February 2012- Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia,  February 16- 20th.
After a first technical stop (and rainy!) at the port of Le Marin and before the next work with the electrician we managed to escape and sail to Saint Lucia.

San Lucia, 5 hours of rough navigation leads us in the lagoon of Rodney Bay. The atmosphere here is very different from Martinique, more Anglo-Saxon (ex British colony requires). The people are more friendly but with a touch of just polite welcoming. I have come to prefer the much “boorish” attitude of Cape Verdeans, because that was more real, less coded, less touristy and when people were welcoming you, inviting you, it was very sincere.

From Rodney Bay we sail down the coast to La Soufrière. A caldera between two famous peaks of St. Lucia, emblem of their flag.
Here we put the anchor rear to the beach and tie the boat on to a coconut tree (the bottom falls at 40 meters in one go).

 

After lengthy negotiations with the boatmen (who come to see you to sell you boat trips vegetables or fruits), the guys who say they keep an eye on your dinghy at the dock when you land (besides you never know who really keeps it for real) or with the Chief taxis, we finally make an acceptable deal with a driver (we reduced the price from EC$250 required by the boatman, to EC$ 40 directly with the driver!) who will take us to the Caldera and the Botanical Garden.

It feels good to walk in the forest, feel the ground, roll in the mud and see green. I feel my roots growing again, fed with the power of land.
Since we live on the boat, I understand better the deep meaning of these expressions: “to be rooted, have feet on the ground etc”. It’s good also to walk with long strides and never trample on the deck. Solicit other muscles I began to forget their existence.

             
The Soufrière caldera is an ultra-touristic site, with sellers of trinkets “made in china”, guides with jaded speech punctuated with well-honed jokes as if pre-recorded. But between two groups of cruising ships passengers the site becomes almost empty, wild and more natural, more true. As between two representations. Guides relax a little, eat their lunch from the small bar that turns into a local canteen.

              
After walking among bubbling fumaroles and other volcanic lakes, we do a sort of cultural immersion and dive into the sulfurous volcano mud. We climb up a little stream of muddy water to get hot smearing of black mud, grainy smelling sulfur (IE rotten eggs flavor).
Then leave it to dry before going to a “splash” in the pool (with very dark and very hot water!), to try to wash … but mostly relax. Because at this point you’re so filthy, stinking, bubbling, you finally let go and you do not care of everything from your appearance, odor and you enjoy this wild feeling. I still see Camille’s face when he saw us covered with mud. First he did not like it at all and didn’t want to be spread. “They are not going well my parents! “. Noé on the contrary thought it was so great. It reminded him of his steam bath in Essaouira.

After a good shower with clear, cold water (to successfully get rid of our muddy patch) we leave the place exhausted, relaxed and hungry. Cheeks still red and with our new “rotten egg” fragrance we eat at the local canteen, smoked chicken and local oily bread (I promise it’s delicious, just don’t think of your diet!). Then we set off again to the botanical garden. Camille fell asleep in the taxi on the way and kept on sleeping on the counter ticket office of the Botanical Garden and in the arms of dad.

This garden is a marvel, a concentrate of all the tropical vegetation of the Caribbean. A sort of Eden garden with flamboyant flowers, colorful birds, palm trees of all sizes, coconut trees of all kinds, cinnamon tree , nutmeg tree, citrus, coffee, cocoa, mango, mangle, etc … The irony of it is that the majority of these plants were imported to the Caribbean from Africa, Pacific, Asia or Latin America.

                            

We decided to walk back to the harbor, to the locals surprise because they are not used to seeing tourists walk (like them) on roadsides. Off the beaten track, through the lush countryside, meetings are more natural and real. We exchange greetings when we meet people in the streets. And the locals honestly wish us a good stay and proudly invite us to make the most of their island.

We returned to the boat on background of sunset. Children are soothed as rejuvenated by this journey on land. A splash in the sea in the evening and the night will be divine.
       

The next day we sail back north, to the famous Marigot Bay. I discovered this wonderful wild bay that goes into the land, 15 years ago. At the time, there were only two shacks, one was a sort of bar and the other a “grocery shop”. We could anchor alone in the middle of the bay and lush vegetation; at night, lulled to sleep by the singing of frogs.
All that has changed. The bay is now overrun with boats, a marina and “duty free” tourist shops. The place is still beautiful, but has lost its magic .

The holidays are over, we return to Martinique to finish the work on PlanetOcean.

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