A Green Blue Adventure Trip Report - Partie Deux
Chasing the Sun:
Probably the number one question is always…. How were the beaches? Followed by, what was your favorite snorkeling spot? The beaches were great, and we never did find a great snorkeling spot. However, I think with Hurricane Karen passing by everything was a tad bit churned up. Yes, October is within the rainy season, but the rains really did not hamper us.
French vocabulary word: Plage, which means beach.
Plage Anse à la Gourde – We probably spent more time at this beach than any other. A long white sand beach that is absolutely beautiful. Anse à la Gourde is on the left side of the road as you drive out to La Pointe des Châteaux. There is easy access from the road, plenty of parking, and shade is available. On Sunday there were a few families enjoying the small pools that form at the wave break. Surfers were about a half mile off shore riding some pretty impressive waves. We came back a couple times during the week and had the whole beach to ourselves. Just beautiful! There was a beach bar, but we never went to it and honestly I cannot even say if it was open or not.
On the right side of the road as you drive out to the Pointe you will see lots of shaded beaches with blue/green water peaking through the brush. On Sunday these little pull offs were packed with family and friends. The smell of what was being cooked by open flame was very appealing. Later in the week we too enjoyed the shady side, however the beaches are very rocky and there was lots of strong currents. If total privacy is what you are looking for the right side of the road maybe for you.
La Pointe des Châteaux is the far eastern point of Guadeloupe, which is a long peninsula. It is about 10 km past St François and is where the road ends. The beach at the Pointe is very rough as the Caribbean and Atlantic meet, but oh is it beautiful. It is definitely worth the hike to the top of the hill for the view. La Désirade and Marie-Galante are clearly visible, as well as Iles de la Petite Terre. If you are so incline to take the hike to the cross, reward yourself with some hand churned ice cream upon your return. It truly doesn’t get any better! There as some vendors selling drinks and such at the turn around.
Petite Terre, is part of National Park system, was highly recommended by the locals as the best place for snorkeling and marine wildlife. It is totally protected both on and around the islands from man’s intrusion. There were plenty of boats (motor & sail) that do day trips out to Iles de la Petite Terre from St François. Unfortunately we had family health issues at home, so we were reluctant to venture off island in case we had to return to the states in a hurry. The good news by not doing off island excursions, we have another reason to return.
BTW - we use Cingular, and my wife’s phone has the format that works anywhere. It worked great @ $2.49 a minute, but hey if you got call you gotta call. We used text messages to establish communication, and then would go to one of the many internet cafes around the island.
Back to the beach! We also really enjoyed the beach in downtown St Anne because the water was extremely calm for swimming. Restaurants and bars lined the beach so refreshments were readily available. We were there fairly early one morning and got the biggest hoot when we came to the realization that we were watching PE class for middle school age kids. There were lane lines in the ocean and swim lessons were ongoing. I could not understand the kids, but it was obvious they were complaining about gym class – even in paradise. Shade, food, drinks, and very blue water made this a very nice beach to hang for a day.
Plague Anse Tarare– once again this beach is on the left as you drive out to La Pointe des Châteaux. The sign is not hard to find, but if you continue on the roads for another 300 or 400 yards you will see this sign . Turn Left - The road is much better! Turn one is a real crappy dirt road, the second turn at the Chez Man Michel sign is for the most part asphalt with only the last ¼ mile being a crappy road. Well if you are in search for the clothing optional beach you have found it!
There are lots of trees to park at Chez Man Michel, and the beach is about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot. On our first visit to this beach looking for the path, a jolly man with a big belly laugh yelled “Naked Beach” and pointed down the hill. I think he was Chez Man Michel, but I do not know that for sure. Actually, it is a wonderful beach and the snorkeling on the left side of the beach is not bad. I saw a sea snake and couple lobsters. My wife and I are not big “naturiste”, however a good beach is a good beach and Plague Anse Tarare is a great beach. After a short walk you pop out in a beautiful cove where the water is blue/green and there is white sand and shade. The beach seemed very popular with the male gay community on the island, true nudist, and the work crowd for a lunch break. Lunch is from 12:30 to 2 pm and it appeared a lot folks came dropped their clothes took a dip, dried off and headed back to the office. Being off season it was hard to get a feel of how many folks were actual tourist enjoying the sun. However I can say there were zero tan lines evident!
My only real compliant about Anse Tarare was there was an abundance of what we called the tree boys. They were all males, no clothes, sitting next to you in the shade apparently on the hunt. My wife felt uncomfortable, but in actuality (sorry ladies) I think they were more interested in the males that walked the beach. They appeared harmless, but gave one an uncomfortable feeling that they were leering or crowding your universe.
On the green side we only went to one beach, Plage de Grande Anse. Absolutely beautiful, and there was lots of sun and shade so one could easily make a beach for the day. Nestled in the trees are plenty of beach bars. Just slightly north of Deshaies on N2 it is definitely worth a few hours of chill time. No real snorkeling, but may have been was one of the prettiest beach we hung out on. The sand was not white, but nor was it black that you will find on the south side of Basse-Terre. We also did not get out to Pigeon Island. We rode down to where you get the boat, but we had been playing all day and it was late afternoon so we decided not go out. Sure looked like a good place though. Yeah another reason to return!
We spent two full days exploring Basse-Terre (Green Island). One day doing the North side and then cutting back across the middle of the island on D23. Plage de Grande Anse keep us pretty mesmerized for the day enjoying the beach. While on the Basse-Terre we stopped by the botanical garden south of Deshaies and it looked beautiful from the outside. I just could not justify the money when so much of it was growing in the wild. All you have to do is park the car and walk into the jungle.
A late lunch on the water in a wonderful Creole restaurant in downtown Deshaies offered great viewsand food. Vegetables, lots of spices, and snapper fused into a couple dishes well worth remembering. We did ride down to Pointe Noire and then Pigeon in hopes of finding out what time the boats left to take you out to Pigeon Island. It was the only real time when language was an issue. Pointing the car back North we headed back to the D23 and back to the blue side.
The second day on the green side we did the complete south loop and then came back once again across D23 again. Definitely get off the main highway and explore in the mountains. The drive can get a little scary as you leave the major roads, but every turn offers a Kodak moment. The day we hiked the chutes (waterfalls) we packed a picnic lunch, which was a great reward when the adventure was completed.
We hiked up to one of the three waterfalls. It was about an hour to walk in and about an hour to walk out. Depending on which of the three falls you want to see will decide which road to take up to the top. On the eastside of Basse-Terre off of N1, you will see well marked signs to head up to the falls. Two of the roads I remember were D3 and D4, but there are plenty of signs.
The walk to the chutes was challenging, but not overwhelming. I do a lot of walking, but not a lot a hiking, and there is difference. You will get wet, and have to cross a couple streams. I would recommend packing extra clothes and shoes for when you are finished. These trails are not flip flop walks – you need shoes. I would also encourage you carry a bottle of water or two! The walk is worth every step. The views of along the way are breath taking and the roar as you approach the falls is an awesome sound.
My only disappointment of the day was we did not bump into Brigitte Bardot who now lives on Basse-Terre. Ok I am showing my age.
I have pretty much covered the blue island experience in part one and the beach section of this report. However there is was one notable exception. An enchanting Sunday Morning spent in Le Moule.
Arriving on Saturday we were ready to hit the beaches Sunday morning! When we awoke it was cloudy skies and dismal looking - Immediately plan B was put into motion. We jumped in the car and went exploring. After driving back roads absorbing the sights and smells we arrived in Le Moule. Sunday Mass had just begun and there was an overflowing capacity. Being Catholic, but not speaking French we opted to hangout with the overflow crowd on the steps. We could tell something was going to happen, but we did not know what. The church ladies were all dressed in beautiful printed dresses and color filled the doorway at the conclusion of services. Next thing we knew there was a band, baton twirlers, and the ladies lined up to march through town. We are having a parade! Everything came to a complete stop and I know it sounds corny, but it was truly magical as all the women stepped off with a big smile!
We spent a lot of time walking the streets and alleys of Le Moule. Allured to sounds of drums, we bumped into a couple rastas beating their drum and chanting (In English no less), “the Rastaman is a Poor man” to the changing pitch and cadence of the beat. They seemed to have collected a bunch of euros in their bucket making me question how poor is the rastaman really is. Maybe the church ladies threw some coins in as they made their way through town. Before we left the Le Moule we returned to where we started at the Church. Inside there was a very simple altar, but it was radiant. The entire was day was such a neat experience even without sun!
Things we did not do:
We never did get to the north side of Grande Terre or Pointe-a-Pitre to explore, but there is always next time.
Never really drank any rum, which Guadeloupe is famous for. The wine was just too good!
Off island excursions as noted above
Helpful Hints and other stuff they may catch you off guard:
Do not bring traveler checks unless you like the taste of paper. Exchange rate sucks and very few banks want to deal with them. (1 to 1.51 and 8 euro exchange fee at a bank)
Banco Popular ATM machines offer a choice of English, French, or Spanish. Fee was $2, and the exchange rate was about 1 to 1.39.
I hate French computer keyboards. Who moved the letters around?
Banks are closed on Mondays!
If you want to go to the casino – the casino is going to want your passport! (I don’t know why)
First seating for dinner is at 7:30 to 8:00. If you arrive on Saturday afternoon the stores also close around 3 pm – So from 3 to 8 after a day of traveling one can get hungry as your stomach adjust to a civilize hour to eat.
You do need bug spray and sun screen!
Do not forget a French Menu Guide and Translator!
Practice your parallel parking!
Don’t try to save money on food – It is way too good!
and most importantly:
A smile and a little patience will break down all language barriers!
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” - Emerson