Hitchhiking is easy when you have a friend with a broken arm and you can play the sympathy card. If you are not in the mood to talk, it is also convenient if your travel partner is fluent in French, German, Italian, and English with a knack for telling stories. Honestly, Will, my hitchhiking companion, was born to faire la pousse. We made it effortlessly from St. Andre to Col de Boeuf as quickly as anyone could have without their own car.
The road from the cirque of Salazie to Mafate winds sharply and steeply, back and forth and up and down the mountain, as if the road plans were drawn by a five-year-old given a crayon and a shot of bourbon. The views are breathtaking and always changing. Clouds, some like enormous dollops of whipped cream topped the distant peaks. Others were just wispy apparitions, there and then gone. New waterfalls sprung up where there had not been any before. I would just focus my eyes on a particular point and one would appear, as if through my own efforts they would materialize.
No matter how stressed you are when you go to the mountains, all mental chatter becomes muted. Your attention is diverted to views so astounding that your brain says, “Shut up and look!” And you catch yourself with your mouth agape, your eyes transfixed despite your own inhibitions, your own skepticism to being awestruck and how much of a cliché that can be. You find yourself staring blankly, all of your senses heightened, nothing else coming to mind but wow.
As we began hiking from the parking lot, spirits were at an all-time high. Jokes were doled out like food at a Thanksgiving feast. Our laughter was raucous and drew attention. We were a loud, colorful posse of anglophones, scream-laughing our way down the scribble of dirt trail. Whether it was the thin mountain air or the anticipation of a music festival in the mountains, I could not say, but it was to be a full moon and our backpacks were weighted with as much beer and rum as camping equipment. Needless to say, we were feeling good.
Night had fallen and the soft glow of the moon traced the ridges of the mountains around us. Lines of little gold dots could be seen slowly zigzagging back and forth in the distance, the headlamps of hikers still arriving. As the moon rose, details of the mountain slowly came into view until you could see everything perfectly. We had plunged into a black and white horror movie where we, the unsuspecting youth having too good a time, would soon be ravaged by the werewolf.
I cannot remember who said it, but one aspect of being content in life involves surrounding yourself with people whom it is easy to be good to. I would say that they are in abundance here on the island. People I have known for six months I would consider friends, which is encouraging to realize that you can go to a place as remote as Reunion Island for such a fleeting amount of time and still surround yourself with a good community of people.
I crawled into my tent somewhere around midnight. It had gotten dark around 6:30pm, so it felt quite late. The pitch was so steep that I could not lie in my sleeping bag and on my sleeping pad without sliding down to the bottom of the tent near the door. I fell asleep feeling like a bag of soup that had been thawed and frozen too many times. A harmonica was playing like a broken record. I slept well nonetheless.
Three weeks left. See you soon, Minneapolis!