French street signs; French small cars; lots of sugar cane fields; old black men wandering along with proudly worn broad brimmed cowboy hats firmly pulled on; old black woman with umbrellas as a defence against the sun; twisting roads along the coast along which various dwellings have been hobbled together; people sit around on street corners in the middle of the day talking and hanging out and drinking – this could be a charmingly islander-like liberation from capitalistic rigmarole, smelling the roses rather than put one shoulder to the wheel, or it could be a sad, alcoholic waste of life, or it could be a mixture of the two. But when one gets outside the human settlements on Reunion the beauty of nature reasserts itself, the landscape swings up from the ocean into majestic mountains, it cuts the skyline with audacity, gorges slice down from above with a plethora of vegetable life hanging on their flanks, the greens of the island’s flora wave in the warm air everywhere, a volcano’s crusty dribble of lava blackens the slopes here, a fluting bird song comes fresh on my alien ear’s there… even if I couldn’t always understand the local creole, I could decipher the beauty of the living creation. Tropic birds sail around massives cliffs inland on the island.
The rock is raw basalt in the nooks of the river. This bassin cache’s, this hidden water hole’s, water ran fresh from the three thousand metre tall mountain peaks above.
When I flew out of Mauritius (as you must if you fly to Australia from Reunion) I knew that the incipiently claustrophobic, bone numbingly boring discomfort and frustration that equals nine hours in an aeroplane was nothing compared to the weeks and weeks on a ship that my ancestors would have spent crossing the Indian Ocean in 1830. Goodbye Reunion. It is a riot of volcanic rock, black and baroquely shaped and battered by the Indian Ocean. Volcanic, tropical, clear-watered, vacuaos growing and French speaking and Creole eating. A green, mountainous, misty island with its gurgling rivers, unquestionably alien to all things antipodean.