In the morning of May 14th we could see the lights of la Réunion. We arrived at sunrise and had to wait one hour to enter the marina. While circling close to the entrance I heard a splash and saw a big tail disappearing in the water. A whale!!! We moved towards that direction and circled a bit around keeping a good lookout. And we got rewarded for our patience. The whale jumped out and breached several times…. What a welcome!! La Réunion we love you already!
After the beautiful welcome of the whale in the morning things continued just perfectly. Jerôme, the harbour master and Mikael waited for us at the berth in the „darse Titan“ which is the newer marina. Within less than an hour Mirabella was safely tied up and we were cleared in and free to go on land. Restaurants were not open yet only take aways and masks were mandatory in shops but that was it. No other restrictions! Hurray! Back to an almost normal life!
We headed off for a walk to the village to find a bakery. We were longing for a crispy baguette and a pain au chocolat! We enjoyed both on the square in front of the church and felt like newborn. We arranged a reservation for a rental car and continued our village tour towards the „darse ouest“ where our friends from Tec’hadenn were. It was quite a walk especially after our passage and the lockdown time in Maldives where the maximum walk was around our small island which was sometimes – depending on the tide – more a swim than a walk.
Tycho and Alain were not on the boat and Amina’s batteries were running very low. So we enjoyed an ice cream at the small cafe at the fuel station. We were just about to finish when Niklas a Swedish single-handed sailor on his boat HAFSORKESTERN arrived. We had doubled him the night before and André has had a chat with him on the VHF. He had been one of the other boats stuck near Male during lockdown. We offered to show him the way to the „darse Titan“ and he offered us a lift. So we jumped on board and moved. When we arrived in darse Titan there was a group of people waiting for him… Jerôme and Mikael from the harbour but also a lady from the Norwegian embassy and some reporters with a camera. We helped Niklas with the lines and then quickly got off the boat trying to be as invisible as we possibly could be with two children (haha) but of course the reporters had seen us too and asked where we came from. They were doing a short story for the daily news about the first foreign sailing boats arriving to la Réunion after the lockdown. So they interviewed us as well. It was just a short story on the news that evening but funny enough we had several encounters with locals during our time in la Réunion where the people told us they had seen us on television.
What a beautiful first day and what a change to the previous two months! And this was just the beginning of our wonderful time in la Réunion! We met a few other boats who also had the same plans like us and were also stuck in la Réunion as Mauritius and Madagascar were closed. For example two young French couples, Mélanie and Romaric from REDER BRO and Fanny and Charles from SOLEDAD. They became very good friends and also Jaël and Amina loved to spend time with them. Amina decided to give Mélanie English lessons as she said that she herself was not made for speaking French. A few weeks later arrived Frank, a German single-handed sailor on MAXIM who had tried in vain to get into Mauritius and Lisa and Johan from the Swedish boat RUBICON who had crossed the Atlantic with us in November 2017. We had not seen them since Barbados and it was nice to see them again after such a long time. German single hand sailor Frank on MAXIM who had tried to get into Mauritius
There were also people living on boats in the marina permanently like Delphine for example who started to give yoga lessons during the lockdown, then there was Olivier, a teacher who regularly went climbing and Manu, who rents two holiday appartments and dreams of a longterm sailing adventure himself. On the same pontoon as Manu there was Ian, who worked on the Maïdo Observatory 2160m above sealevel and his wife Patricia. The only family with a kid who lived in the marina was Lucrece and Julien with her son Tao, who was a bit younger than Amina. Then, next to SOLEDAD there was Jean-Marc who left la métropole long ago and would never go back to live in France. He showed me which market stall had the best pineapples. On the same pontoon were Noemie and Iker with their dogs Dodo and Rita. And of course there was Georges a real Créol who knows everything about the local kitchen, Maloya music and dance. He always brought the sweetest and juiciest pineapples to every party we had. He lives on a small selfbuilt red catamaran and maybe will also leave for a sailing adventure one day. On our pontoon there was Christian, who was very helpful in the regalvanising process of our anchor and Aurélie and Gilles who always had time for a friendly chat.
So to make things short, there was really like a „Darse Titan community“ and we felt very much at home. In addition we also made friends with two local families. David, who we had met in French Polynesia, when he was travelling as crew on another boat, with his girlfriend Stéphanie and two kids, Kénoa (same age as Jaël) and Eileen (same age as Amina) and Christine and Christophe with their daughter Lola (same age as Jaël), whom we met on our first Sunday evening in St. Denis, while we were waiting for our pizza… Christine was playing „un, deux, trois soleil!“ with her daughter and Amina decided to join them. Christine recognized us from the TV interview and was very excited. During the week they live in St. Denis, the capital city of la Réunion, where Christine works as an English teacher. On the weekends they live in the South of the Island. Christine is a very proud of her island and absolutely wanted to show us the beautiful and wild South of la Réunion. So we exchanged whats app contact. What a beautiful encounter!
From the beginning we realized, that this is a very special place. Two days after our arrival, on Amina’s birthday, we made a beautiful hike from Dos d’âne to Roche vert bouteille with Jacques and Tycho. The scenery just blew us away and we enjoyed this beautiful hike. Réunion really has it all…. Stunning beaches, countless hiking trails, waterfalls, natural sweet water pools, climbing routes and perfect conditions for paragliding. Impossible to get bored. And in combination with all these friendly people we met it just made the perfect place for us to be. Fanny and Mélanie started a planting project with our girls which was a lot of fun. Jaël and Amina sometimes also went by themselves to buy fresh baguette in the morning.
More French cruising boats arrived and towards September also more international sailing boats. MILANTO a beautiful Swan with two Italians, Valerio and Lorenzo on board arrived and LOUMARAN a Chilenian boat with father and son, Jorge senior and Jorge junior on board. SEALOVER a Mexican Catamaran was in the other marina. Daniel, the Mexican, and Valerio had started the World Arc but due to Covid 19 the World Arc got cancelled in Tahiti. They decided to continue and sailed together since.
The landscape of Réunion Island was mainly shaped by the volcano „Piton des neiges“ which is not active anymore. With its 3060m above sealevel it is also the highest summit of the Indian Ocean.The big eruptions of his active life shaped the areas of Cirque de Cilaos, Cirque de Salazie and Cirque de Mafate. The other volcano „Piton de la Fournaise“ is still active and already had two eruptions early that year. The Cirque de Mafate is the most remote one of the three. You can easily spend several days there hiking from one village to the other and stay in one of the lovely gites overnight. We spent a wonderful Mafate weekend with Christine, Christophe, Lola and some of their friends. Cilaos became also one of our favourite spots. The curvy road to get there and the scenic views are simply spectacular. We went camping there with Stéphanie, David, Kénoa and Eileen by a small creek, that was great fun. André and I even did a night hike all the way up to the summit of Piton des Neiges together with our friends from Soledad and RederBro. We started at 2 o’clock at night with our head torches to be up on the summit at sunrise. It was an epic hike we will never forget! We can highly recommend! Réunion is also a paragliding paradise. Jacques and Alain told us how fantastic it was and so André and me had a go. Whereas André turned out to be a natural talent, I had a few rough landings on the second day which made me doubt if I will ever fly all by myself. On the third day there was the tutorial tandem flight on the program. We had to do a few technical exercices in the air like clapping in the outer wings. I focused oh the wings above me and felt a bit dizzy. Nothing serious but just enough to confirm my feeling that my paragliding career will end with this tutorial flight and I will never fly all alone. André made great progress and he made a bunch of solo flights during our time in Réunion. Jaël and Amina made some new friends in the Marina. During two weeks of the school holidays Vincent and Claire lived on their boat with their two boys Sydney and Kim. The kids got along very well and enjoyed playing together when there was time. Vincent worked on the Marion Dufresne , a research and supply vessel which was moored just next to the Darse Titan.
In August we flew home for a few weeks. Prices for flights were outrageous when we had arrived in May but all of a sudden they had dropped. So we thought that it is a good opportunity to see family and friends…. as in Covid times you never know what is happening in a few months. The plan was that André would return to la Réunion after one week to do the antifouling with the help of Romaric. Me and the girls would return three weeks later. We had a one night stop in Paris. Just enough time to climb the stairs of l’Arc de Triomphe and stroll by the Eiffel tower. From Paris we travelled by TGV train to Zurich. The girls and me enjoyed to be home in summer time. We could go to the public swimming pool with my parents, enjoy the woods with friends and roast some cervelats on the stick over a fire and simply have a lot of time with familiy and friends, it was beautiful and made us all very happy.
When we got back we just arrived in time to witness the finish of the antifouling and the splash back in the water. André and Romaric had done a fantastic job. Mirabella looked great again! Slowly but surely everyone was getting ready for moving on. RUBICON was one of the first boats to leave for South Africa but they got stuck at the dock in Richards Bay almost a month as the borders were open for people who flew into South Africa but nobody had thought of the cruising sailboats. We did not want to leave before we knew that we could go on land, so we waited and enjoyed beautiful La Réunion a bit longer. Rudy, a guy André knew from paragliding was looking for a boat to travel to South Africa and André gave him Freds number. It turned out to be a very good match with Fred and Tom from MONFREID. Bruno and Eloise on LAKATAO left for Tanzania, Georges joined Jacques on TY’ BALOO to sail to Mayotte to get some off shore experience. Almost every week in October there was a goodbye party on the stairs of the marina. I also had a great birthday party there with all our friends and Jaël was so happy to celebrate her birthday with so many kids.
It was one of the most difficult goodbyes when we left la Réunion on November 2nd… What a beautiful half year we had spent on this unique island and how many wonderful friendships we had made… one day we will come back I promise! Merci La Réunion!