Our first full day here started out relaxed and a bit slow. I swung by the manager’s office to use the computer again, eager to see the news on my house. Rebecca had received my message and stopped by my house, despite the embarrassment of trying my door knob several times. It relieved me of a big worry. I really need to make a point of double and triple checking myself when I lock that door just to be sure. I owe her a nice souvenir or something for being such a good friend and relieving my anxiety…
Gary and I both took our time getting out of our rooms and sat down with the view to discuss our options. Snorkeling and hiking Gros Piton were the two best options. At first we were thinking snorkeling, but the remaining wind from the storm that had blown through before our arrival had the surf up a bit, and I was concerned was stirring up the bottom too much. Somehow we decided to go do the hike (Gary was feeling confident). We started calling around and were surprised how much it would cost! $60 per person for taxi and guide, Jeebus! But you only live once, and I did spend more on tours in Iceland so we committed and got our guide on the way for an hour from then.
While we were deciding our plans a lady our age sat down named Maggie to try to get phone service, and we started chatting. She had won free flights to anywhere in the Caribbean as part of a raffle and was there on vacation with her boyfriend. The two had rented a car (also not cheap and very scary) and were headed north. They had been to Marigot Bay and were raving about it. I think I’d very much like to try to arrange the guest house I’d seen on trip advisor up there.
With breakfast securely tucked away, our driver arrived in good spirits. I get the feeling everyone is very friendly here, but also tourists pay a premium, and there isn’t much you can do about it. Off we went on a 30+ minute drive to the Gros Piton trail where our guide, a young man named Larry was waiting. Larry was from Guiana, and had been here for 2 years, and was very fast up the trail. Gary on the other hand wasn’t and we had to make several stops. Not that I was complaining much, the trail was beautiful, and it was like walking through a botanical garden. Along the way we could see Petit Piton, the sibling to Gros Piton, and the one closest to Soufriere which we could see from our hotel. We’re told on a clear day you can see Martinique from there, but the horizon was covered in a haze. Boy was it hot. I had elected to carry all 3L of water, plus my full camera gear on the trek to get the most out of the exercise, and to give Gary the best chance of finishing. I have a century I’ve registered for on August 18th, and I don’t want to lose too much conditioning while I’m on this trip. We’re regularly riding 50-65mi on Saturdays, but that’s still a good ways from 100mi even if we are doing a lot more climbing on our rides.
As we went we ran into a woman from Florida that sounded nearly exactly like Fran Dresher, but even more annoying and negative. Her poor guide Ceril was so patient! This woman was complaining about how long they’d taken (Ceril was going her pace), worried about the rocks getting wet if it rained, and nit picking everything Ceril did taking her picture for her. I really wanted to tell her off, and to treat her guide like a person. Later on she would ask me about if my camera lens was long or not. I told her it was a 24-105. She then was a little snippy saying “no, when you shot your friend” and I told her I was probably around 100. She didn’t seem to understand and asked the question again, and I gave the same answer, I didn’t know how else to answer, it’s long, but not telephoto or anything. And she snapped at me saying “no, for portraiture!” and I said yea, exactly and she walked off in a huff saying I didn’t know what she meant and started berating Ceril again. Gary later said he thought I was going to fight with her or something. I really did want to tell her off with her cheap Tamron zoom lens worrying about her feet being cut off in her “portrait” like a headshot isn’t a type of portrait. I may not be a pro, but I have a decent idea what I’m doing, like how I had my camera’s aperture wide to isolate Gary from the background, and how I was using a longer focal length to flatten the image more instead of standing close with a wide angle. But whatever, I was content getting a laugh out of Ceril making light of her saying almost mockingly “You are not alone. I am here with you. What you want, I want” haha. Poor guy will probably get a bad comment in the log book despite putting up with her for a good 7 hours. Gary jokes while we were going that our guide Larry was our carrot, and this woman was the stick; when we heard her coming we got moving again.
I really enjoyed the hike, though it was a bit rocky, and we had to go at a slow pace, but the view was great from the summit, and the experience well worth it. Near the end our guide even found us some mangos to snack on since we were starving. I could tell he was getting super bored at the end; we were crawling down the mountain, slow as is probably possible. Gary was tired and more than a little low on blood sugar, and I had twisted my knee a little and was a bit gimpy. Eventually we made it down and our taxi took us back to our hotel.
We needed food badly, but the hotel kitchen was closed today apparently so we walked down the hill a little and ate at Bee’s Bon Menje, what turned out to be a fairly expensive restaurant with an amazing view. It was a little absurd that we spent $40 each for dinner a drink and a dessert; you really don’t expect it in a third world country. Maybe at home, but I expected things to be much cheaper here. The food was good though, especially the grilled plantains, something I’ll have to try back home. The plantains came out very sweet with a rich flavor, so very good. Next to us and the only other guests at the restaurant were Maggie and her boyfriend Tyrone who we had met in the morning. We chatted for a while and left at the same time, hobbling down the hill after them. They turned out to be great fun. At the hotel we chatted a while longer in the dark about books, movies, beer, politics, and lots in between. I know for a fact now that I’m super excited to go to Vietnam. Tyrone had been back in 2010 around the same time I want to go and was telling stories about overnight cruises through Ha Long Bay, and other destinations. Hopefully tomorrow we can all exchange contact info I can pick his brain for ideas on things to see and do out there.
And now it’s off to bed, fed, tired, and relaxed.