We've now explored a few towns and been on a trip to the mountains. Pete and I went to St Gilles le Bains and had a lovely lunch in a sea side café where they train chefs. Nothing very training about the food - it was delicious. We drove as far as St Leu then came back to the boat for dinner. The next morning was an early start for the mountains. We all decided to go to the crater called Cilaos. The road once we left the coast was incredibly steep and winding with hairpin after hairpin but beautifully engineered. A few tunnels that we felt could almost not accommodate the car width then amazingly we saw large tourist buses going through. The trip in was about 2 hours of very tiring quite strenuous driving for Pete who arrived quite shattered. The locals whizz around cutting the corners and quite a few parts are one lane, toot your horn, give way etc. We all commented that is wasn't unlike driving in the alps. We explored around the town of Cilaos - not very big, so we wondered whatever it was that caused such a hugely expensive road to be built to it. There were not loads of touristy things except mountain walks and the area is famous for a certain type of embroidery which has a society of women who keep the techinique saved - it's very detailed and pretty. Pete and I looked in the museum and saw that work being done. I still haven't found out what justified the road but suspect it could just be that a few people wanted to live there at a time when there was plenty of money for civil engineering ...? The island is funded by France so who knows.. We had a birthday lunch as it was Huw's birthday. The trip back was steeply down (obviously) and poor Pete collapsed with a few beers immediately upon returning.

.On Thurday Huw wanted to stay around the port for internet reasons and Oscar had a watching movies with the Aretha Kids date and football with a local boy called Joseph who lives on a boat here with his Dad. Pete and I decided to go to the east side of the island and quickly found out why it is so green compared with the west. It rains! We gave up just past St Denis and turned back for the dry side and had lunch in St Paul. The coast road around these parts is right up against near vertical walls of rock which have miles and miles of mesh and netting keeping the rocks from hitting the cars. It is all so dangerous and costly that there is a new road being built out over the sea, it will be 4 lanes and have to be wave and cyclone proof will take years to build and cost a fortune. Poor France! That night there was a Halloween party for the ARC people at the DoDo Restaurant. The kids all trick or treated the boats and ended up with stupid amounts of sugar!  Everyone entered into the spirit and dressed up. Luckily Oscar, Pete and I found by accident a costume shop in St Paul right by where we were on Tuesday so we were well kitted out. Peter from Wayward Wind came in drag so our Pete obliged him with a waltz. Unfortunately my photo did not turn out but I'll try to get one. Oscar managed to look dreadful!

Today is our last day and we have provisioned and got the boat ready. A part arrived for the generator at the eleventh hour and has been installed. The skippers briefing is in half an hour. There is some concern over the weather at the bottom of Madagascar, but apparently it is normal at that point to get some land effect off that island so the plan is to stay a couple of hundred nautical miles off the coast. The thing to really watch out for is the wind against current just off the South African coast by Richard's Bay. We can easily stand off and wait for a favourable wind to cross the current if need be.

Just sitting at the fuel dock waiting for it to open so we can get going. this leg is not called a competition leg because they want to let everyone make sensible decisions regarding the weather but the tracker is still on for you to see where we all are..

Bye for now........