Guadeloupe - Basse Terre

Published: May 30th 2013
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Jan 17, 2012. La Soufrière is a volcano in Basse Terre and the hike up to the top is one of the most popular activities on the island. On the way there, we stopped by a beach to collect sand. My host had been collecting sand from different parts of Guadeloupe and apparently they all have different magnetic levels. The sand at this beach was highly magnetic. The area was full of bananiers and when we asked for plastic bottles (for collecting sand), we got bottles as well as bananas. They were so delicious. Bananas ripened on the tree have so many layers of tastes that do not exist in bananas we get from grocery stores.

There were many people on the La Soufrière trail. It was very crowded at the summit. When we got to the very top, it was raining. Apparently, it’s always raining at the summit so there was a shelter and everybody crowded into it. There were benches along the walls. Two old gentlemen sat down beside us, opened up their bags and had a picnic with wine and everything. We talked to them and one of them said that when he first came to Guadeloupe, he was disappointed because he visited La Grande Vigie which looked exactly like Medoc, just north of Bordeaux by the sea, where he is from in France. However, he is enjoying other parts of Guadeloupe. It was hard to descend as the wind and rain were really strong and I couldn’t see with my glasses wet so I went without them. At the end of the hike are the Bains Jaunes (hot springs) and we went in like everybody else. The water was 28-30°.

On the hike, I saw a lot of sphagnum moss and various other mosses that I had collected in the Canadian boreal forest. There was a double leaved fern which had 2 leaves at 45° angle to each other sharing one petiole. I also saw tree ferns which have a tree trunk several meters high with fern leaves on top. Some type of Apocynaceae and another with compartments of veins were noted. We also spotted a mongoose.

On the way out of the the volcano, we called another CSer who lived on this side of Guadeloupe and she said to come over. She lived at La Boucan which means “fire” in Guadeloupe. Her house was somewhere at the end of Route de Boucan at the edge of the forest where the Trace de Contrabandiers starts. The back of her property bordered a river and she was using water from a spring that came directly from the mountains behind her house. She had a pomme citerne with salmon pink bark.

The Trace de Contrabandiers, according to the map I had, seems to be a path that goes through the forest and come out on the other side of the island, definitely a hike I would explore if I go back. To get there from Pointe-à-pitre, take a bus going to Sainte Rose and get off at the roundabout where the Route de Boucan starts. Call the bus driver of the La Boucan Route beforehand to see when he'll be at the roundabout: 06 90 50 70 06 (Ste Rose). The bus goes from the roundabout (road N2) all the way to the start of Trace de Contrabandiers. There are a few websites about the different hikes in Guadeloupe, here's one of them:

To go to the Jardin Botanique from Pointe-à-pitre, go to the Bergevin bus depot and take a bus to Ste Rose (€2.50), then take the minivan to Des Haies (€2.50), unless you go early in the day and catch one that goes directly to Des Haies.

Jan 23, 2012. Diving in Guadeloupe is a must as there is a Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve near Malendure beach in Bouillante. If you can't find a direct bus to Malendure (€3.40), take the one going to Pointe Noire (€3.20), get off at Mahault, and take another bus (€1) to Malendure. It was my first time so I went for a baptême with the Archipel Diving Centre which cost €40. It was a very very short dive and we didn't go that deep. I could have just gone snorkeling but it was good to know how the equipment worked. Thank god I had ¡c! berlin glasses with removable temples (stems) so I was able to put the lenses in my mask and see everything in the water clearly. I saw a lot of beautiful tropical fish but the corals were not as exciting as I had hoped.

There were 9 people and 2 instructors. I was told later that there should normally be one instructor for every baptême because things can go wrong such as the nitrogen is in liquid form in your bloodstream at very deep down and if you come up too quickly, it will still be in liquid form in your bloodstream which will kill you. Another is that your lungs can explode if you come up too quickly and do not breathe out. Whatever is in your lungs compresses in the depth so if you don't breathe out, it will make your lungs explode as it expands back to normal. Also, if you can pop your ears at 6m, you can pop them at 40m which means your ear canals are big enough for diving.

The day after I went diving, I was at the fish market very early in the morning. All the beautiful fish I saw while diving were for sale at the market including the most colourful ones that were quite large. How sad. There were also enormous pelicans milling around, trying to get at some of the fishermen's loot. I did not know that pelicans were so big.

Jan 24, 2012. My favourite hike was the Chutes du Moreau. From Bergevin bus depot, I took the bus to Goyave and got off at Douville where there is a road that leads to the start of the hike. After walking about 30 minutes, a couple came by in a car and gave me a ride in. There is a parking lot at the start of the hike. If there is too much water in the river, the hike is not do-able as there would be rapids. The trail was very muddy, up to 20cm deep in mud sometimes. It was full of rocks and tree roots so it was extremely slippery. It's ok to fall in the mud on the way up as you can wash in the river. I crossed the river 5 times plus two other times where I didn't cross it but had to wade in the river to go upstream to where the trail continued. There were metal stairs in a couple places as it was very steep. At one point, near the end, I had to climb up a rockface that had grooves and a rope/cord for holding on. I got to the Chutes in 1 hr and 20 min but I stopped many times to look at stuff and wash in the river. The waterfall was quite spectacular. It was thin but in 3 stages, straight down, and then at the bottom, it was flowing down rocks at an angle (google images). On the way down, I kept getting lost. After the last river crossing, I avoided the mud so my return trip took much longer but I came out looking fairly mudless. At the parking lot, I asked some people for a ride to the road where I can take a bus but they took me all the way to Le Gosier.

The apartment of my host in Le Gosier was on top of a morne which I didn't quite understand until I left Guadeloupe on a plane and saw from the air that the whole Grande Terre was full of mornes.


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