Reunion is a French island in the Indian ocean illustrated as a little stain between Madagascar and Mauritius. If I could portray it in any three words I would pick: vanilla, sharks and volcano. Reunion, the island which is stationed on one of the most active volcano points on planet Earth, a place which hides plantations of Vanilla Bourbon that go for miles and where sharks have the freedom to lurk from shallow water.
In no doubt, I can say that this island is the most eccentric location we as a family have ever visited, but if you think that everything went peachy keen, you are very wrong! This island, although it has a soft side, was the most stressful journeys in our lives.
Before even going on this trip, we were eager to see the Piton de la Fournaise volcano up close. One in a series of eruptions was recorded in July 2017, ironically, during our sojourn. On our first day we directed ourselves to the volcano Piton. What we expected and what was awaiting us were two totally different expectancies. On the way to the volcano everything seemed as if we were in a fairytale, verdure all around us. Every step we took some different landscape took our breath away. Fields of sheep, dense trees that revive memories of coniferous forests in mountain regions, colorful flowers and fresh air. In a moment you ask yourself whether all of this is real or just a dream. Craggy hills, bottomless chasms, warped ground underneath you; all the wonderful mistakes of nature.
Driving along we got to a sign LA ROUTE DU VULCAN assuring us that we were on the right path. That is when we got outside our vehicle and felt the sky under the clouds. The air so fresh, so sharp, you wish it pervaded you for hours. We were making a lot of stops because we wanted to enjoy every single moment of the journey when it dawned on us, the day was gradually disappearing, so we had to move on and move fast. The nature changed its silhouette. From a dense forest we moved to an opaque prairie and then everything went mum. A blade of grass here and there, no trees nor flowers just that sharp freshness caressing our face.
And then another sign, telling us that the volcano crater is utterly close. Before we knew it we had arrived, and what awaited us, was a big fat nothing! A void, like we’ve landed on Mars.
Everything was red, clear space and in far distance the crater. They told us we could approach the crater but only by foot. The volcano is located on an altitude of 2.632m. If you dare getting closer to the crater you should have in mind to dress accordingly to the weather, which means winter clothes, because it’s always windy and extremely cold.
We headed back, somehow empty-hearted, but going through that rocky ground and seeing those verts and abysses again, put a smile on our face and for a moment, it seemed like we were coming from un unknown land. Soon, we saw a crumbling house resembling ones in Alpine villages in the middle of nowhere, on which it was written- RESTAURANT. In front of the house we saw sheeps, goats and dogs running around so doubted the fact that that restaurant was any good. Somewhere on the property we spot the owner who welcomed us for dinner, which was, if I may say, Creole food at its finest! Inside there were colored tablecloths, a warm fireplace, an ambient in which you revel in with all your senses.
The whole day was indeed magical. The transition between fullness and emptiness, between thriving nature and veining one, and every other thing that happened along the way left us overwhelmed, so we gathered out thoughts and said good night.
The following day, we decided to go and see the chilled layers of lava that had been flowing from the crater all the way to the ocean for years now. Reunion is a little miracle on Earth and while exploring it we encountered odd beaches with quite unusual verts as well as beaches, so uninhibited, you sit on volcanic rocks and just stare into infinity.
Hidden among flowers, a certain number of courtyards we passed through were a truly alluring combination of lucid and surreal. In the middle of the fields of heavenly verts popped up hill houses paved with lava that looked absolutely unreal.
The place we visited next was the National park which can be described as an outstanding piece of art crafted by nature itself. Everything was perfect. Then, happened a moment that left us in pure shock. Usually, that intensity of emotion is felt only when you lose someone close to you. Every single part of your body goes numb. What we saw in front of us was by all means tragic. The lava flow covered every living breathing plant there is and just for a moment, you could hear only one thing-nothing.
In all that grief, something caught our eye. In some places, in that volcano ground, we saw a trace of life. Nature didn’t give up, she was fighting, and some plants managed to survive the lava attack which only indicates the majestic power of nature. In all of us exists that strength, the fight for our true selves, and we must know that after all the ups and downs life throws on our backs come brighter and happier moments. After all, some of the most beautiful islands on the planet appeared after the effect of a seemingly angry volcano.
So, in the end, yes, the volcano did erupt and for all of you who wonder how that looks like say no more, check it out.
Believe it or not it was day 3 when we found out that we were possibly in danger. Until then, we were carelessly bathing, swimming, tanning on the beaches of this astonishing island and nowhere did we see any warning whatsoever. Allegedly, Reunion is well prepared for any potential evacuations in case of emergency. In other circumstances, they say that lava flows can be predicted so until that happens everything goes smoothly, you’re in seventh heaven, and no, that’s not a volcano eruption above your head, that’s just fireworks.