Down the Highway, Blowin’ in the Wind

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Reunion Island 2024
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(’cause a hard rain’s a-gonna fall)

Within the admittedly somewhat skewed grading curve we’re operating on, today went well. We’re in Saint-Denis in the north, hopefully ready to ride out the storm.

Neither of us slept particularly well last night – there was a lot of wind and rain, our nerves were a little jangled, and the neighbors weren’t going to let an impending cyclone stop them from having a party. We got up around 5:30, got our Airbnb all cleaned up, and hit the road a bit after six. The drive around the island was uneventful – a bit of rain, and some big winds, but nothing scary.

Our first stop was to return our hiking poles to the lovely woman who runs Lilo Bebe. Then we went to the grocery store to get some supplies. We got there a bit before it opened at 8, and lined up with lots of other folks. People were ready to stock up, but there wasn’t any panic buying or drama. This isn’t Florida after all. Somewhat confusingly, as people streamed into the store when the shuttered opened, some folks seemed to be just milling about doing regular shopping (for things like clothes hangers).

We got some bread, tuna, peanut butter, canned lentils, and some vegetables. We already had leftover granola bars and trail mix, plus some sweets. We weren’t sure when we’d be able to get into our hotel room, so we didn’t want to buy anything needing refrigeration.

After the grocery, we hit up the airport to return the car. We then decided to pick up another car – after trying four or five rental counters, I found an agency that still had a car on hand, which they were willing to rent out for a good price. Because we weren’t sure exactly how the day would unfold, we didn’t want to be dependent on taxis (there aren’t any ride hailing services on the island). Hopefully our trusty Dacia Duster makes it through the storm in one piece – the rental counter guy was a bit vague on how their insurance treats “obliterated by a cyclone”.

At this point it was mid-morning and we were pretty hungry, so we drove over to an outpost of Paul, a French bakery chain. Kat has a deep affection for Paul, because it’s the best bakery option when transiting in the Paris airport. We arrived right as a big band of rain hit, so we camped in the car for a while before making a dash inside. Loads of other folks were hanging out watching the weather.

It’s worth noting, that folks on Reunion are rather nonplussed by extreme weather. We saw people out for jogs in torrential rain, fruit stalls still doing healthy business, etc.

From Paul, we went over to our hotel, the Villa Angelique. We’d admired it on our first day in down, so it was our default choice when looking for a room last night. The very nice man at the front desk didn’t speak much English, but let us settle in the lobby until our room was ready. We got into our room around 11, which was way earlier than we were expecting – score.

After unpacking, we went out for a stroll to see if there was anything open in town – now that we had access to a fridge, we were on a mission to find some cheese and yogurt. We pretty much struck out – most things on Reunion aren’t open on Sundays to begin with, and even places that should have been open had closed. One grocery featured frozen food of all varieties – an interesting novelty but not much help in the cheese safari. We went back to the hotel empty handed. But, I did a bit more searching and found one store in a different direction which had a chance of being open – off we went again, and were genuinely thrilled to find the Leader still open. It’s a small convenience store, but we got what we wanted. There was a great vibe – everyone knew each other and folks were joking around. We slipped in right before they pulled the metal shutters though – whew.

We spent the afternoon watching the local news (through the “transcribe” feature of Google Translate, with mixed success), reading, and catching up on work. Around 4:00, we walked down to the water to see the big waves crashing ashore. Lots of other folks were out doing the same.

We tucked back into the hotel around five, and won’t be leaving until Tuesday, if all goes according to plan. The island is now on red alert – nobody is supposed to leave their house from this point forward, until the government gives the all clear. They’re tentatively thinking that’ll be on Tuesday morning, but it all depends on the storm (named Belal).

They’re predicting that the worst of the storm will be during the day tomorrow (Monday). Most of Reunion is well above the level of the sea, and because the ocean is so deep around the island, storm surges aren’t the same sort of risk they’d be with a hurricane in the US. They’re predicting 12-15 meter waves, which sound pretty big. Our hotel is well above the ocean and should be relatively safe in terms of water. The winds are predicted to exceed 125 mph though, which is a bit more concerning. We’ve got our window shuttered, and we’ll just hope for the best.

We’ll keep everyone in the loop!

One thought on “Down the Highway, Blowin’ in the Wind

  • Susan January 14, 2024 at 5:34 pm Reply

    This was the first time we ever read an email in church but of course we wanted to get your update! It was also the first time I’ve ever put in a prayer request — for you and Kat, of course. Sending lots of love.

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