It Really Does Rain in The Rain Forest

Published: December 28th 2007
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Castries, St. LuciaCastries, St. LuciaCastries, St. Lucia

View of the city from the hills
When we awoke this morning, we were docked in Castries, the capital city of St. Lucia. The island is famous for being very verdant and lush as well as for it's famous landmark, The Pitons. We signed up for a full island tour which would last most of the day. Included in this tour was a drive through the rainforest, a stop at a fishing village, a stop at a volcano, a hike to a waterfall, and a stop at the town of Soufriere. The large amount of rainfall the island receives is responsible for the lush vegetation and that was evident this morning. We left the ship to join our tour and the skies were overcast with sporadic drizzle. The group was split up into 2 vans as we drove through downtown Castries. Like Saint John in Antigua, it was as if we had been transplanted in Africa. The streets were very narrow with people walking all around going about their daily routines. While trying to maneuver through the traffic, we passed in front of one of Castries' most famous landmarks, The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. From inside our van, we were able to look in and see
Fishing Village of Anse La RayeFishing Village of Anse La RayeFishing Village of Anse La Raye

Exploring the beaches of this quaint little town
that there was a wedding in progress. Continuing through Castries and into the surrounding hills, we made our way to a viewing point which gave us a nice view of the city and it's harbor. Our van was one of almost 10 vans here making a quick stop. All of the tourists that stop at this point attracted a large number of locals trying to sell their wares. We were only stopped no more than 5 minutes but in that time I must have been approached 10 times by someone trying to sell me jewelry, postcards, and other trinkets. We continued driving through the hills where we passed other local landmarks such as the Government House and some military barracks that have been converted to a university.

Our drive continued into the Roseau Valley where there were many banana plantations. We stopped in front of one of them and had a look at some of the banana trees. Our guide explained to us some interesting information about the banana crop as well as some history about the transition from sugar plantations to banana plantations. Continuing on, we finally arrived at the little fishing village of Anse La Raye.
Anse La RayeAnse La RayeAnse La Raye

Exploring the town
We were only going to be here for a quick 20 minutes to use the restrooms and to have a quick look around. Like the previous stop that we made, we weren't the only van to stop. About 10 other vans stopped here, all at around the same time and for the next 20 minutes, the little town was invaded by tourists. The street where our vans stopped were lined with stalls selling various trinkets. One product this island is known for is banana ketchup which every stall seemed to sell. I had a small sample of it but was not impressed. Shea spent her time here waiting in line to use the women's bathroom. While I decided to wander around the immediate vicinity and made my way over to the beach. Besides a few wandering chickens and some fishing boats, there wasn't much else to see here. After the beach, I just walked along the main street. The homes here were very rustic and it seemed that most people made a living from tourism and from the sea with not much else. Back in the van, we continued driving into the hills and into the rain forest. Prior to
Driving through the rainforestDriving through the rainforestDriving through the rainforest

First view of the Pitons
driving into the rain forest, it had only been sporadically showering, now it began to really come down. I guess it really does rain in the rain forest. Every so often, we would drive by some guy with a machete in one hand and a Boa Constrictor in the other. He would be proudly displaying his catch to us as we drove by. The tour guide later told us that they catch these snakes and hope for tourists to stop to take a photo. Our first view of the Pitons finally came into view and we made a quick stop at a viewing point for a quick photo. Since the skies were really overcast today, our view wasn't the greatest but still it was nice to finally see this island's most famous landmark.

We finally drove into the town of Soufriere, a small town nestled at the base of one of the Pitons. From here, we drove into the world's only drive through volcano. Most of the volcano had been blown away in a huge eruption but you can still see evidence of volcanic activity in the remains. When we got out of the van, the first thing you noticed was the smell of sulfur. We walked over to the edge of a railing and on the other side, you can see the sulfuric gases spewing from the earth as well as some boiling mud. The guides gave us really good information about the history of this particular volcano and of the different types of volcanoes found around the world. The smell of sulfur is taken as a good sign that the volcanic activity is normal. If the sulfuric smell disappeared, then this was a sign that odorless poisonous gases were being released and that you should run for your life. We then walked over to a small creek where you can bathe in the sulfuric waters. The waters are supposed to be really good for your skin but you end up smelling like rotten eggs for days after.

After the volcano, we drove to the outskirts of Soufriere to the Diamond Botanical Garden. Along with other tour groups, we walked the grounds of the garden looking at various different types of tropical foliage. The bushes and shrubs that lined the pathways were bursting with brilliantly colored flowers all growing beneath a canopy of towering trees.
The sweet smell of sulphuric gasesThe sweet smell of sulphuric gasesThe sweet smell of sulphuric gases

The world's only drive through volcano
It wasn't the most exciting thing ever, but it was nice to be amongst the lush foliage of the garden. The main attraction at the Diamond Botanical Garden was a 30 foot waterfall which was fed by underground sulfuric springs. We hiked to the waterfall to have a look but it was hard to get a decent photo of it with all the tourists around. Nearby, there were some pools of water being fed by the underground sulfuric springs. For a small fee, you could bathe in these waters for it's curative effects. However looking at this water, it didn't seem too enticing for a quick bathe. Evidently, everybody else here felt the same. After the hike to the waterfall, our guide gave us an explanation and demonstration of products that can be found in St. Lucia. After talking for about 5 minutes about all the different types of fruits and nuts, I started to get really bored and zone out. Thankfully, she didn't go on talking for much longer. Afterwards, we hiked back to the van in the rain to drive to our lunch stop.

After lunch, we continued making our way through the rain forest and back to the port at Castries. Before arriving at the port, we had one last stop. We pulled up at a scenic overlook where there was a nice view of the bay of Marigot. Marigot is a secluded little bay lined with a few upscale resorts and hotels. Since the skies were gray and cloudy, the views were not all that magnificent. There were a few shops at this overlook and I purchased a bottle of Piton, one of the local beers. It was surprisingly good and had a nutmeg taste to it. Some of the others in our van were already on their 3rd or 4th bottle.

We arrived back at the terminal and tipped our tour guide. She kept us intrigued and gave us a lot of very interesting information about her beautiful little island. Since this was the second to last port, once we arrived in the terminal we decided to do some shopping. We darted in and out of stores looking for gifts for others and something nice for ourselves. Suddenly, the skies opened up yet again with some of the most intense rainfall I had ever experienced. Thankfully like most of the rain
Hiking through the rainforestHiking through the rainforestHiking through the rainforest

Pretty tropical flowers
we had thus far experienced, it didn't last very long. Back on the ship, the sporadic rainfall had prevented people from hanging out at the outdoor pool and the upper decks. So most people spent the evening in their rooms or hanging out in the indoor areas. I spent the time lounging in the solarium, drinking a beer, and watching the sea pass by. Tonight's entertainment was put on by the Royal Caribbean Dancers. Their show was called "Vibeology" and was a collection of dance routines put forth to hits from the 70's,80's,90's, and today. After dinner, it was still raining so we just spent the evening wandering the ship. We made it to the uppermost deck where we played some miniature golf in the rain. Once the sting of the wind and rain became too much for us to handle, we called it a night and retreated to our room.

Additional photos below
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The night's entertainmentThe night's entertainment
The night's entertainment

The Vibeology show by the Royal Caribbean Dancers

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