I Don’t Like Cricket: St Lucia, East Caribbean 

12 Jan

‘Do you like cricket?’ First question the taxi driver asked us as we settled in for the forty minute cab ride from the airport to our hotel. This after realising we’d jumped into the wrong car when the driver was filling up at the gas station and, when queried, didn’t seem to know where Tet Rouge (our hotel) was. Oh ooooh…He returned us to the airport promptly to track down the correct driver. 

I answered automatically, ‘I don’t like cricket, I love it’, quoting 10cc song lyrics. Luckily for me it flew right over his head. I then had to admit I was completely neutral about cricket because I neither understood nor watched it. Actually that’s not true, I once took the kids to see a Gabba test match between the Windies and Australia a million years ago when we were trying to acculturate them to Australian life. The most memorable thing in an otherwise dull day was watching gorgeous, lanky Windies bowlers making their deliveries in tight white trousers. Thought it best not to mention that at the time.

St Lucia island is a helluva long way from Australia and we went the long way round. Melbourne-KL-Dubai-Gatwick. Overnight in Gatwick then one more eight hour flight to St Lucia. We have all the kit for six months travel (Stu’s skis and motorcycle gear, both pairs of ski boots and ski helmets, flamenco gear, walking gear and heavy duty winter wear to take us from Edinburgh to Zermatt to Iceland). Most of our baggage is now with the concierge at the Sofitel Gatwick to be collected on our return.

But why St Lucia? When we circumnavigated Lanzarote a year ago on Velvet Lady skipper Lynn recommended a similar setup, Skyelark, for sailing in the eastern Caribbean, a long held dream of ours. I duly booked a cabin and here we are, acclimatising and sightseeing for five days before we set sail on Thursday. 

 You’ll find us at La Pointe on the south west coast. 

Home is a spacious red metal-roofed, wooden studio apartment with verandah tucked into the hillside. Verdant Gros Piton looms behind us and an infinity pool and ocean in front. Most days we can see south clear to the island of St Vincent. Temps are between 24-20 degrees celsius with high humidity. 

    Ginger Lilly, our studio is on the right.

    
    

 
  

 Originally from Romania, Diana and Sorin, who built and run tiny Tet Rouge, live in Toronto in the wet season and in St Lucia in the dry. With just six studios for couples we are assured of a quiet, good value stay (St Lucia is relatively expensive due to transport costs and the 40 per cent import duty).

 

Pool man, bartender, general factotum and font of local knowledge, Gavin, helped us get our bearings by walking us up to the closest grocery store, run by Aunty Josey, and on to the entrance to the UNESCO world heritage Gros Piton park. 

 
We learned Gavin’s mum is in the final stage of cervical cancer. He’s helping care for her at home along with his girlfriend, his daughter and grandma. His other grandmother died of cervical cancer. I was shocked to learn that young St Lucian girls aren’t offered the vaccine against HPV and that Gavin wasn’t even aware there was one.

 

No local minibuses run to Soufriere, the oldest town on the island, so in the afternoon we walked 16k via Tet Paul nature trail through cacao bean plantations, orchards of mango, breadfruit and calabash trees, and dense jungle and continued along a busy road. Gavin had told us he was born on the cacao plantation as was his father and grandfather who worked there. Gavin doesn’t eat chocolate. ‘Don’t like it’.

    

    Cacao Tree

 Like a set from an Indiana Jones movie, this abandoned mill grows weeds and mosses.

The panoramas are staggeringly beautiful. I had the sensation walking down into Soufriere that we’d stepped into a ‘Death in Paradise’ film set, so much so I had to later check the fictional St Marie location of the series. It’s Guadaloupe. Close. 

    Petit Piton

Soufriere  

  Soufriere Catholic Church

   Soufriere Police Station, but where is Camille?

We stocked up on food and beer then scoped out the waterfront for a drink and dinner watching the sun dip into the sea. Petit Palace restaurant serves tasty vegan food and icy long beers. 

  Fast ferry to St Vincent.

  
 
The taxi home took about twenty minutes. They drive fast here. Another conversation with driver Didier about cricket. I kept my mouth shut.

 

We’d arranged for Mel, the in-house Tet Rouge guide, to lead us on a hike up and down the 786m lava plug, Gros Piton. Early breakfast and we were heading downhill at 8am. Mel starts his walk from sea level rather than twenty-five percent of the way up where the park entrance feeds into the same trail. 

    

The ascent was tough straight away and it just got tougher. I was struggling to keep up with Stu and Mel. When I analysed my condition I calculated my vascular system was in revolt. Blood didn’t know whether to digest my rather large breakfast, vasodilate and cool me, or oxygenate my muscles so it did none of them effectively. My stomach was uncomfortable, I was sweating a river and needed to rest every ten minutes. Stu was fine, bounding along in the lead while Mel, who had done this same climb every morning for the past four days, was all smiles and encouragement.   

Half way up Mel bluetoothed his phone to a small speaker in his backpack to broadcast motivational reggae music. Didn’t help. We discovered as we walked and talked that 37-year-old Mel has been guiding for five years and a vegan for the past 19 years. ‘Never been in a hospital, never sick’. If ever there was a male pinup for a plant-powered lifestyle it’s Melvin the Mountain Goat, his actual nickname (we saw it on a poster at the park entrance).

 

The top 25 per cent of the climb is the most challenging, a staircase of roots and dirt with some railings made of branches in places to help haul yourself up, followed by clambering over big, wet volcanic boulders. I still felt like $hit but not completing was never an option.

 
The summit viewpoint is a jumble of stones looking to the southern panorama. We were lucky not to be in cloud and could see all the way to the airport. 

 Descending was almost as difficult as ascending, stepping from stone to stone, or down steps built for giants. Mel kept up the music and I sang along to the reggae version of ‘The Gambler’. All bearable until three-quarters of the way down when, during a rest stop, I felt dizzy, my guts cramped and I had the urge to evacuate both main orifices simultaneously. Oh no..I recognise this. Food poisoning. Explains why I struggled so much going up.
 

I told Mel my predicament and he rerouted us via the park road so I could dash to the toilet at the first opportunity. Only one more dizzy spell and I made it in time. We rested in the shade by the park office then walked back to Tet Rouge by road. No taxis or minivan buses service this area.

 

Once the toxin was out of my system I recovered quickly and by dinner time I was ready to eat again. Home cooked pasta by Stuart.

 

The second most popular tourist attraction in the area is the sulphur springs in the caldera above Soufriere (relating to sulphur in French). We had a taxi drop us at the entrance to the hot springs and bought the combo ticket, a guided walk around the volcanic vents followed by a mud bath and soak in a 38 degree C pool. Aching thighs from yesterday’s exertions melted into the black water and the mud made a great exfoliant.

    
To keep our legs from stiffening up we’d decided to walk on to Pitons Bay between the two peaks for lunch. On the map this is an almost a straight line but in topographical terms it’s a giant rollercoaster. We followed the handwritten sign for a trail to the beach. Wrong one. Still, it had an attractive looking restaurant above a shingled foreshore. Worth a try. Closed.

    
 Harmony Restaurant with its blue roof.

We plodded back up the hill which reached a one in three incline for sections. The other restaurant, Martha’s Table, was also closed. The road rose up further and we were once again dripping sweat and weary. Stuart was a trifle tetchy by the time we came across a bamboo and thatch roadside stall with a lone woman, her dog and six goats. Shanna had an esky of cold drinks. A chilled Fanta cheered Stuart up and we had a nice chat with Shanna. Stuart asked her why she had a fire smoking behind her. ‘To keep the mosquitos away’. Dengue Fever and Chikungunya viruses spread by the Aedes mosquito are endemic in St Lucia and all Caribbean islands for that matter (since 2013). No vaccine yet for either.

 Another fifteen minute climb and we reached the security gate to newish Sugar Beach Resort (previously Jalousie Plantation) where two person villas start at USD1200 a night. As with five star resorts the world over Viceroy Sugar Beach strives for exclusivity. You can’t just stroll in. Your name and your hotel is noted and a shuttle bus escorts you to the restaurant. That was fine by us as it was a further precipitous kilometre downhill and our thighs enjoy descending as much as they like ascending at the moment, i.e. not at all.  

 
Lunch in the beachside restaurant was heavenly, especially the cold beer and french fries. We’d heard the fine, white sand is not natural and I had the opportunity to fact check this when I asked staff for directions to the rest rooms. Julien, the restaurant manager, linked his arm in mine and escorted me there chatting as we went. Yep, the sand is brought all the way from Guyana, on the north coast of South America. 
   
    
  

We encountered several more security guards during our short stay at the resort, all very polite and well educated. The scary thing was they all knew our names and the colour of our beach towels. They also didn’t hesitate to give us pointers as to where we could and could not deposit our clothes whilst swimming in the sea (so as to not detract from the view for other guests) and where we could and could not walk. Quite illegal as we discovered later since 60 feet from the sea is crown land. 
A swim, a stroll around the resort and some people-watching on the beach (mostly North Americans and a few Brits) and we were ready to catch a water taxi back around Gros Piton to our closest beach. Sixty US dollars was too much for a ten minute trip so, you guessed it, we hoofed it home via a steep ‘short cut’. 

The views back to Petit Piton were lovely and we encountered some interesting local people and animals along the way; a woman walking to her housemaid’s job, neatly uniformed school kids returning home, and a chap working on his own making concrete blocks for building houses from the river sand in the park. The blocks sell for USD1.50 each and he said it takes 100 to build a house. He was proud of his work. I’d trust his blocks. 

 Once Stu starts a hill he does not like to stop for views or photos.

    
   
Our final day at Tet Rouge was a lazy one, exploring our local beach a fifteen minute walk away and a loop stroll through the local community, La Pointe. Men scythed long grass and bound it for thatching, tilled the soil to plant sweet potato, and tomatoes,  and mended car parts by the side of the road. Women peeled sweet potatoes and did yard work and laundry.

 Breakfast entree.

 Banana vending machine, Tet Rouge

    
    
 Fisherman and bar caretaker

 Community facilities, La Pointe

 Absentee owner

 St Vincent and The Grenadines beyond, our next port of call.

Tonight Gavin’s made us a sunset cocktail, the Tet Rouge (aged dark St Lucian rum, grapefruit juice, ice and grenadine) by the pool before heading downhill for the final time for a meal at The View creole restaurant which opens by reservation only. Dress code is hiking boots, sun frock and mosquito repellant.  

   

   

 St Lucian vegie pasties called dahl with local vegetables by Morelle and company at The View.

Heartfelt thanks to Diana, Sorin, Samantha, Gavin and Mel for a warm, wonderful introduction to St Lucia. And go the Windies!
  
   

One Response to “I Don’t Like Cricket: St Lucia, East Caribbean ”

  1. Heather watt January 13, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

    Beautiful scenery – delightful! Glad to hear that you recovered quickly from your food poisoning and that Stuarts home cooking was enjoyed.

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