05/09/2016, Deshaies, Guadeloupe
Lest one thinks that we are actively trying to get away from Deshaies, I have explored the area well on my morning runs, and we are just doing the "make hay while the sun shines" kind of thing".
So, we had the car for two days. For the second day, Bob and Gigi opted out of going with us, as they had plans to leave the following day, and had things they wanted to get done. That, or my driving scared the crap out of them. We also had a big supermarket on the dance card (to get the coffee) and laundry was a priority. We had seen a couple of laundromats the previous day, so just because Deshaies doesn't have one (but should), we knew we could get it done.
After my morning run and a quick breakfast, Ken and I dragged the large bag of laundry into the dinghy, the shopping bags and the cooler bags as well, and headed back to the rental car to get an early start on the day. If we got the necessaries done, we would still have time to use the car for less crucial, and more enjoyable, pursuits. We were also concerned that the stores may close at noon, which would be a nuisance.
We know that finding actual beans of coffee is not possible at every store, and we were looking for a specific brand, so we decided that the wisest course of action was to go to a big one that we knew. This took us over the north part of Basse Terre almost to the Riviere Sallee, which divides Grand Terre (the right wing) from Basse Terre (the left wing), and not really all that far from Point-a-Pitre. This is one of those ginormous Carrefour supermarkets that carries pretty much everything; it's a Superstore. I basically knew where we had to go, and with only one wrong turn, we got there. We found the coffee we were searching for, in beans, so I promptly loaded the cart with 24 packs. Yes, 8 kg of coffee beans. That should last us roughly 6 months.
With that errand done, and a few other things purchased, I wanted to go to a Leader Price supermarket (Canadians, think No Frills). This is a good place to stock up on other things, like soft drinks, and essentials. We also grabbed some sandwich makings, as we figured we could have a bite as we did the laundry. When we are travelling in the French islands, it really is "have baguette, will travel" for us.
Ken had spied a laundromat right by the Leader Price, so we zipped over and started to do the laundry. A lady with local knowledge let us know that the central payment center didn't take paper money, but the paramutual betting place next door was usually good for a few coins. I bought a Floup (think Mr Freezie) and got some more coins from the harried looking woman behind the counter; I must have come in at the wrong time when people were making bets for race number 4. Paramutual/off track betting is very popular around here.
We loaded up the two large machines with two matching loads and let the machines do their jobs. A few spins in the dryer, and while maybe not perfect, our dirty clothes were now much cleaner, and much better smelling. That took care of our mandatory errands with the car! Now we could go explore some more.
Looking at the map, we realised that we had basically seen much of Basse Terre, one way or another, whether by car or bus. We could have gone up some small roads, but we decided to see more of Grand Terre instead, so we pointed the car east.
I noticed line ups of cars at gas stations, and had a gut feeling that the fuel pumps might close early, like the stores. We topped up at the next place we saw that was open, and didn't see another open one until a couple of hours later, with a long line up.
Guadeloupe is an island (islands) of contrasts. Basse Terre is geographically much younger, and extremely mountainous. Grand Terre has been ground down for a lot longer, and is relatively flat compared to Basse Terre. I say "relatively", as it still can be a roller coaster ride in some parts. The north end of the island has more gently rolling hills and is sugar cane country. Hectares upon hectares of cane, interspersed with the remains of old mills. There are a few small "ports" that were used for moving the sugar products by water for further processing or transport back to Europe or the Americas.
We went to the northernmost point of the island, Pointe de Vigie, with its stunning coastal views of rugged cliffs. Farther west we came to les Moules, previously the home of many windmills for cane and other purposes, but now the site of dozens of modern windmills for making electricity. We then started to angle more southwest, coming into more rugged and hilly terrain, interspersed with valleys and ravines. This is an area that is too rough for much agriculture.
We were ready to go home, and the sky was becoming steadily more threatening. Rather than take an inland way back to Deshaies, we chose to stay on the road that I knew, and was not as hilly. When the downpour hit, I was glad of my choice.
As we approached Deshaies, the clouds were threatening again. This could be a problem as we wanted to get our clean laundry home dry, and we had the groceries, too. When we arrived at the dinghy, there was an appreciable amount of water on the bottom, so we put the cans of pop down as a base to try to keep some of the stuff from being immersed. We have large bags that can almost envelope our laundry bag, so that helped. We got back to the boat and unloaded just a minute or two before the rain started. Close one!
Today, we have done a few boat things, and I have spent time getting caught up on blogs and sending pictures to Facebook accounts (that has been a 4+ hour job to punish me for procrastinating). Bob and Gigi got going in good time this morning.
There are still some hikes, including the river hike, that i would like to do before we leave here!
|Limin' in the Caribbean||
05/09/2016, Deshaies, Guadeloupe
Okay, in fairness, this is less about Deshaies, than about the whole left wing of the Guadeloupe butterfly, Basse Terre.
Deshaies is not a very big town, and the shopping is limited to a small supermarket (oversized convenience store), and few small stores, and an excellent boulangerie. Ken and I were on a mission to get coffee beans of the brand that we have currently decided is our favourite, a Guadeloupan coffee by the name of Ermantin. We knew that they weren't going to have it in town. The other thing is that there isn't anywhere to do laundry here, unless you choose to do the bucket and hand thing... and our underwear stocks, as well as my running clothes, were getting severely depleted. Add in that we wanted to see more of the area, and busses are not necessarily inexpensive, and a car rental seemed in order. Bob and Gigi were interested as well, so we rented a car for two days. One for more touristy endeavours, one for the nitty gritty. I don't mind driving in the French islands, and the rentals seem to all be manual shift!
Saturday morning we got our four door Ford Fiesta, threw our things in, including cooler bag to keep things cold, and struck off for the south east corner of the island. We were heading to the Maison de Cacao for our first stop, then the Musee de Café for our next stop. This seemed more prudent than starting at the Musee de Rhum.
By sea, which is almost as the crow flies, it is about 15 nautical miles. On the winding, hilly coastal road, it is more like 30 miles, and not at a fast pace (unless you are French). The views from the road were spectacular, and we observed that while our boats might have been rocking a bit in Deshaies, the boats in the other anchorages were rolling their guts out. Glad we weren't there. Only Anse la Barque looked tenable for the time being.
We found the Maison de Cacao, but it wasn't due to open for another 30 minutes, so we opted to keep heading south, and we could always come back to it when we were going to take the transverse road across the middle of the island. We found the Musee de Café with no difficulty (the French have excellent signage), and it was open.
The Museum of Coffee is a worthwhile little diversion. The admission price isn't terrible, and it includes a cup of coffee at the end. It gives a good overview of coffee production in Guadeloupe, and discusses the "migration" of coffee to the Caribbean. Considering that it is the second biggest commodity in the world, behind oil and in front of wheat, it is a lucrative crop that will always have a market.
There is also a little bit of information about chocolate, as well as a boutique selling exceptional chocolate made from local source ingredients. After that, we decided we really didn't have to go back to the Maison de Cacao. We struck off for the interior of the island.
On the map is a viewpoint that gives a spectacular view from the top of a mountain. At the entrance to the road is a sign, in French, saying "Construction, no entry". No gates, fences, or signs of construction... and it IS on the map as a viewpoint... so of course we went up. At the top was a telecommunications antenna farm (Ken was happy with this) and the view really was nice, with a cool breeze as a welcome addition. Two young women asked us what the towers/antennas were for. Well, it ends up one of them was from New Brunswick, the other from the Ottawa (Gatineau) area. We had a very "Canadian" conversation, with one person speaking French, the other answering in English, and it turning into a mishmash of the official languages (Bob is very bilingual, and Gigi is quite strong in English, even if she doesn't think so. I can understand reasonably well, and I can muddle through speaking French). To come all that way to talk to other Canadians!
Next stop was the Maison des Forets. This is a delightful picnic area beside an equally delightful river, where people come to spend the day swimming, relaxing and enjoying. There are a number of pavilions with picnic tables, and even barbecue pits available. This was an excellent place to enjoy our baguettes, cheese and sausage. Since this was the weekend, it was busy, but we scored a parking spot!
Les Cascades des Ecrivesses were only a little farther down the road. Again, this is a popular place to come a cool off, with a paved path to the waterfall.
The Museum of Rum, when we finally found it, was closed.
During the day, we had kept our eyes open for "poulet boucane", the beautifully smoked chicken that can be found at the side of the road. We had hoped for that for lunch (nope) and were seeking it out for dinner. We also knew we wanted to just relax at a little side of the road rum shack for a cold drink and to chat with people. It wasn't until we were about 3 km from the dock that I said "let's go to Chez Samy", as little rough and tumble beach bar on Grand Anse beach. I had seen it while running, and it looked like our kind of place.
Samy was the consummate host. We bought our beers, and he sat and chatted with us. He then brought out glasses and the makings for ti ponche, plus a little juice if someone wanted to turn it into a Planter's Punch. Then he brought out some grilled bananas, which he then flambéed with the rum. Oh, would we like some chicken and bread? He brought out poulet boucane, comme Samy, that had a little hit of pepper in it, too. When we insisted on paying more than the 10 Euros he asked for (that was for 4 chicken legs, two more beers and the ti ponch), he then insisted that we take MORE chicken and bread, and sent Gigi home with a bottle of punch. This is the kind of place that we love. Not that we wanted freebies, but the honest generosity and desire to be a host, not just a business person, means so much.
So we had a great whirlwind tour of the Basse Terre side of Gwada. The most southerly part we had seen by bus last year. This is the very mountainous side of Guadeloupe, with high peaks, rain forests and impressive vistas.
|Limin' in the Caribbean||