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Arrive in St. Lucia, via Jamaica

Written on: Sunday April 1st, 2007

A journal entry from: St. Lucia and Jamaica, APR07

St. Lucia is a difficult place to get to from Minneapolis.  There are no direct flights, and getting there often involves two stopovers and a full day of travel.  So when we transferred in Montego Bay and went direct to Vieux Fort, I was happy.  We arrived in the afternoon, and were able to hunt down a ride from another traveler.  Wow...first impression of the island was tough: steep, windy roads around mountain passes...and at night...and in the rain.  This could be a treacherous journey.  But we made it to Soufriere, checked in to the Diamond Villas (email only at the time of trip: alfredpatana@hotmail.com) and had dinner with our new friend.  Before parting ways we made a generous donation to his car rental fund (it was pretty expensive to rent a vehicle here) and headed back to our accommodations.

The place turned out to be quite acceptable for us.  There were two bedrooms, a bathroom, full kitchen, living room area with TV and comfortable outdoor patio...all for $50 a night in an expensive destination.  The proprietors were wonderful!  They offered advice when asked, and helped out when they could.  We walked to town/the beach the first two days, but eventually chose to rent a car.

Mother nature was not friendly in the beginning, but what should we expect when visiting a rain forest island?  A mix of overcast and rain greeted us on the first excursion we chose: a tour around Soufriere that included coastal vistas, cocoa tasting, a botanical garden walk and a stroll through the world's only drive through volcano, Mt. Soufriere.  This was a good intro to the country, and especially the local area.  So tonight, we hunted down the only open place in town for an over-priced meal, and slept well in preparation of another adventurous day tomorrow!

First priority: set up a dive for tomorrow.  We started off toward the dive shop in our rental car, but saw another shop on the way. After some chatting we ended up getting a good vibe from them and planned to meet them tomorrow morning for a two tanker.  Cool; that's done.  Now on to the pitons!

The overwhelming characteristic of St. Lucia is the pitons: two volcanic spires that burst out of the ocean, creating the perfect backdrop to any tropical photograph.  Well today we're gonna climb the big one!  Gros Piton is the larger of the two, at an elevation of 2619 feet and just under 2000 foot elevation gain.  It is also the easier of the two to summit, which is why we weren't too stressed showing up mid-afternoon with minimal preparation. 

There is much to write about the climb.  And to give it it's fair due, this will be edited at another time to include the details necessary.  For now, I will write that the journey to the top was a magnificent experience taking us through a wide variety of tropical flora.  And with the weather clearing this afternoon, the reward at the summit was breath-taking!  We reveled in the views, and I personally felt a sense of satisfaction at having gotten to one of the places in the world that I always wanted to see.

So we went back to town, got cleaned up and went searching for a local restaurant.  We found Camilla's.  After having a beer, Camilla herself came over to chat, and introduce us to her homemade brandy concoction.  Wow...this will get the motor started!  After spending a fun hour with Camilla, we decided to dine at a different local spot nearby: Archie's.  This place turned out to be our favorite hole in the wall eatery.  And the best night was Indian night!  They cooked a preset menu which made us a little leery at first, but once the food arrived we were not disappointed.  We were now content and ready to crash for the evening.

The next morning we arrived at the dive shop in time to see our guide cruising over the water back toward shore.  In the boat with him was a lunker, freshly-speared barracuda...nice; I'm gonna like this guy!  As we were the only divers going out on the first dive, he led us to the base of Gros Piton and asked how deep we wanted to go.  I suggested we get to about 120' and see how we feel.  We dropped in to the warm waters and were amazed at the quantities of colorful coral.  There were truly some amazing sights!  We made it down to the to 135' before starting the ascent back to the shallow reefs.  We saw loads of tropical fish, a couple turtles and one rather large stone fish, but again no sharks for Liz.

This afternoon we drove North along the Western coast of the island.  Embedded with switchbacks, the roads were challenging, but the scenery was gorgeous.  We made our way to Marigot Harbour and stopped for a refreshment before turning around and spending our last night in Soufriere.

On our final morning we said goodbye to our hosts and were given a care package of local spices and sauces...just another example of their kindness.  We made it to the airport with our sights now set on Jamaica...ya mon!