Sunday 2 August 2015

The wrong kind of reunion

Well, it's a poor do, when you haven't visited your blog for so long that when you open Safari, it's not even on the page, and when you start to type in the address, it's four down on the list of suggestions. Top was Tripadvisor, which in itself makes me feel a bit shifty, seeing as how I'm a professional travel critic and all. (But it can be very useful, finding out what Joe Public thinks of a place.)
Anyway, here I am again, fresh from writing up the Seine river cruise, and about the food in Normandy, and the Dog Cemetery in Paris, and Hobbiton, and Macau, and the Kimberley, and the Grand Union Canal... No shortage of variety, here. That's on top of trying to revive some Spanish for my upcoming trip to Latin America, and sorting out the itinerary for a Mediterranean cruise in October. Oh, and selling the house. But enough of my First World problems.
Today's connection is the finding, finally, of a bit of MH370 on a beach on Reunion Island. I was sitting on Cottesloe Beach near Perth earlier this year looking out over the Indian Ocean, all clear and turquoise and inviting-looking (sharks notwithstanding) and marvelling at the dedication of the Australian searchers to their Herculean task. That is one big ocean. I've flown across it, to South Africa, and it takes ten hours. Ten hours! So it's no wonder at all that, despite all those months of peering down, they haven't turned up anything.

And then, some guy wandering along the beach on Reunion finds a bit of a wing! Remarkable. A TV report called it "a tiny island" but that's not right. Yes, it's a tiny dot in such a huge ocean, but it's really not that small. It took a good day to drive around it, and it's got some pretty impressive mountains in the middle, one of which is currently erupting. It's La Piton de la Fournaise, which in 1977 rather dramatically spouted a river of lava that poured down to the sea, splitting very conveniently right at the point where the church now called Notre Dame des Laves stands, burning the back door but leaving it otherwise untouched. Pretty good PR for the man upstairs, if you're that way inclined, I have to admit.
I stood on the lava flow from a later eruption, and even three years after the event, could feel the warmth through the soles of my shoes. Our guide, Philippe, leapt around on it declaring it to be 50-70m deep, but I wasn't so confident, especially when he thrust some twigs into a hole and they caught alight almost immediately. 
Anyway, Reunion Island is a lovely place to visit, with striking scenery, a stimulating ethnic mix in its people, and a lively and friendly French/African/Indian culture. It's not "tiny" and it's not, Daily Mail, "the unluckiest place in the world" (despite its 18 shark attacks in the last 4 years - thanks for pointing that out). I hope it will prove to be a turning point in the sad mystery of MH370; and that, having been brought to the world's attention, more people will be inclined to travel there to see it for themselves.

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