Mauritius, Rodrigues & La Réunion Part 2
After three weeks we said goodbye to the main island and flew 560km to Mauritius’ other, much smaller island, Rodrigues. Below: the last view of Mauritius.
Above: The first view of the Rodrigues Lagoon and two of their small coral islands.
Rodrigues is only 18km long and 8km wide and much more laid back, with an authentic charm reminiscent of the 1970’s or 80’s. Its certainly feels like you’ve travelled back 30yrs, with the only reminder that it’s not 1980 being the modern cars on the road.
The island isn’t quite as lush as Mauritius, with most of the forest cleared for agriculture. There are also very few tourists.
With overcast weather predicted in a couple of days we headed directly to the beach.
In our hire car, which is an old utility, we headed for the small coastal town of Saint Francois and there set off on foot along the coast.
We walked 50m through the park to our first view of a Rodrigues beach, which was postcard perfect and better than every beach on Mauritius.
Soon we found our second beach which was also great.
Then a third..
And a fourth..
And so on. Each beach was really nice and all of them out doing the best we’d seen on the main island.
There’s only three resorts on the island and non of them are large. Restaurants are few and far between, so we ate several meals at small local beachside cafes where the food was being cooked on home made BBQs and all of them only had chicken, fish, pork and octopus.
By the end of the week I’d had every variety of octopus on offer, grilled octopus, octopus stew, octopus salad etc.
We spent a couple of days relaxing at the local kite surfing beach and also drove the circumference of the island on one day.
On the overcast and rainy day we walked through Grande Montagne Nature Reserve and saw the island’s only two endemic birds and the Rodrigues Fruit Bat.
Life is slow on the island and our biggest concern each day was getting to the boulangerie to pick up our daily baguette before they sold out.
Eight days is a good amount of time to experience the island. Just about every blog I’ve read on Rodrigues is written by someone that’s spends just one night here, visits a beach, walks through the market and gets on the next plane, usually with a statement like, ‘two days was enough time to explore the island and enjoy the local culture’. Seriously!!!
After eight days of deserted beaches it was time for the once a week direct flight to Réunion. We said goodbye to our hosts and snuck though customs and immigration after overstaying our visa by four days and were soon approaching the French territory of La Réunion.
Île de la Réunion
The above map shows the Indian Ocean islands scheduled for three months this year. Réunion, although geographically part of Africa is part of France. After The Seychelles, Madagascar and The Comoros, I’ll be finishing on the other French territory, Mayotte, before heading back into the interior.
We booked a two night stay in the capital Saint Denis to start with, so we could do a walk to a nearby peak. We started early and walked uphill for six hours and then downhill for three. After nine hours on the mountain we arrived home a tad sore. No more hikes for a few days.
Our next stop was the island’s volcano, at the southern end of the island. Fortunately you can drive to the crater rim and walk from there.
We drove through a ‘Martian like’ landscape as the clouds descended.
We drove hundreds of kilometers around and across the island during the following week, visiting waterfalls, coasts, mountains, markets and precipitous valleys. Having just spent a week at the beach and next fortnight on the Seychelles, we decided to skip the beaches and from what we did see, they weren’t very good anyway.
The drive up the mountain to Cilaos was one of the highlights, with 400 bends, steep drops, rock walls, blind corners and one way tunnels. It was straight out of an eposide of Top Gear but unfortunately we had a very underpowered VW Polo which required a good ‘work out’ getting up and back down the mountain. Close to the most fun you can have on the island.
We spent the entire day in Cilaos, wandering the streets, doing a bit of shopping and visiting the odd patisserie. Surrounded by mountains on all sides it’s one of the nicest towns I’ve ever visited.
The most scenic drive we did was on our second last day when we drove to the Cirque of Salazie, once again on winding roads, this time with waterfalls around every corner, including one you have to drive under!
We enjoyed our week, the only disappointing thing is there are just too many people (900,000) and too many cars on a small island.
Tomorrow we head to the Seychelles for two weeks.
Bye for now…