Soufriere Spa Day
15 June 2016
After lots of running and hiking, and going here and there, it was time for a day off, and maybe something a little therapeutic. Ken and I had initially considered a trip to Wotten Waven to meet up with our friend Venetta and to soak in one of the sulfur spring spa experiences there, but decided on a different venue, Soufriere.
Soufriere means sulfur in French, and this area lives up to the name for good reason. It is pockmarked with sulfur springs, and is home to the Sulfur Deposits, essentially the active caldera of a volcano. The Kalinagos had a strong respect and appreciation for this area as well. A National Park venue has been set up close to the Sulfur Deposits, with a couple of sulfur baths built to take advantage of the natural resource. It is by no means as elaborate as the offerings in Wotten Waven, but it is also less commercial and less expensive.
Ken and I took the bus south to Soufriere, and started the approximately one mile walk in to the sulfur baths and deposits. The walk is quite pleasant, with many mango trees offering their ripe fruit to us as a snack. The backdrop of verdant hills and the sight of a few smoking fumaroles was a treat for the eyes, while the shady road was amenable to our feet. When we got to the Park sight, the Ranger asked for our passes. I had my weekly pass still from the visit to Trafalgar Falls, but we were one short for Ken. The Ranger accepted our promise that we would buy one at a house on the road (why they don't have them for sale there is beyond me).
We walked up the trail by the river towards where I knew the sulfur deposits were, having "discovered" them on my hike of Segment 2. The sign on the trail also helps. Following your nose does, too. The stench of sulfur is quite pervasive, not overpoweringly so, but a definite backdrop to the walk. When you finally reach the first deposit, you transition from a shady, foliage rich area and walk straight into... hell. The deposit is quite noticeably bereft of vegetation. The sun beats down on you as you traverse the glaringly white and grey rocks, interspersed with the steamy, smoking vents. It is hot, whether from the sun, or possibly the slightly geothermally warmed earth. The only break from the monochromatic colour scheme might be a little yellow sulfur deposit that has bubbled up out of the ground, hitch hiking on some boiled water. This is like a mini version of the Valley of Desolation, but much easier to access.
We got back into the shade, passing cashew trees, complete with ripe yellow cashew fruit. There were also mango trees around as well. We passed up the small cashew fruit, which are quite edible, and found a couple of mangos instead. We then walked back to the sulfur baths.
There are two baths, one slightly warmer than the other, close to the river, with pipes directing the hot sulfuric water into the man made pools. The last time we were there, the pools were empty, as they can turn off the water at a manifold. This time, however, we were treated to a luxurious soak in the hot water. A small rain shower didn't hinder our enjoyment in the least. We were by ourselves, enjoying the therapeutic bath, with the sun shining down on us. Really, all we needed was a cold drink to set it off perfectly. Our tepid water was not quite hitting the spot.
After we had parboiled ourselves enough, we wandered back down to Soufriere (with no sign of Venetta or Amanda). I had heard that on the beach, in front of the church, was the somewhat famous "Bubble Beach". This is a section of the beach that has its own hot springs right into the Caribbean Sea. A young man with a lot of moxie built up the beach and created a rock sea wall to enable better enjoyment of the area. Since it is technically public land, he asks for donations to keep things going, and he has a bar on the beach, too. There was no way we weren't going to give this a try.
How to explain partially floating in the Caribbean Sea, as little bubbles float up from the sand, and hot water caressing you? Then an occasional swell brings in a little cooler water, just when you think that maybe it is getting a tad too warm, and refreshes you at just the right time. And add a very cold beer into that. Plus you get the view of the gorgeous blue of the Caribbean Sea if you feel the need to sit up, and on land there are the colours and sights of a typical Eastern Caribbean town. The music of the sea, and the dogs, chickens and goats, plus the sound of children playing provides the soundtrack. Magical. Just magical. We could have stayed there for hours, but the sun was shining down on us, and we had to get home at some point.
As we made our way back to the center of town to catch a bus, we ran into Amanda (Venetta had other things that came up and couldn't lime with us). Rather than hang out in Soufriere any longer, we invited her back to the boat.
We had a nice evening of a drink or two, a late, quickly thrown together, dinner, and a visit by Desmond, who used to work for Sea Cat until he decided to strike out on his own.
It was a busy ending to a relaxing day.