Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guadeloupe, Part II

After arriving in Pointe-a-Pitre we took a couple days to explore the city and take in some of the Carnival revelry before Greg and Jean joined us. We spent a wonderful few days exploring the country by car before doing a little exploring by sail.

Guadeloupe by Car

We drove the entire coastline of Basse Terre, the mountainous island of Guadeloupe (Guadeloupe's mainland is made up of two islands - Grande Terre and Basse Terre). We drove to St. Anne, toured the rum museum, and took in some of the exhibits (literally). I've become a big fan of the French rums, they are so much better than I'd ever realized. No big surprise really, if it is to be ingested, the French probably do it better. We also drove to Deshais (the anchorage we bypassed in Part I) and visited the botanical gardens. Hands down the best we've seen. On our way further south we stopped in the capital, Basse Terre city, and parked amid roughly 300,000 other cars and took in some of the Carnival parade. The next day we hiked up what we believe is the second highest peak on the island. We had driven most of the way to the top and still had another 500+ feet to climb. What a view!

Guadeloupe by Boat

We had a great sail over to Marie Galante, the largest of Guadeloupe's surrounding islands. Marie Galante is a quaint, quiet island. We ran, ate, relaxed, and took a short sail to a different anchorage further south, catching dinner on the way with our new fishing rod. The following day we sailed back to Pointe-a-Pitre, dropped Jean off, and headed north with Greg back though our favorite set of Guadeloupian early-morning opening bridges - this time with no ignition trouble. Our plan was to head out through Cul-de-Sac Marin and up to Antigua, about 35 miles away. The weather was not cooperating; it was forecast to build to 30-35 knots and 12+ foot seas that day, but since we were leaving early we were relatively confident we'd have enough time to get to Antigua before the seas got too out of control. At 7:30 we were clear of the outer reef and motoring north - we still had virtually no wind. By 8:30 we were well clear of the headland and the wind filled in with a bang. In just a matter of minutes we had gone from 15 knots of wind to 30-35. With 5 hours still to go and a guest unaccustomed to sailing on board, we figured the prudent thing to do was to turn back. Five hours of 30-35 knot winds would have given us steep, 12+ foot seas long before we arrived in Antigua.

Turning back gave us an opportunity to explore the Grande Riviere Goyaves, which we had missed on the way south. The river runs for five miles up into the sugarcane fields and country side and is navigable only by dinghy. After a short stint cursing our guidebook ("This freakin' river isn't navigable by a rubber ducky.."), we realized we were trying to dinghy up a mangrove swamp. A half-mile further south and up the river we went, surrounded by beautiful country, sugarcane fields, mountains, and cows with attendant egrets.

The following day we sailed back around the north part of Basse Terre to Deshais, marking our third and most enjoyable visit to this beautiful little waterside town. On the way there mother nature put on a show for our guest (Greg), sending us a squall with 40 knot winds and torrential downpours. It was some of the strongest weather we've seen, but fortunately extremely short and as such nothing to worry about.

In Deshais we relaxed, worked on a few boat projects, ate some great meals, and experienced the best snorkeling to date. There is a beautiful coral garden just off the cliffs at the northern side of the anchorage. It is in very clear, relatively deep water, and diving down 15-20 feet you can swim among schools of fish and thriving colorful coral growing on pillars and little rock caverns. Unfortunately I forgot the camera for this one, so no pictures.

Next Stop: Antigua

From here we head back north to take in Antigua and Barbuda, which we skipped on the way down. We're looking forward to being back in English-speaking territory - we've been struggling through Guadeloupe with my ridiculously poor French skills.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Dina said...

I am watching you from Russia:-)! Say hello to Greg please. Looking forward to more posts! Lots of love, Dina

February 27, 2008 at 5:33 AM  
Blogger Srejax said...

I can't believe this is your life Lizz :-)> CONGRATS!!!

March 2, 2008 at 4:39 PM  

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