Good morning, y’all! Today we get to explore Reunion Island in our fictional story, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. Sit back and enjoy!
Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks
Week Eleven: Reunion Island
It was a long twenty-eight hours of traveling with two layovers, but the moment we flew over the island and I was able to look down on the majestic mountains and brilliant water, I knew it had been worth it.
Reunion Island. How the beautiful isle rising up in the Indian Ocean had escaped being on my radar is beyond me. Although not large, the 40 miles of length and 28th of width held the promise of being fascinating. I couldn’t wait to hike a mountain and feel the fresh spray of salt water on my face while watching the sunset on a peaceful beach.
The man next to me smiled at my obvious enchantment, “It’s delightful, no?”
“Breathtaking.” The reporter side of me perked up. “Do you live on Reunion Island?” His accent kinda reminded me of French, but there was something different about it.
“Yes. I was born and raised here.”
I reached into my bag and rummaged around for a piece of paper. “Would be willing to answer some questions for me? I work for a travel blog and I’m going to be exploring Reunion Island this week.”
“Of course, of course. We’ll be landing soon, though.”
I pulled out a notebook, my favorite pen, and a business card. I handed him the business card and uncapped my pen. “Oh, I’m Indiana Anderson, by the way.” I gestured at the card since it felt weird to give the person sitting beside you a handshake.
“Wilson.” He acknowledged me with a nod.
“Will you please tell me a little bit about the people or history of Reunion Island?”
“Ah yes, let me see… Reunion Island is one of the twenty-six regions of France overseas and was discovered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century.”
“Were there people living here at the time?”
“No, it was uninhabited. The island was claimed by the French in 1643 and named Bourbon, it wasn’t renamed Reunion Union until 1793. French established their first colony on the island, in 1662 and it has remained a French colony since then, except for a brief occupation by British, from 1810 to 1815.”
“Interesting.” I was scribbling barely readable notes as we bounced along in the air, preparing for landing.
“There is a wide variety of nationalities and cultures represented on the island since there are no indigenous people. There are European, African, Indian, and Chinese people among others.”
“That sounds cool.”
“Our main industry is sugarcane, and tourism. We also export seafood, rum, and vanilla. I work at a sugarcane plantation and if you’d like to come by for a tour, I could arrange that.”
“That would be magnificent!” I clapped my hands together in delight.
The bumpiness of the landing gear hitting the runway reminded me that our interview was about to be cut short.
“What’s the official language?”
“French, but most people speak Creole, which is a mixture of several different languages and is French-based. There are 127 different Creoles world-wide, each one of them based off of different languages.”
“That is crazy.” We taxied to a stop and I looked at Wilson, wondering if I should ask another question. He grinned, “They take a while to disembark, I can answer a few more questions while we wait.”
“Thank you. Can you tell me a bit about the topographical features?”
“Reunion Island is quite mountains and is of volcanic origin. Piton des Neiges is the highest point at a little over ten thousand feet, and of course the Indian Ocean is the lowest point. Our mountain range divides the island into the lush, rainy windward southern side and the drier leeward western side. The center of the island is made of three cirques, which are essentially, volcanoes that collapsed a long time ago. Plus there is the still very active volcano which is called Piton de La Fournaise.”
“Is it difficult to explore the mountains?”
“No. It’s quite easy to rent a car so you can go drive through them. Although I must say, the roads call for an experienced driver. Do you qualify?”
I nodded, “I would say so.”
“Good, good. You can see wonderfully beautiful scenery by driving to the top of the cirques. You look down at the rivers and villages far, far below you and it’s magnificent. Just magnificent. You’ll want to do this in the morning because in the afternoon the fog and clouds will be below you and will block your view.”
“Thank you so much for helping me.”
“It was my pleasure.”
I settled into my hotel room and then looked at my phone which had changed time with the time zones. It was Noon on Tuesday, which was the same time I had left South Korea on Monday, twenty-nine hours before. I was getting used to all the time changes, but it was still amusing, and somewhat confusing.
Sophie had hooked my phone up to work on the island and I really wanted to call my mom and tell her about the trip, but it was only two in the morning and I didn’t think she’d be exactly thrilled to be woken up.
The weather was gorgeous and was supposed to stay that way all week (which was amazing because it’s generally rainy in March), so I decided to spend most of my time outside in the stunningly picturesque landscape. I wanted to get some hiking and relaxing in, so I planned it out in my mind. Every other day I’d spend on the beach or poking around the towns (or visiting the sugarcane plantation where Wilson worked), and on the other days I’d go driving and hiking in the mountains.
First thing first, though. I was going to grab a bite to eat then go hang out on the beach and maybe go swimming.
It was hard finding my way around since hardly anyone spoke English. I finally found a restaurant though, and learned through a mixture of my very broken French and the waiter’s slightly better English, as well as using my phone to translate the menu, that the regional specialty was called carri. I ordered it and then spent the next several minutes trying to figure out just what it was. I finally found a website that told me it was a mixture of Indian spices, meat, garlic, onions, tomatoes, turmeric, ginger, and cloves simmered together. It sounded good, smelled wonderful, and tasted even better.
When I headed to the beach, I was in for a rude awakening. Instead of the peaceful swim I was dreaming about, I saw scary-looking signs warning about shark attacks. I headed back to a cafe where I got a cold soda and free wifi. It only took one try on Google for a whole list of articles to come up about shark attacks. Yikes. Apparently they’d become exceedingly prevalent at the island with seven fatalities in the last four years alone. Swimming and surfing had basically been shut down and the government was scrambling to find a solution as their tourism dropped. A huge, huge fence was being built to try and keep the sharks away from the beaches. Well, that was an interesting experience. So much for swimming.
My mountain exploring ventures went much better with glorious views and remarkable colors. The scenery seemed almost magical and I throughly enjoyed finding majestic waterfalls and sitting for hours gazing at them and journaling about my year so far.
My week on Reunion Island helped calm my hectic life down and bring it back into focus. I had a good visit yet was excited to move on when Monday morning arrived.
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Y’all should google “Reunion Island Mountain Images” and look at how gorgeous they are! I couldn’t find any copyright free ones to share, but you don’t want to miss out on them.
Also, todays one of y’alls last days to enter these giveaways: