The Picton Castle is alongside in the fine protected basin, part of the harbour of the commercial port near St Denis, Reunion Island in the western south Indian Ocean. We had a fine five day passage from Rodrigues. The entrance to the basin is a tight hairpin turn and then a channel about 60 feet wide making the approach pretty scary, but with my able helmsman Tammy at the wheel we slithered in just fine and made fast starboard side-to with no mishap.
Called “La Reunion”, this island is about 380 nautical miles
east of Madagascar – a little piece of creole France deep in the tropics far
from the metropolitan nation. But French it is. And charmingly creole as well.
An interesting history of slavery, exploitation, and sugar cane not dissimilar
to the West Indies, with a current vibrant population to match. And now great
coffee, baguettes, cheese, patisserie, lovely markets and so on. But also much
African nuance. Beautiful crafts, many from Madagascar, spices, hot peppers,
tropical fruits and wine made up on the hills.
Roughly 120 miles in circumference, Reunion is home to about 900,000 people. More or less the population of Nova Scotia in a space 1/20th the size but not crowded. Great roads and infrastructure and the most amazing landscape of mountains in the steep, craggy, green mountainous interior. The shoreline is lovely tropical French island seaside villages. The interior is out of this world. Steep green mountains shrouded in mists. Crazy roads with no possible room for the bus and your rented car but somehow all survive. At the top there are wide barren volcanic calderas like a moonscape. The volcano blows and pours out lava from time to time and as one drives around the island this is plain to see. Great black fields of jagged lava rock with a few struggling plants pushing up.
Craft and fruit and vegetable markets are all over.
Beautiful wooden chests, unlimited bright colourful woven baskets, mangos,
pineapples, watermelons, pumpkins, yams, cassava, quail eggs and more at a
market overlooking a windblown black lava sand beach with surf booming. Signs
on the beach tell us not to swim due to sharks. Apparently there have been more
shark attacks here in Reunion than along the entire coast of Africa over the
last few years. There are a few beaches that are protected somehow and plenty
swimming on the go. Dining out is a delight if not so cheap under the Euro. But
the world’s best crème brule has been discovered right here in Reunion.
As we have been alongside this has meant no skiff runs and a
good chance to get varnishing, painting, tarring and miscellaneous projects
done. Also, of course, with a passage around the Cape of Good Hope bound for
Cape Town coming up and a dip to 36 degrees south and well out of the tropics
for awhile, this is the natural place to look at all ship stowage, setting up
the rig and looking at pertinent safety issues such as the use of immersion
I have delayed departure a few days to let a little cyclone
blow by. An annoying little thing sliding down the Mozambique Channel that
could not seem to make up its mind which way to go so I could make a rational
plan to go around it – so, I figured we would just stay put until the little
brute was gone. Now it’s behaving itself and going away. But we have used this
time to get some good boat training in and generally tighten things up a bit.
Oh, and pack all our goodies that we have gotten for sale at our shipboard
boutique (along with ebony fids from Bali and miro fids from Pitcairn, great
knives, sewing palms, needles, and all sorts of other stuff, and yes, t-shirts
too) on this summer’s Tall Ship Challenge series of port festivals on the Great
Lakes starting in June.