This crazy island only has one real beach, with real sand and it is nothing like you would imagine. Try it for me: close your eyes, picture a beach on a tropical island. What do you see?
Well, there are no palm trees. The beach is backed by a gravelly scree topped with some old cannons.
When you turn round, there are no acres of golden sands, no beach umbrellas, deck chairs or cocktail waiters. There is a little cove with black sand, grey sea (it was a grey day, it is blue in the sun shine, I promise) and a very dangerous undertow.
To the left is a parking area with barbeques and picnic tables and the defensive wall erected to stop any attempts to rescue Napoleon.
To the right and all around are cliffs made of volcanic ash and lava in layers like a rocky lasagne.
Doesn't sound too appetising does it? And yet, and yet... there is something a little magical about it.
You drive through acres of flax, banana plantations and jungly wilderness and out into the desert. It is a little like a wadi.
It is still good fun, and the black sand has some secrets to reveal...
Firstly it is not black. Yes there is black involved, but there is white and gold and red and purple. Yes purple - from these:
Lovely aren't they? Can you imagine, if you had a beach made entirely from these shells. A purple beach! How cool would that be? Sadly we don't have one of those, except in our imaginations.
These are lovely too - a pink pebble and a sea-worn limpet shell.
Behind that defensive wall is another world. An oasis in the desert.
A little stream runs down the valley, and a narrow strip on either side is intensely green.
It is very good for throwing stones into and making big splashes.
It's a big old wall and a funny old place. Do you see the abandoned cannon lying on the ground? If you look closely there is one on the top of the knoll on the right too.
Oh, and it really is called Sandy Bay.