Monday, 6 July 2015

Guadeloupe May/June 2015

Guadeloupe May/June 2015

A pleasant easterly F4 took us to Deshaies with the seas calming down throughout the day. While avoiding the many fishing floats near the island the wind died so we motored the last couple of miles. It was great to see the bay quite empty. We took one of the new mooring balls (free of charge) close in to the north of the bay just as the heavens opened so we were both soaked to the skin.

We had just got more or less organised when Rose and Dan from Exit Strategy stopped on their way back from shore. An impromptu reunion and we made plans to tour the island.
On The film set!
Ashore the next morning to check in we saw some more filming of “Death in Paradise” and spent a little while watching. We had seen them here last year too. The filming went on in various parts of the town while we were there. Very interesting to see how quite small sets are transformed when you see it on the TV.

We found a car hire place and said we would be in the next day to collect a car. Then, my first snorkel in ages – I must be getting better! Nothing remarkable just the usual very pretty Deshaies mini reef. We spent the evening on Exit Strategy planning our two day tour and arranged to meet at 9:00 at the time the car hire opened.

We had to run the boats engine to generate electricity. Not enough wind and our solar panels are failing and the wonderful Kipor generator is officially dead. We have ordered a new Yamaha one for collection in St Lucia, being the closest place that has one, so power generation is going to be an ongoing problem till we get there.

Our tour got off to a typical Caribbean start. When we arrived at the car hire shop it was not open. We waited a while and eventually Richard- the best French speaker- went off to see what he could find out. It turned out to be Emancipation Day, with most places being closed. Unfortunately the car hire man had not mentioned that to us at all or we could have collected the car the previous evening! We must remember to check public holidays whenever we arrive at a French island because we always end up having our plans thwarted by them!

So, back to the boat with a baguette, a rest and some more snorkelling – slate pencil urchins, a Night Sergeant and an octopus – then another rest (Rowena, still struggling) and a quiet evening.

Thursday morning we set off again and collected a car. The island of Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly,  so we had decided to do the western ‘wing’ (Basse Terre) one day and the eastern one (Grande Terre) the next.
Forest Walk

 Basse Terre is mountainous and has an active volcano with a rainfall of about 10 meters per year making it one of the wettest places on earth resulting in beautiful rainforest and spectacular scenery. We set off along the Route de la Traversee which crosses the centre of the island through the forest and mountains. The Maison de la Foret, our first stop, is an interesting visitor centre describing the plants, birds and animals of the area. Unfortunately the text was only in French, but lots of pictures enabled us to understand quite a bit.
A bit bigger than a fig leaf!

From there we had a short walk over a river and through the rainforest. We walked between huge trees with massive contorted buttresses, their branches home to ferns, lichens and bromeliads. From the floor rose heliconias, wax roses, antheriums and more ferns lit by filtered green light. Two new birds (to us), Plumbeous Warblers and Brown Tremblers went about their day calling and catching insects but we could not even catch a glimpse of the endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker that we could hear drumming on the trees.
Beautiful Heliconias

Our next stop was the Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a pretty small waterfall not far from the road, named for the freshwater crayfish that live here, though we did not see any. Here we saw tiny lizards and hummingbirds darting in the foliage.
More bugs than you can count in here!

We then drove south, having decided to have lunch at Le Grande Cafe Plantation, a banana plantation. We went off the main road along small farm roads and had almost given up when we found it. It is still a banana plantation, with a small shop but we were happily informed that the signs saying it is a cafe are old and they no longer do food! We were given a few bananas and a recommendation for a restaurant along the main road. We did have a good local style lunch at Le Dame Jeanne and set off planning to visit Carbet Waterfalls, a series of three falls.

Richard had driven all morning and now Dan took over, another benefit of sharing a car! The road to the falls was closed due to a landslide we think, so we changed plan and went to St Claude for a view of the volcano. Another little walk took us into the forest again and Les Bains Jaunes, a pool made to gather warm sulphurous water. There was also a rather scary sign which said not to put your head under as an amoeba lives in the water which enters your body through the mucous membranes of your nasal passages and the resulting infection has 100% death rate! We did not go in at all, but on the way back after a walk there was a family in the water including a little boy about 4 – I cannot believe they were that confident that he would not slip and go under – amazing!

It was raining off and on and very misty so we did not get a view of La Soufriere anyway, but still a pleasant walk with hummingbirds and a mongoose! The drive back took us all along the coast road through some little fishing villages and some quite touristy towns.
Just like being back home!

Friday we set off across the bridge joining the two sides of the island in unexpected bumper to bumper traffic. Grand Terre is fairly flat and much drier and we drove through miles of sugar cane and bananas. We went straight across to the Atlantic side at Le Moule, the original capital and found Musee Edgar Clerc which houses an exhibition of pre Colombian life in Guadeloupe.

Pre-Columbian art

Entry was free and very interesting with many artefacts both useful and ornamental. It showed trade between the islands and as far away as South America – a necklace of amethyst beads and carved green stone frogs being one of the objects to prove this. Some of the pottery was very interesting -  glazed, with animal heads for handles, showing quite a sophisticated society, not quite what Columbus led us to believe. As for them being cannibals, this seems to have been disproved as well. Their burial rites involved ‘smoking’ the deceased slowly after evisceration, to preserve the body which was then usually buried in the family home with all the internal organs. This is probably what the first Europeans saw and misinterpreted. It reminded me of the ancient Egyptians and their mummies - different method, same result.
Distilling then

Then on to Distillerie Damoiseau – time for the boys to have a little fun for a change! An old rum distillery with plenty of interesting old stone work including a windmill, ovens etc as well as a totally modern distillery and you can wander around at will. So we saw the whole process from sugar cane delivery to storing in old whiskey barrels to bottling. Of course, you then get to taste the rum and buy some in their shop which is full of other interesting things including wobbly glasses and books. Richard and Danny both opted for the 5 year old to add to the collection!
Distilling now!

St Francois, a fishing village on the south coast was our lunch stop. It is also a bit touristy but we found a row of nice looking cafes overlooking the fishing harbour and Le Refuge de Port that offered a 3 course lunch for 10 Euros! Again, delicious local food, fresh fish and fruit salad dressed with rum.
St Francois fishing harbour

We stopped at Maison de la Noix Coco, a cute shop selling an amazing range of goods all made from coconuts or the coconut tree - beads, lampshades, spoons, bowls , sculptures, etc, etc. Then we reached Pointe des Chateaux, the rugged eastern most tip of the island where big waves crashed onto rocks and a nice small sandy beach. A bit too rough for swimming!
Pointe des Chateaux

Then back along the southern coast and a last stop at Le Gosier, an anchorage we wanted to see with an eye to going there next season. Rose and Dan have anchored there in the past so we parked and walked down to see. Many locals swim the mile to Ilet du Gosier in the morning or evening and we watched them towing their floats there and back. We also watched a man launch a drone and then follow its filming on his laptop. It looks an interesting area and I am sure we will come back in Galene.

Then it was back through the bridge traffic and we took the north coast road back to Deshaies with a stop at Super U for some nice French groceries.

A quiet day (especially for Rowena) with a quick snorkel followed and on Sunday we sailed to Pigeon Island, the Jacques Cousteau reserve where Richard and Dan planned to dive. With 30kt gusts as we anchored, it was a bit swelly and just got worse and worse. We had invited ‘Exit Strategy’ for dinner and Mexican dominos and cooking was quite a feat. Fortunately I had decided to do a chicken breast dinner in which each portion is roasted in foil with its own vegetables. So I just tipped each package into a bowl – plates would have been impossible it was so rolly.

Cliff – it would have been like the evening of the sausages on the Atlantic crossing!

After Rose’s magnificent coconut pie we managed the dominos by having sticky mat on the table and a Tupperware each for our spare dominos!

The boys set off to the small island for their dive next morning despite the swell. Rowena’s hands are still too sore to be able to dive. The girls had a snorkel along the edge – the viz not as good as usual probably due to the swell.  We saw squid, a lionfish, a sand tile fish and a turtle with a remora on its back! The Jacques Cousteau reserve is always good diving, even though the visibility was affected by the swell. We see so many adult fish species here, so many times in the Caribbean you only get to see small fish on a dive. Apart from the excellent corals, sponges and usual reef fishes it was nice to see large Chubb, Schoolmasters and several varieties of adult Parrot fish. We rounded off the dive with both Dan and Richard posing, touching the head of the Jacques Cousteau statue for good luck on all subsequent dives!
Turtle with Ramora

The swell dropped later and the next morning it was perfectly calm and clear but we had decided to leave for the Saintes so it was goodbye to Guadeloupe.

No comments:

Post a Comment