Another early morning docking in the major port of Reunion Island, alongside huge container ships…..sounds like yesterday doesn’t it? It is like the ship sailed from Denver to Boulder, from a larger urban island to an athletically driven island.
The capital city of Reunion Island, St. Denis, is about 9 miles from the port. Shuttle buses run all day so people can go to the town if they are not doing a tour. Our tour stopped in St, Denis after our tour’s other stops. We checked out the market and walked down a few streets to capture the feel of the city. Very quaint, French-style old buildings still being preserved. Of course, there is a market for the tourists.
Because Reunion is known for its volcanos and lush interior, we decide we will take a tour to a Vanilla Plantation and to see a waterfall up in the mountains. Sounds like a good tour, right? Well, we begin at 8 AM driving on the main road with ocean on one side and sheer rock cliffs on the other. There is a major road project underway, building a new highway – higher up from the ocean and away from the cliff – because rock slides and cyclones periodically wipe out this almost 100 year old road, causing major disruptions since it’s the only major thoroughfare Reunion has.
The island is a department of France; sort of like a state in the US. The population is around 850,000 with a diverse mix of French, Indians, Africans and Madagascan peoples. The language is French creole and many people don’t speak English. The official currency is the Euro; we forgot to get some so we couldn’t even buy a postcard (they wouldn’t take dollars, unlike every other place in the world we’ve visited!).
Most of my pictures are what I call “drive-by shootings.” This means the pictures may be blurred or distorted in some cases, although the iPhone does a great job otherwise. We see sugarcane fields and even a refinery in the distance.
Our first stop on the tour is the aforementioned vanilla plantation. Vanilla is a vine that is initially dependent on a tree, for support and shade, at the beginning of its growth cycle. They subsequently transfer the plants to poles, under the cover of semi-dense cloth to shade them from the intense sun. Then the pods (that look like long green beans) grow and become the flowers that must be pollinated by hand. Way more to the story, which is explained to us in detail, in French, with a translation by our tour guide. Unfortunately for everyone the rain moved in and it poured, even soaking those waiting for the toilettes.
After the plantation, we drive up into the mountain to a town called Salazie. Salazie was founded by run-away slaves back in the 1800’s. The road leads to Hell-Bourg a beautiful town up at the top of the Cirque De Salazie mountain. The views are spectacular, if you have the mental discipline to ignore the sideways rain down pouring on us. This reminds us of Kauai – did you want to hear about yet another a visited place the current place reminds us of?
We are blessed to be able to travel to these distance paradises and knew when we took this cruise that we would see places, some of which we’ve seen before, that we may never see again in this part of life. Why do we continue to explore? Is it my Viking in me? Whatever the cause, let’s just say our profound thought today — “You know your travels may be coming to an end when everywhere you go you are reminded of where you have already been.” Steve reminds me that travel is like everything else in life; it’s all about the effort, not the outcome.
The other interesting aspect of this amazing trip is the internet. We have been out any wi-fi or cell service on land since Malaysia. We miss connecting with family so we are in withdrawal!
Port Elizabeth is next and we are excited as this is our opportunity to do a safari trip at Schotia Reserve. Then on to Cape Town!