Sacre Coeur des Colimacons is an interesting little church that sits on a hillside above the town of St. Leu. It was built in the 1860s by Antoine Sosthese de Chateauvieux, a Frenchman who founded a nearby estate that is now Reunion's national botanical garden.
If you are interested in guided tours in La Reunion or in any of their other dozens of destinations you can contact AlpinSchule Innsbruck GmbH at In der Stille 1, A-6161 Natters, Austria.
Tel. 43 512 54 6000
Fax. 43 512 54 6001
Even if you don't want to take their tours you can order their catalogue which is full of excellent itineraries for many exotic destinations. Our experience with them has been very positive. We would like to go hiking in Sicilia with them next.
If you want to try your luck with Jacques Kammerer he is the guide for Alpine Schule Innsbruck or ASI.
Jacques guides in France, Reunion and also in Cyprus. His specialty is gourmet tours around Alsace Lorraine.
He can be reached at Ferme Niedermatten, 67220 Breitenbach Elsass, France. His telephone number is +33 388 570 144 and his mobile number is +33 608 837 292.
So, if you think you might like to try a private guide then I can reccommend Alexa Lorenz.
She lives in St. Gilles les Baines in La Reunion. She can be reached at 06 92 19 82 89 or her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
She offers mountain biking and hiking tours in English, German, Spanish and of course French. She can also arrange canyoning tours through her network of guide friends, too.
She is good natured and thoroughly professional. Good luck and enjoy your hiking or biking experience in La Reunion.
I have tried to provide some general tips for hiking in La Reunion and what our experience was. I hope they have been helpful and not too tedious. They were written to be read together, so I hope I have not put you off. In any case, I hope they will help you regardless of where you are hiking. I think some of the advice and experience is universal and applies equally in the Alps or Rockies as on an island in the Indian Ocean. Thanks.
Here are Alexa Lorenz and our other guide Jacques Kammerer
I am not saying there is one way to hike. There are many individuals in a group. But, you have to find the group dynamic that works for the most people. Not too fast, not too slow, and always safe. That is also the advantage of an experienced guide who knows the terrain and who can estimate how far the next destination is. Sometimes they push the group if the weather looks like it is going to change. Sometimes they slow it down to give the stragglers time to catch their wind. Sometimes you have to stop to smell the flowers, and sometimes you have to get out of an avalanche area as quick as possible. That is worth the price of a guide in my opinion.
Here is our guide Alexa Lorenz who did a fantastic job. She does mountain biking and trekking tours in La Reunion as well as some canyoning.
Also, as we had to carry our own food, this added extra weight that each person had to carry in addition to their own packs. It seemed that the same people were always carrying the largest bundles and the most weight. Fair enough, but then at least go at a decent pace. I sweat like a pig. When I am wet and when we take too many breaks, I immediately start to get cold. I prefer to take my breaks in the sun or take off my wet clothes and change into something dry. However, that only makes sense when you have reached your destination not during the day.
The age of the group was quite diverse. We ranged in age from mid to late 20s to mid to late 60s. The ability of the hiker was contingent on the experience of the hiker and not on their age. I was one of the best in terms of experience and fitness, but Alfred was always ahead of me or right behind me, and he is at least 60 years old. Some of the young girls with very little experience brought up the rear. Shamefully, one of the new guides who was there to learn, was one of the slowest. He needs to shed some unwanted pounds and learn to hike with experienced hikers. It may sound cruel, but in order to cover ground and get where you’re going, you need to go at a steady pace. Too slow and with too many breaks destroys the rhythm. And, with the danger of rain or getting caught on the mountain in a storm, I would sooner move quickly, get to my destination and then enjoy the view or a beer or dinner or whatever.
Well, except for your hiking boots. They have to cope with all the changes. They should be Goretex and waterproof. I would not advise you to bring new boots. Better boots that you have worn before, that are broken in, and that you are sure are not going to give you blisters. As well, bring several pairs of socks so you can switch pairs if one gives you hot spots, and a set of Compeed bandages to put over any blisters that you may get after having the same boots on everyday. Don’t bring regular Bandaids. They are not as effective and they rub-off when they get moist and due to friction from the sock. Bring Compeeds. You apply them once, and then they stay on for several days. They will keep the wound from the blister clean and provide some cushion from chafing. Once you have used them you will understand why I insist on them. You do not want to under any circumstances hike 4-6 hours a day for several days with an open blister. One person in our group had problems with her boots and with blisters, and of course, she was wearing regular socks, not hiking socks, and she had her boots laced up wrong. Not just her problem if she holds the whole group up and takes too much of the guide’s time.
The climate posed problems. In La Reunion there are four major climate zones. Volcanic, sub-tropical rain forest, mountainous, and dry and arid in addition to the beach. However, as it is also a small island with high mountains, you also have the sub-climate zones due to elevation and distance from water or the side of the mountain for example. I think there are 20 sub-climate zones in all. Plus, you start in the morning, hike through the heat of the midday, and then arrive at your destination in the late afternoon or evening. Therefore, you have to be prepared for constant changes in temperature from roasting under the noonday sun to pouring rain in the forest and everything in between. You need lots of layers to take on and leave off as the case may be.
Sometimes we hiked from town to town, or hut to hut, and other days we stayed put in one hotel and made day trips. Making day trips is preferable, as you can leave all your stuff and then just hike with a daypack. On the days when we went hut to hut, we had to carry everything. However, ASI organized our larger suitcases to be transported by bus to our next major hotel. Therefore, we were like 2-3 days under way with the same clothes and then had a chance to get cleaned up and changed. It was not too bad. Most of the group were experienced hikers so they knew what to bring and what to leave at home, and so long as everyone is grubby, there is no problem.
But, as well the guides are worth it in terms of their own expertise. They don’t earn much money, so they do the job because they want to. That usually means that they have lots of friends and know the best places to go. Our guide, Alexa, also took us to some of her favorite hangouts in the evening in the larger towns and showed us a side of La Reunion, which we would not have seen on our own. She did not have to do that for sure. However, it was greatly appreciated.
Essentially you are paying Alpine Schule Innsbruck for their expertise, for organizing the ground transport, and for the experienced guide. There is no reason with enough planning and preparation on your part that you could not plan such a trip yourself. But, it is a daunting task to land in a new place and to know instinctively where to go and what to see. Plus the learning curve is very steep, so you’re always wiser after the fact. If you have lots of time, then this might be preferable. For us, we were on a tight schedule with work, with holidays, with flights, etc., that we prefer to travel this way. Also, there is a ready-made group of between 10-15 people with whom you can go hiking with.
We flew to La Reunion for two weeks in October-November 2004 with Alpine Schule Innsbruck (ASI). We had been hiking with them the year previously in Mallorca and liked their style. Generally, you have a chance to hike with a group of similar minded people and enjoy seeing somewhere new. We usually go for an advanced group which typically means hiking 4-6 hours a day. This gives you plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast and get ready to go. A few good hours on the hills. A break for lunch. And, then another few hours to wherever you are headed to that day as a destination.
I am going to write the next ten tips in the form of one long summary of our experiences in La Reunion hiking. I don’t think that hiking in La Reunion is necessarily any different than anywhere else and the basics still apply. However, perhaps due to the climate differences over relatively short distances one has to be prepared for changes in weather and conditions. Also, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the island. At different times during the year, the conditions may be other than those I have described. However, the next ten tips are meant to be read together and not in isolation, so I hope you can follow them and that they are useful.
28 rue du Lagon, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains, 97434, Reunion Island
Good for: Solo
31 Rue Juliette Dodu, Saint-Denis, 97400, Reunion Island
Good for: Solo
44,route de Boucan Canot, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains, 97434, Reunion Island
Good for: Couples