Tuesday, 12 June 2012
The following day we arrived in Guadeloupe. What a delightful sight it was. It appeared like a mirage at first. Bleak and hazy, shrouded in the milky vail of a torrential downpour. Heavy clouds hung low over the highest peaks, drenching the island from head to toe. As we got closer the wind swept waves of heavy rain our way. When we saw it approaching we got ourselves ready for a rain shower. With soap and shampoo on standby we stripped down and waited for the energizing pallets of fresh water to drive down on us. Fresh water is invaluable to cruisers like us, so we take advantage of the free supply as much as we can. After an all night passage and lots of salt spray it's a treat for both Rodeo and us. When the rain cleared Guadeloupe exploded in front of us in its dense, fragrant glory. The island is the most luscious one we've seen. People describe its shape as a lopsided butterfly, but to me it looks like a set of lungs. With every habitable square inch of its ground covered in oxygen producing flora, Guadeloupe could easily be called the lungs of the Caribbean. Like thick, green icing spread over the land, vegetation was dripping off gently sloping peaks, over the cliffs and down toward the water, staining it with its rich green colour. In the distance town of Deshaies sparkled from the recent rainfall. Air was perfumed with aromas of wet plants, moist ground and the promise of extraordinary adventures.
Deshaies Bay is where we spent the rest of the week with Justyna and Gerrard. We enjoyed the leisurely atmosphere of the town and all the benefits of being on French territory. Strong, flavourful coffee with fresh pastries in the morning, baguettes and camembert cheese for lunch, local vegetables, fish and French wine at supper. Guadeloupe was a feast for all senses. The pungent scent of honey locust trees. The sweet smell of mangoes we picked off the ground at the side of the road. The sound of crickets and tree frogs echoing throughout the bay in the evenings. And then the sights. We rented a car on Friday to drive up to the interior of the island in search of waterfalls. Equipped with a rudimentary map of the island provided by the rental company we took the long way round Basse Terre, the western part of Guadeloupe, to get a feel for the island and eventually lost our bearings, but found a waterfall. Ecrevisses Falls was waiting for us at the end of a perfectly laid stone path that lead us through a dense forest. The minute we stepped in there we were overcome by its enormity and the diversity of life inside of it. We felt like lilliputs in this place of exaggerated shapes. We walked among ferns spread out overhead like patio umbrellas, palm leaves as big as surf boards and old growth, vine covered trees that towered over us like mountains. The dense, rich green of it punctuated only by vibrant bursts of tropical flowers. Hermit crab, lizards and snails were scurrying about the ground. Mourning doves, bananaquit and hummingbirds gilded the canopy. Every bit of the forest was buzzing with life.
We swam in the small pool at the foot of the falls. Every cell of my body seemed to be relishing the refreshing, sweet taste of the water. Then we soaked up our surroundings as we lay, like salamanders, on encircling rocks, drying off before heading back to the car. Corbit Falls was the next one to see. This much bigger waterfall could only be viewed from a platform at the base of it, where it fed into a rocky mountain stream, but the trail leading to it was so wonderful we didn't mind not taking a dip. Another skillfully laid wood and stone path took us in and out of the heart of the forest that was even more spectacular than the last. Later, driving down the mountain, we found a marked but unkept path that guided us toward another waterfall. The narrow footpath, wet and slippery from frequent rainfalls, ran deep into the heart of the forest and along another rocky stream. We followed it down until its crystal clear water emptied into a deep, moon shaped gorge where the water pooled before cascading away, deeper into the forest. Justyna wasted no time getting in. She eased herself into it at the shallow end of the pool and said the water was freezing, which was surprising, because at our feet the water trickling over the rocks was warm. We read that there are many thermal springs in the mountains, and the water coming out of the forest, flowing gently over the walls of the gorge must have come from one of those spring. But the water that fed into the waterfall was indeed cold and the rest of us decided to jump into the depth of it in a swift leap off the enclosing rock. The jump and the water were invigorating. We swam for as long as we could stand the temperature and then laid with our backs pressed against the tall walls of the gorge, where the hot spring water trickled down and over our cooled bodies. The best part, we had the waterfall all to ourselves for a good half hour. Everything about that spot was sublime. We drank it up with all of our senses.