Friday, April 13, 2012

Guadeloupe Continued

Guadeloupe Continued
Monday 2 April – Friday 13 April

After a quick dinghy trip into town Monday morning Ocean Star & Wild Thing are on their way to the Island of Marie Galante by 11:30. We have a pleasant sail east in calm seas, approaching the island we feel like we are back in the Bahamas with the turquoise shallow waters. Marie Galante looks flat as you approach from the water, but has lovely rolling hills 300 to 600 feet in elevation, with very rich soil making it very green and great for growing sugar cane, still a major crop here. We first go to see the anchorage by Grand Bourg inside a break-wall so well protected. There is a marina here with limited anchoring space right off town, but NO room for us so we head up to the main anchorage off the town of St. Louis. With the light winds and calm seas this winds up being a perfect anchorage, and we are anchored by 3:30. We chose this weather window to come east to this open anchorage, and it worked out great. Boats are able to anchor any where along the western shore with it so calm. We go into town around 4:30 to see what is there, not a lot open at this time on a Monday but we do make a car rental reservation for the following day. Back to the boats where Jan & George bring their leftovers to have with our leftovers for dinner and to plan what we want to see of the island on Tuesday. We get an early start and are at the dock shortly after 8, as we are walking towards town several people are walking out asking if we want a car rental. We realize we just beat the ferry in and all the car rental people are there to meet visitors to rent them cars. We get a better deal than the quote from the day before, so go with this lady and get a nice little MANUAL 4 door Hyundai. I Started to drive, it's been a while since I drove a manual shift and after about an hour of Steve not liking the way I was driving and Jan & George were not being entertained by us discussing my driving abilities we stopped and let Steve drive. Sugar cane is a big crop for this island and with that they have several rum distilleries that you can go visit and of course have free tastings. By 11:30 we had hit all 3 of them and decided we were ready some lunch. Finding a nice little beach restaurant south of the town Capesterre, we enjoy a great lunch with a great view. We have fun driving the roads, most of which do not have street names so we were never quite clear if we were going the right way. But we got around the Island and saw most of the sights. In addition to the 3 rum distilleries, a huge 200 foot sink hole on the north end open to the sea, an ox driven cart that is still used on the island to deliver the sugar cane, and a local honey making shop. She reopened for us since a local Jackie from a bar down the street told us about her wonderful honey. Back to the boats by 5, relax a little before going back in for dinner at 7. Our 1st choice place was not open, so we walked around checking out a few menus. I do not eat fish, a main dish for this island, and Jan & George try to stick with a plant based diet with fresh local fish, and Steve likes unusual dishes, so finding a restaurant is not as easy as it sounds. We find one and Jan & George & Steve are very happy to hear that Dorado is the fish of the day. We are the only customers and there is only one man running the place, who speaks NO English. Steve does very well ordering in french, so he orders an appetizer and the fish, Jan & George both order the fish and I order chicken. One man operation, so we understand it taking a while to prepare our meals. What a surprise when we finally were served 3 chicken dishes and 1 appetizer and NO fish !!! LOL Trying to correct the meal was out of the question so we all enjoyed what we had, not knowing where the translation went wrong. Wednesday we head out around 8:30 and have a great sail over to Pointe a Pitre the capital of Guadeloupe located on the Grande Terre side of the island. As we are sailing over from Marie Galante, Ultra is sailing over from The Saints. We all arrive around the same time Ultra anchoring out Wild Thing anchoring for lunch before going into the marina, and Steve & I just heading straight into the marina. We tried calling the marina several times on the VHF radio but no one would answer. We pulled up to the fuel dock so we could talk to someone about getting a slip. The harbor master is there so he points over to a slip and tells us to head over there and he will help pick up our mooring line. The marina is all Med Mooring, so you back in in between 2 other boats, tying your bow line to a mooring out in front and your 2 stern lines to the dock. So I throw him the bow line and he secures it to the mooring and we are backing up BUT our bow line is not long enough to get us to the dock. The harbor master is leaving to go help with another boat, I have to yell at him to come back, mean while the wind is pushing us forward over the mooring lines. We get a longer bow line on but now we have to be careful not to catch any lines in prop or bow thrusters. All goes well and we get backed in, a little harder throwing the stern lines with the new arch and dinghy behind us but we finally get settled. The main reason we are coming in to the marina is to have power to equalize the batteries again. Makes it a lot easier to do laundry also and we have a lot of it. Steve is happy to find out that the for the 37.50 Euros a night ($50) INCLUDES water and electricity !! You almost NEVER see a flat all inclusive rate at a marina down here in the Caribbean. So we get to run the AC for a couple of days and give the boat a really good wash down. After lunch Wild Thing comes into the marina and Bill & JoAnne come in by dinghy and stop by to say Tomaz & Lilly on Heron (met over in The Saints) are also anchored out and have invited us all out to their boat for HH. Steve & I do a quick walk around finding the self serve laundry and bathrooms at the marina and the full service laundry up by the marine store and grocery and all the restaurants. I find a hairdresser and make an appointment for the following morning to get a hair cut and touch up of color that is now 7 months old. Thursday morning drop off several loads of laundry at the full service place, I go for my hair appointment while Steve goes for a walk with George to see what else is around before going back to the boats to work on boat projects. Some things are just easier done at the dock than at anchor so most of Thursday is spent trying to do boat projects. It is surprising how quickly the day can disappear with only a small amount of things getting done. JoAnne & Bill came in for a few errands and to make arraignments for a car rental the next day or so. We all wanted to do some exploring of the islands interior and this weekend was a holiday weekend so we wanted to get something set up. It did not go as smoothly as they had planned and the guy did not come through so another rental agency was found and a cars booked for Saturday through Monday. Which worked out well giving us Friday to finish all the boat projects we did not get to on Thursday. Saturday morning we leave the marina and go out to anchor by Ultra, then back in to get rental cars and we are on our way by 11 heading back over to the mountainous side of the island Basse Terre and drive along the scenic road of Route De La Traverse. This road runs through the national park and has several hiking paths along the way. First stop, just a very short walk but one section had a picnic area where we had lunch. The 2nd hike we got a little more exercise with the 45 minute de Bras David (Davids Arm) trail. Next stop Le Tapeur, Parc Aventure en Foret Tropicale AKA Zip line & obstacle course in the trees !!! This is the best zip line we have been to, good price and they just let you loose to do it on your own. What a blast we had !!! You will have to take a look at a few of the pictures to see, words can't do it justice. After this we are very close to the western shore and our former anchorage off Pigeon Island and the next days planed adventure. So we drive over there to be sure of the location and talk to the guide. I am 98 % sure that I will NOT be able to do the hike up the canyon river and rappel down the canyon walls but we asked the guide and he said you needed to be very sure footed and able to easily climb over the rocks on the canyon floor. With my left knee acting up this is definitely not for me. As the sun begins to set we make our way back across the Island not wanting to drive these winding, unlighted roads in the dark making it back to the marina just after dark. Stop at the pizza place for dinner then back to the boats for a good nights rest. Steve, Jan & George & JoAnne & Bill have a 7:30 am departure Sunday morning to go back across the island to the canyon adventure. They have a wonderful day hiking up the canyon and rappelling down, once again words are hard to describe so take a look at some pictures. I have a quiet day back on the boat. Monday is a sleep in late day for the hikers but we still have the cars so we get underway and head to the beach section along the southern coast of the Grande-Terre ½ of the island finding a beautifully shaded beach for lunch. A swim and walk along the beach, a short nap for some and then continue the drive east along the coast to Pointe des Chateaux. This is at the end of a peninsula where on this holiday Easter Monday the locals have come to spend the day / long weekend along the beaches that border both sides. We spend a short time looking out at the rock formations and beautiful beach but don't do the short hike up to the cross on one of the bluffs as it is getting late and we do not want to be stuck in the line of traffic when all the locals start to pack up and go home. Life is good in the islands. Tuesday cars need to be turned in, still some site seeing we want to do but Steve needs a break from driving the last 2 days, he is not use to it anymore. Boat projects and Wild Thing finally breaks away from the marina to come out to the anchorage. Jan & George & JoAnne & Bill come over to Ocean Star for dinner that evening. Wednesday a few more boat projects and we made arraignments for another car rental for Thursday to go to another section of the national park to see the waterfalls known as the Chutes De Carbet. Thursday we pick up the car as Wild Thing stays behind to finish up on a sewing project while they can still use Ultra's sewing machine. Fill up the little car with back packs, cooler and 4 people & we are under way by 10:30. Guadeloupe has some great roads and we are on the N1 “freeway” heading to the southern part of Basse Terre and the rain forest of La Soufriere mountain. After turning off the main road we wind our way up the very narrow D4 until it ends at the main entrance to the paths to the waterfalls. A 20 minute walk along a path brings us to one of the tallest waterfalls around, at 325 feet, a beautiful sight. But a little disappointed as due to falling rocks you can no longer get close or swim under it, you just see it from an observation platform. There is another slightly taller waterfall but it is a 3 hour round trip hike over some very difficult terrain so we opt to do another 20 minute hike down to a river bed and small waterfall and swimming hole to have lunch by. Driving back down the road we stop at Grand Etang (Big Lake) to hike around the lake. As is typical with island hiking there is NO easy way around a lake or up a hill, this one is no different. A lot of climbing up and down along a path lined with tree roots, rocks and mud. We get a great work out with this hike and are ready to call it a day afterward. Back towards Pointe a Pitre and the boats we make a stop at the near by HUGE Casino Supermarket, think super super Walmart. Our rental car is a very little Chevy Spark, with 4 people and hiking gear not a lot of room left. But we just had to check out the store and being cruisers once inside had to buy stuff. So loading all our purchases into the little car & then into the dinghy was quite a site. Dropped Ultra and thier goods off at their boat then back to Ocean Star to unload and rest our tired bodies. Ocean Star will be heading out Friday morning to go off shore around the island back up to Deshaies before crossing over to Antigua on Saturday. Wild Thing spending Friday finishing up boat projects then taking the short cut through the River Salee that runs between the 2 islands of mainland Guadeloupe on Saturday to head over to Antigua. We are parting ways with Ultra for now, as they will be spending more time in Guadeloupe before heading south to Dominica where we hope to catch up with them again. SO glad we got to explore so much more of this beautiful country and to be able to do it with good friends made it that much better!! Next stop Antigua with my sister Carol coming to visit and Classic Regatta week followed by Sailing week.

Monday, April 2, 2012

More from Guadeloupe

 Monday 19 March – Monday 2 April

After Sunday's birthday celebration for Jan, Steve & I were trying to sleep in Monday morning. First Ultra called 6:30 ish to say they were getting under way when Steve got up about an hour later Wild Thing was already gone so we got ready to leave also and are underway by 8. We are motoring in very light winds on the nose, as we round the north end of the island and are passing the one town on the east side of the island when I look back to our port side and see Wild Thing whom we thought was in front of us. Hail them on the radio and they say yes that's them they had been hanging out in a bay waiting for us and we hadn't noticed as we went by so they were now just behind us and they say Ultra is actually sailing so they are tacking way out trying to get a good angle on the wind. A final look at the volcano as we pass the south east end of the island, once again in awe of the impact to this little island. Once off shore the winds pick up and the angle is better so sails are up and we have a great sail east to Deshaies (Day-ay) Guadeloupe and are anchored by 2:30. Steve & George go in to check in to find customs is closed until 4:30, by which time Ultra has arrived and settled into the anchorage also. Everyone gets checked in and we make plans for the following morning to hike up the Deshaies river to a waterfall. JoAnne & Bill have done this hike several times before so will be our guides. We head out shortly after 9:30 making our way up the river bed along the shore line if possible but mostly going from rock to rock. The few times we do make our way along the shore you can tell how few people do this hike as the trail if there is one is very overgrown. But we have a fun time watching our footing as we make our way up the river. By noon we are at a good size swimming hole, so break for lunch and a refreshing swim. This is where we (Steve & I , George & Jan) learn from Bill & JoAnne that this little 45 minute hike up to the waterfall might take a little longer with this group as we are only about half way there. We gear back up after lunch and push on, when we finally get to a road and car park Jan & I get very excited thinking we made it and Bill tells us it is only another 10 minutes to the waterfall. 10 minutes later with no waterfall in sight and the rocks we are having to climb over getting bigger and bigger Jan & I decide to sit and wait while the others hike on to the waterfall. As Jan & I sit on the rocks in the river we are entertained by some fish in a little pool, and are happy with our decision to sit and wait as it is quite some time before the group returns. Steve & George are glad we stayed behind also as the trail did prove more difficult the closer they got to the waterfall. They all had fun swimming under the waterfall, and Jan & I got to look at the pictures without any injuries. We hike back to the road and walk back to town via the road. “Next Time” we will get a ride up the road and then hike to the waterfall instead of starting all the way down at the bottom. It was a lovely day with a lot of laughs and plenty of exercise to make up for the baguette and cheese we ate for lunch. Wednesday some snorkeling and boat projects, dinner on Ocean Star. Thursday more snorkeling on the way back see another Texas boat, stop by and talk to Melanie & Casey on Bliss from the Austin area. They agree to meet us later at Hemingway's for a drink, and realize Steve & I had briefly met them in Grenada. We all decided to go to the Botanical Gardens the following day. It is not that far but it is straight up a steep road and they provide free transportation so we make arraignments to be picked up 10:45 Friday morning. We love to visit the botanical gardens on the different islands we visit, and are always glad we do. This one Jardin Botanique, is just absolutely beautiful with the added attraction of a koi pond, and a bird section where you can feed the parrots and have them stand on you. They have a fancy restaurant with a great view and a snack bar serving sandwiches, which we choose and it also has a great view from the shaded picnic tables making for another wonderful day in paradise. The walk down the road is not bad, so Steve George, Melanie & Casey tell us, as Jan, JoAnne, Bill & I got a ride back down in the van that picked us up. Meeting back up in town and a short walk up a street on the other side to a grave yard. Not just any grave yard, I have never seen so many mausoleums in such a concentrated area. It stands out so that you see it from our boats so we just had to get a closer look. Saturday all 3 boats depart Deshaies for the anchorage at Pigeon Island, a popular snorkeling and dive spot along the western coast of Guadeloupe. Plenty of room to anchor so once settled in we load snorkel gear into the dinghies and head over to Pigeon Island to snorkel. Steve & I had stopped here on the way down island the first time, it is surprising how few fish there are here in this national park. Slack tide this time so we got to swim around most of the island(s). George was towing our dinghy as he swam along so when Jan & I got too cold we were able to climb out. JoAnne & Bill carry tanks on their boat and wanted to do a dive the next day, saying we would be able to see a lot more. Steve & I would use 2 of their extra tanks and dive with them on Sunday, George came along and snorkeled above us towing the dinghies once again so when we came up we could just climb in, what service !! Sunday was Bills birthday so another celebration on Ultra that evening joined by Marilyn & Kent on M/V Cardena friends Bill & JoAnne met in Grenada. Monday we had 3 snorkelers & 3 divers go around the north point of the anchorage to check out another dive site. This location, still part of the marine park, had a good selection of things to see by both snorkelers & divers. Once back to the boats we noticed that the anchorage had gotten rolly. Poor Jan who had stayed on Wild Thing and gets sea sick at times was ready to get someplace calmer so they headed down to another anchorage. After lunch and getting the dive tanks refilled Ultra and Ocean Star went down to join Wild Thing at Anse a La Barque anchorage. Just a little less rolly and we just barely fit all fit in as it is a very small bay. Tuesday we were underway early for the short trip down to Isles Des Saintes anchoring in the bay behind Pain de Sucre, a short dinghy ride around from the town BUT no mooring balls so still a free anchorage. Wednesday Steve & I moved over to the town mooring field so we could get internet, Wild Thing came over for one night but it was too rolly for Jan so they & Ultra hung out in the other anchorage. Meeting up for snorkeling reefs, diving caves, shopping and hiking excursions over the next few days enjoying all the beauty these islands have to offer even a few boat projects got done. Over to Fort Caroline and de Pompierre beach one day and to Fort Josephine over on Ilet A Cabrit on another. Steve & I can now say we have been to all the forts in The Saints. Sharing many laughs, some at my expense like when I was trying to gear up for a dive in the dinghy and with the weights in my BC & the tank as I leaned back just a hair I fell backwards to the floor of the dink unable to get back up like a turtle on it's back. Thankful George was still in the dinghy and helped me up and into the water. On another dive I came up early getting cold and leg cramps so George used my BC and remaining air and I was going to stay near by for pick up with the dinghy. BUT the motor flooded out and I could not start it so I am drifting further & further away. I'm thinking they have to be almost out of air and will be coming up soon and see I am drifting away and come get me with the other dinghy. Well I was almost to Terre D'en Bas (next island over) when Bill finally got to me. There is a song WHO the F@!% is Alice, they were all saying WHERE the F@!% is Alice when they came up looking for me and the dinghy.

So glad we are getting to see so much more of Guadeloupe this time around and having so much fun doing it with friends. Monday the “plan” is to run into town for a few things and then head over to Marie Galante another Island part of Guadeloupe about 20 miles east of here that we have not been to yet.