Exploring Guadeloupe

Published: April 29th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Saturday is market daySaturday is market daySaturday is market day

We always enjoy exploring the local markets on Saturdays as that is there busy days and everyone is out shopping.
April 13 - April 24, 2012 - Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is another one of the French islands located in the Caribbean. This one definitely has a different feel from the others we have visited, at least as seen from Pointe a Pitre. It still is French, however, the look and the feel of the area has a mixture of French and Creole culture and architecture.

One of the most noticeable is language. When on Martinique it was difficult to find any one that spoke any English. Here in Pointe-a-Pitre we expected the same, however, we found that many that we spoke to really wanted to practice their English and even apologized for not speaking better English. We told them that we were very impressed with their use of a foreign language and wished we could speak French half as well as they spoke English (as a matter of fact we’d even settle for one-quarter as good!).

The day after we arrived in country was Saturday, April 14th, we knew it would be market day. We got into town early in the morning to soak up the town’s activities. We were not disappointed. The town of Pointe-a-Pitre has more than
Cashews Anyone?Cashews Anyone?Cashews Anyone?

Anyone for cashews? If you don’t recognize them here they are the orange/green apple shaped items arranged in piles in the middle of this photo, the cashew apple. The brown “handle looking” part is the actual cashew nut.
one local market, a huge fish market and a well-established flower market. We enjoyed walking around town and were able to get to all of the markets. Luckily for us we still had a few euros tucked away so we were able to buy some fresh produce as well as a nice piece of fresh tuna from the various vendors. What a great way to get to know a new town – go to market!

Whenever you pull into a new anchorage one of the 1st things you do is check to see if any old friends are anchored. We were pleased to find s/v Fair Isles anchored near us. We had not seen Gabi or Horst since they left Trinidad late last fall. We were both busy with boat projects but luckily we were able to catch up with Gabi one night on our boat. They had sailed over from Germany a couple of years ago so we asked lots of questions about the crossing and how to prepare the boat. Thanks Gabi!

We took another day exploring the town of Pointe-a-Pitre. There is quite a bit to see and we had an unexpected treat. We saw
A simple toolA simple toolA simple tool

A simple tool made from bottle caps seems to work wonders for scaling the fish at the fish market.
a building that was housing an art exhibit so poked in to see it. It was a one man show of a person that draws cartoons, many political. Unfortunately we couldn’t read the French, but were impressed with the drawings. Fortunately for us we had a chance to meet the artist and spend about an hour talking to him. He gave us a unique history lesson of Guadeloupe and how it differs from Martinique. One important fact he explained is that Martinique was the home of Napoleon’s wife, Josephine and therefore had been a favorite of France early on. Guadeloupe on the other hand early in its history had gone through a period where slavery had been abolished during a period of British control and then upon the French regaining control, slavery was re-introduced. Since that time the French have done an outstanding job of trying to erase this piece of history in the local populations’ memory. This has not ended the bad blood between the people of Guadeloupe and the French government. Apparently in 2009 the French government tried to make changes in the tax system and the local population was so incensed that there was a 41 day
Fresh Fish Anyone?Fresh Fish Anyone?Fresh Fish Anyone?

This is just a small sampling of the fish that was available at the market on Saturday in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
general strike that basically shut down the island until the French government relented. Needless to say, all of this gives this artist quite a bit of material to work with in his political cartoons. He is an extremely clever man as well as an interesting artist.

Looking at the map of the city we noticed some of the street names. The ones we recognized were named after Nelson Mandela, Abby Gregorie, Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong and Ho Chi Min. We thought it was an interesting combination of names. We mentioned it to someone at a restaurant we were eating at and were told that one of the mayors of the city had been a revolutionist and he chose these names as they were all revolutionaries in their own right. Interesting indeed of the names he picked.

Knowing we would be in Guadeloupe for over a week we were able to have Janice’s sister, Sue got our credit cards and sent them by FedEx to us. We were pleasantly surprised to have received them in 2 days. The interesting side story to this however was that we received an email on Tuesday from one of the woman in
Traditional DressTraditional DressTraditional Dress

Luckily this vendor agreed to my taking her photo after buying some mangoes from her. The material used in her outfit is what is known here as “traditional" even though the madras design resulted in the import of this from indentured servants from India back in the late 1700's.
the customs office in St. Lucia that they found the backpack with the wallet and credit cards. Just a little too late unfortunately. We pretty much figured that was where the backpack was left but when we called they were not interested in looking for it. Oh well, we just lost some time, had a little bit of stress in connecting with the various credit card companies and paid $70 to FedEx for the delivery. Fortunately our good friends, Denise & JP on Absaroque were in Rodney Bay so they picked up the bag for us so the credit cards were properly destroyed and we will get Janice's’ drivers license back from them – thanks to good friends!

With credit cards in hand we decided to rent a car for 2 days to do some exploring of the islands of Guadeloupe. This is an interesting country geologically in that it is made up of 2 islands divided by the Riviere Salee (Salt River). An aerial view of the country would remind you of a butterfly with each of the islands being wings and the river where the body would be. The larger, mountainous island is called Basse-Terre(low island) and
The western island- Basse TerreThe western island- Basse TerreThe western island- Basse Terre

We are anchored close to the eastern island of Guadeloupe but have a great view from our stern toward the mountainous western island which is called Basse Terre.
the smaller, flat island is called Grande-Terre (large land). As our guide book states whoever named the two islands must have had a sense of humor. The first day of exploration was to Basse-Terre. The day was to have some showers so we decided it wouldn’t be a problem going to the rainforest area as these are always wet!! We didn’t make it around the island as we spent quite a bit of time hiking in the rain forest. They have an excellent highway system and it didn’t take us too long before we had crossed over from the flatter island (where we are anchored) to the more mountainous island. We took time to stop at a few of the towns while traveling south on Basse-Terre. We found it interesting that it appears that the highways through the towns always seem to detour you right though the center of town and then down to the waterfront. In fact when looking at it made sense in that it created one-way traffic so people had a place to park in town as the roads are quite narrow. We stopped to walk around a few of the towns, and then went to the
Does this look familiar?Does this look familiar?Does this look familiar?

This theatre reminded us of those that many of us have seen from the distant past. Definitely not one of those modern stadium types you see today.
rainforest to do some hiking. There is an area where there are 3 waterfalls (LeChutes du Carbet) and a hike around a mountain lake, Grand Etang, all part of the national park system. There had been quite a bit of rain earlier in the week causing significant avalanches. Luckily the area with some of the best waterfalls had received no damage. Even though we had been in rainforest in Trinidad and Puerto Rico we are always amazed by the giant sizes of the plants – ferns that are over 10 feet tall, philodendron leaves larger than a person and bamboo that seem to reach to the sky. The trails are well marked and extremely well-maintained. This was also the first location where we found informational notices in both French and English. We were able to hike to the base of the 2nd waterfall which was 110 meters (360.9 ft) tall. On our way out, we were talking to each other and a couple coming down the trail approached us explaining how excited they were to meet some fellow Americans. They had been Guadeloupe for a week and hadn’t run into any other Americans. As a result we had a great
The Saturday crowdThe Saturday crowdThe Saturday crowd

We were pleasantly surprised by the size of this market as the last one we went to in Martinique was quite small and didn’t have much to offer. This one made up for it!
chance to meet Angie & Darwin from PA. Turns out we have quite a few things in common – scuba diving, love of the water (they have a power boat) and enjoy traveling “off the beaten trail”, very nice people. Another random meeting that we are sure will turn in to a longer term connection. They were down here to take a week charter on a 59’ catamaran – we saw them out the first night anchored across the bay from us in the pouring rain. We mentioned to ourselves that this was definitely giving them an introduction to the cruising life! Hope they enjoy their week aboard.

On Saturday we traveled around the smaller island, Grande Terre. There was a noticeable difference in that this island is made up of rolling hills with large agricultural areas. Numerous fields were planted with crops such as tomatoes, melons, pumpkin and sugar cane for the making of rum. Historically sugarcane was a major crop in this area requiring lots of manual labor, thus the introduction of slavery into these islands. With the changes in the global economy growing sugarcane has died down significantly now providing only for the local rum distilleries.
Great Marketing IdeaGreat Marketing IdeaGreat Marketing Idea

We figure this is what gets closest to “fast food” at the market. Many “market” their produce by cutting a variety of them up and packaging together so you can easily grab one and throw it in water and very soon have soup or the beginning of a stew. Quite a clever idea and they have done it with a variety of vegetables.
The hills are dotted with the remains of old windmills that were used to crush the cane. As we drove through the area we noticed several modern wind-farms have been erected to take advantage of the ever blowing trade-winds. This island is much drier than the more mountainous western island as we noticed that the fields were covered with irrigation pipes and ditches.

The eastern and northern coast line of Guadeloupe is quite different from other islands we have visited. It is much more rugged and the coast-line reminded us of Maine. Of course there were noticeable differences as well such as the light blue water and the rugged coast was the result of broken coral as opposed to rock in Maine.

Even though we did not cover all of Basse Terre we were fortunate to have seen the leeward side of the island last season and were able to see at least the lower part of the dormant volcano, Soufriere when we were sailing south. As we mentioned earlier this island has a very interesting geological history. As mentioned Guadeloupe is made up of two islands, the flatter island is significantly older and started out also a
Patiently WaitingPatiently WaitingPatiently Waiting

We found this pelican was very patiently waiting on the side of the fishing boat that was busy selling fish at the market. It looks like he seems to know the routine & the fisherman weren’t bothered by them sitting quietly by.
volcano. Over a long period of time erosion wore the volcano cone down to below water level and a coral reef grew on top of the resulting plateau. As the water on the earth receded the island emerged from the water thus creating the limestone which the island is now in made of. A separate volcano started to emerge from the ocean to the west. As a result of its eruptions the space between the islands started to fill in with lava and pyroclastic flow. The saltwater river that runs through the island is where the 2 islands came together forming the island we now know as Guadeloupe (a hearty apology to all geologists for this brief and significantly simplified description of a couple of hundred thousand years of geological development).

It was finally time to move north to Antigua and the weather cooperated nicely. We were able to cut quite a few hours of travel off our next hop by traveling up the Riviere Salee. The catch is that there are two bridges that need to open for a sailboat to pass through. The southern-most bridge opens only once per day, at 5AM! The 2nd bridge opens twice
A Great LocationA Great LocationA Great Location

This was a great location as the stalls close to the water’s edge were all the fisherman. They had water close by to wash down the area after cutting up the fish for sale.
at 4:30AM and 5:30AM. The anchorage wasn’t far from the bridge, but it was not within sight therefore the cautious one, Janice, wanted to move closer to the bridge the afternoon before so we could get oriented to the bridge and be in sight as to when the bridge would open. This bridge tender does not have radio contact with the boats as they did in the US on the ICW which made it just a little more interesting. Bob reluctantly agreed to take up anchor about 3:30PM the night before. We started to lift the chain and after bringing about 20 of the 100 feet we had down it STOPPED dead! We were definitely caught on something. Bob tried diving down to see but the water was not very clear. Next step was to take out the trusty Honda generator and the hooka (yes, that compressor we have hooked to an air hose and regulator). Fortunately this time Bob was able to find out that the anchor chain was hooked twice around an old pipe that had been hooked to a mooring. He was able to free the chain from the post and an hour after we first started
Traditional OutfitsTraditional OutfitsTraditional Outfits

Figured this was a good way to have a souvenir doll – by photo! Again, this is showing the local costume - the combination of madras print from India and the european victorian designs.
to pull up anchor, we were able to try again without a problem. Bob later admitted that leaving the afternoon before paid off as we would have definitely missed the bridge opening if we had waited till morning. We had read that sometimes it is worthwhile anchoring after you get through the 2nd bridge to wait for the morning light before proceeding through the channel markers. This time of year it worked out that we had plenty of light to keep going. The river was well marked and we saw numerous flocks of egrets taking off from their roost when we went by. The only down side was that there wasn’t that much of a breeze and the no-see-ums were on the attack! The total trip from the 5 AM bridge opening at the southern end through the very long channel at the north end was 2 hours. The northern entrance to the river is riddled with reefs, but we found that the channel markers were excellent and were able to maneuver through this without a problem. We were just glad we didn’t have to do that in the dark to get to the bridge by 4:30AM. Not sure if
Love the colorsLove the colorsLove the colors

Many of the homes in town still have the "creole" look and have landscaping that adds to the character
we would try this short-cut going south. We fortunately had winds from the south-east and we were headed north so we had a great ride to Antigua. Leaving the north end of Guadeloupe at 7AM we put our anchor down in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua at 2PM. All in all a great crossing. As we already have a large number of photos on this blog entry we will include photos from this part of the trip next time.

Just to let everyone know we will be in Antigua until we leave to cross the Atlantic (sometime mid to late May) so trying to knock off all of those items on our to-do list now. Not sure when we will do the next posting but will definitely do one before we leave.

Take care and as always, please stay in touch! Sorry it has taken some time to get this done, but those 92 photos took some time! As of now we are in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua busy getting ourselves and the boat ready for the crossing - we have been busy getting things done on our list, but will take some time to explore some so we will have
Another BasketAnother BasketAnother Basket

Yes, we added another basket to our collection. The one being held by the woman that made it is now used to hold our garlic on board.
a few photos for the next entry!

Additional photos below
Photos: 92, Displayed: 32


One of the Clothing ShopsOne of the Clothing Shops
One of the Clothing Shops

Many of the streets were lined with shops like this one – small, narrow places with plenty of clothes for sale.
Where are the rest?Where are the rest?
Where are the rest?

It was interesting to see this very small remnant of a building left standing. It is obviously still in use even though the neighbors have disappeared.
Building Over the BridgeBuilding Over the Bridge
Building Over the Bridge

Walking down one of the streets we found this tunnel with buildings over top. It reminded us of some of the tunnels we have seen in NYC in that regard.
The Industrial AreaThe Industrial Area
The Industrial Area

Just opposite the town on the other side of the river is the industrial area as seen here. This is where the numerous freighters travel to each day.
Agitating the ClothesAgitating the Clothes
Agitating the Clothes

We do still need to do the daily chores like everyone else. We had lots of rain the night before so Bob “agitated” the laundry in the rain water that collected in the dinghy overnight. A great way to use the natural resources and keep our water for drinking.
Patriotic wardrobe?Patriotic wardrobe?
Patriotic wardrobe?

I didn’t notice how patriotic Bob’s clothes have become. His are the red, white and blue ones on the line. Every time we put up laundry on the lifelines, Bob says we definitely look like “liveaboards”.
Catching Up with GabiCatching Up with Gabi
Catching Up with Gabi

We had the pleasure of catching up with Gabi from Fair Isles while anchored at Pointe-a-Pitre. We had lots to catch up on since last seeing her in Trinidad.

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