Wednesday July 4 - I got up earlier today but got a slow start in things. I walked around the property before breakfast, with a dog, of course. I couldn't make it to one of the beaches because there were four cows in front of the gate, but I saw everything else. Finished my yogurt and used the internet and all of a sudden it was 10am, the time I had planned to leave. I paid Verena and she wrote a couple of things down for me for the next part of my journey, and then Josh took me over to the see the two tiny kittens they brought home yesterday. They are six weeks old, a bit young, and they will be ratters, ideally. For now, they were just super sweet tiny fluff balls I got to hold for a few sweet minutes. I made it out to the road just by about 11:20am, and this is the time of day when fewer buses are running. It took one hour, several full buses that passed me and two buses with room that stopped but were not going to my destination before I got one. The buses here are all minivans
that hold about 12-14 people. It's a bit of a stress in that I need to fit both of my bags inside with me without taking up an extra seat. So far, so good.
The journey to Soufriere was only about 45 minutes, and I ended up in the middle of downtown. It's quite small, but my hotel is not quite in town, which is a bummer. I actually tried to cancel this reservation initially and missed the deadline. As they had my credit card info, there was not much to do. I asked them to change the dates but they never responded, so I kept the original reservation. As I walked over, I chatted with a guy named Peter selling tours from under a tree at the corner of my road, as you do. I was trying to decide if I needed to rent a car or not and wanted to get an idea of prices. It is quite pricey to see the things here because rides are just so expensive. A half-day with him and lunch tomorrow would cost over $100, and just getting a taxi ride back and forth from a hike I wanted to do
the next day would be $40, plus the $50 it costs to do the hike. But a rental costs $65/day, plus gas, plus a $50 permit to drive here. Something to think about.
Getting to the hotel from that corner required a 10-minute walk straight up, in the heat, with both of my bags. It was hard going. When I arrived, I came with a bit of a bad attitude, since I had wanted to cancel. The guy who runs it was not here, but a security guard let me into my room. I'm the only one staying here. I told Jeroen I would skype him, but the guard did not know the password. I was getting more and more annoyed. The owner came back not too much later and I learned that he cannot use the credit card anyway, so really, I could have left. And now I will need to get cash I did not expect. And my fan is squeaky. And there is no breakfast, as advertised. And there is no mosquito net, and I can barely see my legs, as my mosquito bites have mosquito bites.
After my call with Jeroen, I decided to
spend what was left of the afternoon at the beach. Despite the town being on the ocean, the closest beach - or nice beach? - is at a resort called Anse Chastanet. Luckily, all of the beaches are public. I walked over there and it took me 30 minutes, but it's a rather grueling, steep hilly walk over a broken up road. I was hoping one of the cars passing would offer me a ride, but that did not happen. When I arrived I was nervous they would not let me pass, but there was a sign showing where the beach access was. The beach was ok but not as great as I expected for a place that ranges from $400-1000/night for the all-inclusive cheap rooms. It was already almost 4:30pm when I arrived, and there were many beach loungers free, so I set up at one, hoping I wouldn't be kicked out. A man came over to ask if I wanted a towel, and I said no. I left my stuff there and went in the water. It felt so good to just swim a bit, and it was a safe place to drop my bag, something I am
always thinking of when I want to swim. I didn't stay in long, as I also wanted to walk to the next beach, Anse Mamin, also private, only 10 minutes away. There was no one there, but there was seagrass that didn't look as nice, so I went back to the first beach and went back in the water for a little while longer. I didn't stay too long since I wanted to be back and maybe even to my place before dark. It's the tropics, and sunset is 6:30pm.
I made it into town by 6:15pm and looked for a local diner, but couldn't find anything. I must have looked ridiculous walking down the street as I still had my bathing suit on under my clothes, so there were two wet boob marks on my shirt the whole time. I got some yogurt for breakfast and an enormous jug of water and decided to try Captain Hook's for dinner, a bar on my walk up the hill that Peter recommended. He was right - they do 2 pieces of chicken and fries and salad for $9. The woman running it was gone for ages making the dinner, so
I was watching some documentary on HBO with a dude at the bar. By the time I left it was about 7pm and I put my headlamp on to be visible to cars coming down the road, but the road was lighted, which surprised me. Despite being out of town, it is really loud here. There must be a club or bar right across the street. The music is loud. It started out as cheesy 80s hits, but now it has become something my sister might listen to. Either way, it's only 9:30pm and I see no sign of this ending. It's all earplugs all the time tonight. Damn. Maybe I won't stay the whole three nights...
Thursday July 5 - Sleep was not great. A little loud outside, failed ear plugs, owner up and on phone at 5:30am before leaving. Fan died. Then it got better. I made a plan for the day and had some breakfast, and got going a little after 10am. I decided to try to give it a go seeing a few of the places I wanted to go to on my own, rather than on a tour. I walked to town and got
the bus out to my furthest destination, Tet Paul Nature Trail. The minibus was almost full when I got there, so I only had to wait about 2 minutes before we were on our way. It took 20 minutes and then I was there. Sort of. I had to walk 20 minutes uphill from the road to get to Tet Paul. Two vans passed me on the way. I was a sweaty mess when I arrived, but I went up and paid the entrance, which includes the 30 minute (or so) tour. On my tour were the people from the two vehicles. I made friends with 5 women from the Carnival cruise ship - two moms and their three daughters. We walked the trail with Jamal, our guide, and it has spectacular views of the two volcanos - Gros and Petit Piton. They form the major attractions here on this part of the island.
My next destination was going to be walking back to the road and getting a bus in the direction of town, to Sulphur Springs. Fortunately, the women I met were going there next and had space in their car, so they brought me with them.
They were on an excursion from the boat and their driver Chris didn't mind. It was really nice to have some friends for a couple of hours. At the springs we had a tour of the geothermal area, and then we went to the bathing part. There is a small pool with hot water that you can walk into and bathe. Then you cover yourself in this white mus that is very exfoliating. Then Chris painted designs on us with the black mud and did a photo shoot. I gave him my smaller, waterproof camera for the shots. I'm legit the only person who doesn't use their phones for such a thing. After we rinsed off, the women were heading to lunch before Hummingbird Beach and then the cruise ship, but they dropped me at my next location, Morne Coubaril Estate. Within five minutes I realized that I'd forgotten to get my camera back from Chris, but hoped that I could either get to Hummingbird Beach in time to grab it or that he would notice he still had it and drop it at my hotel, which I had mentioned to him.
Morne Coubaril is a large sugar cane
plantation of old. I took the tour of the estate, but they also have ziplines and horse riding. I was shown the old slave quarters, the new plantation house, different plants, a sad donkey who is tied to an old wheel that would press sugar cane in the past, and the coconut guy who opened a coconut with a spike in the ground and gave it to me to drink. I offered some to the guide and she said no but thought I was done and threw it away. I was also shown how they process the cocoa seeds that they sell to others to make chocolate but it is not the season for the cocoa fruits. The reviews of the tour were really good, but I was underwhelmed.
From there I planned to walk back to town, as it was not far, but I saw a sign for Sugar Beach. Sugar Beach is a resort with white sand brought it from Guyana in South America. Since all beaches are public, I thought I would just stroll in, basically like I did yesterday. I soon found that the sign did not indicate that I was almost at Sugar Beach,
but rather that you need to take this road for ages and ages to get there. And it was all downhill. As I walked, I started to think about the sweaty uphill walk back while wondering how much longer it could possibly be. After a while, there was a building, so I stopped to ask. He said it was quite far still, but he would help me flag a ride, which might be possible. Shortly after, a car drove up and we flagged it down. It was a couple of American guys, Hugh and John, and I asked if they would mind driving me there. They were staying at the resort and offered to give me a lift. And bring me in, as I never would have made it past the two guard gates! We had to park, then get a bus within the property to their place, which was right on the beach. They were there with family. I met John's kids, and their spouses and kids. I now have a new facebook friend! I told the guys I just wanted a few photos and they offered to drive me back since I would never get another ride, but
when we were on the beach, they asked if I wanted to get a water taxi back. I said that would be fine and they arranged it with the guy to take me back when I wanted. He had a tour coming up, and I decided to stay until the tour was over. I spent an hour talking to John's daughter Kelly (my new fb friend) and a little time talking to the others. Most of them were getting braids. We had a really nice chat, and she told me that Hugh and John were partners, but I'm not sure if she meant in business, life or crime. Then the boat guy came by to say he could take me now, as he was about to take two ladies on a tour. He took me on the tour with them, including see a bat cave, and then dropped them off again before refueling and dropping me at the dock in town. Even more amazing, the guys paid for the water taxi. A really unexpected treat.
I started to walk towards Captain Hook's to get dinner and ended up talking to Peter, the tour guide for quite a long time.
I explained that I'd done the tour today and eventually left to get dinner. I made a new cat friend while my dinner was being cooked. This time I was offered a menu and decided on a burger and fries and salad. I walked the food up my hill and just as I was settling in to eat it, Michael, the owner, told me he had my camera! So cool that Chris dropped it off here. So I went up to get it and also paid for my three nights. It's not the best place, but I'm already here. We chatted for a few minutes and he told me about his life woes until I mentioned I was starving and had food waiting. Dinner and a chat with my mom who told me "have fun but don't do anything". I'm surprised she's made it this long with a daughter who travels enough to make her panicky every day.
Today was an interesting day that turned out well. I made it to the three places I wanted to go, but not in the way I expected and mostly due to the kindness of strangers. I made it to one place
I hadn't planned on going but got there due to the kindness of strangers. I got my camera back, again, the kindness of strangers. A bit of serendipity in play
Friday July 6 - No fan. Mosquitos in my room. No mosquito net. An army of roosters outside in the morning. This does not make for easy sleep. I got up, tired and had breakfast, same same. I made it out the door quite late, as I was doing some research for my trip to Guadaloupe at the end of the month. I walked through town and then to the Diamond Falls and Botanic Garden. I spent about an hour walking around, looking at the flowers and the waterfall. I decided not to buy a ticket to go in their hot springs, since I had just gone to one yesterday. I did decide to walk to another hot spring that is less touristy and in the forest, but I think I was given the wrong directions, and eventually, I turned back to town. I bought some banana ketchup at the supermarket to take home with me - what even is that? - and got some more money from the
ATM. Next to the bank was a place that looked good for lunch, so I got in line and asked an American couple in front of me what was good there. I ended up sitting with them for lunch, and it was nice to chat. They're from Alaska and work for the state fisheries. They are both familiar with Toolik, where I did the ground squirrel stuff last year. They are housesitting for a friend here for a month, near Balenbouche. It was nice to have a chat. I came back to my place afterward to skype with Jeroen before he went to bed, but I couldn't reach him. I did get an email from Verena, from Balenbouche, saying that she would be heading up north tomorrow by car and could pick me up and take her with me for some sightseeing, so I'm going to try to make that work. Very cool.
My late afternoon plan was to go to Hummingbird beach, not too far from here, but when I went to look outside, it was cloudy and then it started to rain. I went outside to pet the dog, Rex, and the two cats, who are not
mistreated but certainly not loved, and they were really happy. One of the cats is super affectionate and the other is starting to get over some trust issues. The first cat also has a nasty looking wound on its inner leg. I ended up chatting with the owner Michael for a bit. He likes to talk. I will probably be the last guest of the hotel until high season when his wife comes back (or not). After the chat, he gave me a mosquito net for tonight and sprayed my room for insects. I thought about walking to the beach since the rain stopped, just to see it, but then I saw that Jeroen had tried to call me, so I called him back. I woke him up but he talked for a few minutes. Mostly it was me looking at our cats. After that, it was too late to get going. My mom called so I could skype with my grandma, but just then the wifi went out. I got one of those yellow exclamation points that say I'm connected, but not. Whatever that means. And I was just writing Verena back. I tried to shower but there was
more air than water. This place is falling apart.
Even more interesting, I wrote to confirm my ferry time for Sunday night with Charlotte in Dominica, and she told me there is a hurricane watch and that we're likely to get a hurricane Sunday, so there's a good chance my ferry will be canceled. The next one is Tuesday, as of now. It's like the vacation that won't end.
Since my lunch was so big, I wasn't super hungry for dinner so I had some yogurt and granola. It works amazingly well as breakfast, small meal or dessert. I puttered around in the evening, removing all of the June bugs I could. I am constantly grabbing them up and putting them outside, but this is the room that keeps on giving, and there is no end to the June bug supply. One actually hit my keyboard as I typed that sentence. They just fly blindly into everything. I don't know how they live long enough to reproduce. I also had to get rid of a 6-foot cockroach that scared the crap out of me. All good times.
Got a message from Verena that we'll meet around noon
tomorrow. It's quite a bit later start than I'd intended, but I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces.
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