Friday, 30 December 2011

Belouve and its gîte


The forests of Bebour and Belouve, east of the cirque of Salazie, are probably the best remaining example of the lush and thick natural vegetation which once covered much of Reunion's interior.

Although the forests are generally accessed via Plaine des Palmistes, they actually 'belong' to the commune of Saint Benoit. They can also be reached by a steep footpath from Hellbourg.

location map

We spent a day and a night at the Belouve gîte for a friend's birthday. Although I'd been there several times before, this was the first time I'd been back since we spent 3 years in South Korea.

road leading to the gîte

The forest is at roughly 1300m altitude.

Belouve gîte

When we got there the weather was rather cloudy, but the next morning we had clear blue skies. This  is fairly typical of the weather in the island's interior.

We had amazing views of the surrounding mountains:

Piton des Neiges and Gros Morne

close-up showing the Piton des Neiges gîte

Cimendef to the left, Roche Ecrite to the right

Hellbourg, in the cirque of Salazie

cirque of Salazie

looking across the cirque of Salazie to the Col de Fourche

The gîte can be reached by car during the week; at weekends a barrier is put up and you have to park your car and walk about 2 or 3 kilometres to reach the gîte.

tree fern roots used as a plant pot outside the gîte

taro leaves are water repellent

old cable car which used to link Belouve and Salazie

gîte outbuilding

sundial showing the gîte's latitude and longitude

Because the climate at Belouve is very humid, plants, trees and flowers grow easily.

After breakfast we went for a walk to see the Reine des Tamarins - an enormous old Highland Tamarin tree (acacia heterophylla).

"Queen of the Tamarins"

The whole forest is very thick and lush.

Female Reunion stonechat (saxicola tectes), known locally as a tec-tec 

This part of the forest has many tree ferns (cyathea):

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

The forests are part of Reunion's National Park, and also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site.

You can book accommodation at the gîte on the Reunion Island Tourism website.

Panoramic view showing Piton des Neiges on the left
and Roche Ecrite in the middle

Useful Link:

"The Gîte de Bélouve during the week: beauty and peacefulness!" Runweb.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Entre-Deux - a guided tour

photo © P. Letellier

Entre-Deux is a commune (municipality) in the south of Reunion. It's name ("between two") comes from the fact that it lies between the Bras de Cilaos and Bras de la Plaine rivers. It became a commune on March 31st 1882.

One recent Sunday a group of us took part in a guided tour of the small town. Although I'd been several times before, it had often only been a stop when passing through on our way to start a hike to the Dimitile (1837m).

our guide, Etienne
photo © P. Letellier

We met in front of the town's tourist office.

Entre Deux tourist office
photo © P. Letellier

The town itself is quite small; the whole commune has a population of only 6000.

Abolition of slavery monument
photo © P. Letellier

photo © P. Letellier

Entre-Deux church
photo © P. Letellier

This Chinese-owned corner shop has existed for 150 years

L'Arbre à Palabres is one of the town's restaurants.

One of the most interesting things in Entre-Deux is the variety of lambrequins decorating house facades. Lambrequins are ornamental decorations on roof edges, and are typical in traditional Creole architecture. Design themes often reflect plant life.

The word "lambrequin" originally comes from the Dutch lamperkijn and is variously referred to in Reunion Creole as lanbrokin, dantèl la kaz or dantèl dovan.

Although lambrequins are by no means unique to Entre-Deux, the town has managed to preserve a great variety of them.

Lambrequins were originally a feature of naval architecture.

Most of the lambrequins in the town are made of metal, although they can also be made of wood.

When it rains the water runs to the point, before falling onto the ground. 

This was useful at a time when gutters did not yet exist.

The town has many well-preserved traditional Creole houses, the oldest dates from 1863. Below is a selection of cases.

house of a former Mayor

Case is the Reunion Creole word for a house.

photo © P. Letellier

this house is covered in wooden shingles, known locally as bardeaux

photo © P. Letellier

another shingle-covered building
photo © P. Letellier

modern house, built in a traditional style

The variety of trees, plants and fruits in Entre-Deux is interesting too. Again, you will find nothing that you cannot find elsewhere on the island, but the local micro-climate combined with town conservation means that many different species are concentrated in the commune.

lychee tree
photo © P. Letellier

garden of the Tourist office
photo © P. Letellier

mango tree

Entre-Deux is one of the few places on Reunion where the rare Bourbon pointu coffee is grown (coffea arabica var. laurina). Bourbon pointu is the second most expensive coffee in the world. Bourbon is a former name of Reunion. If you look at the town's coat of arms (see photo at the top of the post) you'll see that it's composed of three coffee grains.

bourbon pointu coffee plant 

grapefruit (citrus grandis)

Water apples are known in Reunion Creole as jamalac, or poire d'eau in French.

Water apples (syzgium samarangense)
photo © P. Letellier

Jack fruit (artocarpus heterophyllus)

Cocoa beans (theobroma cacoa)
photo © P. Letellier

These fruit are less common, they are known as giant granadillas in English and barbadine in French (passiflora quadrangularis).

giant granadillas

This staghorn fern grows on a lychee tree said to date from 1865.

Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum), known locally as
corne de cerf or corne d'élan  (photo © P. Letellier)

This is Crepe myrtle (lagerstroemia indica) known locally as Goyavier fleur or Lilas des indes:

photo © P. Letellier

photo © P. Letellier

photo © P. Letellier

Jade vine (strongylodon macrobotrys)
photo © P. Letellier

photo © P. Letellier

photo © P. Letellier

Local wildlife!

photo © P. Letellier

Outside the town at Bras Long is a picnic area, where we saw this fairly large St Expeditus shrine - they are often much smaller. St Expeditus is a Roman soldier saint who is particularly venerated on Reunion.

red St Expeditus shrine

Not far away is a view point across the river valley to the commune of Le Tampon.

looking across to Bras de Pontho, part of Le Tampon

Afterwards we went for a lovely farmhouse lunch at "Chez Josian et Celine."

Prawn & jackfruit and guinea-fowl carris

In 2002 a bridge known as the Bras de la Plaine bridge was opened that made it much easier to access Entre-Deux. It is 145 metres high and spans 281 metres across the Bras de la plaine river.

Bras de la Plaine bridge