“Hi Katia! I’m going to a remote island for work in October, and if you don’t join me, you’re going to miss it!”
That was my friend Alex’s text on Facebook. At that point of the year I was in a desperate need for a vacation, I was drained and worn out from work and life in my city. I immediately said I’m in before asking where she was going.
The big frame of my life is simple; work, training courses, and travelling for fun. The other things to me are considered small things I do on daily basis. Now that I’m hooked on travelling, I make sure to do it at least once a year, and I always hope for more.
La Réunion was the destination in October 2012!
For those of you who don’t know La Réunion, it is a French Island located in the Indian ocean, east of Madagascar, southwest of Mauritius.
I was taken over by excitement, because Alex’s suggestion meant that I would be on an island for the first time, that I would experience the longest flight in my own history and that I didn’t know exactly what was waiting for me there. Although Alex contacted me later telling me that she had bad news and worried that I might changed my mind, but as soon as I heard them the excitement was doubled! “This year Shark attacks are the worst the Island ever had, and some people died during summer vacation.” But I thought “why would a shark choose to attack me? I’m not a very lucky person, but not that unlucky!” I know, I know! This is the stupidest thing to say to yourself!
To get to La Réunion I had to fly to Paris first, which is not a long flight, it is around 4 hours, and I planned to have a 13 hours transit because I’ve never been there and I wanted to explore the major attractions of the city. To be honest I didn’t like Paris all that much, at the back of my head i favored St. Petersburg, Rome and London. I made sure to keep myself warm in Paris, but October wasn’t kind, it wasn’t extremely cold, but since I was in the streets all the time I felt the cold air creeping into my body. They say Paris is not France, and I can’t judge because other than Paris I haven’t visited yet. But here is the funny part, people working in train stations, bus station and in “Info” booths don’t speak English, and some of them were not willing to help as I wanted to secure my luggage somewhere and hang around freely, and others weren’t willing to help showing aggressive attitude!! That was super odd to me, if someone works in such a place its their job to help people, otherwise they should go home and cook some soup and enjoy a TV show. On the other hand those who helped me and I helped in return in all the cases were anyone but French! And since I have seen a few European cities this one didn’t capture my attention all that much, I was not astonished by anything I saw. I’m sorry Paris, you are not my type! But that was okay, and I was very happy to meet a very nice girl called Nora, an Algerian girl living in Paris, with whom I hope to meet again, we met at the bus station making our way to the airport, she was going to London and I was making my way to St. Denis/La Réunion!
Here are some pictures I took when I was in Paris.
I didn’t expect that the 10-11 hours flight to St. Denis would be easy on me, But it was very easy, since it was a night flight, it was easy to plan; watch a movie, have dinner and sleep! I woke up when the plane landed and because it was really warm!
What do you look for in a cool vacation? Beaches? Clear ocean water? Hiking? parties? beach parties? Live music? Nice people? New food? Outdoors running tracks by the ocean or sea side? Parapanting? Diving? Adventure? New culture? Amazing weather? Relaxation? Exploring? Whale watching? History? That is La Réunion; you easily have fun and make friends!
The pictures will tell you a lot than my words about my trip to La Réunion!
There is no way to Swim in this city, the ocean is there of course but there are no beaches in the capital city, and fun is not big there, I would say only during the weekend pubs and clubs which are not to be compared with the night life of other cities. St. Denis is the place where everyone comes to to work. But to walk around and explore the history of the place is a great thing to do, and the grand market there is beautiful, old fashion market, the atmosphere is lovely.
In St. Denis you can find Christian Churches, a Muslim Mosque, as well as Hindu and Buddhist Temples.
For me the whole fun and good memories and the bad ones were in St. Leu! I love this city, it’s almost always sunny there and the beach there is the best. Me and Alex met a girl called Lamia, a Moroccan/French girl, who was hitch hiking as we were going to another city one night and we gave her a ride, we got to know her during the ride. Lamia knows enough people in St. Leu and that was why we had a great time there. I made sure to go there often, meet the new friends, spend time on the beach till sunset, enjoy live music played in some beach bars, or go for a party. People in St. Leu are the most chilled people I have ever met in my life so far. If you have a problem everyone would say “Never mind, Life is short, problems will be solved, and live the moment”. Life on this Island is a little bit different than what I personally know, so what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine, especially in St. Leu. They learned to share everything together, you may wanna move there and have fun for a while or find a job, you just need to meet cool people like Lamia and her friends and you may end up having some furniture, electronics and things you may need to start a life. If you don’t have money for a day or two you are covered, BUT you gotta be nice enough to do favors for others when the time is right.
In St. Leu you can visit the crocodiles park and the turtles reserve, here are some pictures. That was my first time to see actual crocodiles and I was not sure how to feel about seeing them.
You can also try this!
Let me show you around, this island has amazing places to play and tan
Please note that not all the beaches are human-friendly, some people did actually get attacked by sharks, not in front of me, but I have seen a man without a leg and an arm, it was a new accident. People were prohibited to surf and probably still prohibited. Beaches without lagoons are the scariest, but I still did go there for the sake of the thrill and to enjoy the beauty of beaches open to the ocean. These beaches are usually aggressive, as the waves are powerful and can take you away even if you are a good swimmer. You might be just standing on the shore very close to the water and a big wave may surprise you with a shark inside it waiting for you to smile and say good bye lol! Is that possible? what a thrill!!!
This city is the second biggest after St. Denis, has a massive port for the island. I have been there twice during my visit to La Réunion, the first time didn’t register in my head as I didn’t realize I was in a different city since we were just passing by, sorry I’m very disoriented and when I’m not the driver I don’t usually pay attention to things. And the second time I was in St. Pierre
was in order to meet a man with whom I had a car accident in St. Leu! As I was driving to find the turtles reserve I made the car accident and it was my fault. And funny enough the car I had was rented by Alex and I wasn’t listed as a second driver, we completely ignored the importance of doing that. And Alex trusted me enough to drive. On my way to the reserve I was by myself, and when the accident occurred I knew I was in a big trouble since I don’t speak french, and only a minority on the Island speak English. The accident wasn’t huge as no one got hurt, and the guy was completely angry, I have no idea how I managed to calm him down without knowing French. As we fill the accident papers I was trying to call Alex to inform her and wanted to ask her what was I supposed to do, but she didn’t answer me, she was busy at work. Later I talked to Alex and she was nervous, because as I wasn’t registered as a second driver it meant I was in trouble with the police there. Alex called this guy and he agreed to meet us to change the info in the accident papers, and use Alex’s name and details as if she was driving. We had to drive to St. Paul next day. It is a beautiful city, but we were not in the mood to enjoy anything, because we still had to go to the car rental office and report the accident and change the car, and there we were informed that we had to pay 600 Euros as a car insurance. That was not a happy day! But we did learn to laugh about it later. In the picture bellow the three of us after changing the papers.
One weekend day we decided to go for a long trip to discover the island. This Island has an active volcano “The Piton de la Fourniaise” ,on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 2,631 metres (8,632 ft) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. that erupted more than 100 since the 1600. I was really hoping day and night that it was going to erupt while I was there, because it would have been absolutely a new experience to me. There are three main calderas over there: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only on foot or by helicopter. The island is full of greens, waterfalls, springs and mountains. Please enjoy the pictures.
People of La Réunion are captivated by music, and they like to party, play live music and listen to it and enjoy it. The culture there is a mix of African and European, so they speak French and Creole mainly. The Africans from Madagascar, to me at least, are the natives of this place, since they have been brought long ago as slaves to the island. They do have the best music I’ve heard so far, it is all based on percussion instruments and interesting African dance. If you let this type of music sink into you while listening to it can take you away in a sortof a trip, it did feel euphoric to me. I enjoyed their music besides their love for Jazz. People of La Réunion don’t need an occasion to party and dance, they are so chilled they party almost every day.
We went for a boat trip to see whales, we were lucky enough to spot one. But we were also sad because that baby whale was lost from his tribe. It was also not easy to take a picture of that while jumping and showing off, but we did manage to ask someone to send us the pictures they have taken since we met a group of people with a professional camera. It was actually a very beautiful experience; we were not the only ones waiting for something to appear in the ocean, other boats were also sailing, and amazingly everyone was super quiet, but every time the whale showed itself to us “WOW, WOOHOO, OOOH, and AHHH” were heard.
I’m not always big on food when I travel, usually I’m not keen on trying new foods, but I had some Creole food there once, it was mainly made of rice and beans, they use lots of curry and spices. On the Island you can find a variety of sea food. I’m not the right person to talk about food lol I’m happy with grilled chicken breasts. And we had enough grilled chicken made on the spot near some beaches for lunch.
We were day and night buying fresh pineapples, papayas, lychis, bananas and passion fruits, . I used to have Pineapples day and night as breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. I had Pineapples with everything, with cheese, with bread, with chocolate, with sushi. I did abuse it, but it helped me shed a few hundred grams off lol.
- In the first couple of days of my vacation I burned my foot by stepping on charcoal.
- I ran out of slippers, as I had 2 pairs, one slipper was lost I don’t know where so the other was useless, and once one slipper was torn apart during walking on rocks and so the other was useless.
- During parapanting my snot was running from the cold cold air up there! I remembered how to use my sleeve as a tissue.
- I was made to swim in the mountain cold water, I thought it was not that cold, but staying in it as i was trying to reach the end of the lake that was created by a waterfall made me unable to breath, something weird happened to my lungs, there was a shocking feeling inside my chest that felt like my lungs suddenly shrank and i panicked, soon I calmed myself down to swim back to get some oxygen. Funny is that I thought I was gonna die away from home.
- The damn car accident.
- One evening Alex dropped me off in St. Leu to catch up with the friends there to party, and as she left I remembered that I left my wallet in the car! I was without a money for 24 hours. I felt like a hopeless child although the friends there made sure I don’t feel that way. They even gave me tickets for the next day bus.
- I was bitten by a bed bug on my thigh, that was awfully itchy and looked scary, it looked like a mountain on my thigh, We ended up washing all our beds covers and sheets.
- I slept a whole day without knowing although the church bells jingled loudly every hour and half an hour. And as I woke up I felt like shooting myself in the head for not doing anything cool! Alex and Adriana came home from work and I said i feel like chocolate, they said i shouldn’t go out then, it was dark, I didn’t listen and went out for a run, and that was a damn long run in the dark to find a Total gas station opened, I ended up buying all the chocolate, bread and eclairs they had.
- One day we spent lots of time on the beach till sunset in St. Leu. Later Jérémy told me about some live music gig happening, He lost his slippers somewhere and couldn’t find them, He was the one and only barefoot dude walking around.
- I used to go for a 5 km run in St. Denis in the morning after I dropped Alex and Adriana to work. I noticed many people go out running, since in St. Denis there is a very cool running track side by side with the ocean, random guys asked me for my no. although they didn’t speak English. I pretended each time not to understand, and they ended up giving me their numbers. I guess this is how they find girlfriends??!!
I think I gave you enough reasons to go check this place out by yourselves.
I would like to thank the people who made my trip unforgettable: Alexandra, Caius, Adriana, Jérémy and his friends, Lamia and her friends, Laurent, Emilie, Thierry, Zana, Alexandre and Nora.