Dinner on our first night. The lighting here needs work so we are using our citronella candles to produce a romantic glow.
An easy day. In fact, we won't need to change supermarkets. In Deshaies we will use the same SuperU as in Sainte Rose. It is near the border of the two towns. We stopped in to pick up some staples: rum, raw sugar, limes, (these go together as the ingredients of Ti Punch), rosé wine, bread, cheese, chocolate, coffee, fruit juice. The fruits and veggies we can get from the vendors in town
We have learned something about Ti Punch on this trip. Very often, when you order it in a bar or reataurant, they bring you the ingredients and you make it yourself, or a glass with the lime and sugar already in it, and you pour the rum yourself. When we had our hosts over for a drink in le Moule, we learned to do the same thing but add “Kill yourself”. That is the tradition. Everyone gets to choose how much rum to put in their drink. Good idea, since the punch is really straight alcohol.
We stopped at Plage de Perle, one of the best beaches on the island, either to find a carbet (a little shelter) on the beach to have our snack, or have lunch at Madras 2. We have been here before, walking over along the shore from our studio, Mangoplaya. No carbets were available so we had lunch which took care of most of the four hours between Airbnbs. It was just slow, but we had a table on the sand, in light shade. The rains lasted 45 seconds or so and the food was good, my dorade better than Dawn's swordfish. The rosé was better than we have been buying.
We were headed into town, past Mangoplaya and the main entrance to Plage de la Grande Anse, when I took an abrupt right onto a dirt road at a sign that might have said “Plage” and/or “Samis”. From our last visit, we had a sense the road might lead to a shack that might be a restaurant. It was a first-gear road, it went around and through holes filled with water, which hid their depth, until finally we got to the end where a few cars were parked.
There was the shack with a fire going and one group of tourists at a table drinking beers. It was after lunch time so we had no idea if these had been the only customers for the day.
We have returned since, seeking shelter there during a morning downpour. We met the guy who comes in to start the fire and cooks the wood down to charcoal. Sami and the rest of the guys showed up in a pickup and unloaded the supplies for today's meal. They were all friendly and there were many handshakes and smiles. The rain stopped and we left and we promised to return. And we better. (But we didn’t)
A few more steps lead us to the far end of Plage Grande Anse. By eleven o'clock, its main parking is always full, so if we don't mind driving at a snail's pace, we could park, especially if we wanted to drive into town afterwards. Normally, we just walk down to the beach and then home. But now, our four hours are up, and we head to Mangoplaya, where Daniel lets us through the gate at the foot of the drive, watches us mount the road in first gear, gives us keys to our home for the next three weeks and waves good-bye in his cheerful manner. Ray, the owner, is in France attending to family matters.
The Last Palm Tree |
(from Zak again)
Don't tell Stephen and Dawn, but I am living in another beautiful palm tree at the end of their latest pool, but the tree already had a guest, so after the sun comes up over the hill, I live in the shadow of the tree. I love the first hours, when I lie in the water. If I said you could do something like this, you would scoff, so I'm not going to. I won't even tell you where I live at night.
You know, down there in Petite Anse, he did a cute thing. He meditated as if he were me. He thinks of me as nothing and he wanted to reach emptiness by starting with my nothingness. Stephen, I am everything, start there. Still, other things went well. He returned to the present many times, remembering to smile, even though he let one fantasy go on a little long. Buddhists have this thing with the breath that drives me crazy. It keeps them way too connected with life. Another thing, can we not meditate in the front seat of the car? Yes, I know it was raining, but still.
No Time Like the Present
Every time I look up at the kitchenette wall expecting to see a clock, I see a blank, slightly convex circle with a couple of nondescript designs around the edge. It is devoid of clock hands; it is blank; it says nothing. It silently reminds me that there is no time like the present, that in fact, all we have is the present. The past is gone, and the future is not yet here, so Be Here Now, as Baba Ram Dass reminded us in his classic book from the 70’s. Being here now is very much what we do on these trips, but don’t laugh, it does take practice.
I am conditioned to feel that being creative, useful, producing or achieving something is vastly important. So part of the reason I write is to feel like I am making some creative shape out of our travel experiences. Yes, I hope that those of you who read our ramblings will find something thoughtful or just entertaining in our writing, but I believe I do it out of a personal need to remember, shape, even validate our experiences “on the road.”
Still, the kitchenette clock that is not a clock but actually a lighting fixture, does remind me of what a Buddhist friend, Arawana, said to me years ago, “Productivity is overrated.”
Drama in the Cove
We got up early, did not stop to meditate and were headed for Petite Anse to snorkel when it started to rain and the carpenter showed up. The carpenter was easy to deal with. Not-our-job. Here was here to finish the storm doors and put a small roof over our doorway which will give us a small space to sit in the afternoon with some shade. We were warned Monday evening that he might come Tuesday morning and that it might be a little noisy. Today is Friday. He got a lot done, the cantilevered frame of the roof is up, but he is finished for the weekend.
The rain was predicted, but they have been wrong so many times that I ignored the forecast. It didn't rain for very long and stopped as we drove, Once we were on the beach, the grey clouds came in over the hills and it began to rain again more seriously. We headed back to the car and meditated in the front seats for twenty-five minutes. When we were done, the rain was gone (mostly) and the sun had returned.
On my second snorkeling swim of the day, I headed for the left side of the cove which meant swimming over a largish patch of sand with a few rocks scattered about. I swam over a group of yellowtail snapper grouped around some rocks with their noses all dug into the crevices. I stopped. All of a sudden a small octopus zipped about three feet into another hiding place. Half the group went with it but were a touch too late to catch it. The other half missed the escape and were still trying to find it at its old home. In a minute they all lost interest. When they left, I lost track of his hiding place and I too moved on.
Langley Hotel Resort Fort Royal Guadeloupe
This is a big place, a destination resort just up the road. It used to be a Club Med until they were bought out by the Langley people. It is a big ugly thing that juts out on a spit of land into the sea with some beach bungalows that they added on. We went to see how the other half lives. I am not going to write a review here, but I will say that it seems more like a camp than a Caribbean resort. It has to do with all the Americans and all their children. The hotel may not have enough money to landscape their extensive grounds, although the hurricane could have swept away some of it. The beach was thin, but this was true in a lot of places.
All the staff that we met were nice. Well, I guess just one and that would be our bartender, Fanny. We asked if non-guests could drink here and she assured us that she could certainly sell us a drink with which to watch the sunset. The drinks were good, reasonably priced, the sunset was okay and I think the green flash was pretty good also. Fanny had an I.D. tag that indicated she spoke French and English, but very nicely spoke French to me.
We walked on the boardwalk to return to our car, and were forced to go through the boutique, not unlike an exit from a touring show in any museum today. We both felt as we left that we didn’t need to come back, but I think we should remember that we were invaders here. The guests hopefully were developing a social life; their kids were meeting other kids. Parents were hopefully getting time with their kids and without. I say, good luck to all of us so we can find the vacation that refreshes us.
It is not the greatest picture of Dawn’s foot, but it does show the well used condition of the chairs.
Un-Named Beach (Betty and Didier)
We grabbed our snorkel gear and stuck it into our red bag, (another great lightweight bag curtesy of Patrick H.) and hiked on the trail to Plage de la Perle. We were hoping to find a place to snorkel within a walk of our house. In fact, we made it shorter by taking a semi-legal cut through the property of Taino Lodge that was indicated by Google Maps. Almost all hiking trails on Google Maps are semi-legal. I don't know where they get their info. I think they just guess.
It was a sand and pebble beach in a cove where it can be hard to get into the water, and harder to get out. On the way in, the braver you are about diving in the sooner the water takes your weight off your feet. Once in, it was pretty good. Off to the right again. The prevailing wind and waves on this coast make the right side of all the coves the preferred snorkeling spot. Nothing dramatic this time, but more of the big yellow-tailed snappers. When I was searching for photos of them online I found a lot of recipes for them. It gave me pause. I guess that all these fish are somebody's dinner.
While we were standing on the beach drying off, we met a woman who wanted to practice her English with us. We had a great talk diving back and forth between the two languages and Dawn sometimes going off into Italian. Her name turned out to be Betty which we finally learned two days later when we met Didier, her husband in a pizzeria. He was picking up dinner for the two of them, their son and wife, their three children, and her son's business partner and wife, who had just descended on them from France. Good idea not to cook. We also learned that they will be here for a week so that the invitation they had extended us to visit their bungalow needed to be postponed. We said fine. That will be our last week.
Nature Imitates Art
We have surely published several pictures of our lovely Caribbean Sea view...in sunlight, at dusk, with the crescent moon in the sky. Lately we have had some intense downpours when the entire sky turns grey, water falls as if buckets were being emptied on our heads, and the horizon line disappears. Here we are suddenly witnessing a beautiful Japanese silkscreen for our view, all soft, grey and white and subtle. A few minutes later, everything snaps back into view, the dromedary hump of Gros Morne, the rocky point, the crashing waves, the detailed tropical foliage against turquoise sea, the horizon line. From Hokusai to Gaugin, perhaps. Nothing ever stays the same.
Schumann and Brahms
I saw a poster for a classical music concert program and took a picture of it. There was one near us and I gave the link to Dawn.
While we don’t come to Guadeloupe for culture, we nevertheless miss it when we are here for so long. The Boston area is full of choices for music, dance, theater, and art of all kinds. At this time of year in Gwada, it is mostly Carnaval season. While we went for a live Carnaval celebration last year, we don’t feel we have to go again. So when Stephen saw the sign for Nuits Caraïbes, we investigated. It is a series of evenings of live classical music and jazz. We got to a performance of Schumann and Brahms quintets, with Pavane for Dead Princess
by Maurice Ravel as an encore. The Debussy Quartet and Yves Henry on piano were a wonderful, seasoned combination of artists. The Schumann was particularly engaging with gorgeous solos and duets for cello and viola in the first movement. Often it seems that the first violin is the lead instrument in much classical quartet writing, but here they all had their special voices and moments. They played with ease and delicacy. Since the performance was in a movie theater, a fairly “dry” environment acoustically, we were glad to be close so we could hear the subtlety of their quiet moments. For those of you familiar with Boston-based musicians, Stephen mentioned that they played with the kind of idiosyncrasy of Russell Sherman.
We had heard that the banana crop here was badly hurt by Hurricane Maria. When we had our Gwada history lesson with Michel in Le Moule, he told us that the banana plant is really a grass, not a tree. Hence their shallow roots make them easily susceptible to being blown down and uprooted. Here are a couple of photos. One is a banana “plant” next to the terrace of our hosts in Deshaies.
The other is the base of an amazing old tree that we pass daily on our walk to the beach. I do not know what kind of tree it is, but the trunk alone is complex and fascinating and appears to be quite old. I can hear Thich Nhat Hanh’s voice saying “There is nothing more beautiful than a tree.” When I do my yoga outdoors, my “tree” pose sometimes reflects the solidity of that strong old tree and sometimes wavers in the wind like the wide-leafed banana “grass.” Yes, sometimes I am tree and proud to be so, with deep roots and reaching branches.
Dos d’Ane (Donkey’s Back)
The plan was to hike to the top of this hill which looks out over Deshaies. I was thinking of using it as a location in “Death in a Travelogue” so I wanted to look at it. Also, Dawn wanted to take a new and different hike. I found a description on a website and decided to follow it backwards to keep it short. So the hike started at the steles comemorating an airplane crash that we had never heard of. In 1962, an Air France Boeing 707 trying to land in a thunderstorm, flew into this hill, a few miles from the airport, killing 113 people. Everyday, we watched big jets fly over our house, bank left, and fly over the same hill.
We missed our turn right away and hiked slightly down and away from the hill. After sidehilling on a trail that was like bushwacking for a while we found a trail that went straight uphill which led us after an hour back to where we started. But not quite. We were on a different trail, maybe 50 feet above the monuments. Here, we discovered a piece of the fuselage with its two windows. It looked like a mask without a mouth looking up at us after fifty-six years. The paint was still faintly visible.
Next to it sits a memorial stone. The plane’s engineer is remembered in the top one. The engines were fine, but he must have known that they were lost and it’s bad to be lost in the mountains at night.
Those windows must have held frightened faces looking out into the night trying to see airport landing lights. Maybe one of them contained the faces of the brother and sister, Stéphane and Edmée Scrocco, 18 and 13, whose parents came here to help set up this plaque.
On a Lighter Note
We were shopping in town. I remember toilet paper being on the list. Beer, wine and olive oil also. Afterwards, we headed to Madras, our favorite sunset watching place in town. It is a little less hip than Mahina or Cafe Paradis which we also like. Going up onto the deck I see this tall, clear drink with mint, limes and ice cubes sitting in front of a guy at one of the tables. “Qu’est-que c’est?”, I ask. “A mojito”, he responds. So when the waitress crosses the street and asks what we want, we say, “Deux Mojitos, s’il vous plâit.”
They really hit the spot and there is plenty to do with them as we wait for the sunset. You can stir, muddle and rattle. The spoon in the glass has a tamper on the end to really muddle the mint. Soon, a group comes in and sits next to us. Later four mojitos show up on their table. Pretty good for a drink that is not even on the menu. Dawn was worried about having a drink without knowing the price and I think rightly so as they were either 8 or 9 Euros a piece depending on whether my beer was 3 or 5. (I can only fiddle around with a drink for so long. I had to get a beer.) The sunset was good, giving us a green flash through the rigging of a sail boats. Home for dinner next.
Another Sunset and Bar, (Return to Places You Like)
I know, I know. Too many pictures of bars and sunsets, but we relearned a lesson about traveling. If you like a restaurant, go back. You will get to know them and they, you. The first night we went in, the cook recognizd us from last year. The second night was for dinner when all the help wandered by our table to say hello. On this last night, as we came in we ordered two rosés and he pointed out a table. We picked a bench with a better view and he found us with a laugh. We were only there for drinks and a sunset, before going next door for a creole dinner. The Café Paradis is a SW Asian place.
We picked up a new idea about restaurants in Deshaies. If the first seating is at seven o'clock and they say 6:45-7:00, then come on the early side so you can walk into a nearly empty restaurant and get your order in before the restaurant is full at 7:00. Restaurants in France don’t over-employ servers, so it can take awhile to get everyone’s order. I ordered the Menu, which in France mean an appetizer, main course and dessert combo and at this restaurant a rum punch. The main course was giant fresh water shrimp. As we came in we saw a guy cooking them over a small charcoal fire about the size of a mini weber. The dish included four so I think that’s how many he would cook at
a time. It is not the fast way to do it, but everyone one of them can be cooked just right. The sad part about it is that the shrimp are raised in farms or imported from Malaysia, because catching the shrimp from the streams is illegal. (See the section on Polution.)
We have looked down into this hillside garden from the deck next to the pool, but this is the first time we have ventured down. It is a ravine garden, or half a ravine garden. Ray’s property ends at the bottom of the ravine, so the opposite side is wild tropical forest while his side is a controlled tropical forest. Can I say, two hands in prayer? Except upside down. They complement each other.
Trip Wrap Up
Wow! The seven weeks are almost gone. We didn’t do some things that we thought we were going to do, but we stumbled into some things that surprised us. We are looking forward to being home, though the New England scenery will be a shock. I became a little more knowledgable about the contamination of the soil and water by the banana growers from 1973 to 1993.
Poisoning by the Pesticide Kepone in the French Antilles
The French island of Martinique is heavily contaminated with kepone, following years of its unrestricted use on banana plantations. Despite a 1990 ban of the substance by France, the economically powerful planter community lobbied intensively to gain the power to continue using kepone until 1993. They had argued that no alternative pesticide was available, which has since been disputed. Similarly, the nearby island of Guadeloupe is also contaminated, but to a lesser extent. Since 2003, local authorities have restricted cultivation of crops because the soil has been seriously contaminated by kepone. Martinique and Guadeloupe have some of the highest prostate cancer diagnosis rates in the world. (Wikipedia)
Country Age-Standardised Rate per 100,000 (World) Prostate Cancer
1 France, Martinique 227.2
2 Norway 129.7
3 France (metropolitan) 127.3
4 Trinidad and Tobago 123.9
5 Barbados 123.1
6 Sweden 119.0
7 Australia 115.2
8 New Caledonia 114.9
9 French Polynesia 114.6
10 Ireland 114.2
11 Switzerland 107.2
12 Iceland 106.6
13 France, Guadeloupe 105.2
14 United States of America 98.2
So any plans that we may have had about trying Martinique are shelved for now and we will look more closely on how to deal with this problem if we return here.
Thanks for reading.
Last night we spent a lovely couple of hours over drinks with our hosts, Ray and Co, and their neighbor Daniel who greeted us here when the owners were back in France. They are a well-traveled, interesting bunch. Daniel, at 77, is training to do the entire pilgrimage route from Switzerland to Compostela by himself this spring. We already knew that he bikes something like 100k on an outing, but now he is doing tons of walking, including some of our favorite trails, but much farther than we do. We heard about so many experiences from them, from Katmandu to altitude sickness in Peru (but go anyway, they say.)
Today, our last Saturday here, was a wonderful surprise. The forecast predicted a rainy day, but the sun emerged after a few showers, and I did yoga before we headed to the beach. We did our usual walk to the end of the long Plage de la Grande Anse and took a couple of delightful swims in waves big enough to be exciting but not so fast and furious to feel overwhelming. Tomorrow we actually reserved at one of the nicest restaurant in Deshaies for the Sunday “repas du midi.” It specializes in French cooking rather than Creole which should be interesting. It is a spot we haven’t been to yet but thought it might be a nice way to close out our time here.
We will hit the road at 6:00 a.m. on Monday to make sure we have time to return the car and deal with traffic through the big commercial area on the way to the airport. Am looking forward to being home for awhile and catching up with family and friends. We hope that all of you New Englanders have gotten through this current big storm unscathed.
As always, we feel deep gratitude for the lucky lives that we lead.
Death in a Travelogue
Link to a totally different travelogue
Well not really. It is a work of fiction IN PROGRESS, we are just starting, that Stephen and I are writing, and we couldn’t be doing it without Dawn. If you want to read it, then follow the above link. Stephen loves comments, myself, not so much. The link won’t be there too much longer. The writing is going to need to get away from html code as it gets longer and we need to find better software to write with.
Who am I?
I am a spirit that came from India. I am what is. I listen, people listen to me. Stephen thinks I can control things. He is in for a surprise. Anyway, read it. Tell him what you think. I am the only one in the mystery who is having any fun. Everyone else is having a problem, (Writing 101).