Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some photos from Simandou

I've been taking some photos over the last couple of days and thought I'd share some of them.  The ever present haze means that it's tough to take landscape photos but I do my best!

Sunrise over the camp

Taking a break from driving training

A little lizardy friend

View from Mont Ouelaba

Another view from Mont Ouelaba

Friday, January 27, 2012

A tale from Aurelie - The joy of camping

When my dear husband left he told me to try to be sociable, to meet people.
So I made the effort last week to go back to the hostel to keep in touch with the 2 guys there, especially Lorence who has a boy of Ela's age so the kids can play. There came the suggestion of a BBQ on Friday night, I said cool count us in.
Got a call on Thursday to be at the hostel on Friday early afternoon to organise shopping, more people were involved. They take BBQ very seriously here and it probably takes an afternoon to organise it.
So here I was on board, ready for my 1st bbq without Stephen. There I met Manuella and Fred and their 3 kids. Women were sent to go shopping while men were getting the camp and fire set up. Gladly I was just the driver for Manuella cos I had no idea what to get. As we were shopping she kept mentioning tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. I realised then that this wasn't just an evening bbq. This was CAMPING.
I don't do camping. I like comfort, my own space, things not being on the ground and above all private bathroom. I understand it's a cheap accommodation when travelling, but I rather spend my money on hotels, and the more stars the better. But this was a new concept to me all together: camping for the sake of it, when you live actually 10 min away by car!
I was not sure exactly what I had enrolled into, but I went to get the kids who were excited about bbq, and trilled about camping for the first time. I kept saying to myself that I could always go home later if I needed to, after all it was only 10 min aways 15 at most. Worse case scenario I could sleep in the car.
They camped just beside the beach. Camping is actually not allowed, but everyone does it anyway. So it's wild camping, with no facilities beside the fire place. Great.
Kids were sorted they were sharing 2 tents for 6 of them. The camp was sheltered by big plastic cover tied to trees. There was one more on the ground and a big blanket to sit on. They had bought all the pots and pan, bags of food and ice box. They were making marinade and everything from scratch. I was very impressed. With Lorence there is always music so we had a guitar, djembe and  Kayamb. So far so good.
The fun started when I had to take my kids for a pee in the dark in the wild. Samuel refused to pee standing up and he did in sitting position so his trousers were soaked ( at least I had brought spare clothes). Ela refused to do at all and I had to drove her back to the hostel 5 min up the road (which was fine with me since I had to go for myself too, not being an outdoor type of person). In the mean time it started to rain. Kind of tropical rain fall. Ela fell asleep on the way back, so I decided to leave her sleep in the car while I go back to the camp waiting for the rain to stop as it usually does not last too long. I was told is was not a good idea and I had to get her back paddleling in the mud. With her sleeping in a tent I saw my chances of going back home getting a lot less probable. Shortly after Samuel asked to go to sleep too in the tent. I was stranded.
Don't get me wrong, people were very nice, the food when finally ready (sometime after 10) was very good, even if I prefer to see what I eat. It's just that the plastic covers were not really waterproof, and there were more tropical showers.
Everyone insisted that I had a drink to ease it up, so I did and then there was definitely no going anywhere. After a couple of drinks and maybe some smoking we had good fun singing away or at least trying to as we did not know most of the word in them. This could be the reason why the rain did not stop. We had the visit of a crab who managed to get under the blanket. I was told we were probably surrounded by dozen of them, so to be careful when walking in the dark (not like it was going to happen anyway).
Then some people left, the others passed out and I was left with Fred who told me he was not going to sleep cos it's not safe here. Strange people are around (they certainly have to be if they stay in the rain in the dark). 3 people have gone missing from this place, never to been seen again, except for 1 found 3 month later somewhere else (very X files). So I should never ever leave my kids in the car (though I did not get if it was more dangerous for the car or the kid). Etc, ect...  I was not sure if Fred was trying to scare me or being spookingly paranoiac.
So let summarise the situation: it was 3, 4, 5 o'clock AM. I had been sitting on the (hard and actually stony) ground for hours and my bum was sore and my legs were numbed (or the other way around). There was nowhere to lie down. I was tired. There were heavy showers one after another. I was getting drops on my head. Everything was damp. I was now being scared by every noise around me (blaire witch came in my mind). I had been bitten by mosquitos.  I needed to pee, which was not going to happen for so many reasons (rain, dark, blaire witch to name a few).
Hmm... Yes I remembered: this is why I don't like camping!
At 7, some sun came out. I went for swim to keep me awake. This was cool as I nearly had the beach and the sea to myself. Ready for the new day I went back to the camp and it started to rain again. A lot. That was it I took kids and bags, said goodbye and left.
I'll do a quick epilogue as it's a very long article. Saturday night as I was going to put the kids to bed I get a call saying they were waiting for us. So we went back (things you do for your kids!!). 2nd night was better cos it did not rain and I squeezed in the tent with the kids to sleep (very cramped but I was so tired I did not care).
Conclusion: next time I'll send Stephen camping and I'll have a comfy night in all by myself

D2: camp site on dry ground
"neighbours" also joined in


Well here I am safely ensconced in Canga East camp at Simandou at the south eastern end of Guneia!  It looks like I'll be here on and off for the next six months so it's going to be a second home for a while.

It's a Rio Tinto camp and pretty impressive considering where it is.  There are a couple of gyms, broadband, even a bar! Though with 6am starts every morning and 12 hour work days it's fairly tireing.  Still really enjoying my time here in Africa so far, the people are great, the surroundings spectacular and the work interesting, even at this early stage.

I've not taken many photos so far there will be lots more to follow.

View of the capital Conakry from the air, the haze is caused by dust from the sahara

One of the villages on the way to the site

View accross the camp to Pic du Fon, one of the mountains that is going to be mined!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back to work!

When I finished up work last year our plan was for us all to move abroad and either take a year out or move somewhere interesting for work and life for a while.  

Eventually after looking at a good few options we decided to take some time off here on Réunion before I'd head off to work abroad, working on rotation, while the others stayed here and enjoyed life!  So seven months after I finished working Aurelie finished (Aurelie got promoted at work and wanted to spend some time at her new level before heading off on sabbatical) and we set off on our little adventure.  

So now the time is upon us, tomorrow, after almost five months here on Réunion, I'm off to London to spend a week on inductions and prep meetings before heading off to Guinea in West Africa on a five week on (between being onsite and travelling) / three week off series of rotations.

So I’m nearly good to go!  Got all my shots on Friday (two in each arm, they still ache), my tickets are ready to be printed and I’m almost packed (one small issue is that I no longer have any winter clothes, on hearing it’s 4°c in London Aurelie asked me if I had any jumpers, I said sure, look.  Her reply was “they are not jumpers, they are long sleeved tee shirts, you’re going to die).

It’s exciting, though being away from the family for so long is going to be tough, our hope is that by being here full time between rotations will make up for it (when working 9 to 5.30 we only got the kids for an hour or two a day and at weekends anyway)  

It’s interesting that the project I’m going to work on has highlighted one of the differences between my lovely wife and me.  While I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t jump at the chance of going to a malarial jungle up a mountain in remotest Africa, Aurelie can’t understand why any one would!
The best laid plans....

The only problem with all this is that I was supposed to fly out to Guinea the first or second week of February, so I had planned to visit Ireland beforehand to see family and make an unannounced stop at WARPCON (my favourite gaming convention in the world) to play some games and to catch up with some of my oldest friends.  Alas it’s not to be and for the second time in 22 years working in Africa means that I’ll miss the con L.  Still I’ll try to skype in to say hi!
I will be back in Ireland for a week or so late February so hope to catch up with folks then.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Playing in the rain

It's been ages since we've had any real rain in the daytime, yesterday made up for it for a little while at least!  Heavy heavy rain but it being still warm means time to play in the rain!

On a more serious note it's been really dry here in what is supposed to be the wet season so it's great to get some rain at last (if only for the fruit trees in the garden :))

Monday, January 9, 2012

Prepping for the barbeque

We had a barbeque a couple of nights ago (mmmh delicious).  Look at the intrigued audience I got while I was sawing the wood!

Sam & Ela engrossed by my sawing, go figure! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Aurélie's mum is staying with us at the moment.  Her cooking is one of the benefits:)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bounty from the garden

One of the reasons we decided on the house we are in was the amount of fruit trees in the garden.  Besides the coconut trees we have two really productive lichee trees in the garden (and one not so productive) so we have been harvesting some every day for the last three or four weeks.  I never realised how tasty lichee's are :), plus we have a few weeks more harvesting to go!

Bounty from the Garden
We've also got picked bananas ripening on the terrace but our papaya's aren't doing so good (there is a blight endemic on the island) and I need to water the avocados (rainy season my backside).  We were also talking today about putting in a bed to plant carrots.  

And we bought an old fashioned hand powered lawn mower today too.  This outdoorsy stuff isn't so bad after all! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Walking in the Hauts

So we're back home from our trip to the "hauts" and below are a couple of pictures from today.  Aurélie forbade me to post a close up of her from our hiking so here is a distant shot of her coming up the end of a looong climb (for us just getting into the Réunion hiking habit at least).  To get an idea of some of the ups and downs involved in hiking in Réunion consider this, one of the popular hikes in Réunion is a four day hike called the Haut Mafate, it covers 20.4 km in 4 days, 5.1 km a day horizontally, it also includes over 4.5 km of vertical up and down over the 4 days! 

Aurélie powering up the trail

I just wanted to put up the panoramic  picture below as in it you can see the caldera wall all around the caldera (I took it with my back to the wall).  Poor Aurélie has had to put up with occasional mini geology lessons, I do try to keep it to a minimum though.

See the Caldera wall all around this panorama 

Yesterday's photo

Aurélie and I left the kids with their Mamie (their French grandmother) for a night and headed off to Cilaos, a town in the centre of one of the three extinct calderas on the island.  We went trail walking yesterday and today (Réunion is hiking heaven) and I posted the picture below on facebook yesterday but wasn't able to get it up here so here it is now:

Panoramic view from the trail near Cilaos 

Oh and I bought a hat!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best beach EVER!

About 35 minutes away from here is my favourite beach so far on the island, or in fact anywhere!  Where we are in Réunion isn't really prime beach territory, by all accounts the west coast is where the best beach action is at. That's not to say that there aren't some nice beaches nearby, there are but swimming is generally limited to safe areas surrounded by rocks.

Then there is this black sand beach near the village of Vincendo.

Looking at the photos you'll see a steep slope in the beach.  The slope means that incoming waves hit the slope and pile up really high and break just by the waters edge resulting in the BEST FUN EVER! Sam and I went there again today, he played in the surf (watched carefully of course) while I played in the giant waves, my oh my, am I going to ache tomorrow :).