72 - Welcome to Mafate

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Welcome to another podcast from anglais.re. Here we are in Mafate, in the heart of Reunion Island. Mafate is one of the three ‘cirques’. There are no roads coming into Mafate - this is one of the beauties of the place, which means it’s very calm, very peaceful - until of course the helicopters arrive and I’m sure that during this recording there will be a couple of interruptions! But the helicopters are the only way for the people of Mafate to get access to provisions and supplies.

The main activity here is tourism. There are many gîtes, which is a Reunionese word for ‘guesthouse’, where people come - they hike across the cirque, they spend the night and have some wonderful food and drink in the company of locals here.

As far as population goes, there are eight hundred people living in Mafate across various different villages called ilets. I am currently in La Nouvelle, which is the largest of the villages. There are two hundred people living here. There is a school. There is a church. There is even a Jacuzzi which has been put into one of the guesthouses. For the school, the teachers come in on a Monday morning, spend the week here with the children and then leave on Friday afternoon.

To give you an idea of the size, as I said, there are two hundred people living here, and the next village further on is called Marla. There are fifty people approximately living in Marla. To give you an idea of those fifty people, there are 13 guesthouses already, which is the same as there are here in La Nouvelle in fact. Of course, in La Nouvelle the capacity is a lot greater - they can sleep a lot more people in the guesthouses.

I’ve been staying with the team of the Rélais de Mafate, run by Mathieu Cernot and his wonderful team. Here in Mafate today and yesterday I’ve been doing English language training, teaching them the basics in dealing with their tourists who don’t necessarily speak French. A lot of tourists come from Germany and from Switzerland, not so many British, but quite a few South Africans as well are coming in, and good news: there are more and more Chinese tourists coming in.

So I recommend you come in, visit the place. It’s only a two hour walk in fact, from the car park up the hill and down into the cirque of Mafate, across a beautiful place called La Plaine des Tamarins, and I really recommend it for a wonderful break away.

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