|The cruise continues
||[Mar. 8th, 2007|08:31 am]
Day Four: St. Lucia. I could just live in a box. This is the place. If I ever bug out for island life, St. Lucia will be it.
First of all, it's all the tropics of Dominica with half the rain. Second, the town is very nice.
Third, there's food everywhere
Our St. Lucia excusion was a hike up to a waterfall. That meant one more morning of being herded off the cruise boat like so many passport-bearing cattle, lined up while the rest of our cattle group queued, and then being shuffled onto vans. But that was where the similarity ended. First of all, we were the last ones on the van so Ferrett and I got the seats up front (which was a Very Good Thing for reasons that will become clear later). Amy, on the other hand, was stuck in the back of the van, but that also turned out to be a Very Good Thing. Because in the back of the van was another family with two daughters, one Amy's age and one a year and a half younger, and the parents were very nice. They all sort of adopted Amy for the course of the excursion and she had a great time hanging out with them.
We climbed up out of town and made the obligatory touristy viewpoint stop. But already we were in a much better mood about it because our tour guide was excellent. She was enthusiastic and filled with good information. Our driver was also happy to chime in with bits and pieces about the island. So the crush of vendors, the random guy playing the trumpet very badly, and the line-up-the-tourists moment was a bit easier to bear.
Then we started really driving. We drove over the top of the island and out to the Atlantic side. We stopped alongside a banana plantation and were given bananas for a "donation" - which amused me to realize that this guy was pretty much making a dollar a banana. We climbed to a beautiful viewpoint where, miraculously, there was not a single vendor trying to sell us something. We drove through two smaller towns where it is clear that the tourist dollars do not reach - the economy of one was based on fishing and it was relatively prosperous; the guide told us that every Friday they have a fish market and a huge party, and once again I was wishing desperately that I could hang out on the island and get to know the culture.
The other did not seem to have much economy and it was crushingly poor. People were doing their laundry in the very river we were about to ascend into the mountains to hike beside. One or two people tried to sell us jewelry, but for the most part the people ignored us. It was independence day, February 22, and they were all on their way to the beach. We made a potty stop there and then headed into the interior.
This is where it was a good thing I was in front. Because I am prone to motion sickness, I would have been suffering greatly further back in the van. As it was, I was merely terrified by the full frontal view of--holy god, is that the road?!
It was ... exhilerating.
The hike itself was fantastic. Over the course of maybe a mile we passed by bananas, pineapple, coffee, cocoa, papaya, breadfruit, mangos, and pumpkin, all growing wild on the hillside. This was where I decided that I could sell everything and just live in a box, because who needed the grocery store when you had the great outdoors?
At the end of the trail we received an authentic islander snack: a choice of American cheese or canned tuna sandwich on white bread and Coke or grapefruit soda. After feeding us this magnificent feast, the tour hosts brought out locally grown grapefruit and dried coconut for dessert. The island served up a tropical downpour that had us all huddled in a shed then cleared off in five minutes, as tropical downpours should.
Then the real fun began, for the final trek to the waterfall a scramble from bank to bank of the river over slippery rocks. We finally made it there and then winced our way over the rocky bottom to the pool.
The waterfall was not particularly high, but it was lively, and it had carved out a nice, deep pool about 50 feet across. The water was cool and refreshing and the whole group swam about, trying stunts like swimming upstream against the force of the current.
Man, if I could have that as my exercise pool, I'd be swimming every day.
Ferrett managed to force himself completely up and under the crash of water, which a bunch of other people then had to try. And some kids climbed the rocks and leapt into the deep part of the pool, which a bunch of other people then had to try. I think we could have stayed for hours, but the tour guide summoned us back. As we were clearing out of the pool the locals starting showing up, bringing picnics and kids for an afternoon swim of their own. It was an ideal place.
On the way back our driver, George, stopped to show us the vista overlooked the natural arch wherein the hung pirates at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean was shot, and then pointed out a plant called Touch Me Not that was growing alongside the road. If you brush your hand against the plant, it retreats from your touch.
Which we all found really cool until George explained to us that it had been planted by the British all around the slave huts so that if anyone ran they would be able to follow their tracks through the plants.
Kinda took the "cool" edge right off.
This island was definitely my favorite, even though when we got back to town everything was closed and we were again thwarted in our effort to try any local cuisine. I hated to leave it behind.