Research? What Research?
19 January 2017 | Le Gosier, Guadeloupe
After the Beauregard Canal mix up (wrong route to it the first time), and not paying quite enough attention to the weather and being forced into a hasty, but acceptable, decision (really, we could have gone back down to Fort de France if absolutely necessary), you'd think that I would be a little more careful, wouldn't you?
Jonathon has been following our blog for a while now, and we have corresponded by email over the last while as he prepared for his Caribbean adventure. As things can happen, they, too, sought the refuge of Gosier for this little weather episode. He might have been encouraged by a certain blogger.
As Ken and I were heading north from the Saintes, Ken was looking at Basse Terre, which was enjoying exceptional visibility, in between searching for fish pots.
"Whats's that? It looks like a landslide or something."
I looked over to where he was referring to. "I'm betting that's Les Chutes de Carbet. The location seems about right." I went below and got an island map to confirm this.
We were now intrigued. Usually that area is under a cloud cover, and in shade, but this was extremely easy to see with the naked eye on that day. The possibility of renting a car and going there was discussed as we made our way to Gosier.
Jonathon and Christine came into the anchorage a little later that afternoon, and when we met for drinks on their boat that evening (and our first eyeball meeting), I brought up the possibility of going up there. They were also quite interested, so we arranged to have a car for Friday, and go up. I basically knew the way there, as I remembered the road signs from when we had taken the bus to the town of Basse Terre a couple of years ago. We also had road maps, and a National Park map with greater detail of the area.
The French islands publish very good maps with the hiking trails. I took a look, and sure enough, there was a trail associated with the first and second falls. The third falls were quite a bit farther down, and not really a priority on our agenda for the day. I saw the icon for "easy" for the trail. Cool, should be a cake walk with a nice view, then off to Les Cascades Paradise for a swim and lunch!
We were on the road before 8:00am Friday morning. I had gone for a run, and picked up the car that morning. I got home, chugged my coffee after a quick sea bath and had some PB on some baguette. Clean hiking clothes and the backpack with a water bottle each was all ready to go.
I had intended to stop to pick up something to carry for a picnic lunch. I procrastinated, thinking there would be at least one more place after the Leader Price supermarket that we passed...even just a small boulangerie. Nothing popped up, but we continued on up to the falls. The road signs were excellent, and we arrived and were ready to hit the trail by about 9:30.
One of the Park Rangers was wearing a Montreal Canadiens hockey team ball cap, which I had to comment on, and we got a picture of. Her husband got it for her in Montreal. She also told me that the hike to the first falls was pretty long, and to have food and water. Remember, I had looked at a map saying "easy", so I figured it wouldn't be too bad.
We went to the easiest and closest waterfall first (le deuxieme chute). This was a beautiful path with cobble stones and flat river stones. This was incredibly easy! No problem! Bring on the path for the Premiere Chute! Sure, it was about 1,000' higher, but a decent path makes up for elevation.
At the turn off to the trail to the Premiere Chute, the sign said that the hike was of "medium" difficulty, and should take about 90 minutes from there. That doesn't sound too bad, so we headed up.
Medium, my backside. There were sections that had ropes, legitimate scrambles, and a whole lot of up and down. This was a Difficult trail. When we got to what I figured was the halfway up point, I asked the others if they wanted to continue. Everyone said yes. I was thinking of the fact that we didn't have much water, and Ken and I didn't have any snacks. Fortunately, Christine said they had some extra's they could share. So we continued up. And up. With some downs. We ascended 566m in total according to my GPS watch. And we finally got up there. It was impressive, it truly was, but in the back of my mind I couldn't help but think "We need to get back down again."
Ken and I left a little earlier than the other two. Ken is a good hiker, and pushed on without complaining, but it was not going to be an easy hike back down. I was concerned that without lots of water (I held back, just wetting my mouth) or much food, it was going to be tough on him (he probably had a bigger breakfast than I did!) And we did it. Four hours round trip of moving time. We were back at the car by 2:00pm.
If I had had any idea of what that hike really was like, I wouldn't have proposed it to Ken. And if we did go up, we would have both had a hydration pack with a couple of liters of water each, snacks, and a picnic lunch. And at least one trekking pole for Ken (I'd recommend two).
On the drive back down, I spied a lady selling homemade coconut ice cream. Oh, heavenly days! It was Jonathon and Christine's first experience with this local delight, and Ken and I are huge fans of this (mostly) frozen confection. It was a much needed caloric hit.
We stopped at the Leader Price this time, and got chorizo, cheese and multigrain baguettes. Manna, absolute manna.
It was now possible to stop off at Decathlon, the sports store, without worrying about low blood sugar. The guys made a quick visit to the hardware store, and we all had quick shop at the massive Carrefoure supermarket.
On the way back to Gosier, I gave my passengers the option of walking the approximate ¾ of a mile from the car rental place, or to get dropped off close to the dock. They took the drop off option. Because of the Friday night Gosier Market, parking anywhere near the dock is pretty much impossible, so I had decided to just drop off the car back at the rental place.
Ken dropped off our fatigued hiking partners, took our stuff back to the boat, then came back to shore to meet me. I had already got the car's tank topped up, and had got back to the market and was grazing my way through, after downing two coconut of their water; the vendors were shocked at how quickly the first one went down, so they gave me a second small one for free. I explained my stupidity to them, and they nodded their heads in agreement that it wasn't very smart.
The other two had planned to clean up, nap, and then hit the market. I don't know if they ever made it or not.
It's a fantastic hike, if you are so inclined (I certainly am, I thrive on that kind of thing!), but one needs to be prepared! In my opinion, it is a harder hike than up to Mont Pelee in Martinique; at least with Pelee, once the hardest climb is done, the path is easy walking at the top. The Chutes don't give much time to relax.