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                                                      Reunion Island

    The passage to Reunion Island was one of our easiest in a long time, just a 150 nm overnight sail.  We motored the first couple of hours out of Mauritius until we cleared the island, then sailed on a port tack until about 4 am when the winds subsided. As the sun started to come up, we could see Reunion off our starboard bow with a blanket of clouds hanging over the mountain tops.  We motored the rest of the way to St. Pierre on the southern coast.  The entrance into St. Pierre can be a little tricky, as you initially can't see the range marks that need to be followed until you get close.  Also, there are huge breaking waves off to the port side of the entrance and it's a bit disconcerting from a distance when you see surfers catching the big waves.  Our friend, Jack, on "Fantasy" was already in and monitoring the VHF in case we needed any help, but as we approached the breakwater and lined up the range marks, there were no dramas and we entered the marina easily.   

    Reunion is the most beautiful island in the Mascarenes, and has the oldest and highest mountain peak in the western Indian Ocean, Piton-des-Neiges.  It also has one of the worlds most active volcanoes, Piton-de-la-Fournaise (Furnace Peak) which, since 1998 has erupted almost every year.  The rugged interior is comprised of the two mountain ranges and three vast natural amphitheatres known as "cirques" -- Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie.  As French is the official language here, we had some difficulty communicating, but "charades" was always helpful.

    Our first land trip was to Cirque de Cilaos.  The name "Cilaos" is derived from a Malagasy word meaning "the place you never leave".  The drive up the winding mountain road with over 200 hairpin turns hugging the edge of the cliffs was exhilarating.  About 10,000 people live in this cirque and the views of the surrounding mountains in the town of Cilaos was spectacular.  Flower and vegetable gardens thrive in this perfect mountain climate, as well as vineyards for local wine production. 

   On another day, we went to Cirque de Salazie, the largest of the three cirques.  It is also the wettest of the cirques and, therefore, the greenest and has no fewer than a hundred waterfalls.  It started raining as we gained altitude, and a heavy mist hung over the mountain tops which added to it's dreamy ambiance.  High up in the mountains is the town of Hell-Bourg, which was awarded "The Most Beautiful Village in France" in the year 2000.  It features small Creole houses with tiled roofs, intricate railings and colorful flower boxes and gardens.   We then took the sunny coastal road around the north and west of the island from St-Andre, stopping in St-Denis, Le Port and St-Gilles-les-Bains, then back to St. Pierre.

    On our last day with our rental car, we explored the southern coast.  We had wanted to drive along the coast to see the volcano from that perspective, but the road was closed near the town of Tremblet, as they were still in the process of clearing debris from the last eruption.  So we detoured through the sugar cane fields, along rivers and waterfalls, and back to the mountains with views of the deep gorges below, a great place for a picnic lunch and bottle of French wine.

     With our touring done, it was time to get the boat and crew ready for the passage to Richard's Bay, South Africa, crossing the notorious Agulhas Current.   We have checked all the rigging, topped up the diesel tank, have the storm staysail on and have the parachute anchor ready to go with bridle and rode lashed to the deck and in place for easy deployment.  We have been keeping track of the weather patterns around Africa and Madagascar and are about as ready as we will ever be..... so wish us luck and we'll see you on the other side....

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