St Lucia…we made it!
A year ago, St Lucia was hit by a massive hurricane which caused huge devastation and loss of life. The hurricane coincided with our Ramblers Worldwide holiday, which, naturally, was cancelled (see From St Lucia…to Morocco for what we did next). So when we arrived at Gatwick this last November, we were nervous it would happen all over again. This time, however, everything went according to plan and we arrived eight hours later on the beautiful island of St Lucia.
Abraham Lincoln (no kidding) was our big burly driver, guide, story-teller and all-round entertainer over the following two weeks. He’s now the official Ramblers Worldwide Holidays’agent on St Lucia so was able to ensure the smooth-running of our programme. The one area he had no control over was the frequent traffic jams, caused by passengers arriving for day trips from the towering cruise ships in Castries port. Fortunately, he knew every back road going, so several times we diverted off the main road and were treated to a view of the real St Lucia – wooden houses on stilts, clusters of children smartly dressed in school uniform and lush green vegetation lining the roads.
Twice we were returning from a day’s rambling when we ran into rallies for the forthcoming elections. Trucks were draped in red or yellow flags and reggae music blared out whilst those in the back were clearly enjoying a chance to party. Ordinarily, we would have been in no hurry to get back, but on both occasions, our leader, Malcolm, was anxious for us to get back to the hotel for the Manager’s Cocktail Party (MCP). Now, the Bay Gardens Resort consists of three hotels and each hosts an MCP once a week. We were privileged to be invited to every one and Malcolm was quite right in wanting to get us back in time to enjoy copious amounts of rum punch and canapés. Lincoln was obviously amused by this and as we crept forward through the traffic, kept reassuring Malcolm over the PA that he would get him back in time for the “Manager’s Cocktail Party”. And he did.
The weather is an important feature of the island and most days it would rain. But mostly no-one worries much about the “liquid sunshine” which sparkles with sunlight before evaporating to leave a hot, sunny day. Lincoln would always give us the weather forecast before setting off and most days he was correct. However…on the morning of our big climb up the Gros Piton mountain, there was a lot more than “liquid sunshine” and we were unable to see the mountain through the mist. He kept telling us that it would clear by 9am and miraculously, the sun came out at 8.55am.
Cheered by the accuracy of his prediction, we set off up the rocky, steep ascent and were rewarded at the halfway point with a view across the bay towards the other Petit Piton. But then it started to drizzle and by the time we were on the most difficult part of the ascent, the rain was coming down hard. Our party of 10 all made it to the top, but there was nothing to see and we were all soaked so set straight off down again. Lincoln, who had wisely stayed down below, blamed his grandfather, who he said had always given accurate weather forecasts, but on this occasion must have been sleeping…
Some highlights of the trip: swimming in the sea turned to gold at sunset followed by a bell announcing Happy Hour at 5.30, then watching the Turner-esque skies from the beach with a rum punch in hand; watching guide Paul scale a coconut tree and cut down a green coconut for each of us to drink the fragrant coconut water; then later eating fresh coconut cut from the shell by Paul with his machete (machetes are essential implements carried by our guidesand used to hack a path throughovergrown rainforest trails in St Lucia); Lincoln’s frequent stops to point out the various fruits: banana plants growing right up to the side of the road, revealing small banana “fingers” emerging from a purple pod; enormous green-yellow grapefruit which are eaten like an orange and taste as sweet; unfamiliar large green globes which are called breadfruit, a starchy staple used in Caribbean cooking. And the generous nature of the St Lucian people, always there to help and genuinely wanting you to enjoy the delights of their island paradise.