Did I mention that I went to the volcano? More than anything, it was an incredible change of scene, the drive taking us down the west coast of the island before climbing up towards the volcano. It started to get a little less hot. There were cows grazing in green pasture and dark forests of tall green trees. The surroundings suddenly felt more Europe than Indian Ocean. Then, as we approached the volcano, the green gave way to a plain of dark volcanic rock, a lunar landscape known as la Plaine des Sables. Cars must take a slightly ropey track across the plain in order to get the volcano. Again, I was struck by the astonishing diversity of the landscape on this small island.

A view of Piton des Neiges, Reunion's highest point.
A view of Piton des Neiges, Reunion’s highest point.

On the first day, we stopped at the Maison du Volcan, the newly renovated volcano museum, which included an entertaining 4D film that took us into the volcano. We stayed in the gîte du volcan overnight.  For the uninitiated amongst you, this here means a sort of mountain lodge, mainly aimed at hikers, where you eat dinner and breakfast, and sleep in a dormitory. The food was the typical gîte fare – wholesome, generous and tasty, whilst also involving worrying amounts of oil, fat and rum. I managed to get some sleep this time, which I can say is an improvement on my last experience of a gîte. The next day, we actually visited the volcano. I must be honest – we did not climb it, although we walked some way towards it. Don’t worry; I’ll climb it next time. The volcano itself is spectacular.

Me at the volcano; my latest attempt at the "eyes closed" pose.
Me at the volcano, Piton de la Fournaise.

I spent New Year’s Eve at the beach, like half of the local population, seemingly. Crowds and crowds of people were gathered on the beach at L’Ermitage to bring in the New Year in style – well, with copious amounts of food, alcohol, fireworks, Chinese lanterns and dodgy tropical/Euro pop. The amount of unpredictable and, frankly, downright dangerous fireworks and firecrackers, bought fresh from roadside stalls, would be enough to give any EU health and safety officer a heart attack. But if you manage to dodge these, there’s a cool ambiance and a sweet way to bring in the New Year.

Chinese lanterns for the new year.
Chinese lanterns for the new year.

Happy New Year!


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