Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Réunion Island: Cilaos

Cilaos is a quaint town perched high (1220 metres above sea level) in the volcanic mountains of Réunion Island. It's worth the drive (if you can manage to avoid being hit by oncoming cars which 'pass' you on a {sometimes single} lane that winds along the edges of the mountainside.) There's rumoured to be four hundred (mostly hair pin) bends in the road. We gave up counting. It was more important to watch the road. At one point we managed to overtake a slow driver only to be faced with oncoming car, in our lane, heading straight towards us. We were a whisker away from an accident. There are many youtube videos which provide an accurate account of the trip.

Our Fiat barely had the grunt to get up some parts of the road but she didn't let us down!

Cilaos is truly beautiful and unlike any town along the coastline. Market gardens and vineyards grow along the mountainside. Tourism is big and the day we went up the mountain there were many tourist buses traveling along the same, single lane, route we took.

 Dodo Beir - the (seemed to be) favoured choice of locals. 
We preferred Phoenix Beer which was all of €1 in the local supermarket. Yes, they sell alcohol in the supermarket.

 I was geared up for the food on Réunion having read that it is Creole and a combination of the African, Indian, Chinese and French influences. We didn't see a vegetable or salad for the first five days and I was desperate to get some leafy greens in my mouth. One night I had the equivalent of a king-prawn cocktail and I was so pleased to see and eat greenery. This surprised me given the fresh vegetables we saw at the markets and that the local economy relies on tourism, defence and produce.

In Cilaos I ate my favourite dish of the trip. It was a lentil curry but I was just craving this type of food after experiencing some ordinary dinners for example, poo sausage - the innards of a pig stuffed into a pig intestine. I didn't even go near this thing but I did have to have it removed from the table when we could no longer bear the smell. I kid you not!

Despite the lack of dinner options Reunion, as you would expect, does pastries very well! The island is a French colony and the preferred language is French there are many patisseries scattered through the towns. The pastries were to-die-for (you would if you ate them all, all of the time) and very reasonably priced.

Nothing like a spot of wine tasting in the hills. And a few for gifts and our cellar for when we return! Rose (about €12) is the popular variety in these mountains and it was dry almost like a white so it will be interesting to sample again, at home, come summer.

One of two single lane tunnels that you pass through to get to and fro Cilaos. 
You must sound your horn before entering and swing a hard right hand turn as you exit - to avoid falling down the cliff!

Towns perched on the edge of the mountain range.

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