In many ways, Thursday was (yet another) D-Day for this phase of The Odyssey Expedition. I had a choice to make: I could stick here on Réunion and wait for the PIL ship, but that would mean once I got to Madagascar racing to Antananarivo and back (at least a 15 hour round trip) to pick up my passport with the visa in it for Mozambique. There would be a chance I wouldn’t make it there and back before the ship left port and in any case, it would also mean there would be no chance of getting back to the UK for Christmas. Or I could twist: take the Trochetia ferry tomorrow over to Mauritius and hope that Maersk come through for me.
But going to Mauritius would be a big risk. Not only would it mean spending a fortune on the Trochetia (it’s €124 one way), it could also mean being stranded there UNTIL DECEMBER. Yes – the Trochetia is scheduled to go in for repairs next week and won’t be running to back to Réunion or Madagascar again until next month. So, what to do? Well, it’s like a card trick: you just have to stack everything correctly for all eventualities.
There would be no point in moping around La Maison all day, so I joined Luc and Anlor for a daytrip to Réunion’s famous lava flows.
Piton de la Fournais (literally ‘Peak of the Furance’) is an unruly and angry volcano that blows its stack more often than Mel Gibson on gin and meth amphetamine. It’s one of the most active volcanoes in the world, along with Etna in Sicily, Erebus in Antarctica and Kīlauea in Hawaii. It erupted in August 2006 (and continued to erupt until January 2007) and again in February 2007, and again on 21 September 2008 and AGAIN on 9 December 2010. Luckily for the Réunionnaise, the volcano usually spews its molten hot mag-ma (to be said like Dr. Evil, always) directly into the sea. Okay, so once a year the N2 road up the east coast gets thousands of tons of hot melty rock deposited on top of it, but look on the bright side, when the lava trails cool down, they become a huge tourist attraction.
Oh, and it can take MONTHS for the lava to cool down.
In the afternoon, Luc and Anlor went for a swim in a natural rock pool on the south coast while I devoured a tasty tuna baguette whilst frantically texted my cousin Christian in Denmark, Mickael here in Réunion and my CS host for the night, Geraldine. It wasn’t until later I realised that while Christian, my mum and Casey were getting my texts loud and clear, they were not coming through to anyone in Réunion. Borrowing Luc’s phone, I managed to get in touch with Mickael to find out the SP on the Trochetia. My heart sank as he told me that last week when they wouldn’t let me buy a ticket wasn’t just because it was a public holiday on November 1. It was also because THEY DON’T SELL TICKETS ON THE DAY FOR THE FERRY TO MAURITIUS, EVER. You always have to buy at least a day before.
If Maersk say no, I’ve just wasted €124 that I simply don’t have. If they say yes, but not until after 5pm our time today, I’ve missed my chance.
Mickael to the rescue!! He managed to *reserve* me a ticket, at no cost, so long as I paid for it before 10am the next day. Then Christian got back to me saying that Maersk were ‘confident’ that there should be no problems with me getting on the ship from Mauritius to South Africa on Sunday. Okay, don’t lose it Graham – you’ve been here before – just… relax.
Luc, Anlor and I returned to Saint Paul at about 6pm and we waited at the café opposite the city’s Multiplex Cinema for Geraldine to arrive. Why? Oh because Geraldine, being the awesome CS host that she no doubt is, had a spare ticket to the Réunion Film Festival that was taking place that night and had invited me along. Must have known I was a cinefile! Geraldine also speaks incredibly good English, which I have to say is a rarity on the island. Probably because she’s not French, she’s Belgian. After saying farewell to Luc and Anlor, I attempted to straighten my shirt (the equivalent of putting the cushions back on the what’s left of the couch after the tornado has hit) and Geraldine and I set off down the red carpet.
There were two movies, the first – Marriage in Mendoza – was a great little roadtrip movie about two French guys driving across Argentina for a wedding. As it was in French, Spanish and a little English I found it easy to follow with my spattering of knowledge of those three languages. As the credits started rolling, my phone, set to silent, vibrated in my pocket.
It was Christian.
“Yehaa! It’s a big 10-4 as in GO! from the good guys at Maersk.”
I leapt up, punched the air and whooped like I’d won the pools. THIS GINGER TRAVELLING MONKEY IS COMING HOME!! As icing on the cake, in the intermission between the films there was free champagne, beer and vol-au-vents. Oh what measure of bliss is this!
The second film wasn’t as good, best described as a French Before Sunrise, it was just a guy and a girl talking all night. In French. With no subtitles. Argh! Afterwards, Geraldine drove me back to Lucie’s house to pick up my gear. Sadly, Lucie and Anlor were asleep, so I didn’t get to say goodbye, but Luc was still up and he wished me well.
That night I didn’t get any sleep at all as I quietly plotted my path through Africa while Casey kept me company on Skype. I’ve broken too many promises on this journey. I won’t break this one:
THROUGH HELL AND HIGH WATER…
THROUGH AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST…
THROUGH FRONTIERS AND BADLANDS…
I ***WILL*** BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
I will see you then.