Big Bernard’s Coolbox

On a tropical island like Reunion, we all like a cold drink. Fridges all over the island are full of Dodos, Phoenixes and Fischers. Could we live without our fridges and freezers? Certainly not.

Before the 20th century, the people of Reunion had to survive without such a luxury. But did they accept to drink lukewarm aperitifs and tepid ice tea? Certainly not. Up in the hills of the west coast they found an open-air natural fridge, a massive store of ice cubes called La Glacière. Did the rich slave-owners climb up there to get the ice themselves? Certainly not. They sent their slaves up there, on a hike which lasted several hours, close to the summit of Grand Benare (which I have always called Big Bernard) and then they would have to carry blocks of ice weighing over 20 kilos back down to the coast. Remember that the next time you put ice in your drink!

Today, you can still visit Big Bernard’s Coolbox. But unfortunately you won’t find any ice. What seemed like an unlimited supply, soon dried up. But it’s a fantastic trek. Park up at Le Maido, then follow the footpath up along the ridge overlooking Mafate. The walk up to La Glacière will take you at least 2 hours, but be sure to continue up to the summit. At 2896m, it’s the island’s second highest peak, and just as spectacular as Le Piton des Neiges.

For your own safety, don’t forget the three essential objects: one, a sunhat; two, sun cream; and three, a bottle opener for your cold beers so you can drink a toast to Big Bernard!


coolbox – glacière
fridge – frigo
lukewarm – tiède
tepid – tiède
themselves – eux-mêmes 

hike – randonnée
to last – durer
to carry – porter
unfortunately – malheureusement
supply – fourniture 

to dry up – se tarir
ridge – crète
to overlook – surplomber
be sure to – n’oubliez pas à
bottle opener – décapsuleur

Normal Version

Slow Version


Normal Version

Slow Version