St. Maarten/St. Martin

Published: July 6th 2019
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Monday July 1 - Today was a travel day, much like yesterday. When I woke up, I thought everyone was sleeping, but when I left my room to use the bathroom, Luz’s husband was sitting at the kitchen table just outside with his 7 month old granddaughter. Impressive that it was so quiet with four granddaughters in the house. When I sat down at the table Luz brought me a traditional Dominican breakfast, fried plantains and eggs with an icy pineapple juice. Yum. Stomach problem seems to be lessening.

I talked to my mom and packed, getting ready for the 10:30am taxi. But the taxi turned up at 10:10. It turns out that Luz told him to come earlier than I thought, so I had to quickly pack my daypack and go. I said goodbye and we started the 30 minute drive to the airport. I had the same driver as before, and we had a nice quiet ride back.

At the airport I checked in and the agent wanted to see my return ticket. I showed her my onward ticket from St Maarten and she was eventually satisfied and checked me in. Passport control and security went quickly, and then I had time to get online and do some more research for the upcoming days. I feel like I’m drowning in work and it’s my vacation. But that’s the way I roll.

Eventually they got us in line, collected our tickets and sent us downstairs to wait a bit longer. I chatted a bit to a woman whose son was pretty cute. He was listening to music on her phone and then busted out singing “How great thou art”. She was from St. Maarten. Eventually we boarded the flight and we just chose our seats, as the seat numbers printed apparently meant nothing. It was a small plane, row 12 being the last, and we boarded from the back.

The flight took less than two hours and they gave us a little egg salad sandwich and drink about halfway through. I spent much of this flight researching as well, in my guide book. When we arrived in St. Maarten, I got into the line for foreigners and it was short. Everyone else was a resident! It didn’t take too long for my bag and then I was out. The airport is tiny and I asked at the “info”/taxi dispatcher desk about the bus. The woman working there told me it was a holiday (Emancipation Day) today so she didn’t know if the buses would be running or not, or how regular they would be. The buses are the same time of minivans. These display the name of the town they go to in the front window. I had basic directions so decided to give it a try. If it didn’t work out I could always come get the $15 taxi

I was in luck. I saw a bus pull in to pick someone up as I was walking up, and luckily he saw me just as he was pulling away and stopped for me. It took about 10 minutes to get to the point where I had to get out and cost $1.50. From there I waited about 5 minutes for the next bus which took even less time and cost $1. Not bad. Luckily I spotted where I needed to get out because the driver was just about to miss it.

From there I walked into the gated community where I rented a little studio and was able to follow the directions to get in. There was a lockbox with the key and I let myself in. It’s a cute place with an air conditioner, but it takes forever for the cooler air to get into the kitchen where I sit. It’s not too bad though.

After I got a little settled, I walked to the grocery store. After getting over the shock of just how expensive the food is on this island, I picked out some food for tonight. I cooked, ate, did more research, talked to my mom again and watched tv shows. Still more research to do but I think I may have worked out the next few days. Correction - the food is expensive, but not as much as I thought. The prices were in guilder but I paid in USD, so it was like half of what I thought it would be.

Tuesday July 2 - Today was a day with all the things. I didn’t feel like leaving, wasn’t sure where to go, loved what I discovered when I got there and swam, read and had ice cream. Not bad. But something else happened, something not quite right. I learned how to pronounce Anguilla, the island next door. I have always said AN-GEE-AH, as if it was a spanish name. Today I learned it is the much less attractive sounding AN-GWIL-AH. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Despite staying awake until after midnight, uncharacteristically late, I still can’t sleep late so I was up by 7am, though I was awake longer. I did some more planning, some puttering, bought my ticket online for the ferry to Saba tomorrow, cooked breakfast, had a problem with the toilet, contacted the owner, your usual stuff. But I just couldn’t seem to get myself wanting to leave. I wasn’t sure where to go and what I was in the mood for. It’s not a place with obvious tourist sites or attractions, besides beaches. I think much of the summer will be that way. And there is no beach to walk to.

At 10:30 I made a move. On my way to the bus, I stopped to chat with the security guy to ask about buses and he gave me some more info. I didn’t wait too long for the bus to Marigot and the ride was short. (Education time: This island is the smallest in the world that is split between two nations - France and the Netherlands. I am staying in Cole Bay, on the Dutch side, and Marigot is on the French side. Everyone speaks English. On the French side, they use euros. On the Dutch side, dollars and guilders (!), but you can use dollars anywhere and they are exchanged at a 1:1 rate with euros here. Weird. I think my point was that I was in two European countries today. But neither are new, so who cares?). I chatted with a guy on the bus about other buses and routes, and then he showed me where to walk to get to the ruins of Fort Louis. He told me I could spend an hour up there and that the air was clean up there. I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into - was this a route where I would need more than flip flops? But no, it was not that high at all. But it did have good views. It was partly cloudy today, and whenever the clouds blocked the sun, it felt much more tolerable. But when the sun came out, you could just feel your skin melting. It is so damn strong here. I came to terms with wearing a clean shirt today, and within such a short time it was just a sweaty mess. So tough.

From the fort, I made my way down to the water. I guess it was a marina. It’s where the public ferries to Anguilla leave from, and I thought the museum of St. Martin was in the vicinity, so I walked for a while, but I never saw it. I decided to keep walking, to see if there was a beach nearby. I saw some residences that were fenced off, so it seemed there might be a beach they were hiding. I finally found an empty lot with a path to the beach, so I followed it. The first thing I saw was a woman and her two kids. She has topless and appeared to be washing herself in the sea water. I walked along the water, and the whole area seemed half built, like failed plans. People (squatters?) were living in the buildings. I found some great tide pools, and got some photos. There was this cool eel, but when I moved it saw me and hid super fast, two times, so I wasn’t able to get a photo of it. It was such a nice little find. The kind of thing most people probably wouldn’t appreciate, but I loved. I walked to the end of the stretch of beach, to a big rock formation. Then of course I had to walk on that, to see what was on the other side. Was there a beach? I decided to use the semi-privacy of the rocks to quickly change my clothes and put on my bathing suit just in case. But no, there was not really a beach on the other side. It ended at a waterway, and there was a tiny crappy beach in front of a closed place with no real swimming due to the rocks and sea urchins. A lot of boats were coming in and out. Eventually I turned back. When I came around the rocks, a woman and her teen daughter were swimming. I almost asked to join them - it was so hot - but I decided that might be weird, so I walked back the way I had come. I came across two bright green iguanas that were startled when I clomped by, but they were too fast for me to get a photo.

My next stop was the bus station where I got in a minibus headed to Simpson Bay. This is supposed to have a lovely beach and it’s right under where the planes take off and land. I asked the driver to let me out at the beach, and I chatted with two women from New York. When I got out, I walked to a shop, bought an ice cream and headed to the beach. It did not take long to realize it was not where I’d intended to go. It was small and unappealing. I walked on, thinking maybe the one I wanted was nearby, then I asked a lady in an Indian restaurant. A young American guy told me to get on another bus and go to Mullet Bay, that the beach was nice. I knew it wasn’t too far, so I did it. I had to go past the airport, and around to the other side.

The driver let me out and it was so so hot, and almost 3pm by this time. The beach was beautiful but small and crowded and there was a small boat tour there with what seemed to be a lot of loud drunk people. I didn't want to rent a chair and there were not many spots in the shade, but I found two. I chose one, then realized it led to a little path. I followed the path, hoping it led to another beach. It did not but it did lead to a lot of rocks and a pretty view. I took some pics and then walked back to the second spot. It worked. I laid my stuff out and then walked to the water. I had to wear my flip flops along the way because the sand was burning my feet. I enjoyed the water, then my book, then watching a large lizard, then the water and then the book again before it was time to go. I was not really super private in my spot, but private enough that I quickly changed my clothes before leaving. I don't think anyone saw. I didn’t want to worry about missing the last bus back, so I was waiting by 4:45pm on the road. There was a large iguana that I watched while I waited.

The ride back was entertaining. It took forever, because there is only one road and there was traffic. I started to read my book, and in the background was all this drama with a lost phone. A lady had left her phone on the bus. The driver had it and apparently she or someone kept calling about it, but he was driving. He was trying to get her to meet him, and no, he was not going to drop it off with someone he did not know. Everyone was talking loud about it, sometimes in English, sometimes in a language I do not know. Everyone here is at least trilingual. It’s impressive. He let me out and I decided to try to walk home from there instead of waiting for the second bus, seeming to remember that it was not such a far distance from that spot. I was right. It maybe took 10 minutes and I stopped in a shop on the way. I was looking for a really small laundry detergent. I saw one in the DR before I left, but it was a bit flimsy and I was afraid it was burst in my luggage. But no luck.

As I got back, I decided to walk just a little further to see if there was a good view from a nearby road. There was not. But, on the walk there, I did hear these little frogs singing that you only hear in the tropics, so that was nice. I also stopped into the Burger King to find out what an Angry Whopper is (it has peppers) and saw a double-wide burger. Weird. Back at the apartment I washed my long dirty clothes by hand with shampoo. Not sure how clean they will be, but it must be better, right? It took ages. I let them soak while I showered, then wrung and hung them up. I also decided I really wanted cold water, so I filled the two ice cube trays and four glasses and put those in the refrigerator so I can just cycle through from glass to glass. When I finish one, I refill it and change it for another. It’s great.

Finally it was time for eating leftovers from last night, talking to my mom, watching NCIS and packing for tomorrow. I’ll have to leave by 7am to get there by 8am. Or I could be there in 15 minutes. Who knows?

Wednesday July 3 - See Saba blog

Thursday July 4 - Today I felt lazy. I got up early, but spent some time on the computer, doing some planning. Yes, there is still a bunch of planning that needs to be done for this trip. It’s tough, going to so many places and trying to work out how things work in each place and what to do and where to stay. Then I’m actually supposed to be doing some of those things each day. It’s a lot to work with. I also chatted with Jeroen, who stayed home sick from work. He was up all night but slept all day. Poor thing. Or maybe he was just out partying. We’ll never know for sure. 😊

At 11:00 I finally decided it was time to get into gear, and I headed out, destination Pinel Island. It’s a small island just off the northern coast of St. Martin. I took a bus to Marigot, got some probiotics for my semi-ongoing stomach issues at a pharmacy, and then caught another bus to Cul de Sac, the town where the ferry leaves from. I think the buses only go there when requested. The ferry left about 5 minutes after I got there. It’s only a 10-minute ride of so, and it holds 21 people. Roundtrip is 10 euro/$12.

Pinel has a nice beach, but it was full of beach chairs and people, and I’m not much into either, so I immediately went hiking. The island is tiny, and I walked all over it, looking to see what was there and if there were other beaches. The next beach I saw was covered in a mountain of seaweed, but from the top of a hill I could see another beach that was empty, of both seaweed and people. I walked over there and explored a bit before setting my things down. There was no shade, so I chose to put my towel between two bushes, to block some wind. There was a little copse of dead trees that had a couple plastic chairs, and I considered getting one, but it seemed like it belonged to someone, so I left it. I had the place to myself for about an hour, until a young couple showed up. The guy used the white chair, and they occasionally played music, which was slightly annoying, but not terrible. The biggest problem, aside from no shade, was sunscreen. It’s hard to get all the spots, especially your own back. My arms are now a toasty shade of brown with browner freckles, but much of my body is pretty white, so it burns easily. I tried to limit the toasting on each side to reasonable limits, and applied more sunscreen at times, but it was not enough for everywhere and I do have some sunburn. Not bad, but still annoying. I’ll never be able to reach my own back everywhere.

The last boat back was at 4pm, and by 3:15pm I was walking back to the other side of the island. It took less than 10 minutes, and there was no one waiting for the boat, so I found somewhere to sit down. Then all of a sudden a million people were waiting for the boat, so I got in line. I almost didn’t make it on, but I did. After a short ride back, I had to start walking to the road where I could find the bus while everyone else drove their cars around me. It took at least 15 minutes, but I only had to wait about five minutes for the bus once there. In Marigot, I switched to the bus that would take me home. Here we hit traffic, which was annoying. I got out a little further than my place, in front of the grocery store, and bought some more tuna and pasta. I still have mayo, so I figured I should use it. Hopefully this excessive tuna consumption does not lead to mercury poisoning.

I partook in my evening ritual of washing my clothes, letting them soak while I shower, and then rinsing and hanging them to dry before cooking dinner and catching up on tv shows. Tonight I finished NCIS (Ziva!) and started NCIS New Orleans. So many left to go, but it’s fun to catch up. Tomorrow...Anguilla?

July 5 - see Anguilla blog

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The ground is actually swallowing this plant

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