Ah, Beauregard, You Tease!
19 January 2017 | St Pierre, Martinique
Last year, while we spent some very enjoyable time in St. Pierre, Ken and I were encouraged to go to the Beauregard Canal. This was an aqueduct built by slaves (of course) to bring water to the sugar plantations. It is also known as the Canal of the Slaves (in French, of course). The canal is about 4 km long, and isn't tough in its own right, unless you have a strong aversion to heights. You walk on the side of the canal, often right on the retaining wall, which is maybe 16" (40 cm) wide. At one point, you can look right down on the tops of the trees below you. The sign at the beginning of the trail warns that those suffering from vertigo, and unruly children, should not go on this walk/hike. This is a warning that needs to be heeded.
We left from St. Pierre and walked the 5 km to the next town down, Carbet. I didn't read the map well enough, as there is a much shorter, and more enjoyable, route to the Canal that we found last week on a return trip. Anyway, after a long uphill slog on the roads, fortified by mangoes that we found on route, we got to the "bottom" of the canal. Ken kept thinking it was a larger canal, as in one for barges, so he was not expecting a meter wide channel.
It is a gorgeous walk. We had to deal with a little rain, but the sun came out with enough sufficiency to make it extremely enjoyable. Except for one point, where I had to ask Ken to not talk and just let me concentrate on getting one foot after another, the height wasn't a problem. There are enough places along the canal where there is some dirt on the "outside" edge of the wall to allow the growth of plants and trees. The canal skirts around a large hill for most of the way, so one edge, the one you have to walk on or along, might leave you feeling a little exposed.
Bamboo, heliconia, mango trees and numerous other tropical plants grow in abundance along the path. And as is typical for most hiking paths on the French islands, the obligatory yellow bars of paint showed the way. I found this quite humorous, as there is NOWHERE else to go, and getting lost would require falling down a precipice, or climbing a rather steep bank.
We eventually reached the end of it (the tunnel was closed to pedestrian access, so we had to take a detour), we realised that we now had to get back to town. We had some more uphill climbing to do on the road, with a much greater grade than the canal was on. We were already feeling the effects of the walk TO the canal, which was far longer than necessary due to my poor research of the route. So we started slogging up the hill. About 15 minutes in, I joked with Ken that if this was an English island, we would have found a rum shop by then...and lo and behold, there was a little convenience "store" up ahead. The two older guys there, on the proprietor, the other his friend, were passing the time chatting and watching a plant care show on TV. We were a welcome distraction from the tedium, and their cold beer was a welcome addition to our bread and cheese that we had brought with us.
We finished our lunch, and hit the road again, to be lucky enough to hitch a ride with a young woman who would happily drive us back to St. Pierre! Between my French and her English, we had a lovely chat (she had moved to Martinique from France with her son 2 years previously). And getting a ride back to town was hugely appreciated.
So, fast forward to last week. New friends James and Charlotte were keen for an adventure, and we had told them just how nice that hike was. Pelee was doing his normal clouded over "thing", and the view would have been non-existent, so that was easily dismissed.
This time, I had looked at the map more carefully and found a better, shorter, more congenial route. We enjoyed the walk on a Sunday morning, and the views were lovely. There was just one small problem.
There had been a decent amount of rain in the last while, which made morning runs "refreshing" and water catching easy. Well, it also meant that the canal was closed to hikers due to too much water. We showed up to a fenced off access point!
So, we continued on a circular route that eventually brought us back to St. Pierre (and was just as scenic). The walk wasn't a complete write off, and we got back before the store closed for the afternoon so we could get some baguettes. It was just a shame to talk it up, for us to not be able to enjoy it once again. And it was a gorgeous sunny day!