Gîte du Volcan (Reunion, France)

Like I had mentioned in my review of Gîte de la Caverne Dufour, the island of Réunion has several classic hikes recommended to visitors, like watching sunrise from the Piton des Neiges. Another of these classic hikes is to visit the other volcano on the island, the Piton de la Fournaise (“Furnace Peak”). It’s rather a different hike, since this volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, erupting on average once every nine months, and much more frequently recently (6 weeks before our visit, 2 weeks after, and yet again just last week), so you are hiking across lava plains instead of hiking up tall peaks.

But the basic approach is still the same: most people stay at a local Gite the night before, and then hike to the inner caldera in the relative cool of the morning. In this case, it means staying at the rather nicely appointed Gîtedu Volcan, located at Pass de Bellcombe on the north rim of the volcano’s outer calder (facing the coastline, not the interior).

Compared to the other two mountain Gîtes we stayed at, Gîte du Volcan is quite extensive, actually consisting of a central hut with the dining room, and a half dozen lodging huts spread over the hillside with a rather nice view of the valley below. This also meant that it was a rather larger operation, with almost 100 people coming to dinner. While we waited for dinner, we retired to the rather pleasant balcony, while sampling one of the other common beers on the island, Phoenix (“The Famous Beer of Mauritius”).

Like the other gîtes, the menu was relatively simple, but quite filling. Here they did a rather nice entree course, with both a vegetable soup (consisting primarily of chouchou), and a gratin of pasta and bacon lardons.

Then, they followed with a rather pleasant pair of carris, one a rich and fragrant carri of espadon (swordfish), followed by a more mellow but still satisfying carri of pork and vegetables. With the every-present sides of beans (kidney beans this time) and a piment that was cucumber-based with lemon and hot pepper. Like always, an enjoyable dinner (I could eat a Réunion-style carri every day for two weeks without getting sick of it, the flavors being so good).

Dessert was also pleasant: I have mentioned a few times that one of the major exports of the island is essential oils, with several parts of the island dedicated to growing geraniums to extract the oils in surprisingly low-tech stills in farmers’ yards. Well, a byproduct of that is that one of the more common desserts is geranium cake, and the Gite du Volcan had a rather pleasant one they served up for dessert. Along with the every-present rhum arrange, in this case, tamarind-infused.

Overall, the Gîte du Volcan was another pleasant experience, both in the food itself, and the company of other travelers who were heading off like we were for the Piton de la Fournaise the next morning. I wouldn’t hesitate to return for another night, even if it was a bit rustic.

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