Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day 9: A Day of Indecision, Relaxation, and Pizza

For the first time on this trip I woke up after 6:30AM, actually it was 8:30 as I concluded that the swim the day prior took a lot out of me. That, and the massive sun burn on my back to prove I was out for a long time. Breakfast was had and it was time to decide what to do.

            The volcano was calling but the weather forecast was horrendous with 50kph winds and 197mm of rain. I have no idea what that would be in numbers that I would understand, but it to, “expect flooding” so that was a no go. On top of that I had been emailing a guide that, if we agreed upon the terms, would lead a trek up the volcano tomorrow but the conditions were just too dangerous he said which meant that someday I’m going to have to come back here to finish what I started and hike up Piton de la Fournaise.

            So with the volcano now out of the question it was time to narrow down my options as to where to go and what to see. My previous chapters may have sounded as if I’m not enjoying this trip and it isn’t that I’m having a bad time it’s just that I’m not having the same type of time I had on the previous three trips. This isn’t to say it’s better or worse but I hope to cover this on the end chapter of this trip. Anyway, I was scrolling around Google maps and I came across Cascade de Grand Galet. I took from the name this was the famous waterfalls and the pictures proved I was right. I was elated to find this because in the tourism video I watched with my mom and sister a little over a month ago to show them where I was headed this area was featured heavily.

            I looked at the map to try and memorize the route and I got into my car and started it up but then I looked to the south and then it hit me; the waterfalls are just a few miles south of the volcano and if that’s getting pelted with rain so too are the waterfalls. I rolled out of the hotel parking lot and when I could see to the south in full it was one of the nastiest looking storms I’ve seen on island which isn’t that many but I wanted to part of it so I parked and went back to my room in defeat.

            Now what to do? I had such a great idea and motivation only to be thwarted in my efforts. I looked out my window and now the ocean was calling my name. I still hadn’t made it out to the end of the barrier reef so I decided to give it a go.

            This was now my third time snorkeling and with each time I saw new aquatic life and fish I had not seen the previous time. Unlike the first two times I saw some rather large fish this time and I decided to follow them to just see what fish do. They had much better mobility through the coral than I did and they eventually went within one reef which for me was a coral dead end and as I surfaced I realized something; I was… Relaxing!

            It was unforeseen but swimming amongst the fish and the coral was now relaxing me. I was astonished and I thought back to the first day when I injured my foot and realized I may have let my guard down then because I was relaxing and didn’t know it.

            As I mentioned earlier I had a sunburn on my back and I didn’t want to risk a blister so when I was constantly impeded by the coral I threw in the towel, well, I actually swam back to shore to grab my towel but it was 50 minutes well spent but now I was once again in a dilemma as to what to do to fill my day.

            My mom had suggested earlier in the morning to read a book which I did bring an assortment of books to read but my logic to her as to why I hadn’t was that, “I can read a book at home.” This is true, but it was just a lame reason to say I didn’t want to read so once again I went to Google Maps to see what else was out there.

            Scrolling around the map I came across a picture icon of Le Maido. The reviews were high and the looking at the map it is situated across the cliffs that I saw in Cilaos. The views from Le Maido appeared to be breathtaking so off to my car once more and I went up D100 to RN one to head north for the first time and as I took the on ramp I looked up and what did I see? Well, the fact that I couldn’t see the top of the land meant the ceiling was low and that a trip up there would only be interesting if I were into cloud physics, which I might have been 20 years ago, but I wanted to see the cliffs, trees, and mountains so the next exit I got off and headed back to the hotel once again in defeat.

            Nothing was going how I had hoped today, not that I had a plan when I got up but each thing I chose had a block become in place. So once again I got out the fins and went back into the water and decided I’d swim until I became too tired to and once again I simply was in a state of doing while doing. I don’t think I could ever enjoy simply reclining in a beach chair watching the waves and the sky. No, that would never be me. I have to be doing something and discovering what lay behind each reef and seeing a fish I hadn’t seen before became highly enjoyable and relaxing.

            In all my indecisiveness I had forgot to make a reservation with the hotel restaurant so I went to do that but found out they had no seats available which meant I could do an early dinner so I went to my go to pizza place which is by the grocery store which was closed. Much like what I saw in Norway most places are closed today with today being Sunday. This eatery though was open so I got out and then were a group of seven men by the outdoor bar and one woman and I was a bit nervous because their energy was exuberant. Nonetheless I approached and the manager recognized me from several days ago and shook my hand with an enthusiastic firmness. “Aaron!” he said, “Welcome back!” I was amazed he remembered my name because had a hard time pronouncing it the first day I went but once the greeting was out of the way I ordered and sat down under the canopy and observed the group of men.

            This group had been drinking, and were still drinking, and there mannerisms and gusto while speaking were almost over the top. It was all very French I believe. Each guy would go talk to the woman whom seemed to be disinterested in them but did nothing to stop them from talking. There were lots of handshakes, fist pumps, and sometimes even chest bumps from the men for reasons I could only imagine because I didn’t know what was being said, but I did see that this comradery was something I had never witnessed in America and they were having the most jovial of times and were completely free of any social barriers. Maybe the beer and wine had a bit to play, but it was something to watch knowing I’d never seen this type of time that people in the world experience.

            When you go to a local eatery the locals can quickly decipher who is new and one of the men came over and I instantly feared a Hammerfest episode; this was amplified by the fact that there was connecting factor and that was pizza. The man asked me, I think, if I spoke French. The problem I have with other languages is that I can’t even distinguish words as it’s all just sounds that I can’t decipher. Anyway, he quickly realized I didn’t understand a word of French and he asked, “English?” which then he said he spoke, “a little less than a little English” but he was able to ask me where I’m from and why I’m here. I don’t know if he understood my answers but he shook my hand and said, “thank you” and that was that.

            There was one man in particular that stood out from the group. He had his shirt off which is nothing out of the ordinary here, but he was bouncing from person to person and talking nonstop. I thought about the energy it must take to be that social, that free, and to be that commanding of those around you. It was something I looked at in awe.

            My pizza was done, I paid, and as I exited the little alcove where one pays the man without a shirt backed up into me. I whispered, “Sorry” and kept walking and then the man shouted which froze me and he started saying something and made a frowny face and he looked to be irate. The man who asked me where I’m from told him, “English” and this made the man even angrier. He then asked me where I’m from and I said, “America” and his audible anger turned into a gigantic smile and he said, “America! I love that place, I was in Las Vegas last week!” and he showed me a key chain casino chip with the Vegas skyline on it. I said, “I visit there once a year” and he said, “Awesome, except when the dealer gets 21!” He then shook my hand, and the manager, whom knows that I’m leaving in just over a day, told me, “bon voyage and bon appetite!” and then each man then shook my hand. This was unexpected and as I got into my car I felt, for the first time since I’ve been here, that maybe I sort of belong after all.

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