22 February 2010 | Le Marin, Martinique
Bob, So, so beautiful
Ok, so Lucky Bird has landed in Martinique and boy are Bob and Alice impressed. I mean this island is frigg'in great.
Where to start is the challenge of writing about our experiences on this Caribbean island. First, our sail here wasn't easy. Strong south-easterly trade winds meant pounding into the waves and tacking back and forth as we worked our way to the island and then along the coast to Fort du France, the island's principal harbor and city. Beating into the wind and waves is not high on my priority list but finally here we are and thank God this place rocks!!
First there was Carnival. These people really know how to party, combining celebrating their religious beliefs in a way unlike you would see in downtown Addison, IL. People dressed to show off; to say I'm here for fun and to celebrate. Spirits were high, lots of music, drums, jumping, a true sense of joy and peace for where they were and what was happening. We talked to so many people, our partial French, their partial English, somehow it worked and everyone smiled.
This city, Fort du France is sophisticated, it is modern, it is happy, it is friendly, it is accessible, it is French, it is amazing in that it is an historic harbor with buildings dating to the 1700's all-the-while it is cosmopolitan with high rise condos and hotels, it has streets that are single car only and its has three lane highways comparable to those of Chicago. Wow!
So Bob and Alice rented a car, not an easy process but ultimately successful. The French President was in town just when we wanted our car, so guess what, who do you think won out?? The city was blocked off just were we needed to get our car. We talked with several of the security people asking where we might stand to see him arrive; too many different directions, and we missed the whole event ; we were able to get the car and somehow escape the incredible traffic jam created by his arrival. Does the President of the US arriving is one our cities create an image?
The volcano Pelee' was our first priority. It was about 40 kilometers from our home base, so off we went heading north around the western side of the island. For those of you who have been here you can picture the changes in the terrain and vegetation; stunning!! For those who haven't been here, the vegetation changes with the elevation. We started in almost desert conditions, incredibly arid, and as we approach Pelee' and as we rose in elevation everything changed. The trees grew taller, the leaves on the trees grew bigger and broader; it was as though we were in a different world. The road turns grew sharper, hair-pin after hair-pin and our little car was wheezing, first gear and peddle to the floor, Alice my co-pilot was holding on and grimacing at each turn. That is a very kind description of her vociferous affirmations.
We climbed Pelee'!! We hiked up the trail one step at a time, argh!! This volcano killed 35,000 people and we were walking, hiking up it's sides. It's been one hundred plus years since the catastrophe of Pelee' and yet the grandeur and awesomeness is compelling, standing on this thing that erupted and did such devastation is incredibly moving. This is part of our world's evolution and we were standing on a small part of it. The grandeur, the magnificence and the sense of being there helped overcome that agony in our knees.
After Pelee' we were astounded as we travelled east, down and down into a rain forest. The mountains are tall enough to block the moisture and force the clouds to drop rain on the eastern side of the island. What a transition, hair-pin corners that even my son-in-law, Billy would take pause. And then, we were into banana and sugar cane land. Ok, Illinois grows corn, sometimes as far as you can see from the road, guess what? These people grow bananas as far as you can see as well; and they bag the fruit in blue plastic baggies. Miles after miles of bananas coupled with sugar cane. This island has a prolific agricultural base and now we, Alice and I, can understand the basis of some of the wealth of Martinique.
Let me add now a comment about my perception of island pride. Everyone!! This place is clean, these islanders are proud, and they have the financial resources to build their infrastructure, their roads, their signs, and they have a security structure that compares to any major city in the US. How can I say more about this island?
This afternoon, we visited Marin and discovered the largest collection of sail boats we've seen since home. This place was full, I mean several hundreds of cruising sail boats. This wasn't a convention; these are just cruising people gathering in a safe harbor. This affirms in my mind that cruising is alive and so many people of the world are here experiencing the grandeur of this unbelievable place.
After leaving Marin on the south side we drove up into, over and through the southern mountains back to Fort du France. This is not easy to describe in words. First, somehow these people built the roads, wider than we experienced in Antigua and Montserrat but really, on a comparative scale to the US these were single lane roads that these people travelled at 60 km. So many times I chose to pull off to the side to let the locals pass, breathtaking how fast they maneuver the turns.
So know we'll wrap up our experiences on this island and set our sights on St. Lucia some 28 miles to the south. We have many pictures to up load once we get an internet connection.
This is incredible; this is wonderful to experience, I am sufficiently in adequate in words to paint all the pictures, cameras help but the lenses are too small and miss the big picture.