August 2017 - Madagascar

1 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
In the morning, I replaced the switch for the low pressure pump on the water-maker.  It’s been tripping out and I’m hoping that the new switch will sort the problem.  My biggest fear is that the low pressure pump is faulty, which would be a nightmare to replace.  Unfortunately, I can’t test the water-maker now because it’s pickled and I don’t want to run it until a few days before we leave the marina.  Fingers crossed.

Just before lunch, I polished the repaired stanchion as best that I could and fitted it in place - it looks OK, but I’ll get it polished properly when we get to South Africa.  

We spent the afternoon packing our rucksacks to go away for three days.  Glenys nipped into town to buy sliced bread, cheese and salami for our lunches while up in the Cirque.  We’ll carry it in because we’re not sure if we’ll be able to buy any provisions in the small villages where we will be staying.

In evening, Karen and Graham from “Red Herring” came around for dinner.  We’ve been trying to catch up with them for a few months’ now, so we had a lot to catch up with.

2 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
We caught a bus from the Le Port bus station up to Dos d’Ane (pronounced Doe Dan) and walked down to the river at a place called Deux Bras (Two Arms).  The trail starts about 100 metres past the church and winds its way, 800 metres down a very steep slope, but it’s all in shady forest and the path is good.   

Our Gite with Piton Cabri behind

After crossing the river at a ford, we walked along the river and then up the southern lower slopes of Piton Cabri, which is an impressive rocky hill with a fabulous looking ridge.  It would be a great climb along the ridge to the summit, but would involve a night camping half way up, so is out of bounds to us.

As we progressed higher along the lower slopes, we had some great views of the Cirque de Mafate and the trail became steeper and steeper.  The final push was grinding up hundreds of steps zig-zagging up a gully to the flat plain of Aurore.  After a short rest to ease our quivering thighs, we strolled down to our accommodation at Aurore, arriving at 15:00.

Gîte le Fanjan was a pleasant place with two, 4-bed rooms in a new building.  They had a dining room and a small well stocked shop where we were able to buy a few beers and a nice bottle of red wine, which cost only €5 - amazing considering that everything has to be carried or helicoptered into the valley.

It soon began to get cold in the late afternoon, so we climbed into bed and had an hour’s nap after our 6 hour hike.  The Gîte had no common room and it was obvious that there was no heating anywhere, so we put on ALL of the clothes that we had including our down gilets and waterproof jackets and lurked in the dining room.

There was a family of four Austrians staying in the other room, so we had a pleasant dinner with them.  The food was excellent - a chicken curry, a sausage curry, rice, salad and the obligatory lentils.  It was enough to feed fifteen people, so we all tucked in with determination, but only managed to eat half of it.  

Mafate from Ilet Des Latanniers

The owner produced a bottle of Rhum Arrangé (Arranged Rum), which is a kind of liquor.  The base ingredient is 70-proof white cane sugar rum into which is placed various herbs and fruit, such as orange, ginger and aniseed.  It’s sweet and very strong, so we slept well.

3 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
We left Aurore at 09:00 and walked for six hours to Ilet des Latinniers.  Our route took us through a few villages - Ilet a Malheur, Ilet a Bourse and Grand Place.  It was a good hike mostly through forest with some steep drops into river valleys and a few gruelling ascents.  We stopped for lunch in Grand Place at a convenient picnic table - they are well geared for hikers in this valley.

From Grand Place, we had a steep descent down to a river and then an equally steep ascent to the village of Ilet de Latanniers, finishing along a narrow ridge - the village is perched on a small plateau beneath some impressive cliffs.

The Gite Cernot Jean Pau was a huge disappointment.  Allegedly they have 40 beds, but the place is tacky, cramped and run down.  The two toilets had no seat, the two showers barely functioned and the rooms were grim.  Our private double room had the family chest freezer shoved in the corner.  There was no storage space in our room and the evening meal was barely adequate for the four people at dinner - sausage curry, with rice and lentils.  They still charged the premium price of €45 per person - obviously no pride in their establishment.

4 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
Breakfast was grim - packaged dried toast, with butter and jam.  They didn’t provide any hot milk for hot chocolate, instead we had a flask of hot water, with a tub of powdered milk and Nesquik.  We didn’t hang around and quickly set off for the Canalization de Orangers.

On the Canalization des Orangers

The route goes from the Ilet de Oranger to the village of Sans Sousi perched on the slopes overlooking Le Port.  The trail is carved out of the steep-sided valley leading out of Mafate and was created along the route of a huge 18” diameter water pipe bringing mountain water from Mafate to the coastal population.

After a steep 20 minute hike from Ilet de Latanniers up to the trail, the remainder of the walk was on a very level path with some stunning views of the Mafate valley.  There is very little shade, so we were glad that we had lots of water.  The path goes under a waterfall, through a tunnel and is interesting for the first 4 hours.  The last 40 minutes is boring, dropping down from the hill along a dirt road towards the bus stop at San Sousi.

There’s a bus stop at the end of the dirt road and we only had to wait for 30 minutes before a small bus stopped and took us down to St Paul.  From there we caught a bus to Le Port and we were back on the boat by two o’clock - tired but happy.

5 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
After our exertions over the past three days, we had a restful day. Glenys went off to St Paul to the local market to do some shopping without me trailing behind her moaning.  I had a quiet day, catching up with editing my photographs and I started a Blues Guitar course that I’ve had for a couple of years, but it was too advanced for me at the time.  After five years of playing, the course seems possible, so I’ll persevere this time. 

6 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
In a stunning act of forward planning, I had a look at the weather forecast - it’s about time that we moved onto Madagascar. The weather pattern is dominated by high pressure systems that trundle from west to east about 1,000 miles to the south of us.  These pass by about once a week and bring strong south-easterly winds and big swells to the area, so we want to avoid that.  There’s a patch of strong winds around the 10th, so it looks good to sail around Saturday 12th.  

We spent the day doing small jobs - I fitted some small brass rubbing strips to the coach roof; ran the engine and the generator; and screwed a piece of plywood to the bottom of the teak grid in our front heads.  All the joints have become loose and it’s like standing on a trampoline when we have a shower.  It’s a real bodge job, but I hope that it will be strong enough to get us to South Africa where I can get a new teak grid made.

7 August 2017   Le Port, Reunion
We hired a car for four days and ran some errands.  Cars are difficult to get at the moment because it’s the French school holidays, so we’re glad that we had the foresight to book the car four weeks ago.  We did a big food shop in the afternoon, buying provisions to last us for a couple of months until we get to South Africa.