After getting back to the house from the race I had enough time to shower and have a quick snack before we had to be on our way to the nearby sugar factory. It was the only chance I would have on the trip to visit, so although I was completely exhausted I chose to continue with the tour.
Cameras were only allowed on the tour if it had a neck strap as all items must be emptied from the pockets. Alas, I wasn't able to take any photos to share, but I can tell you a little about it...
All over the island you see bright green fields of sugarcane like in the photo above. Sugarcane was first imported to Reunion Island during the 18th century and it has been the island's primary crop for more than a century. The plantations now occupy 26,500 hectares, covering 54% of the island's agricultural land. Currently there are two mills on the island that process the sugar and produce an approximate annual output of 200,000 tons. The processed sugar accounts for 90% of the island's exports. It's not only your typical sacs of table sugar for the kitchen that is the end result of processing, but other by-products include molasses, filter cake (fertilizer), bagasse (for energy production), and alcohol. Every year seven million litres of rum is distilled, 75% of which is also exported. Sugarcane provides 22% of the island's electricity, this is produced by burning the bagasse (the dry pulpy residue left over after juice is extracted from the sugarcane.) The harvesting season for sugarcane runs from mid-June to December. There are several weigh stations around the island which you can see big dumptrucks off-loading sugarcane to where it is then sampled and weighed, then transferred on to the mills.
We took the evening tour of the factory and got to see the different stages of the process, and also sample the end results. At this mill they had white sugar, about three different types of brown sugar, a couple different syrups, then all kinds of sweets, jams, and drinks the gift shop provided.
I'm glad we took the tour, but by the end of it I was ready to call it a day. My body just needed some rest!