A day of Adventure in Basse Terre

Published: August 3rd 2018
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Thursday August 2 - There are people I know who tell me they think I am so adventurous with my travels. I disagree. It's pretty easy to travel today, and with internet and guidebooks, you're hardly being adventurous at all, no matter where you are. But today, today I felt almost my most adventurous, and in a way that these same people probably will not recognize as such. I have a rental car, which I have driven before today, but not so much. Yesterday was slightly challenging, trying to find somewhere from the map in my head, but today felt insane. The main island of Guadeloupe is actually two islands connected together, almost in the shape of a butterfly. I stay on Basse Terre, the larger of the two, and the most wild - mountainous and green, with forests and a volcano, but also some nice beaches. Grande Terre is smaller, and is the beach resort island. I had originally planned to visit there today, and drive around, but decided that it was too far to go in one day. Absolutely the right choice. So I decided last night that I would just travel around Basse Terre, and I found the sites I wanted to see.

This morning I talked to Murielle and narrowed the list down to four or five sites, realizing I still would not have time to do the whole of Basse Terre if I actually wanted to see anything along the way. The adventure came from the drive itself. Normally I am a passenger when I travel, taking public transport everywhere. In Guadaloupe, it's not easy to get around without a car, so I went for it. And for me, that is always scary and where the adventure is. Guadaloupe is part of France, and as such has far better roads and cars than Dominica, and the driving is on the right side of the road, unlike Dominica, so more comfortable for me. But, I figured I would have a manual car, and I do, which is not a problem for me, as both of my cars were manual. But, the roads here are narrow and winding, and it is hilly everywhere on Basse Terre, so the real adventure came from my route today. I was the driver and the navigator, and I was constantly looking for my destinations while shifting and downshifting and shifting again, going around turns I could not see until I was in them, hoping no one was on my tail since I drove slower than the speed limit. The speed limit is 70 km/h and 50 km/h in towns, but I rarely got above 60km/h. For me, this was excessively fast going downhill, and almost impossible to obtain uphill unless I was in second gear. It was madness. Even madder still when you think about it (if you're American) in numbers you know - this is only 31-43 mi/h, yet it felt like I was in the Daytona 500. Today I had a super adventure for me, whereas most of my friends would be bored with that and not able to understand why I struggled. And this is why we are different.

So where did I go? First stop as a suggestion from Murielle was the Maison de Cacao, or the chocolate museum. They have an area where you walk around, looking at cacao (chocolate) trees, and then every half hour or so there is a presentation and tasting. I was the only English speaker so I got my own presentation! It was pretty cool. Some of it I knew, but the way they did it was nice. The woman showed me the chocolate fruit, and then gave me one of the seeds covered in pulp to eat. You suck on the pulp like a candy and then you can eat the seed. It is bitter, but it is purple inside. The cacao farmers harvest the fruits every six months, as they take a long time to ripen, and then take these seeds covered in pulp and ferment them. Then they roast them to bring out the flavor. When they are roasted they go from seed to bean. I got to open and eat a bean. It now started to taste like chocolate. Next, she ran some roasted beans through a grinder (a smoosher?) and it created a chocolate paste. She gave this to me and had me form a ball with it and eat it. It has fat in the form of cocoa butter as well as the chocolate powder. It was very intensely flavored. She then explained that dark chocolate is at least 50% of that paste with sugar. Milk chocolate is that paste with milk and sugar (but some companies will add other ingredients like oil to save money), and white chocolate is just the cocoa butter with milk and sugar. She gave me amazing hot chocolate to drink and then I taste-tested many different types of chocolate - 100%, 90%, 70% and grainy, 70% with flavors (ginger, coffee and more) and milk with manioc. It was all good. I'm so glad I went there.

My second stop was the zoo. I wasn't sure I would go, but I'm glad I did. The exhibit were good, and the setting, in a tropical forest, was great. And unexpectedly, there were suspended bridges that you could walk on for some extra fun and adventure. It was reminiscent of the ropes course I did in France for Duke of Edinburgh in June, but less crazy. It was a lot of fun. There was also a bat exhibit with my favorite species, the Jamaican fruit bat. It was blue light and the bats were on a reverse time schedule, but my camera couldn't really take photos in there. Luckily, it could take video. Loved it. They even had a black jaguar which was ever so cooly napping on a high platform.

My next stop was nearby, Cascade aux Ecrevisses, a small waterfall with a small pool and river for swimming. I took some photos and swam a bit, but there were so many people and it felt more like a social thing, so I didn't stay overly long. But it was nice.

My last stop was at a hot spring I'd read about that was basically in the ocean. The hot water flows down from the volcano into the ocean, and there is a small natural pool that you can sit in, hot water flowing in from one side and ocean water from the other. It was a very weird experience. When I drove in, I had to drive downhill and the parking lot was full, but there was parking on the road leading back to the main road, so I turned around and parked uphill, ready to go when I was done. I heard a couple speaking English and chatted with them to see if we needed to pay for parking. The answer has always been no, and was again, but there was a machine so I wasn't sure. He was from Guadeloupe but his wife is Canadian, and they live in Toronto. We chatted until their baby got fussy and they left. At that point, a huge group came down and I didn't stay much longer. It really was a tiny pool. I cooled off in the ocean part and then walked back to my car.

Someone was pulling in just behind me as I walked up, and I was a little nervous to leave, since I knew the car would roll back a bit when I did. I gave it a try and it was too steep. I rolled back and was not comfortable to try again. Eventually, I got out and asked a guy with his family if he could move the car for me. He did, and it was amazing. So ridiculous, but I figured he had more experience than I did and would be better able to not damage the car behind me, and I was right. From there, it only took about 45 minutes to get back to my place. I spent the time talking to myself, to the car, to the car in front of me. You name it, I talked to or about it as I struggled with the terrain and the transmission. When I got close to Murielle's, I decided to drive into Deshaies, another two minutes, to get one last coconut ice pop. I took it to the beach to eat it, but this one was a bit less frozen, and I couldn't break the container it was in to release it like I did with the first. Instead, I had a tiny hole that I had to suck it out of while this couple watched as their kids played in the water. Slightly embarrassing but still delicious.

Back at my place, Murielle knocked on my door and offered to take me to Marie Claudette's truck for a bokit sandwich, the one I had trouble finding last night. We got one for me and one for her husband, both the complete chicken sandwich, whatever that was, and took them home. I ate in my room and it was good. Still no idea what was in there besides chicken, hot sauce and mayo, but it was good.

Tonight I need to pack and try to sort out a plan for tomorrow. I'd like to go to the Memorial ACT museum before the airport, but there is the Guadeloupe version of the Tour de France, so I'm not sure how much of the capital will be closed off and how to get around and meet my car rental guy. I think we'll have to work that out in the morning.

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3rd August 2018

Thanks for sharing the post.
3rd August 2018
Suspension bridges

These always creep me out a bit but I cross them anyway.

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