Friday, 28 September 2012

LA REUNION and UPS and DOWNS 21st September

We sailed out of Mauritius only 5 days after I arrived back from Perth. Although I did see something of Mauritius, it has a slightly threatening feel. Lots of groups of young men.. many dark...lurking about and a lot more Muslims. A lot of poverty also. I felt it was more threatening than anything we ever experienced in Asia.. Not as bad as North Bridge or Balcatta though! Apparently they have a big drug problem there now and they advise tourists to stay within the confines of their resorts!  

Predominately the island agriculture is sugar.  The low land is very harsh and dry with the vegetation sparse and comprising of cactus, yukka, screw pine, pandanus and coarse grass. we were anchored in Grand Bay in the north for a few days and caught up with Lady Amber and crew Peter, Rika, Helen and Ryan. Great hospitality and tremendous information on South Africa, their home, apart from Helen, a good ol Perth girl!  Hope to catch up in Cape Town.
Farmland on the Northern Coast. Sugar country.
St Louis, the capital has some great old buildings and the marina is well situated in the center of town amongst some lovely old buildings. There are no "fingers" in the marina, you just raft up to another boat if there is no space along the wall.  

Mauritius was first settled around the 1600s by the Portugese, then Dutch n French, and lastly English. The local language is mostly French but there is more english there than in Reunion. It gained its independence from Britain in the last 50 years.

Beautiful 1800's Creole home of friends Pasqual and Myriam, in the capital. St Denis.
 Mauritius to Reunion is 140 NM and we did it in 20 hours. It was pretty comfortable except for the cold! As we left Mauritius a yellow and green Budgerigar came aboard for a brief visit (Australian parrot in Western Australian colours ) and as we arrived in Reunion we were greeted by a pod of very big dolphins eager to surf our bow and play in the wake.

On a more local note... After spending 6 nights alongside Josi, some lovely German friends, we hauled out here in Reunion to replace the cutlass bearing. We had put in a new one in April but for some reason we are going to try to work out, it has worn terribly. We have been experiencing some pretty bad vibrations when motoring at more than 1800 revs and as its likely that we may have to do some serious bad weather motoring if it all turns too s.......t on the way to Durban, so we elected to get it fixed here.

The haul out is the cheapest we have ever had.... That's if our French translation is correct..maybe there's another zero in there somewhe
re! !

We will get the shaft inspected for straightness while it's out too. Perhaps we bent it somewhere... Hitting a log or something. 

UPDATE. no the shaft isn't bent but it's quite worn and needs replacing sometime... Not now. The Haulout , in and out, including hard stand for 4 days, props, power and water and some engineering expertise was $350A!  Cheapest on record! 

There is some superficial fiberglass damage on the keel as a result of our encounter with the " hard stuff" (uncharted reef) off Banka Island, Indonesia, so  we will repair that also, while we are out.

Anyway it's all good. Reunion Island is a fabulous place! It's France! The most stunning scenery and fun architecture and culture with the creole influence and fabulous French food!! That's a worry! Baguettes n croissants and terrine, pate etc! Oops!

Our friend Robert cutting us heart of palm for salad from his very own palm farm.
Our French is non existent, however we have managed to bumble along and have some very good laughs! Not many people speak any English but you can usually find someone willing to have a go!

At a restruant in Cilas with friends Barbara and Jim off Contrails. The Great Epicurian Tour of La Reunion
 Reunion is French governed and all laws French. There are all the french social security system etc so there is not the poverty. They do drive on the wrong side of the road though which is a challenge for David....cos he's doing the driving! The roads are often very steep and winding.. One we were on has 400 switchbacks in only a very few Kilometers... So its a bit of a challenge even on the right side of the road... to be fair!!. The biggest adaption to make is going for the gear stick on the right instead of the left! Would have been easier with an auto... But we weren't offered one and didn't think to ask.

The whole island is mountain.  Volcanic. A live volcano on the south of the island which erupts every few years, covering the road with lava. There are new sections to be built here and there. There are villages here you can only get to on foot. No roads in because it's ravine and sheer walls.  Around the perimeter of Reunion is a fabulous motorway. Fast and well signed, so it's only when you get into the mountainous interior that the driving is the most challenging.

Volcanic Lava feild at the actie volcano on the south of the island.
We have met lovely people and very friendly in spite of their reputation.. Self confessed I may add... We were invited into the home of a wonderful couple we met in the street, for a fabulous lunch with the family on Wednesday. Such a lovely surprise and such a nice family. French. He born in Paris, she born here but of very old 1600 French or Portuguese blood. Their home is in the middle of the capital St Dennis and is French Creole architecture, heritage listed, and just lovely. They have a size able garden and 3 dogs!,
We had hoped to entertain them on Sunday aboard but now we are out of the water it will be tricky. Maybe we will invite them to a picnic Aussie style somewhere.... Have to do some research on that. 
We hope to go horse riding over the weekend in some beautiful forest and lake country which I look forward to. The hard stand is very dirty and noisy... Like them all, only in this one there are people REALLY working! Unlike Asia where there is a lot of silence and snoring only, to be heard from the Malays!

David has just returned from a foraging expedition....baguettes, a couple of kg of tomatoes and same of potatoes and a huge avocado for just 2 euro. All local produce. He also got everything he needed for the boat, four 70mm  flat zincs and a shaft zinc and a heavy galvanized shackle for the anchor .. 35eu. So proving very reasonable price wise. There is a big boating community here. Beneteaus everywhere! Most things are available here on the hard. 

This church is considered a miracle because a recent lava flow split at the front doors, diverted round both sides of the church and re joined at the back to continue flowing on!!
The lifter is 40t and it was the easiest haul out ever. No need to remove forestay to lift, which is a big bonus. There are a lot of boats on the hard but mostly local. The major disadvantage with Reunion is that non EU boats can only stay in the country for 45 days or they must pay 15% of the value of the boat and import it, or leave. There are engineering workshops, a sail-maker, fiber-glass people, a small chandler, mechanical services both big and small, all here on the dock.
The marina is full, but arriving boats are given a place, either alongside the big wall or rafted to someone else on the wall. It's a bit messy climbing over another boat, and you really need a ladder to get up. It's possible without but easier with one. The first week is free and then it's about 20 euro per day...( To be confirm!) Electricity and water is free.
We hired a car for 21 euro per day, if you take it for a week, which we did, and we will extend that. 

A recent lava flow.
Many of the friends we have made since leaving Asia are either here now or still coming from Mauritius. It's been great catching up again and sharing all those great and not so great moments over a good Reunion beer. Paul and Marrietta on Nije Faam, Jurgen and Ingrid on Josi, left yesterday for Madagascar. We hope to catch up again somewhere in Africa. George FF on Tara came to dinner the other night and it was hilarious fun. He's French and has been sailing for 30 years. Now single handing for a long time. I offered to give him a haircut but he sais he wants to be a "bad boy" that's translation for rat bag!  He hasn't cut his hair since he started sailing! He's 65!

I must at this point thank Jon Choat our great friend and captain of Tweed, for coming to help David take Taipan from Cocos Keeling to Mauritius. We couldn't have been here now without him.
We plan to launch again on Monday, spend a couple of days checking things and choosing a weather window with the least bad look! Then we hope to sail direct to Durban and fly back to Australia to provide some more family support.
That's it for now from La Reunion 

LaReunion photos