The town in Reao is on the north-western corner of the island. It is home to 350 inhabitants. The streets are lined with a continuous stone railing, white and fiddled, which stretches across town. It gives the place an oddly organized feel, in contrast with the corrugated metal houses and somewhat ramshackle appearance.
“Perhaps we should go back to the boat before it is pitch black?” I suggested to Spencer and Deena. “Let’s go find Pierre to tell him we are leaving.” The island has no restaurants nor hotels. As we rounded the bend, back to the main road, a car appeared and we were motioned to get in. Okay…
“On va ou?” I asked the driver, curious where he was taking us. He explained we were going to Gaeton’s house. We had met Gaeton earlier at the pier with his 10yr old son, Vahiria; they had driven their scooter to the breakwater to welcome us to Reao. Gaeton is a nurse by trade and now runs the town’s clinic. He moved here from France 14 years ago when he fell in love with Margerite during a visit to the island by cargo ship.
“Are they expecting us?” I asked our driver, suddenly feeling uncomfortable about ‘just showing up’ at this hour of the evening, but there was no turning back.
The house was on the far northern edge of the lagoon, about a 5 minute drive from town. Gaeton’s wife, Margerite, was standing outside awaiting our arrival! She welcomed us warmly into her charming coral-brick home, “La Maison du Lagon”.
The porch lights illuminated the chiseled white coral bricks, accented by natural wood. Their house was the nicest thing we had seen since the fancy hotels of Galapagos. It had always been Gaeton’s dream to build a tropical colonial house using natural materials. It took them 9 months to build the house themselves. Each brick of coral was hand chiseled and arranged with aesthetic precision. The inside of the house was just as exquisite. Margerite’s creations of shell and coral sculptures, necklaces, and chandeliers were artistically strewn all over the walls among weavings of pandanus and palm leaves. It felt like we had discovered a secret, magical place.
They made us feel like part of the family. They insisted that we should make ourselves feel at home and take showers (despite their very limited water supply, which all comes from rain). We were given clothes to wear as we were not prepared for an overnighter! It was a special evening for us all. We enjoyed a pre-dinner aperitif (a drink before dinner in honor of a special event), shared stories, and ate a delicious meal of crepes. Outside, the trade winds rustled the coconut trees, framing the gigantic blue lagoon just outside their porch. We wondered what was in store for us on this strange island on the following day.