The reaction when you tell people that you’ve been to an active volcano is a strange one. Most people ask if you’ve seen lava, while the other half just sorta don’t believe volcanoes exist really. Fournaise, the active volcano on Reunion island, carries an interesting history, but the drive towards it was far more exciting than actually seeing a volcano.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re headed to Reunion, it’s totally worth checking it out, but what I found more interesting was its surrounds and the martian landscape of the entire area. The black soil, with its red tinges, are cut through with winding paths that make their way across the flat plain up towards the summit of Fournaise. It does feel like you’re on Mars or the moon or just somewhere not of this planet at all. Being above the clouds is another surreal part of this whole experience.
We made our way towards the volcano’s lookout point, which overlooks the basin just below it and white flags indicate the trail towards it’s open mouth. It’s a six-hour hike to take a look at the inside, and we didn’t really have the time. Our guide informed us that there is only a large gaping hole to see right now. In other words, no lava. That would’ve been a very long hike just to look at some rocks.
The reason for the contrasting flags dotted across the landscape is purely because between the flat plains and the black sand, hikers end up disorientated and can’t figure out how to get out of the basin. Also, how ridiculous is this photo?
A visit to Reunion Island’s volcanic landscape near Piton de la Fournaise will make you want to jump for joy! Photo by @mariettedth. #mascarun #gotoreunion
I really enjoyed the drive up towards Fournaise with in our rented 4×4 with Kreolie 4×4. Warning though, most people in our car were getting sick between the winding roads up into the mountains and our driver, Dominic, who clearly missed his calling as a star of the Dakar Rally. Either way, I found it thoroughly entertaining, but did start feeling a little queasy towards the end. If you prefer a calmer approach to Fournaise, its best to rent your own car and make your way up the steep, winding pathways into the national park that is home to this volcano.
When the volcano is erupting, the highlight for travellers and locals alike is to book a helicopter trip that circles the rim of the volcano, revealing the lava inside. This happens every couple of years and is actually incredibly safe as there aren’t that many villages lying on the slopes of the volcano itself.
We also got the chance to learn how to drive a Segway (in between joking that we were now qualified to become shopping centre security guards) and try out the weirdest-looking trikes you have ever seen. Both were much easier than I anticipated and although I can’t say the same for my entire party, I never crashed into anything! And yes, that is a hairnet.