Conquering the western tunnel
Sebastien takes us to discover one of the island’s biggest lava tunnels, born from an eruption of the Piton des Neiges tens of thousands of years ago.
With our gloves, knee pads, helmets, head-lamp and harnesses, we’re ready to set off into the tube. First surprise: we don’t go down into the tunnel … instead, we climb up it! Thanks to the “via cordata” (ropeway) installed by Sebastien, we make our way one by one up to the tunnel entrance, located 6 metres up.
On with the head-lamps, and we’re off into the cramped tunnel. The roof is quite low for the first few metres, but very quickly, we find ourselves in huge galleries. We get used to the silence and darkness as we follow the footsteps and voice of Sebastien.
In search of the treasure of La Buse
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We make our way down the tunnel, a narrow passage of about fifteen metres, which has to be negotiated on all fours. A shiver runs through us, cooler air rises up from the tube … but the apprehension must be there for a reason! As the walls close in, it feels as if we’re entering the embrace of this mineral world, and our sensations increase tenfold. The volcanic rock cracks under our gloves and knee pads as we creep along, sometimes almost flat on our stomach.
At the other end of the tunnel, we quickly discover large open spaces, such as the “breakfast room”. We admire the lava benches, ochre walls and clay deposits. What’s special about this tunnel are the calcite stalactites and magnesite concretions. In places, the lava tunnel is white, as if covered with coarse salt!
On these walls, we can see old inscriptions which indicates that the cave was known to the first navigators who stopped over on the island. Later, I’m sure that lots of people came here, hoping to find “the treasure of La Buse”. While we might not find a chest of gold coins, the tunnel seems, in places, to be covered with precious stones or gold leaf. That’s enough to make your eyes light up in itself.
Tea in the dark
Having reached the lava “plug”, which brings progress to a halt, Sebastien has a nice surprise for us: spiced tea for us to enjoy in the darkness, to the background noise of runoff water on the clay walls.
It’s time to head back for the exit, where there’s a zip line or abseil waiting to provide a final rush of adrenaline. A “papaya slice” smile on our lips, we reach the banks of the Bassin Bleu.