Report on Reunion D’Aventure
Island, Indian Ocean.
David Ogden 53 Cyprus
28 South Africa
Wayne MacCarthy 46 Wales
Tanya Richardson 21 UK
I traveled out ahead of the team on the 6th September, in order to organise hire of canyon equipment, a mountain bike for myself, find out where supplies could be purchased and also purchase some items for First Aid kit. I also had time to check how good roads and tracks compared with those on the maps.
The island itself is an adventure sports paradise and although small in size packs in the highest mountain in the Indian Ocean Piton des Neiges (3,071M), where snow had fallen in August, for the first time in five years. One of the world’s most active volcanos at Piton de la Fournaise (2,632M) also had a minor eruption two week prior to my arrival. The volcanic action together with tropical rainstorms offers rugged terrain with a myriad of canyons and waterfalls.
The team’s travel to the island was not without incident, Elena was a last minute replacement as Anna from Russia, broke her arm a week before departure. The flight from Moscow to Paris (CDG) was delayed and departure to Reunion was from Paris (Orly), to compound matters further there was a crash on the autoroute. Boarding had commenced and neither Anna who was providing some equipment for the team or Elena had arrived.
The team set up for a fast track check-in with trolleys ready. The taxi arrived and all went well until passport control, where Elena’s Visa issued by the German Consul was not accepted. After much discussion and a further 30-minute delay she was allowed to board an upgraded to First class for her troubles. The plane departed some one hour late.
The day before the team arrived I met the local representative of Vita Sport, a sports energy food supplier. She agreed to supply the team with products and in return we added Vita Sport Logo’s to our race vest.
Registration and Briefing
The team arrived on Friday at the Apolonia Hotel in St Leu, the base for the race, having collected a van to be used by the support team at the Airport.
First order of business was beer and sandwiches during which we all got to know one another not having raced together as a team before.
Registration and equipment checks where scheduled for the mid afternoon, so the team had time to freshen up, unpack and then we gathered our compulsory kit together. We were in fact the first team to complete registration and be issued with our pass book, which meant the following morning would be free. During the evening we went for an after dinner walk and visited a local Fun Fair.
Saturday morning saw us donning our Roller blades for a quick practise, I think we all fell over or crashed once however we were happy with the end result, so set off to try out swimming with fins, The sea was rough with waves breaking over reef and even forming in the lagoon. The water was shallow and we saw lots of fish, at times we were making no progress against the currents. Satisfied that everything was in order we joined the support team fro breakfast. After breakfast we drove to the next town, on the way pausing to take pictures of the waves breaking on the rocks.
We purchased a gas cooker and cylinder and then raided a local supermarket for food for transitions and in the field, Wayne could not understand the amount of junk/comfort food we purchased. We lunched on baguettes in the supermarket car park before returning to the Hotel, where time was spent bagging our goodies, prior to packing our kit.
The race briefing commenced shortly after 1500, unfortunately it was all in French as we were the only English speaking team, however the raid book was in English. Each team was introduced, there were ten French Teams which including Spie, Eider and an all woman team, one Belgium team, four local team one of which was all female and ourselves representing more countries than all the others.
The course was laid out starting on the far side of the island at 0600 with Roller blading/running(46K), which meant an early breakfast at 0300. Following on was trekking up to the Volcano (33K), then Mountain biking(20K) then a decent into a canyon on foot and a hard climb up and around one of the Cirques(39K) A decent of the Fleur Jeaune Canyon [plus a 250M climb up a wall. Thereafter-another 20K of trekking and canyonning, before the downhill sections of Mountain biking (24K), canyonning (6K) and swimming (1.7K). Unfortunately only three competitors from different teams were qualified as Para gliders and they elected to stay with their teams and do the final canyon instead of gliding to the beach for the final swim.
The briefing over teams dispersed to mark up the maps. Primus and Jamie took on this task, whilst Elena and myself sorted out team equipment> Wayne and Tanya started preparing the van. We had a break for dinner at 1900 and reviewed our progress. Wayne decided that the support crew would have a short lie in and go directly to CP2A rather than see us off at the start. The support crew had rooms in the Hotel for the race, so all the bikes, Canyoning and swimming gear were removed from the van to provide extra space. Everything else was packed. The team was probably one of the last ones to retire to their rooms.
One, Sunday, 14th September
A basic breakfast and then we boarded coaches to take us to the start, the weather looked ominous – rain was forecast - not want you want for rollerblading. A traffic accident on the main road, caused the road to be closed for an hour, so we sat in the coach, thinking about what lay ahead. Eventually we were on our way and soon arrived at Chemin De Ceinture. The rain lifted and Gerard announced that the start would be in 15 minutes at 0700. We walked some 50 metres towards the start before donning our blades after which our traditional team hug.
We moved to the start some 50 Metres away a bus lay-by. I was carrying my trusty stick for braking, whilst Jamie and Primus had trekking poles to help with the hills. Three two one – Go…..
I set off carefully as it was quite slippery and managed to keep clear of trouble, I relaxed into a steady pace but it was some time before the rest of the team caught up with me, the road was twisting and undulating, as we passed houses I shouted “Bonjour” to the curious occupants. One of the problems was knowing how steep the descents were especially when rounding a corner, to slow down, I jammed my stick in front of my knee and pulled back with the end of the stick in contact with the road. The rest of the team could hear this and my shout and brake accordingly. There was only one particular hazard on this section and that was downhill to join the main road, I opted to use my brake initially then walked down the grass verge, Jamie also took to the grass at speed, whilst Primus and Elena relied on their footbrakes. Some 10K and 45 Minutes after starting we crossed a very slippery suspension bridge to reach CP2.
We removed our skates and attached them to our packs, being delayed slightly getting our passport signed, then set off down the road on foot. We nearly missed the turning off onto a path. The path led to a concrete road through sugar cane, eventually leading to the sea. On the beach we were forced to negotiate large boulders and small rocks some of which were loose underfoot. We rounded Pointe de Bonne Esperance and could see ahead the transition area at La Marine. We ran into the car park and had time to grab a quick cup of tea and offload our skates before setting off on the next 15 K leg.
A footpath ran along the coast, sometimes on the top of the cliffs at others down on the shore. We jogged walked this section, the sun was out and it was good to occasionally get shelter under the foliage of the trees and bushes. We caught up with two teams ahead of us and when they took a wrong turning we took the lead. We pushed hard to break away and for a time succeeded. Approaching Pointe Lacroix we passed over a larva stream and looked behind to see a pursuing pack. We turned inland then picked up another track skirting around Grand Piton before crossing a picnic area near the Cascades and joining a main road. We were met here by a guide who led us to a ladder a few yards down the road, which descended once more towards the sea. The path was very steep with ladders or large steps and quite slippery and I had some difficulty keeping up with the others at this point. We were running short of water at this point, but could not find a suitable pure source. The views of the sea were fantastic it was a pity we could not stop to enjoy them. We knew we were approaching the next checkpoint when we came across photographers. We arrived at the roller blade pick up point just after 1400, Along with our blades Wayne had not only left water but also some sweeties which were most appreciated.
Mounted on our blades for the last time we made our way to the main road, where an escort car awaited us. In some ways this section was the most difficult as legs were feeling the strain and there were some quite steep uphill sections near the old larva flows. The Road was quite busy and we appreciated the escort. Elena developed a bad blister, so we stopped and took time out to apply a plaster. Later on just after crossing a larva flow, I put one skate in the grit at the side of the road and fell bruising my shoulder, however at the same time I developed cramp in the thigh of one leg and the calf of the other, So I lay in the road trying to relax, before slowly stretching my muscles and getting up.
A kilometre or so later and we reached Transition 2. Wayne excelled himself providing us with Chicken, Chips and Salad followed by fruit salad.. Pity about the beer!. Elena had her blister checked and I had my legs massaged.
Time was marching on as we set off on the next 22K trekking leg at 1620. We were hoping to reach a shelter some 4K away by the 1800 dark zone. The path was wet a slippery, humidity was very high, with water pouring off us.
As time drew on my legs started to cramp up again when stepping up onto rocks. Primus scouted ahead to find a suitable flat area to spend the night, a somewhat futile task, where the path was about a metre wide with dense undergrowth and trees on either side. We eventually decided on a section of the path, which offered four areas with a bit more room. We set down our pack it was five to six. We heard another team approaching, it was the Belgium’s of X-cape, we told them there was no point in continuing as the best available spot was some 20 yards behind them. They stopped, we took out our phone to phone in our GPs position only to find we did not have the number to call. We asked the Belgium’s, who laughed, replying they did not have it either! However their support crew called and gave them the number and also reported in both teams’ positions to the organisers.
Primus set up his tent across the path and I set mine up on a small patch of grass, Elena and Jamie opted to sleep under the stars with an emergency blanket. It was agreed that if it rained they would join us in the tents. Darkness fell quickly and as we had eaten earlier we had a quick conference to discuss our progress, agreeing we needed to move faster tomorrow to make the 1700 cut off at CP6, then we settled down to sleep.
2, Monday, 15th September
Woke around 0500, not a bad nights sleep, mostly spent in dip in the ground in the tent. The others reported some kind of animal- rat had been moving around earlier in the night. We breakfasted variously on Muslie, Pasta Salad etc before breaking camp and getting under way at 0600. the morning was cool and although we had put on wet clothes again we soon warmed up with the exercise. Before long we passed a flattened area where another team had camped. As we approached the shelter(1,227M) where we had hoped to spend the night we spotted the team ahead. Jamie found a water tank behind the shelter so we loaded up with water. The path ahead flattened out slightly so we were able to make quicker progress. We looked back at the shelter to see the Belgiums' come into view and shouted to them the position of the water tank.
Numerous streams crossed the path, but many of the log bridges were in dangerous state and safety ropes were provided – just as well as Primus overbalanced crossing one such bridge. We continued on climbing, now beginning to emerge from the clouds until we reached, the ridge on the outer edge of the volcano with its 200-300M steep drops. The track followed the undulating ridge on top of the wall from 1,900M rising to 2,300M we were able to quicken the pace here, although one three person team did pass us. The weather was varied but eventually rain set in and we had to put on waterproofs once heading away from the rim towards a forest track leading to the next CP. Time was beginning to work against us and I developed a stomach cramp and began to slow. Primus rigged up a towline and Elena and Jamie took some team gear from my pack to lighten the load. I began to feel sick and we paused at viewpoint to look across at the main crater of the volcano through the swirling mists. We arrived at Pas De Bellecombe (2,300M) at 1310, I asked Gerard Fusil if the 1700 Cut off had been extended to 1800 in order to allow for delayed start on Day one. He replied no. Knowing it would take me over four hours to reach the cut-off point even with the help of the team, I suggested they drop me, It was not a decision any of us wanted but I wanted the team to complete the course. I felt sick and frustrated but new it was for the best. I handed over an emergency strobe and part of the team first aid kit and gave my trekking poles to Elena then awaited transport to the transition area. Whilst I waiting the Belgium team went past.
A Doctor checked me out at the transition area and then Wayne made arrangements for me to be transported back to the Hotel along with some reporters.
The team meanwhile had descended 100M into the outer crater before climbing up and around the Crater Dolomieu some 300M higher to CP5 some 5K away, they then returned via the pass to the transition at Gite De Volcano arriving at 1705 (After I dropped out of the race the cut-off was extended to 1800 to allow all team to stay in the race)
The night proved to be most uncomfortable for the team, Wayne set up his tent only to find it full of water a few minutes later. Water leaked into the van despite the best efforts of Wayne to tape up the leaks. The team were looking forward to the Bike section.
Day 3, Tuesday, 16th
Team had ham and eggs for breakfast then set off in last place on mountain bikes along the footpath GR2 heading to the car park for Piton Des Neiges footpath. Most of the time it was impossible to ride due to the wet and slippery rocks and the fact it was a footpath not a bike route. The team only spent some forty minutes in the saddle, the remainder was carrying the bikes. They arrived at the car park TA4 at 1038(1,600M) and spent an hour recovering and making the most of support team who they did not expect to see for two day. They packed food and canyoning equipment including wetsuits together with the compulsory tent. The team left before midday heading southeast skirting the plains of Cafres before a steep decent into a Bas St Suzanne canyon passing through CP9(676M) mid afternoon. They managed to overtake three other teams and had an enjoyable time with many 10-12M jumps in the canyon, Elena lost her helmet in one waterfall and nearly got swept over another. As darkness approached they reached CP10 at 1736 and decided to stay there for the night where they were joined once again by the Belgium Team, plus the two other teams they had overtaken.
Day 4 Wednesday,17th
The team set off a 0605 for the long hard trek out of the canyon for what was going to be a wet and windy day, Initially the path was very steep but after this is was just steep, eventually reaching the eastern ridge of the Cirque De Cilaos (2,018M). The exposed ridge led North slowly gaining another 200M until the trail skirted around the summit of L’entre Deux dropping down 100m and then climbing once again to reach CP11 at Caverne Dufour(2,470M). The team set off on the steep twisting downhill path and eventually found shelter for the night at (1,500) where once again the Belgiums’ joined them and squashed in like sardines. The team were racing against cut off times but hoped the following day to make up some time on the 250M climb at Piton de Sucre (1,354M) and meet the midday cut-off.
Day 5 Thursday 18th September
A bright and sunny day the team set off at a fast pace, leaving the Belgiums’. They made good time to CP12(1,200M)passing through just before 0800 and finally arrived at TA5(1,314M) at 0925. The team were disappointed to learn that the Canyoning and Climbing had been cancelled, only five teams in the race had done the climb, the others taking a four hour penalty, so the climb had been closed at 0800. There was some good news however a Discovery category had been started which meant the team could continue in the race. The team feasted on a Wayne Special, Baked potatoes, beans, bread.
Dry clothes were provided for all and Elena took my canyon helmet and also swapped out her wet sleeping bag with my dry one. The team commented to Gerard that all they seemed to do in this race was trekking, even when mountain. The end was getting nearer and the team left the transition area along the road they had entered turning left in order to heading into the Cirque de Mafate where there are no roads and the canyon Trois Roches, which they reached at 1500.
Day 6 Friday 19th September
The support team set off early in order to reach transition area 7 at Maido (2,200M). The route was twisting with many hairpins we eventually arrived at the car park around 0700, unloaded and checked the bikes, prepared water and snacks. We had time before the team arrived to climb to the viewpoint and look down and across the cirque Mafate some 1,000M below. The team meanwhile were climbed out of the cirque and made their way along a narrow ridge to arrive at 0848. Some 20 minutes was spent in transition, Canyon suits were offloaded and maps explained, water loaded and they were off, heading to the 800M take off level for Paragliding. The van was hastily loaded, and we set off in pursuit, Wayne’s motor racing skills were brought into play, with hazard lights on tyres screeching and horn blaring on the narrow single track road. We managed to pass the team, but needed to take a longer route to the transition 8. The launch point for paragliding was above a sugar cane field. Team 15, the local Reunion team, still in extreme class, were in Transition and set off by road to the canyon. We reconnoitred the sugar cane whish had a couple of tracks leading in the right direction, so that when our team arrived at 1046, we suggested they take to the fields and join the road further down where the next CP was under a bridge.
The team were in
excellent spirits and set off at a run, as we drove down the road, we spotted
them crossing the cane and when the road zigzagged, they burst out on one side
before diving off the road on the other side, they were flying arriving at the
head of the canyon CP22 in 25 Minutes, having over taken team 15. The canyon of
Colimacoms was dry but offered some dozen abseils of 30-50M and ended on the
The team arrived aware another team was closing, so quickly donned wetsuits and fins, dropped their rucksacks and headed for the water swimming across a rip,1.7K to go.
Minutes or so later they emerged from the sea to be greeted by Gerard Fusil,
having completed what some one consider to be the toughest race of the year. They
finished the Discovery course in five days, seven hours and 20 minutes, but as
an ‘incomplete’ team.
The team waited an hour in order to greet the Belgium team with whom they had spent much of the race. Gerard Fusil had arranged tandem Para gliders for the Belgium’s two of whom got engaged during the race.
Later in the evening the prize giving party was held, Competitors were given a preview of the film of the race with many amusing pictures. Daily race bulletins had been broadcast on TF1 in France and on local Television on a daily basis and our team was lucky to be featured twice. One of the features of Gerard Fusil’s races is that all teams including support elements are acknowledged on the stage.
The race will now become an annual event to be held in May of each year, hopefully more International teams will follow in the steps of International Adventurers and take on the French on their home ground.
The following day my team presented me with a photo book of the island viewed from the air, which all the competing teams and the Organisation had signed.
Once again the team has been one of the first to compete in a new Country, last year it was South Africa and now Reunion. The team now knows what to expect in Reunion and plans to enter the race again in May, 2004 and or 2005 subject to obtaining sponsorship to offset some of the cost.
Photos copyright held by - IPR - Reunion, GFC, David Ogden.