Monday, May 31, 2010

A Birthday Wish to Revisit a Short Walk . . .

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One of our tadpoles turned 13 this past weekend, and while thinking of wishes to make before blowing out her 13 candles, the 13 candles on a chocolate rasberry pie prepared with love by a certain Grenouille, she specifically asked me to put together a post about the hike we took to reach the top of the volcano on Réunion Island back in February. As one cannot refuse such requests, here first is the pie in question, followed by a short report on the climb up a volcano. I'm expecting National Geographic or Geo Magazine to contact me any day now. (that's a joke)
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If one wishes to visit le Piton de la Fournaise (Furnace Peak) and actually see any of it, one is advised to rise very early so as to reach the summit by mid-morning at the latest, as later in the day the heights of the volcano are nearly always covered in clouds. We therefore set the alarms for 04:00, dressed and breakfasted quickly, and then drove in the dark up the winding access road to the jumping off point. We got there right at dawn, in the rain, and were afraid the hike would have to scratched due to the fog and clouds obscuring all. But just after sunrise a clearing in the clouds opened up, though the peak was still hidden, which gave us enough hope to set out on the five to six hour hike . . .
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From an overlook point at the top of the rim of the vast caldera surrounding the active peak, we could see a small group of people who had set out before us, and were already starting to cross the plain toward the mountain. You can just make them out at the upper right. The crater in the foreground is a relatively small vent which was active back in the 1700's.
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This gives you a little better idea of the climb down the outer caldera rim to reach the plain which must be crossed before getting to the volcano itself. This was easy going down early in the morning, but it was coming back up this steep stretch at the end of the round trip hike that was a _______ ! (fill in your own expletive!)
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The fog and clouds kept descending, causing serious doubts as to whether we should continue. The guidebooks are full of warnings about not getting lost in the clouds on the expanse of plains around the peak, which go on for miles and miles, and which are extremely rugged and unforgiving terrain.
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In brief clearings the heights of our destination could just be glimpsed. To help prevent people from getting lost out there in the lava desert, a series of white spots have been painted on the ground. One should not stray away from them.
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The Piton de la Fournaise has erupted frequently over the past 150 years, producing humongous quantities of basaltic lava flows. The solidified molten rock is beautiful to look at, but makes for treacherous, exhausting walking, as there are almost no flat surfaces.
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A few sparse grasses grow in the wastelands . . .
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And a few small shrubs which somehow managed to seed themselves in this inhospitable place.
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Hard to imagine rock like this heated hot enough to flow like mud . . .
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There are some options for destinations up there, some side trips to take if one is feeling energetic and has the time . . .
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But we were headed for the main summit, the Dolomieu Crater. In the background here is the caldera rim, known as the Pas de Bellecombe.
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A lava flow that ran to the north side of the island, running off into the distance here under the low flying cloud cover.
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One better understands what "scorched earth" means after visiting such places.
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Not all is black though, volcanic rock comes in a multitude of colors.
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Now well up on the flanks of the peak, my three travelling companions took a break to put on sunscreen, a must at 2600 meters high, or over 8600 feet.
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When one at last reaches the summit on the rim around the active crater, there are signs like this advising one to avoid falling into that vast entrance to hell.
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This is the main crater, roughly circlular, which drops back down about 900 feet from the edges around it. And which is still steaming heavily from the last eruption which took place for ten days from 2 to 12 January, 2010. There is quite a bit more information about the volcano on this site in French, Fournaise.info . . .
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The bottom of the interior of the crater . . . quietly smoking, and waiting for the next eruption. The last major eruption in 2007 saw lava flowing down into the ocean, and created new territory on the island which got bigger in surface by quite a few acres.
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After the arduous hike back down the slopes, across the plain, up the outer rim, and back to the car, this is the view down the access road which we couldn't see when we drove up early that morning in the rain and fog. . . showers and dinner rarely felt so good afterwards . . .
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59 comments:

the fly in the web said...

I wonder which publicist thought of calling that site 'Bellecombe'...

Owen said...

Hi Fly,
You get the early fly award today... Publicists and marketing people are often full of grand delusions, it is a requirement for getting the job...

TechnoBabe said...

The birthday pie looks delicious. Happy Birthday to your daughter. She had a great idea to ask you to show the hike to see the volcano. I can imagine you were all worn out afterward. Isn't it amazing the when live things want to grow they can sprout out of the cracks in what looks dry and no nourishment. Very good post.

...louciao... said...

OMG--that PIE!!!
The volcano story was good, too, though.

Your tadpole definitely had an inspired idea to request the chronicling of that family adventure. It looks like another planet out there. And what a hike you all took on. You are lucky to have an entourage of hardy, courageous female amphibians like that.

That photo of the red and charcoal crater top, with the tiny people in the distance is beautiful. So astonishing, too, to see the green life pusing out through the blackened wasteland--and all those hues that aren't black as well. It's fascinating how your pictures and words clearly indicate the distances traversed. Wonderful that the trek turned out to be a cherished memory rather than a torturous flashback. I love the red dirt road "home" at the end of the story.

Yup, I feel I really got my money's worth on this guided Toad tour.

But man oh man, that PIE!

Bonne fête à ta fille!!

Owen said...

TechnoB... Totally worn out after, but a good kind of worn... and the dinner that evening at the guesthouse we were staying at, where the host mixed up his own special rum punches with fresh fruit juices of the most exotic sorts, and his own caught fish dishes made up for everything... then an early bedtime, and by morning we felt like new people...
:-)

The Sagittarian said...

Any of that pie left, perchance? What a fantastic effort, and happy 13th birthday dear wee tadpole! My own wee one will be 13 this August.
AND that volcano - amazing, and you got close and everything! We have volcanoes here too if you ever fancy a hike down under....

Clytie said...

Wow. What an amazing trek - I'm not sure I would be brave enough to hike around a volcano that had so recently erupted!

Amazing that there is tenuous life hanging on in that barren landscape.

An amazing set of pictures! I'm so glad you were forced to publish your trek!

That pie looks wonderful, by the way! And happy birthday to the birthday girl!

ρομπερτ said...

What a moving mean to measure time and life, may it continue to be kind to you all - and of course, Happy Birthday from Athens, Greece as well.

Owen said...

Dear Lynne,
I can sense that you have a deeply honed talent for going straight to the heart of the story, and discarding the non-essential parts.

The PIE ! Of course it was the PIE, the rest was just a little accessory decoration to make one appreciate the PIE that much more...

And what a pie it was : the crust was just the right crunchiness, then a layer of rasberry preserves across the bottom, covered over in a much thicker layer of chocolate mousse, then as visible, dotted with succulent fresh rasberries. I can attest to the fact that it did not last very long ! It was, and is now history... until the next one. I can also attest that since having married the Grenouille, she has subjected me to unending cruel and unusual punishment of this sort. I'm sure in a divorce court she wouldn't stand a chance, especially now that the evidence is public record in these pages... it's a hard life for a Toad, but someone has to bear it, until the day I croak...

Oh, and the walk on the volcano was plenty of fun too...Your are right, I'm a very lucky toad indeed to have such hardy tadpoles and frog for company. Am glad you don't feel cheated for the price of admission.
:-)

Now, would you like a little slice of PIE with that ???
(-:

Owen said...

Dear Sister Saj, I can see you are just like Lynne, primarily motivated by the pie ! Well, there's none left of this one, but you are just going to have to come up here and persuade Madame Grenouille to create another one... and do bring your tadpoles too... Gosh, they're nearly the same age. I wonder what else we'll find we have in common, besides people named "Owen" and abandoned dream houses and dream cars and all... ???

Owen said...

Dear Clytie,
It is very interesting to receive comments from so many different corners of the Earth. As you can see from some of the comments just before yours, some people are solely motivated by PIE, but I can tell that you were truly intrigued by the volcano story, and the pie was secondary.
:-)

It was an amazing place, and they close the entrances down if they think there is any risk of an eruption, which are usually preceded by seismic activity. And this is similar to the volcanoes in Hawaii which spew alot of lava but which don't tend to erupt explosively, like Mt St Helen's did... it was an exhausting but fabulous hike. The hardest part is walking for hours on totally uneven surfaces, forcing total concentration to avoid sprained or broken ankles, or other falls...

Owen said...

Hi Robert,
Many thanks for the Birthday greetings, you can be assured I will pass them on to the tadpole in question. And yes, candles on pies, and volcanoes, are both effective means of measuring time and passage of such... in geologic time, we are but grains of sand, in birthday candle time, we find our meaning...

...louciao... said...

Hey, I don't want any of that sand crap with my PIE! You saw right through my ruse: I was merely trying to be polite by saying things about the volcano and the trek and all that (though true about your precious entourage). It was, indeed, only about the PIE for me. I'm forwarding a link to its gloriousness to Pierre in the hopes that maybe he can reproduce a reasonable facsimile...in a few months time when we actually have raspberries on hand. I love raspberries. And chocolate. But together in one PIE?! I think I may be in love with La Grenouille myself.

But speaking of smokin' stuff, take a gander at this:

http://clea-rity.blogspot.com/2010/05/smokey.html

The Sagittarian said...

I'm sure I could mix up a cocktail with chocolate and raspberries...

Amy said...

My first thought upon reading this was just WOW. This is quite the landscape you've taken us through. It's otherwordly, lovely, and scary all at the same time. Thanks for taking us intrepid travelers through it!

Stickup Artist said...

What a fascinating post. Pie to volcanic peaks. What a great experience. Thanks for taking us along else I for one don't think I'd ever see anything quite like it.

And give that tadpole 13 birthday kisses for me!

Owen said...

But Lynne, it's not sand, it's pumice ! Pumice and basaltic lava grit ! Sand is found on beaches or ancient seabeds where dunes have formed... jeez, and what were those remarks about my education ??? Ah, but you do make me chortle and galumph. I hope that Pierre will be able to reproduce, but if he needs any tips, he's welcome to get in touch... As for being in love with la Grenouille, you can't have her ! She belongs to me... (as in Bob Dylan)(Bow down to her on Sundays !)

Now, I'm off to the kitchen for some more late night pie... then beauty sleep is needed...
;-)

I'll have to send you some sand...

Owen said...

Dear Saj,
If that is the case then you are welcome anytime, anywhere, any day ! Yum ...

Owen said...

Hi Amy,
Well now you'll know to bring your hiking boots and a canteen when you come visiting here, as day trips like this are my favorite pastime... if you're thirsty after all that hiking, just drop by the Sagittarian's place for her latest Tuesday Tipple, she is a good remedy for footsore travellers...
:-)

Owen said...

Dear Stickup, I most certainly will pass on your b-day kisses to the youngest of our two tadpoles. I was very pleasantly surprised when she asked me to do a post for her, as I'd sort of had the impression that she hadn't been paying much attention to all this blogging business... but now I know otherwise. Guess you'll have to head up to Oregon or Washington to see some volcanic ground, or perhaps northern California... seems I remember hiking up some pumice slopes where for every step up you slid half a step back down, it was hard going...

Ann said...

A Happy Natal Anniversary to your tadpole!!!
I do not have the eloquence of those who commented before me..suffice it to say that I was mesmerized by your post and photos..the raw beauty of the volcanic landscape!!! thank you!
the pie..my mouth waters!!

Jill said...

I see one thing that ties these two subjects together: they both have rims! One has a rim you want to stay back from, the other has a rim you want to dive headfirst into! That pie is Very scrumptious-looking, and a work of art!!

hpy said...

Great photos. Wish I could visit the place too.

Mary Ann said...

What an amazing place. The photos are great, and happy birthday to your 13 year old!

Babzy said...

wow , this is a awesome hike you did , wonderful images ,thanks for sharing and happy 13 to your kid !

Steve said...

I love the fact that the wonderful birthday pie looks strikingly similar to the volcano... was it as hot?

Alberto Oliver said...

Owen, these pictures are amazing, from another world, the fog, the lava,,,i love this!! I like those kind of landscapes, have you seen pictures from the Icelandic volcano? i bought a book with some great pictures about it,,will see if i can make some quality scans for later send you the files. In other order of ideas, nice you liked the whirlpools stories hehe,, incredible places there are on Earth,, i do love to see nature in all its magnificence and power. And about the paintings,, well, i am not exactly a painter, but i had love to study art properly. My technique for watercolours is a sort of, let´s call it "digital painting", do you like it??
Regards my friend =)

French Fancy said...

What a simply wonderfully unusual day out, Owen. Were you scared at all?

Lovely looking pie that

...louciao... said...

Re: "I hope that Pierre will be able to reproduce, but if he needs any tips, he's welcome to get in touch..." Ahem.

Catherine said...

Joyeux anniversaire à la petite raînette. Je ne montrerai pas cette photo du gâteau d'anniversaire à mes enfants, j'aurais fatalement des reproches quant à mon manque de créativité au niveau de la patisserie. Alors chut ! On passe cela sous silence.

Une telle randonnée, par contre, ne pouvait pas rester dans tes fichiers photos ! Et tu ne nous montrais pas toutes ces merveilles de la nature ? Alors merci à Tadpole de nous avoir permis de partager cela.

Ces petites "fourmis" dans le désert de lave, comme aimantées par le cratère ! Je me demandais alors, où vous aviez bien pu monter pour prendre une telle photo.

Cette lave disposée en mille-feuilles ...pas faîte pour les chevilles fragiles, j'imagine, mais donne de superbes photo de matière.

Un grand moment.....

Le Rédacteur en Chef said...

J'achète TOUT ! Un prix fixe et un pourcentage sur le nombre de tirages.

(Je blague, moi aussi ! oh ! là là !)

.:: Karine ::. said...

un très joyeux anniversaire au tétard, bravo à maman grenouille pour le gâteau (je suppose que c'est trop tard pour moi ?!) et mes félicitations à vous tous pour cette expédition incroyable !

les photos sont sublimes owen adoré !

quelle famille !

des bisous bouillonnants

Owen said...

Lynne ! The PIE Lynne, the PIE ! ahem yourself !

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Enjoyed visiting your blog and reading about your hike. It reminded me a lot of the "craters of the moon" area in Idaho. That was totally black, and had no rim, however. The red color also looks as though it is high in iron. I didn't even know that there was an island with a volcano in (near?) France. I have learned so much here. Looking forward to future visits.

The Pliers said...

How lovely that your Birthday Girl made a special request that allowed you to share that incredible experience with all of us!

As an inveterate armchair traveler, I can't tell you how much I appreciate having been able to take the trip along with you without the need for a shower or a rub down with BenGay after the fact.

I have been fascinated and amazed by the very concept of the existence of magma since I was about 7 and we studied it in school. I have it firmly confused with a trip to China via A Journey to the Center of the Earth and your travel photo documentary was grist for my over-active imagination!

Thank you for that.

Nadege said...

Amazing photos Owen! Thank you!

K'line Bloom said...

Vu sous cet angle, le cratère devient un énorme fondant au chocolat bien chaud ! Yummy !
Celui de Madame Grenouille me paraît plus qu'appétissant :)
PS : j'espère que tes souhaits de publication seront exaucés, one never knows...
Bises

Karine A. said...

Bon Anniversaire à la mini grenouille ! Ma fille aussi a fêté son anniversaire ce WE ! ( 18 ans)
Observer un volcan est un spectacle fascinant. j'ai eu la chance d'admirer les coulées du Niragongo au Congo, et j'en garde un souvenir extraordinaire .

Vagabonde said...

What a hike this was – I am exhausted just looking at all this rock with uneven terrain. But the photos are certainly formidable. Cela ne m’étonnerais pas si le National Geographic ne passerait pas un coup de fil. C’est un paysage un peu cruel mais grandiose, tout à la fois.
Thanks for coming to my blog I’m pleased you enjoyed the post on the historical Oakland Cemetery.

Tom Bejgrowicz said...

I'll trade you one abandoned psychiatric hospital exploration for a guided photographic tour of this caliber one day! ;)

Beautiful stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Owen said...

Hey Tom,
What ?!? Abandoned Psych Hospital ? I'll be right there ! Of course I'll take you up on an offer like that, how could I refuse... ?
:-)
So, you're game for a little rather strenous hiking up to the gates of hell ? It's only an eleven hour flight from Paris...

Maybe one of these days...

Owen said...

Bonjour Vagabonde, c'était un plaisir de découvrir un peu tes pages, et merci bcp pour ton message ici, bon, as we say in English, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the NG to call, could be holding it a long time...
:-)
Bien content si tu a aimé ces paysages, bien qu'austères, et oui, un peu cruel...

Owen said...

Bonsoir Karine A.,
Et bonne anniversaire à ta fille donc, 18 ! Une jeune femme donc, majeure. Et j'imagine qu'avec une mère comme toi et des expériences à l'international, elle a plein de projets ?

J'ai adoré ton tableau de pêche...

A bientôt et merci

Owen said...

Chère K'line,
Ah, dis donc, tu n'aurais pas un petit faible pour les fondants au chocolat ? Et oui, je ne voulais pas lacher le secret, mais en effet ce volcan c'est celui de l'ile du Chocolat, les coordonnés de laquelle je ne peux pas reveler. Ce volcan, en eruption crache des coulées de chocolat extraordinaires, qui refoidissent en mousse au chocolat... un petit coin du paradis...

:-)

Owen said...

Hi Nadege, you are most welcome !

Owen said...

Dear Pliers,
If I could help take you half way to China and back, then I am most pleased.

Could be a good name for a blog that, "Halfway to China"... makes me think of another blog I loved to look at...

Anyway, glad to help provide fodder for the grist mill. Am going to have a few days off here soon, hope to see you and Mr Pliers...

Owen said...

Hi Alwaysinbackrow,
Feel free to come right up to the very front row here, you are more than welcome. Although this volcano is technically on French soil, it is on what is known as a "département d'outre mer", and overseas department, as it is on Réunion Island, in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar... which was settled by the French back in the 1600's. I would love to go look around Idaho a bit, I've crossed it once or twice, but never really stopped for long there for some reason. Thanks for dropping in here to this most obscure of blogs, and do come back anytime...

Owen said...

Chère .::Karine::.,
Merci bcp pour les voeux d'anniversaire... si j'aurais su que tu aimais les gateaux au chocolat et framboises, je t'aurais invité avec plaisir de venir gouter une part... bon, il y a toujours un next time?
:-)

Owen said...

Chère Rédactrice en chef, alors tu paies cash ?
:-)

Owen said...

Et Catherine,
Ah là, donc il faut pas que moi non plus je montre ce gateau à tes enfants... ils ne sont pas sur Facebook par hasard ? Il semble que bcp d'enfants sont sur Facebouc maintenant... je ne sais pas si c'est une bonne chose d'ailleurs. Et si tu savais tout ce qui est caché dans mes fichiers photos... ! Je n'en finirais pas... ah, mais malheureusement il faut aussi gagner sa vie, gagner de quoi payer d'autres petits voyages et balades photographiques...
Bon dimanche à toi, si tu vois ceci, je réponds avec bien du retard...

Owen said...

Lynne, again, ahem ! The PIE ! At my advanced age reproduction is no longer really an issue...
:-)

Owen said...

Dear FF, no not really too scared, didn't even think about it really, too busy taking in the scenery. Generally eruptions here are preceded by seismic activity, and then they shut the access to the site...

Owen said...

Hi Alberto,
Glad you enjoyed all this... would love to see the Iceland images. It is indeed a wild and wonderful world. I hope it stays that way. Seems that mankind is doing as much as possible to cause damage. That needs to stop. I don't know though if as a race we are collectively clever enough to turn around the trend...

Owen said...

Steve, less hot, but far tastier...

Owen said...

hpy, Mary Ann, Babzy,
I'm running out of steam here, but many many thanks for dropping in and leaving a trace of your passage here...

Owen said...

Jill,
so, you want to dive right into that pie ? It would be a hard landing, as it's all gone now...
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Ann,
Eloquence is not an issue, I can tell you enjoyed this one. If you drop by later we'll see if la Grenouille can reproduce a pie like this one...
:-)

Owen said...

Lynne,
The PIE !

...louciao... said...

Reminds me of that old Sinatra classic, "Come PIE With Me"