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974 La Réunion - March 2017


Pointe du Tremblet, Plage Verte and 2007 Lava Flow

Le Grand Brûlé is located on the Southeastern tip of the island between Sainte-Rose and Saint-Philippe. It’s a huge moonscape of solidified lava formed during the eruptions of the Piton de la Fournaise. The area is crossed by the RN2, known along this section as the "Road of the Lavas". After the eruption on 02.04.2007, it took 7 months to reopen the RN2 to the traffic. The road was covered in some places by 60 m thick lava flows.

Today, we visit the 2007 lava flow from the ocean-side to have a different view. We take the RF17 until the parking lot near the Belvédère du Vieux Port and from there the trail along the coast. Before arriving at the lava flow, we stop at the fantastic Plage Verte.

The beach’s name comes from its distinctive green coloration due to the Olivine sand eroded out of the 2007 lava flow. Olivine is a silicate mineral containing iron and magnesium and is one of the first crystals to form as the lava cools. Olivine, being a heavier mineral than most other components of the lava, tends to accumulate on the beach whereas the less dense minerals are swept out to the ocean by the strong wave activity. How green the beach looks depends on the ratio between the green Olivine and the other sand-components as well as from the available light. If you check Wikipedia, it mentions that only four green sand beaches exist in the world. Of course, there are many more green sand beaches, such as this one! Olivine is not rare, it’s an important component of lava in many active volcanic regions. Canary Islands and Iceland are just a couple of places where Olivine is a common constituent of beach sand, sometimes green and sometimes brownish. Olivine is named for its typical olive-green color but it degrades quite rapidly to brownish when the contained iron oxidizes.

Note: After our trip to La Réunion, we visited the “famous” Papakōlea Green Beach (Mahana Beach) on the Island of Hawaiʻi in January 2019. The color of the sand and the landscape are far less impressive than here, at the Plage Verte! Impressive on Hawai’i was only the pollution with tons of garbage and tens of 4WDs driving across protected landscape and bringing lazy tourists to the Papakōlea Green Beach. Here in Tremblet, we walked all day alone and in an uncontaminated nature.


Rivière Langevin

The valley of the Rivière Langevin is an amazing sequence of waterfalls and pools, like the Cascade Jacqueline, Bassin Tamarin, Bassin Benjoin, Bassin Bleu, Bassin à Jules, Cascade du Trou Noir, Grand Galet waterfall ... and so many more.

It’s beautifully refreshing to have a dip in those superb freshwater pools!

The Rivière Langevin offers one of the very few possibilities to swim on La Réunion, due to the coasts being infested by very aggressive sharks (mainly tiger and bull sharks). Since 2011, 27 shark attacks have been recorded on La Réunion, 11 people died so far.

The mouth of the Rivière Langevin, near the small and picturesque port of Langevin, it’s a very nice spot with incredibly strong waves and some impressive blowholes.


Dos d'Ane - Cap Noir - Roche Verre Bouteille

Dos D’Ane is a small village in the hills above La Possession. It’s the starting point for a couple of nice hikes but today we take only a short walk, a loop of 3 km. The loop starts at the end of the road Chemin du Cap Noir (1150 m) and brings you in 600 m to a magnificent panorama lookout (Kiosque du Cap Noir, 1050 m). Here, you can admire one of the most beautiful views of the Cirque de Mafate. The Bras des Merles, the Aurère ridge to the right and the Marianne ridge to the left are in front of you. Continuing the path you arrive at Roche Verre Bouteille (1240 m), a vertical rock with the shape of a bottle, thus the name of “bottle rock”. Along the path, there are many impressive viewpoints. But to be able to enjoy those viewpoints, you must leave early!


Forêt de Bélouve - Trou de Fer, La Plaine des Palmistes

The name of the forest of Bélouve comes from the Malagasy words “be lova”, meaning great heritage. Indeed, the forest of Bélouve is a totally unspoiled and well preserved primary mountain rainforest.

Once crossed the Col de Bébour, one enters the ancient fourth cirque of La Réunion (Plaine des Marsouins). This cirque is now hardly visible as it was filled by an eruption of the Piton des Neiges 150’000 years ago. The forests of Bébour and Bélouve extend over the flat bottom of this cirque and represent the best preserved natural environment of La Réunion, classified as a biological reserve in 1994. The rainfall in this area is very high, averaging 6 m per year and forming impressive rivers and waterfalls.

Very inaccessible, the Trou de Fer was only explored in October 1990.

Two trails are leading to the Trou de Fer from the Forêt de Bélouve. The shortest one starts from the Gîte de Bélouve (8 km return) and is very muddy. Of course, that was our choice ... The second one starts at the Coteau Monique (Sentier de l’École Normale) and is slightly longer (10 km return) but it’s cleaner as it’s fitted with elevated pathways in wood or metal.

Our chosen trail is beautiful as it leads through the heart of the luxuriant primary rainforest. However, with the rain, the path becomes very slippery and our hiking boots are plunged with every step, in the mud up to the ankles … and when we arrive at the waterfall, we’re completely covered!

Nonetheless, we arrive when the fog lifts up and we’re able to see the entire panorama!

Apart from the stunning waterfall dropping into the gorge, the walk through the dark but magnificent rainforest covered by moss and long lichens is amazing.

The Trou de Fer is a 300 m deep gorge with several rivers and creeks dropping into it. The Bras de Caverne has several falls, the highest single plunge is 305 m, considered the highest in France.

The panoramic viewpoint at the end of the trail is an impressive wooden platform suspended over the cliffs. Unfortunately, you only see a couple of the 14 falls around the Trou de Fer. One would need a helicopter to see the full picture!


Hindu Temples and Chapels 

On La Réunion, we can observe two types of Hindu temples: 1) the smaller sized chapels, originally mostly rural, near to sugar cane fields or sugar mills, today often integrated into neighborhoods and 2) the newer great temples typically located in the main coastal cities with monumental front gates with several floors (representation of the divine mountain and its immortal inhabitants), richly carved and painted in bright colors.

The former were built by the “engagés” and their descendants, while the newer big temples were built by the more recent waves of Indians immigrants, especially after the annexation of Pondichéry by India in 1954. In addition, wealthy families often have their own temple attached to their house.

Cultural practices such as animal sacrifices and fire-walks continue mainly in the "chapels" and are an essential moment of the community life, whereas they often no longer exist in the great urban temples. The ceremonies in the chapels are different (more créole) from the big temples, where priests are typically hired from India or Mauritius.



Marche sur le Feu (Firewalking), Temple Catan in Ravine des Cafres, Saint-Pierre

We met Damien, one of the owner of the Catan Temple, during our first firewalk at the Tanambo Temple. A few weeks later, by chance, we stop at the temple in Ravine des Cafres because we see a huge amount of wood stored in the courtyard. We now know how to read the cues …

Here, we recognize Damien who invites us to attend the ceremonies in honor of Pandialé starting the following weekend. With great enthusiasm, we accept the invitation.

We follow the kind, generous and friendly Catan family for an intensively rich three days non-stop: from the preparation of the Tikouli to the evening celebrations with dinner at the temple, the collection of the offers in the neighborhood, the lighting of the Tikouli, the preparation of the float-car for the procession, all the rituals at the beach and back to the temple for the firewalk, then the day after for the long ritual of animal sacrifice closed with a dinner with the temple’s community.

Those 3 days were an intense emotional roller coaster. We very much appreciated to be greeted like close family members. We will always remember those precious and extraordinary moments with them.

The scientific explanation for how is it possible to walk over the fire without severe burning is quite simple. The time the foot is in contact with the embers is not enough to induce a burn. Embers, especially the ash around them, are bad conductors of heat, therefore, the foot's temperature increases only slowly, sufficient to cross the ceremonial place. This is the theory, the actual temperature depends on the wood used, the wind, the mass of the embers and its ratio to cooling ash … a lot of variables.

Peculiarities of this spectacular firewalk: This Tikouli was unusually long, deep and soft (embers were not compressed as in other temples). Thus, feet were pushed very deep into the embers, resulting in the top of the feet being covered by glowing embers. In addition, before the firewalk it was windy and raining, the wind increased the embers temperature, the non-evaporated water increased the heat capacity and thermal conductivity, so burning the feet more quickly. Moreover, humidity can cause embers to cling to the feet.

Two days after the ceremony and of continuous rain, the Tikouli was still so hot, you couldn’t approach it and it was still initiating new glowing embers and igniting fire! Incredible!

The faithfuls who walked on that impressive Tikouli that Sunday night were incredibly brave and blessed!


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Three very intensive days at the Temple Catan: 11, 12 and 13 March 2017



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