion
squid – calamar
father-in-law – beau père
green with envy – vert de jalousie

ease – aisance
to chalk up – engranger
pulling my leg – faire marcher qqn
to keep your eyes peeled – garder les yeux grand ouvert
to settle for – se contenter de

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A Surprise Hike

Marcus is one of my best friends in Reunion. I’ve known him for years and I enjoy spending time with him. Despite our different characters we always get on, whether we’re singing karaoke at home, or taking advantage of the happy hours down at the pub we always have a great time. Until the day he invited my family and I to a picnic in Langevin.

The instructions were simple: Meet at the carpark at eleven, and walk over to the picnic area for a spot of lunch. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It was anything but.

As I mentioned before, Marcus and I are quite different. I am a very homely person, I enjoy inviting friends over for cocktails and rougail saucisse. I like listening to music and conversing with friends at home. Telling jokes and having a laugh with people. The occasional picnic with friends and family too but nothing too strenuous.

Marcus, however, is a very sporty person. He’s very rarely at home and his car boot is full of sports equipment and swimming paraphernalia, just in case he finishes work and decides on an impromptu dip in the lagoon.

We arrived at Langevin at eleven, met Marcus, and started looking for the picnic area. “It’s just over there,” he said “it’s not a long walk.” Like fools we believed him. Twenty minutes later, my frustration got the better of me.

“Um, Marcus, I thought you said that this would be a walk. This, my friend, is a hike.”

“Nonsense,” he retorted “this isn’t a hike, you should come with me next weekend to Mafate, now that’s a hike.”

We walked on jagged rocks, under canopies, and climbed over large steps. At one point we reached a cliff-side path with an unprotected fifteen metre drop down to a raging river. If this is a “walk”, what the hell is a hike?

We arrived at the spot a little before twelve. Admittedly the hike was worth it. We swam in the freezing water of the Langevin pools, ate, drank and had a great time. The waterfall was spectacular too and there was no shortage of birds and strange insects to discover.

Arriving safely at our cars in the afternoon I thanked Marcus for the adventure. He laughed it off and invited us for a beer at the pub the next week.

“With pleasure” I answered. “Do we need to bring anything special, like a parachute or scuba gear?”

Vocabulary

despite – malgré
to get on – s’entendre
to take advantage – profiter de
a spot of lunch – un casse-croûte
anything but – tout sauf ça

to have a laugh – blaguer
strenuous – difficile
car boot – coffre de voiture
dip – baignade
fools – imbéciles

hike – randonnée
jagged – dentelé
to reach – atteindre
drop – vide
pools – bassins

waterfall – cascade
shortage – manque
to thank – remercier
scuba gear – équipement de plongée

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Mafatenglish

Welcome back to Mafate for another Mafatenglish. It’s been another great couple of days. I think the thing that stands out for me here in Mafatenglish is in fact having three different roles when I come down.

First of all as a teacher, first and foremost. It really is a great pleasure to come here and see the progress that the people of Mafate are making. Yes, their level is not fantastic – we’re talking false beginners, pre-intermediates, but they so want to learn. And let’s not forget, here in Mafate, they need it so much more than other people around the coast who may never see a tourist in all their lives.

The second role that I feel I’m playing here is also one of a tourist. Because when we come down and do our Mafatenglish sessions we do a lot of roleplays and dialogues, pretending that I’m the tourist, and they are themselves of course, and we enact the dialogues to see how they’ve learned their vocabulary. And as a tourist I look around and I think ‘wow, this really is exceptional.’ It’s a beautiful place, it’s clean – really clean! This always impresses me. Even though there are some people who may criticize certain parts of Reunion, saying it’s not clean – here, everything in Mafate I’ve seen has been spotless.

Let’s not forget that I started in Le Maido, I’m in La Nouvelle, going to Aurere, going to Lataniers, so I see pretty much a lot of the main footpaths…… Another thing I notice is that sometimes people say that La Nouvelle is too touristy. Well I think, yes, there are a lot of gîtes being opened, but I think the fact that we have so much choice now is wonderful. We have different choices of beer, different choices of wine, even champagne if you want it – we saw that this lunchtime. Cobie did want to buy a bottle but I persuaded her not to. She’s probably got one in her bag, though…

And I think the third role for me is as a runner, a mountain runner. I wouldn’t describe myself as an athlete – my years of athletics have gone, but the fact of running across Mafate gives one this sense of liberty, a sense of freedom. Sometimes people say “God, are you crazy? 10 hours or 15 hours of running, doing sport?” Possibly, yes! But some people like paragliding, some people like collecting ceramic unicorns, I just love running in Mafate. So once again, it’s been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to coming back here as soon as possible.

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