An early call from the alarm clock. We had a tour scheduled for 8:15 AM. As we dressed, we watched the ship channel with the live camera shot at the bow of the ship. Land was getting closer. It looked good. Green. Very green.
A quick breakfast and then we met with our tour group in the lounge to await the call that the ship was cleared and we could head for the bus. Today’s excursion would only be a little over four hours and included a view of the caldera and a geranium distillery. Geranium distillery? Who drinks geranium juice? I couldn’t wait to find out.
Reunion is very French and in no way resembles a Caribbean island except for the weather perhaps. It is very warm but it is also very mountainous and as we climbed up the central mountain on twisty turning narrow roads, the temperature began to fall. By the time we had reached the top an hour later, the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than below. It was almost chilly but very refreshing.
Reunion was not like a Caribbean island. There was a world of difference between it and Mauritius the day before. The island’s roads were well paved although sometimes very narrow through the mountains. It was neat and clean for the most part. The standard of living looked a lot better.
At Piton Maido, we exited the bus and walked a short way up to the observation area. The view was breathtaking. Before us instead of the brown rocky caldera I expected (like those on the island of Hawaii) there was lush garden foliage covering most of the jagged rock formations that made up the caldera. The whole center of the island is apparently made up of several calderas from extinct volcanoes. And there were villages perched on the hillsides and plateau within our view!
I looked at the map and realized that the brown area on the southwestern end of the island was where the active volcano was. Piton de la Fournaise (pardon my French but I think it means furnace) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and in fact, according to our guide, had erupted just three weeks ago. With a shrug she added, “But it only last twenty-four hours.”
We trekked up some rocky stairs and along a path to get a better view of the shore line from where we were as well. Clouds were beginning to climb up the mountain side but we were well above them and still in the sunshine and enjoying a cool breeze.
On our way back to the viewing area and to our bus we paused in the hope that we could get someone to take our picture. We don’t get enough of the two of us together. A man near us with two boys offered to take it. He said he lived on Reunion and wondered how we were enjoying our visit. We remarked how beautiful the view, etc. and he replied that we were very fortunate because usually the clouds obscured much of it and today there were none—yet.
Not far from our observation point at Maido, was a little village called Petite France. Near there was the geranium distillery called Maison du Geranium. We were led through the gift shop and outside to the area where the still was. Yes, it was just like a moonshine still. The owner explained, in French (translated loosely by our guide and someone in the group who spoke French), that the geraniums all had different smells. She passed around some cuttings from a rose geranium and yes, it did smell like a rose. I was amazed.
The stems are what hold the oil and those are harvested before the plant blossoms. I didn’t get all of what was going on but the basic was that oil and water don’t mix and when the geranium oil that is expelled from the still floats to the top of the bottle, it is extracted. The oils are used in toiletries, perfumes, and some are for medicinal purposes—not much elaboration on that.
On a back patio we were invited to try some rums which I think had some geranium extract in them along with a cake and some jam, again having some geranium in it. The jelly was good, the cake dry, and I wasn’t about to try the rum again. I finally got the cake down without a wash and moved on to the gift shop for my “shopping experience.”
Our trip down the mountainside was as thrilling a ride as it had been coming up. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t get off the bus and compliment the driver on a job well done. At the bottom of the mountain we got on the freeway and a short time later were back at the ship.
Lunch was had at the specialty restaurant, Tastes, which is on Deck 12 and has a beautiful view. It was a nice morning followed by a quiet afternoon of reading—well, I read. Bob played paddle tennis again. At least he’s easy to keep track of.