400 curves to Cilaos

La Réunion´s wild hinterland

Just to say it in advance, I did not count the curves, I count on the knowledge of the bus driver and he should know that, right? 🙂 (Für Deutsch)

on the road to Cilaos
on the road to Cilaos

Today my colleagues and I, with whom I’m on a seminar tour with the German tour operator Studiosus, are allowed to sleep a little longer. However later on, we again go on a hike. This time it will be in the hinterland of the island of La Réunion, which is very mountainous and predominantly green. Of over 1,000 km of hiking trails, some of them are very demanding, can be chosen. And no dangerous or poisonous animals. That reassures me …

on the road to Cilaos
on the road to Cilaos
Lux St. Gilles

Before breakfast, I swim a few laps in the huge pool of our hotel, the Lux St. Gilles, others go jogging through the garden that is lined with huge trees or down by the beach. You need slippers here, because the coral reef grows almost up to the beach. Because of this snorkeling is fun and you can watch a lot of fish.

I eat a bit more from the huge buffet this morning. Especially the different crisp kinds of bread and the warm crêpes with fresh fruit I can´t resist. Who knows, how long today´s hike will be, before we´ll have our picnic at the waterfall.P1190543-s

But first now Bernd Bierbaum, our Studiosus guide us is waiting for us. He has published several travel books and traveled through many countries. To listen to his inexhaustible knowledge and his stories, makes the ride very entertaining until we reach the mountain road to Cilaos.

on the road to Cilaos
on the road to Cilaos

In former times the visitors of the small mountain village of

Cilaos

were carried here in sedan chairs, we sit in a comfortable bus that goes much faster anyway … although, sometimes the bus drives little more than walking pace. The road seldom has two lanes, constantly the driver honks, because no one can see what or who is behind the next tight turn, or perhaps stands at the roadside. Again and again we see the pink public bus, which transports the inhabitants of the small mountain villages reliably. We’re in France, every inhabitant should somehow get reached.

We get higher and higher. The view on the jagged and steep mountainsides besides and above us or on the other side of the now and then to be seen small river gets more and more fantastic.P1190582-s

Some of us, however get queasy. I’m glad I’m really rollercoaster fit, I am too much fascinated by the sight of this wild and beautiful region. Long ago runaway slaves hid here from their captors. Hard to believe that in this impenetrable thickets someone could be found.

And then comes the first tunnel, a good 80 years old and in those days vehicles were probably much smaller than today. The bus driver must properly juggle to get the vehicle to pass through. The mirrors are folded, while at the left and right there is only a 2 cm gap and the bus will touch the rock wall. I am glad that I can sit back ….

Cilaos
Cilaos

We arrive late in the morning at Cilaos that is situated 1220 m above sea level. Here there is a real hustle, it’s Sunday market day. Unfortunately, we do not have time for that. From here, ambitious hikers start to climb on the highest mountain of the island, the Piton des Neiges. Every now and then snow lies on it, as the name suggests, but only very rarely, and now’s the summer.P1190600-s

But first we do not walk up but down to one of the many waterfalls. Going down sounds good and it is not as hot here as by the sea, about 25 degrees Celsius. Let’s go. The men in our group carry our picnic utensils, also the delicious red wine of this area. If that’s not encouragement enough?!P1190605-s

But before the pleasure comes the work, in this case

the hike

The paths are well marked, and an approximate time indication is written on a sign. About 45 minutes it should take, that should work for me.

It soon becomes clear to me that this path is not an easy one. It is quite steep downhill. But it always winds through the forest or in the shade. The steps I do not count any longer, too many are there and I am busy to keep my balance in order not to slip. Mostly it goes down very steep, but again and again as a reward we get a unique view of the mountains around us.P1190636-s

I hear it roar, is that is the waterfall? No, unfortunately not. We have to cross a mountain stream on slippery rocks or on an eben more slippery tree trunk. Bernd is a real gentleman and walks into the water to allow us to cross over with dry feet..

Waterfall
Waterfall

To say it beforehand, we need more than 45 minutes, but the little waterfall that is waiting for us at the foot of the mountain was worth the hike. And the picnic also. Fresh cheese, crispy baguettes, spicy salami, olives and wine. Bernd has thought of everything. Unfortunately the way back uphill is waiting for us.

At my request, when the sedan chair bearers will arrive, I get only a mild smile. What was wrong with this question?

Amazingly, I manage the hike uphill to Cilaos in less time than it took me down there. What I would give now for a nice coffee.

We must go back, because in the hotel a delicious dinner is waiting for us. Although I do not count the curves on the way back, I look it up in a travel guide. 262 serpentines it should be. Did the bus driver fib about it?P1190644-s


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