It was 5am on a grey, drizzly Wednesday in the southern wilds of Reunion Island, and Darrel Bristow-Bovey’s face was filled with regret. The night before, likely persuaded by the local rum, he’d agreed to join me for sunrise. It’ll be fun, I had said. He seemed somewhat less convinced now: I couldn’t quite tell through the rain.
It was all fine, really, up until I reached for my camera bag to change memory cards. We had walked out of our accommodation and down the road, skirted the puddles glumly reflecting our faces and reached the volcanic coastline. And that’s where we sat, raindrops falling into the swirling sea at our feet before crashing into sharp black cliffs, while I figured out how to tell Darrel that I had forgotten my memory cards back in my room.
I’m not the best at lying, but perhaps this would have been a good time to try. Instead, water streaming down his cheeks, an incredulous Darrel silently questioned my professional ability with a raised eyebrow.
We walked back in silence and parted ways, myself retracing my steps to the beach where, magically, the world had transformed. The skies had cleared, a local dog danced around me in a yipping chorus and a rainbow curved a smug grin through the sky. It’s too late! I silently berated the sparkling morning for its poor timing.
We met up for breakfast later. Darrel sat in front of me, morosely picking at his fruit and looking at his cellphone. Strange, I thought.
Suddenly my mind clicked. Oh.
‘Oh my God Darrel… it’s your birthday!’
He looked up at me, a smile forming at last.
For the July 2016 issue of Getaway Magazine, Darrel Bristow-Bovey and I climbed an active volcano, swam in rivers coloured ice-blue, sipped gin-and-tonics while watching boules and ate questionable food (can anyone say tinned kangaroo?) in a place of surreal, natural beauty. It also just happened to be his birthday.
“We reached the rim of the crater. One minute you’re climbing and the next you’re one half-step away from the abyss. Down in the crater steam rose through vents in the earth and drifted up into the blue sky to join the high clouds. We walked around the perfect circle of the lip and sat with our feet dangling in the void. Or Fred did – I was too scared. Even where there was solid rock and no empty air, there were cracks and fissures running through the solid rock, so how solid could it be?”
– Darrel Bristow-Bovey
This story first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.
Our July issue is packed full of great winter holiday ideas. On shelves from 20 June.