With little time or internet access in Madagascar, and no guidebook for Réunion and Mauritius, we'd done little to prepare for the last ten days of Leg 2. We were on our way to each for four nights... a quick tour of each tiny island on our way to Nepal. To cut down on costs, and enjoy the freedom of transportation after so many weeks of time-consuming planning for getting around Madagascar, we had booked a rental car for Réunion. The plan was to arrive, get our car, and spend three days driving around, sipping tea at cafés, and being European.
We had debated a lot whether Réunion should count as its own country. It's technically a part of France, but we expected the 'island feel' to make it seem like a different culture. But from the moment we entered the airport, it felt like France. The airport was air-conditioned for goodness sake! There were automatic sinks in the impeccably clean washrooms (though still no toilet seats... what's everyone in the world got against toilet seats?). When exiting the plane, Erin actually exclaimed, 'Wow!' out loud when seeing we weren't walking down onto the tarmac. Needless to say, this was where our culture shock first began.
The impressiveness stopped there when we encountered a snooty man at the car rental place who insisted we needed an international driver's license to rent a vehicle, even though it is not required by French law, nor had they indicated this on their website. We were declined our car and told smugly by the other agencies that they had no more cars available.
A 160 Euro cab ride later, we pulled into our lovely guesthouse with panoramic views of the coast and sweeping hillside. It was just what we wanted... when we had assumed we'd be able to get ourselves in and out of the remote location independently. We each took our own moments to be upset, then settled down to a delicious duck dinner, trying to be positive. Erin thought she was nauseous from being so upset from the ordeal, but it was evident not soon after that she had contracted Craig's earlier sickness. It was a sleepless night followed by a day of eating tiny bites of the gluten-free crackers we'd brought along just for this purpose. It's amazing we've made it this far before needing them!
Although the trip definitely picked up, it left a bitter taste in our mouths. We hadn't even needed to leave the airplane before the pilot warned us all not to swim in Réunion's water thanks to rising shark attacks. We were treated like five year-olds by the woman who we paid to drive us to the volcano, though she was extremely nice. Everything was outrageously expensive, and people seemed to get great pleasure from things being difficult. We were subjected time and time-again to eye roll after eye roll when we shared that we were from Canada ("Ohhhh...Quebecois..." they'd mutter).
It wasn't all bad... see our other Réunion post to experience the good, but we won't be returning any time soon, and not because of the distance.
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