lagongrandeansestudiolumiere.jpgLagongrandeansestudiolumiere.jpgLagongrandeansestudiolumiere.jpg© IRT/Studio Lumière
© IRT/Studio Lumière

A day out to experience the “tan lontan” spirit

At the easy-going pace of the South of the island

 

 

 

The Wild South Coast tells the story of a fairy tale: that of “tan lontan” (a faraway land

At a time when craftsmanship was king, and the easy-going lifestyle was its queen. This era has since evolved into something very different, but the philosophy remains deeply rooted in the culture of the South Coast. Come and meet some of the passionate Reunion Island locals who are carrying on the techniques and expertise of bygone days. For a passionate experience right to the heart of Reunion Island craftsmanship.

Discover the secrets of vetiver

The fairy tales of “tan lontan” take us into the heights of Saint-Joseph, to the Bézaves district in particular, to explore the mysteries of the vetiver. From the golden age in the 70s to the decline in growing this crop and to its near extinction, the guide takes us through the farming history of the South. There is one last remaining vetiver grower on the island but over the years, his expertise has not aged at all.

After a bit of theory, let’s get to work! Come to our farmer’s estate and try your hand at working these vetiver plants yourselves. The clods of earth go flying and laughter echoes through the fields, under the watchful eye of our host. Craftsmanship, cuisine or beauty (vetiver essential oil is used by the greatest perfume makers). This grass reveals its many secrets.

An introduction to vacoa weaving

The screwpine (vacoa) is an iconic plant of the Wild South Coast and is a key part of the cultural heritage here. Let’s go to the Maison de la Tresse et du Vacoa to find out more. After a passionate introduction to basket weaving, it’s time for a fun weaving practical workshop. This art may seem simple in theory, but it’s much more complicated in practice! Far from the traditional “bertel” bags (a kind of local backpack) and other products made from screwpine leaves on sale at the shop, our creations will at least have given the other participants a good laugh.

Then we stop for a picnic under the palm trees on Grand Anse beach in Petit Ile, to get the energy we need for the rest of the trip. The traditional slow pace of the Wild South Coast takes over us little by little, and is a stark contrast to the powerful waves breaking onto the rocks. The grass on Grand Anse beach is soft and inviting, perfect for an afternoon nap.

On the sugar cane route !

If “tan lontan” had a taste, it would be the comforting and familiar taste of sugar cane. Once everything is packed up into the backpacks, we set off in search of this Creole treasure. A very original mode of transport takes us back in time this morning: an authentic oxcart! Deeply rooted in Creole heritage, these contraptions were once used to transport the sugar canes to the factories.

Once we arrive in the fields, it’s our turn! Equipped with a machete, we try our hand at cutting down the sugar canes, in the scorching sun. We understand very quickly that sugar is not only a pleasure to taste, it’s an ancestral know-how that is both authentic and precious. There is a strong link between the history of sugar cane and the history of Reunion Island. A tour of the La Saga du Rhum museum and distillery in Saint-Pierre reminds us of this connection and we learn about the different steps of making the island’s iconic liquor.

 

At the end of the day, back to the town centre of the “capital of the south”, and back to the unique easy-going lifestyle. We slow down the pace and enjoy the atmosphere at the seafront and the harbour.

The day is coming to an end, the music is getting louder and the streets are progressively being taken over by entertainment.

Saint-Pierre is renowned for having the liveliest night-life on the island. Very soon, the festive atmosphere takes over, with the Indian Ocean as a backdrop. In the South, the greatest of stories are often the most simple.

The story is just beginning !

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