One of the essential joys of cruising is you never really know what to expect at each designated stop. I’m not sure if my wife, AJ, or I knew what to expect from St Lucia. The capital, Castries that lay in front of us looked welcoming and the buildings that could be seen from the ship exhibited more of a colonial feel than we had seen before.
Our St. Lucia excursion was a morning departure and as such had to be ashore by 08:30. The full organisational might of Emerald Princess’ crew swung into action and we joined the other early leavers in being directed to the appropriate queue. Several lines formed, each destined for their own unique experience, for us a 4×4 exploration of the island. We were not alone as a considerable number of people joined the line and, once gathered we were moved off to another area to be divided into smaller groups and assigned a guide and driver.
From the moment we had begun to assemble it was quite obvious who was running the show, Wendy, and luckily enough we were assigned to Wendy’s group, with Tony as our driver. As well as our vehicle there were another four vehicles all canopied open topped Jeeps that could accommodate 12 to 14 people. Our vehicle had 11 souls aboard plus the outgoing and not diminutive Wendy. Belts buckled and briefing completed we headed out of the port on our adventure towards a waterfall somewhere in the islands interior.
Once out of Castries the climb started and soon we were looking down and back at our floating palace. A quick stop to allow some photos and we were off again, climbing ever higher. The homes and general buildings all looked fairly spacious and welcoming and Wendy continued to provide us with a myriad of facts about the island:
– Children learn several languages at school
– There are 15 women to every man on the island
– Women hold down most of the career posts, as the men are obviously too busy getting round to the 15 women available to them
Before we knew it we had climbed to 900 feet above sea level, up extraordinary inclines and negotiating tight hairpin bends. Along the way Wendy would engage in friendly banter with people by the roadside in the local version of Creole, a mix of; Spanish, French, Patois, Rasta and any other language you could think of.
Each question asked of Wendy was answered expansively and in great detail. She indicated battle sites, told us how the island changed hands about 14 times between the French and the English and on Massacre Ridge, pronounced “Massacree,” how the Irish got the French drunk on rum thus assuring an English victory. Our time was spent listening to the wondrous Wendy, marvelling at the driving skills of Tony, taking in the sumptuous views and the ever-changing flora and fauna.
It was a “full on” assault of the senses which was never anything less than exhilarating.
After about 30 minutes we pulled up beside some small huts for a break and photo opportunity, we were at 2,000 feet above sea level. Fruit, fresh from the trees and bushes were provided, including coconuts to supply us all with an incredibly refreshing drink. The views and the variety of vegetation were breathtaking and the people especially welcoming.
Break over, we set about going down towards our ultimate goal the waterfall, because as Wendy told us “What goes up must come down.”
So after plunging down a few hundred feet and climbing back a couple more we reached the stop where the track started that would lead us to the waterfall.
Suitably equipped with walking sticks, rough hewn bamboo poles and with Wendy’s every assurance and warning ringing in our ears we set forth on the short trek. The first obstacle encountered was a fairly shallow stream and I elected to remove my shoes for the crossing, about eight feet across. As a gesture it was foolhardy to say the least as each stone and rock bit hard on these soft English feet — for the next ford the shoes stayed on.
We walked through rainforest, across rivers and stepped where advised and my words could never explain the wonder and enchantment of any of it. As waterfalls go it wasn’t very big but that only enhanced the moment and experience.
The stay was relatively brief but ample opportunity was provided to swim, paddle, pose or just gaze in wonder at our surroundings. Once the visit was completed we snaked our way back to the awaiting vehicles and the inviting thought of a refreshing rum punch, or soft drink.
The final stop on our adventure was a small fishing village called Anse la Raye, because once upon a time that’s what they fished for, rays. The locals went about their daily routine and welcomed us with open arms, never once did we feel we were an intrusion into their lives
In Anse la Raye we walked and talked and soaked up the atmosphere, AJ and a stall holder named Amilda indulged in a little international commerce and female bonding, so we spent a little money and she spent a lot of her time telling us of life in the village.
If you’re going to travel, it is worthwhile embracing the people, immersing yourself in the culture and getting involved. If you do come, and I hope you do, join in, you’ll enjoy it.