About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

17 January 2017

Rate of Global Warming

This is a few months old, but it remains so relevant. Direct link to xkcd - manages to deliver the succinct history of mankind, and change in temperature in one amazingly long graphic!


16 January 2017

Tree Communities and Collaboration

Trees collaborate actively for resources (carbon, nitrogen, etc.) and even communicate on dangers ... it's quite mind blowing. 



14 January 2017

Dark City

The shuttle from the Gautrain Park Station to work every (week)day goes past a number of "bad buildings" in Johannesburg. Some have been abandoned, some have been hijacked - and many have slowly turned into squatter camps.

Dark City is a graduate architecture project by Hariwe, and probably the most impressive thesis document I have come across - together with an art exhibition by a number of collaborators on one particular bad building, known as "Dark City". I found out about the exhibition almost by accident - reading an old news article, and it just finished its run of 2 months today.

The photos and presentation is depressing - stories of police brutality, people living without water, electricity or sewerage services, crime, xenophobia, dangerous environments and an overwhelming amount of garbage. Through all of this, Hariwe documents the building using architecture blueprints familiar to anyone who has considered investing into a new development - except the size is far more depressing. 

The thesis itself holds out for hope - that instead of demolishing the buildings, it is possible to convert them to more usable, humane, low cost housing; and that they can provide sustainability (for example through roof top gardens) and bring back hope. In a country with a shortage of housing; with massive housing back logs, this is not a bad proposition. It has after all been done before - and in Johannesburg too - but are there investors willing to do this; and are the owners who have abandoned buildings willing to participate?

07 January 2017

Musée Léon Dierx



Housed in the old mansion of the bishop, the museum is the foremost art gallery of Reunion. A large portion of the collection is from the estate of notable art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who is credited with managing a number of prominent turn of 20th century artists including van Gogh, Cezanne, Gaugin and Picasso. 

The current exhibition doesn't feature many Reunion artists, since there is a joint exhibition with Johannesburg Art Gallery on their shared collection of art from approx. 1860-1935; and is almost entirely comprised of French artists. There are interesting pieces such as Picasso's before his cubist period, but I would have personally preferred to have also been able to see works from Reunion and the wider collection of the gallery.


06 January 2017

l'Etang Salé les Bains



There are a few beaches in Reunion with black sand - a mixture of volcanic rock and normal sea sand. The beach at l'Etang Salé les Bains is probably the best known, and also one of the best beaches around. 

Kélonia



Just outside the town of St Leu, Kélonia is a turtle aquarium, research and rehabilitation centre. An old turtle breeding initiative (for meat and shells) it has turned around to an amazing aquarium and rehabilitation centre. The visitor centres includes sections on turtles across a number of spheres, including their biology, their migration patterns and various cultural views and practices.




Waterfalls of Grand Galet, Langevin



The waterfall of Grand Galet is one of the highlight pictures of Reunion - multiple streams rushing through the jungle into a clear water pool. The entire river from the waterfall through to the river mouth a few km away is filled with pools and small waterfalls, and seems to be the leisure spot for the locals, with picnics everywhere.



05 January 2017

2007 Lava Fields

The eruption in 2007 added some acreage to the eastern part of the island, and aside from tourists and travelers, there isn't much. The lava fields are impressive in how it cuts through the wooded hill side, but off course no match for the volcano itself.


Anse des Cascades



This small picnic spot was not on my radar while going to Ste Rose, but saw it on the road sign. A short drive out from the main road, there is a nice waterfall from the lush jungle, together with a nice view of the ocean. There is no beach, but there were a few people bathing under the waterfall, and a few more sunbathing on the lush lawns.


Notre Dame des Laves



It is one of the amazing stories in the guide book - in 1977, the volcanic eruption destroys most of the town/village of Piton Ste Rose, and the building that survives is the church. Restored and renamed, the church is quite amazing with the remains of the lava and the interior is filled with references to the volcano.



Plantation Vanille Reunion

Reunion is famous for its vanilla, and the much of the processes surrounding the commercialising vanilla production was developed by Reunionites. There are a few plantations around the island that offer tours, and this particular one does not have any English tours but does have a pamphlet with information. 


Vanilla production takes time (6 years from germination to the first saleable product), and there are similarities with wine farms in this regard. The production size is smaller - not surprising given that fertilization of flowers is by hand. September seems to be the time to see more of the process, but the plantation does everything and has demonstrations on most of the process; and off course the obligatory shop.



Eglise Sainte Anne



The striking external architecture draws you in as you pass through the small town of Ste Anne. At first the main hall is a disappointment after the amazing external design and decoration, but step to the left, there is an amazing baroque chapel, seemingly a convergence of a hindu temple and catholic church.





04 January 2017

Le Volcan

The volcano was really what swayed the decision to come to Reunion. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great - so no commanding views of the island from the top, and not even a clear picture of the summit. On the plus side, it did make the hiking easier.


The route is very well signposted and with a trail of people, it's not difficult to travel. There are two ways to access the site - from a car park that deposits you about 5mins out, or from the gîte that's about 15-20 mins hike away. 

We started at the gîte, so it's a small uphill first followed by a very steep downhill. The hike up the volcano is itself not that steep; but the terrain is very difficult. The main volcano crater is somewhat hidden from the highest point in the outer crater which was interesting, although without any clear views, this was not immediately noticeable. 

We started early - we left the gîte around 06:40, and yet by the time we got to the entrance people were already finished!



The gate at the start gives an ominous notice.


It's a very steep path down, and a very annoying climb up. The guard rails are a bit weak - a few more tugs and pulls may lead to some dangerous results. the landscape is very alien while the flora is very similar to fynbos. The fynbos like flora makes sense - this is a landscape with very little water. 


Probably my clearest picture of the volcano summit and the path there. The part in the foreground is Formica Leo - not sure what it is other than a ochre coloured heap of interesting rocks of gravel like consistency. It's fun to see - unfortunately the colors didn't come out as well as I would have liked.




There are many nooks and cracks and other strange rock formations. At the base of the outer crater climb is Chapelle de Rosemont, which from the distance does look like a chapel, and could be a handy shelter in the rain.


This is an active volcano, and there are numerous observance zones and measuring devices (I assume) around the place. The place is mostly barren past Formica Leo, but sometimes there are a few plants trying to take over!



As you go further up the crater, there are far more interesting rock formations. Some are very colourful, and surprisingly light.



Despite the bad weather, the crater was fully visible and well worth the hike. The colours of the rock were amazing, and you can even see the evidence of the most recent eruption from this crater at least. There was however, no visible lava flows.



This was one of my most interesting hiking experiences, and is certainly a highlight of Reunion.

Gîte du Volcan



The last place to stay in the Volcano area, it is the easiest way to explore the area. It has a lush garden (given the surrounding flora), and offers some stunning views of the area. Accommodation options are basic - all bunk beds, but broken up into smaller rooms, so not a massive dorm, there are no plugs to charge phones and there didn't seem to be any wifi (phone reception was only Edge in either case). 

Their supper offering is quite good - 3 courses, served in a family style setting with long tables. The breakfast was basic - but served early to allow an early start to the day. If you are going to hike up the volcano, this is a good place to rest the day before.