Monday, December 15, 2014

Diving for debris!

Yesterday while Aurelie and the kids were at a picnic with our local association I headed off to La Port (the islands main port town) in the west of the island to go on a clean up dive with the good folks at Dodo Palme diving club.  

The selected dive site was just off Cap la Houssaye south of La Port.  The Cap la Houssaye is obviously popular with fisher folk as there was plenty of them lining the shore enjoying the beautiful day when we got there.  The dive site consisted of coral at about 6 to 12 m with plentiful fish life close to the shore (hence the fisher folk!).  The visibility was good and it looked like a lovely site for a pleasure dive however on getting down to the sea floor it was quickly obvious why Dodo Palme had selected here for a clean up, old fishing lines were everywhere tangled up in the coral.  For the next hour and a quarter we kept busy cutting and untangling the lines with their weights and hooks as well as picking up any other rubbish that we came across (bits of random plastic, bottles etc.).  It was shocking how much fishing debris had built up over the years and it not something that I had previously thought about as a non fishing person.

Fortunately its been my experience here that the waters around the island are generally very clean and the dive boats I've been on go out of their way to pick out any plastic that may be seen floating about the place.

Of course while it felt was good to help clean up the site its sobering to realise that it doesn't even begin to make a tiny dent in the approximately 5.25 TRILLION bits of plastic that are in the oceans!
Here's hoping that we can at least start to stop adding to the problem in the future by reducing, reusing and recycling!

Emptying the dive bags
Sorting the rubbish into differing types


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some random family photos

Since I've been back from Guinea things have been quiet but enjoyable here. A routine of school,  kids activities, Aurelie's classes, beaches, swimming and walks, not very exciting but satisfying!  

Cycling at the open road day

Aurelie giving Sam's bike a go!
Every few months the Island closes off a section of the main dual carriageway around the Island to allow people to cycle, walk, skate along it.  This was the first time we went along, it was cool to see on such a car centric island.  We didn't expect to see the crowds that were there but it was nice, it seem that biking is more popular on the island than we thought!

Climbing trees in the garden

The girls heading back to the clubhouse after rugby training

Finally there!

Ela getting her ear pierced



Friday, October 10, 2014

Sent home by Ebola

Last weekend I got home after spending much of the previous month working in Guinea (a railway is planned from Simandou in the east of the country across to the coast in the west and we were carrying out the preliminary geotechnical investigations). The plan had been to remain in country into November but unfortunately the worsening Ebola crisis cut short this phase of the project, at least until the crisis abates.   

While we expats got to go home to our own ebola free countries our thoughts are with our Guinean colleagues who have returned home to their towns and villages in many of which Ebola continues to be a threat. 

The Golder Crew at Simandou (except Des, sorry Des!)
The Golder and Rio geology crews (again no Des though)
One thing that the news reports on the Ebola crisis don't seem to get across is that, at least in Guinea, life goes on.  While at hotels and the airport guards take peoples temperatures to screen for the disease the streets of the capital, Conakry, and of smaller towns seemed as busy and chaotic as normal.  People aren't hiding in their homes, for the most part they are out living and getting on with their lives.  Ebola is a scary disease but in truth its quite difficult to catch and some very basic precautions make it even less likely to be transmitted.

So here's hoping that, with the developed world's help, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia can get on top of this outbreak before it gets too much worse (and it will get worse before it gets better).   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rugby days

So the Rugby season has begun anew in Reunion and this season we have two players!  Sam with the under eights and Ela with the under sixes.

The teams are mixed up until the under twelves with at least a few girls at each age group.  Ela's group of five consists of two boys three girls (all the little sisters of older players).

I was never one for team sports growing up, though I did play school rugby to under twelves before my eyesight (or lack of it) got me out of it, but it's great to see how much the kids enjoy it and the family atmosphere at our local club, Saint Pierre.  Of course the fact that here its not generally played in the driving freezing rain helps!

Ela on the run!

Sam in the yellow top with the ball

Ela learning to tackle

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hammock time!


I'm still in Ireland waiting to remobilise to Guinea for work.  Meanwhile back in Reunion it's the last week of the "winter" holidays and Aurelie and the kids are making the best of it in my hammock.

Sam is just back from his first summer camp away, five days and four nights camping with a load of other kids, when he was collected Aurelie described him as "filthy and exhausted" so I guess it was a big success!

Sam (wearing one of the many rubber band necklaces he made at camp) and Aurelie in the hammock 

Ela torturing her mother (she hates to swing in the hammock)!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Craggaunowen


I'm back in Ireland at the moment in between work stints in Guinea, unfortunately my break here has been extended by a couple of weeks due to the ebola crisis playing merry hell with our schedule!  On the bright side while here I've been catching up with family and old friends. 

Earlier in the week some of those old friends and I went to Craggaunowen, Co Clare.  Craggaunowen bills itself as"The Living Past" and with a restored 16th century castle, a crannog, a ring fort and other historical items it lives up to its billing!  The day we went along was a bank holiday and as well as its usual attractions there were numerous reinactors displaying historical crafts, weaponry, cooking etc.  It was great to see such enthusiastic and knowledgeable folk sharing stuff that they were obviously passionate about, well worth a visit!


Irish chariot c. 904 CE

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Instore competition


We popped into our local supermarket recently and they were running a couple of random instore promotions.  At the check out along with the usual getting an entry form for a competition for a selection of prizes from the shop you also got the chance to enter a game of dexterity! 

You were given a normal DIY washer and the object of the game was to throw the washer from a marked position onto a glass topped table some distance away.  It was brilliant, like an old fashioned carnival game.  

When you first saw it you thought, "hmm, I could try that, maybe get lucky, how hard can it be".  If you thought about it for a second though you realised how brutally hard it was!  If you tried to throw the washer in a high arc it just bounced off the table, if you threw flat then it just slid off the glass.  If you threw it flattish with JUST the right amount of force then I figure somebody might be able to do it, we didn't see anyone get close to winning the prize (an electric oven), A and I both tried but didn't come anywhere near to close!  


Random punter giving it a go!

Fair play to the management though, a great idea with minimal investment to get peoples attention, not something I'd ever seen before.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sugar cane season

Sugar cane is the biggest crop here on Reunion and we are just coming to the time of year when the sugar cane will be cut.   (Some info on Reunion's sugar cane crop is found here).  In the next few weeks and for the next few months the local roads will begin to get clogged with tractors towing overflowing trailers full of harvested sugar cane.  At this time of year whenever I get stuck behind a tractor I find it oddly relaxing, taking it as just another reminder of the slower pace of island life!

Out walking recently I took a few nice photos of the sugar cane being watered, as well as getting refreshing showers at the same time!  In a few weeks the tall fields of cane will be gone leaving behind bare brown earth waiting for the next crop to begin. 



Saturday, April 5, 2014

A birthday at the beach

Last weekend we spent Sunday at Grand Anse (our local beach) with lots of friends celebrating the 66th birthday of a friend of ours, Monique.  It had been planned to camp overnight but rain was forecast so the plan was changed to meet up a 9.30am for Sunday breakfast and spend the day there.

I've mentioned on the blog before that picnics are a big thing here with the grassy areas by most beaches filling up with picnickers most weekends.  Last weekend was no exception, if a bit quieter in the morning due to the lack of people camping due to the overnight rain. 

We arrived a bit after 9.30am and stayed until after 6.00pm, eating, swimming and chatting in the shade (my understanding of French conversations continues to improve, though my grammar is still appalling!) was the order of the day with the kids off entertaining themselves for most of the day.  It was a really lovely day with friends and the family and a reminder of what is really important in life!

One thing I have yet to get used to is the habit of new arrivals at a party or event greeting everyone already there individually with a "bisou" on either cheek (or just a handshake between the men), when you are number thirty to arrive it can take a bit of time to work your way through everyone!


The birthday party

Hammocks are always a welcome addition to any party!

The view from the party

Sam with his homemade "crossbow"

Ela giving the birthday girl a big hug!
Then toward the end of the day two Tibetan Monks turned up, no idea where from (besides Tibet originally I guess), they didn't speak much French or English so I have no idea why they were at a beach on Reunion, still they seemed to like the birthday cake.

Two Tibetan monks?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hiking from Entre Deux to Dimitile and back

A few days ago myself and two friends, Damien and Alain went on one of the more spectacular local hikes (local in this case being a 45 minute drive away).  After getting up at 5.30am and being collected by Alan at 6am we arrived at the village of Entre Deux for 6.45am.  From Entre Deux we walked up to Dimitile a viewpoint on the top of the wall of the Cilaos caldera where we were able to look down the other side into the caldera.

We started the hike waaay in the distance at the bottom where you can see buildings and were still an hour or two from the top!

We ascended via le sentier Bayonne and came back by le sentier de la Grande Jument  (sentier means path in French).  It took us nine hours at a easy pace and was spectacular! Because of the steep terrain and our early start the first third of the hike was almost completely in the shade, it felt like walking in a humid Irish forest!  Later on though we emerged into the sunlight and everything changed.  Clear blue skies, fabulous views and the heat! The terrain was varied, from wooded hillsides to scrubby crests and shaded valleys, there was much greenery with occasional orchids and other flowers to add colour to the path.

Although difficult to tell due to the vegetation there are 80 degree cliffs falling away on either side of the path (that is Damien ahead of me)

Being able to look into the caldera from the caldera wall was impressive, it also reminds you how small the island is.  The town of Cilaos looked so close, and it is close as the bird flies, but the terrain makes it so difficult to get to (the road to Cilaos is know as the road of the 400 turns!).

Looking into the Cilaos caldera from the top of the caldera wall

As often happens here later on in the day during our descent clouds started to form and mists rose up the hillside but we came though them quickly enough and ended up in glorious sunshine for the rest of the hike. 

It's three days later and my legs are still aching a bit but it was well worth it!

A view on the way up....
...the same view on the way down a couple of hours later!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spider nest!


Just found (and moved!) this lovely little spider's nest on one of the window panes of the kitchen door.  Lots of little cute Babouks (Aurelie is not so convinced of their cuteness!).  I wonder how long they take to reach maturity?

Babouk central

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Election Fever!

Exciting times in the Bradley-Trombetta household!  Local elections are being held here on the 23rd of March and Aurelie is standing in them for the Europe Ecologie Les Verts (the French Green Party). 

This has meant that ever since Aurelie and the kids came back from France three weeks ago we (and when I say "we" I mostly mean Aurelie!) have been busy, busy busy.  While the official start of the election process doesn't start until the 10th of March for the past three weeks Aurelie has been off to political meetings most mornings and to rallies most evenings.  Yesterday she had her official photographs taken for the election literature (she looked fab).  Me, I'm being a faithful house husband!

The voting system here is very different to the single transferable vote system that we Irish know and love (which is really very easy to understand, honest).  In Reunion (and France in general) for the municipal elections they use a list system, with two rounds of voting (assuming that no list got more than 50% of the vote in the first round) where (as I understand it) the lists getting more than a 10% of the vote in the first round duke it out in the second round.

Aurelie's list is a coalition of le Mouvement Progres (Movement for Progress), Europe Ecologie Les Verts (the French Green Party) and le Mouvement Republicain et Citoyen (Movement for the Republic and Citizen).  The list is lead by Krishna Badamia (from le Mouvement Progres) who as number one on the list is the candidate for Mayor of Saint Pierre, Aurelie is number four on the list (and the first Green) out of a total of fifty.

So over the next five and a half weeks we'll see how Aurelie's first election campaign goes!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More wildlife


I often go for rambles about the place when the kids are at school.  Today I encountered encountered these two fellows (or ladies, or fellow and lady, I have no idea)

Chameleon

Red-legged golden orb-web spider (Nephila inaurata), I think!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Our first house snake!

Found this little fellow in the hallway last night, Aurelie was not amused!


I think it's a baby Lycodon aulicus or Indian wolf snake.  After catching him in the kids room I set him free in the lower garden, hopefully he/she'll have a happy snake life!

It the first live snake I've seen here, you can quite often see dead ones on the road but its nice to see a live one, even if it is in the hallway at midnight! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

FutureLearn

As I've had a fair bit of free time between work projects I decided that rather than just enjoying the island life I should also put some of that time to good use, so today I start my first course with FutureLearn.  FutureLearn is a private initiative owned by the Open University whose stated aim is "is to connect learners from all over the world with high quality educators, and with each other".  It is just starting out and provides almost forty free little mini courses  (you can pay for a physical certificate of completion at the end if you wish) in a good number of areas ranging from Shakespeare to human anatomy to business.

So far I have signed up for four five (just added another while checking to see how many courses they offer) courses between now and April with each course taking between two to four hours and week and lasting for between two and eight weeks.  The first is an eight week course called Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions, by the University of Exeter.

The other three four courses are:
Fairness and Nature: When Worlds Collide, by the University of Leeds
Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals, by the University of Bath
Exploring Our Oceans, by the University of Southampton
Moons, by the Open University

As mentioned the first course starts today so I will keep the blog updated on how they are going.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Salazie!

There are three spectacular "cirques" on the island, I've been to Cilaos a few times but in the almost two and a half years we have been here I hadn't been to either Salazie or Mafate.  So with Aurelie and the kids being away I thought I take the time to visit them starting yesterday with Salazie.

It's on the far (eastern) side of the island so it took a few hours to drive.  The eastern side of the island is the least developed coastal part of the island.  It  has a big Indian influence and it shows, at one point I passed what I took to be a Hindu offering/shrine? on the roadside as well as some men in full traditional garb. 

Hindu roadside offering
Salazie is reached by an occasionally knuckle whitening winding road and is the wettest of the cirques.  In the aftermath of the cyclone Bejisa you could really see what that means, there were lots of spectacular waterfalls (some pouring onto the road!) and there had been a lot of slope failures that were still in the process of being cleared up (at one point I saw a helicopter carrying out a cliff face inspection above where a landslide had occured, looked like fun!).

Helicoptering engineering 
Unfortunately when I got to the end of the line (literally, the road ends) at Hell Bourg (a lovely little village) the clouds really closed in reducing visibility to a hundred meters or so and the rain started in earnest so I didn't get to take many photos.  Still the image of the deep green mountain slopes draped in the mist was otherworldly and a little eerie and will stay with me!

Hell town (Hell Bourg) town square!
So next week I'm planning to take a little visit to Cirque de Mafate, this one will be a little different as there are no roads, foot access only!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cyclone Bejisa

So cyclone Bejisa has been and gone. I've been in big storms before, giant electrical storms in Africa, the monsoon in SE Asia but I think that this was my first experience within cyclone.  

Euronews report on the cyclone

We are just to the right of the eye!
It first rain and light winds arrived on Thursday morning (the 2nd of January), building up through out the day to the afternoon until we had high winds and very heavy rain.  The power went early in the day as expected, like I guess most people here we have "cyclone stores", torches (with plenty of batteries), candles, fresh water, etc. so I wasn't worried by that.

video
The view from our veranda, facing the direction of the cyclone, early on Thursday afternoon

video
The view from our bedroom window in the lee of the storm, again early on Thursday afternoon

By late afternoon though all was calm and quiet and just a little bit eerie, it really was the eye of the storm! Soon enough, just about dusk, the storm picked up again, building up through the night to what seemed to me a good bit stronger than during the day. The house that we live in has thick wooden shutters for all of the windows and doors and as I sat in our fortified house with the two cats, reading in the dark with my headlamp, I could hear the occasional crash or thud as something carried by the wind hit the house, exciting times!

By morning there was still waves of heavy rain and high winds but the worst had passed and it slackened as the morning went on.  

We got off lightly without much damage to the garden and none to the house.  Some of our neighbors lost numerous big boughs of their trees, in our case it was a fair few litchi branches along with most of the rest of the litchis (which will be a bit of an issue as there is a sea of them in the garden mixed in with leaves and they will stink and attract mosquitoes as they rot!), most of the avocados and a big bunch of coconuts that were all blown down.  So Friday morning, in between showers, I got to work clearing up the debris, which I've spent a fair bit of the last two days doing, not finished yet mind you.

Power came back on last night and we still have no running water (and when it does come back we''ll have to rely on bottled water for a while as the public supply usually gets contaminated after heavy rains) but I'm sure that'll be back fairly soon (a shower would be nice since I've been working in the garden with 30c heat and very high humidity, it's a good thing that Aurelie and the kids are in France!).

I did learn a few lessons for our next cyclone: 

If Aurelie and the kids are here we will need more lights.  By myself I only used my trusty headlamp (I did light some candles in the living room but after a while realised that I wasn't using them so I blew them out) but if the kids are here we will need more lanterns for them (currently we only have one).  

Get the gas bottle for our cooking hobs replaced, we are only on our second gas bottle in two years so it must be nearing empty, it didn't run out but if it had I wouldn't have been able to cook and that would have made me sad!

Get some way of charging electronics without mains power.  With the power out I had no land line and the iphone isn't noted for it's battery longevity (plus virtually all my books here are on my ipad).  I'm thinking a Power Pot X http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/david-toledo/the-powerpot-x-most-reliable-10-watt-portable-gene

All in all not a bad first cyclone and I did quite enjoy it.  It's not something to take lightly though and not everyone was so lucky, fifteen people were injured and one or two killed on the Island.  I was lucky enough to have everything (mostly) prepared and be in a (mostly) well constructed, safe, house.