Friday, September 8, 2017

Instead Of Irma - Part II - Sapphire Falls

Well I'll just jump right in with this continuation of Instead Of Irma... If you missed Part I and want to see a bunch of pictures of gorgeous flowers... go back.

There is some discrepancy about the name of this falls... We're going with Sapphire.  There may or may not be a second falls called Superman... not sure.

We left the main road and turned off on the secondary road that leads to the Drive In Volcano, and made a hasty left turn onto a much less civilised road, and by road... I mean path that you can drive on...  for a while...  After about half a mile, we chickened out and stopped at the only place that looked as if we might be able to turn the car around.

Turns out, that was the start of the hike down into the river bed anyway...

Looking out over the valley, it looked like we were going down into the jungle... the nearest town was way over there!!!

Sally (Pyxis) led the way
We began our descent, about a 250 ft drop via a surprisingly well maintained path.

There were seemingly endless numbers of stairs carved into the damp forrest hillside, and a nice rope handrail alongside the trail all the way down.

Bruce and Jesse bringing up the rear!
We zigged and zagged... all the while knowing that we would have to backtrack UP all this way when we were done enjoying the falls!

There's a Fungus amongus...

Tall Ginger plants grew over the pathway... almost there!
There she is!  Sapphire Falls
I can't begin to describe how wonderful this is!
Only a little worried about rocks or coconuts falling on my head!

The last time we rented a car and visited a waterfall, we didn't think to check the Cruise Ship schedule... There were hundreds of people there and we could hardly move, let alone get the falls to ourselves for a photo...  This time, we were the only people around for miles!

I stripped down to my swimsuit and was the first one in!  There was no way to NOT enjoy this!  It was sheer magical delight!  The wind created by the falling water was fresh and cool... the water was the perfect temperature, not too cold and not hot, in spite of the fact that it was coming from somewhere near the volcano. Even the grey color wasn't off-putting, and the water actually tasted fine.  (no, I didn't drink it... on purpose)

Want to know what it looks like when you look up from beneath a waterfall?
Waterfall Selfie!
Sally joined me but the guys remained on dry ground...

Nutmeg just decaying on the forrest floor

Eroded ridges around tiny rocks...

Gumbo Limbo or Turpentine Tree
Downtown Soufriere 
Lunch at the fanciest restaurant in town!

Locals hanging out at the restaurant bar

All good things must come to an end and our day was almost done.  We had delicious local cuisine and the best table in the house.

Things are simple here.  Lunch comes slowly and as we watched the young men just outside the window shovelling sand and gravel from the seawall back into the sea... our thoughts returned to the ominous unknown things that were happening at that very moment to our friends in the northeastern Leewards and the Virgin Islands.

Young men cleaning up the minimal storm damage we felt here
Please don't take our enjoyment of this day and hold it against us.  The guilt weights heavily on our hearts.  Our angst will do good for no one.  We will return to watching and waiting and will do what we can to help our friends and families in the aftermath.

We took the long way home, trying to divert our thoughts for as long as we could from the ongoing train wreck that is Hurricane Irma.

Driving around the island of St. Lucia, I couldn't help but think of other islands we've visited.  We've fallen in love with them all!

Things change when you live this life  It is impossible to understand until you've "lived" here.  Back when we were tourists, visiting one island or another for a week or ten days... we loved these islands.

But it's different now.  Sometimes when I'm walking across a now familiar street to pick up a few groceries or some other routine sort of thing... the familiarity strikes me... This is our 'normal'.  This is where we live.  The sum of the many islands we've visited have become a much smaller world in our minds.  They are our home.  They are our playground.  They are our people.

What happens to one of these islands brings home the hard reality that "There but by the grace of God, go I".  Our hearts are heavy and we realise the luxury that fate has afforded us in this day to choose to do something happy.  Something joyful.  Something else... instead of Irma.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Instead Of Irma - Part I Diamond Botanical Gardens

Northwest side of St. Lucia
What do you do when there is a hurricane pointing both barrels at most of your friends and some of your family... and there's nothing you can do about it?  Well doing nothing for several days besides sitting inside with my eyes glued to internet weather reports was leaving me distraught!

I don't want to add to the drama of it all, but there is just no way to NOT think about the aftermath that we're going to be dealing with for months, maybe years!  We LIVE in the Caribbean Islands... And if several of them are torn up, it affects us all!

Part of me was glad when I got the news that we were going through with our car rental plans with Sally and Jesse (Pyxis) ... but the other part of me wanted to hide in my boat and watch for news of our many friends whose homes and lives were being changed at that very moment...  I liken these feelings to a sort of "survivor's guilt"... I actually feel guilty just going on with my day when so many people are in real and grave danger...  But whaddaya gonna do... Instead of Irma???

Our first day was spent taking care of adult stuff...  We had appointments with various Doctors in Rodney Bay or Castries, and some grocery shopping.  We had to find lunch and instead, found an ominous reminder of what was going on just off the beaches of St. Lucia.  We are far south of the Monster Irma as she approached St. Martin, but here effects could be plainly seen in the form of a brisk and gusty west wind, and the resulting big waves where there normally are none.

We stood in the blowing sand and watched these huge rollers torture this small cove just around the point to the north from Rodney Bay.  One lone surfer sat on his board out there taking continuous pounding from the surf.  We decided to backtrack to the marina where we could find lunch in a more civilised setting...

With all of our business done, we returned to our boats where we were met by Ford, the Harbormaster here in Marigot Bay.  He was concerned that our boat needed a few extra lines to protect us against the west winds.  He worked with us for about the next half hour making sure that we were set for the night.  The winds here weren't forecast to exceed 30 knots and there are literally NO waves making their way into our hurricane hole.  But it was nice to feel a little extra secure to ensure a good night's sleep...  (there't that guilt again...)

The next morning dawned with a light west wind, that turned east before we were done with breakfast.  Irma was over... for us.  News of damage in the area surrounding St. Martin was coming in trickles.  I just couldn't look.  We left the computer screen and piled into our little Jimny, and away we went in search of adventure!

Sleeping Hibiscus
Our first stop was the place we left off on our last rental car adventure... Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens near Soufriere.

A tourguide joined us for the walk through this beautiful private property.  The cost was $7 US per person, plus whatever tip we deemed appropriate for the guide afterwards.  There is also a cost for a 30 minute soak in the mineral baths inside, but we were headed for a waterfall from here, so we skipped that.

They use Cocoa Husks to build borders!
We were happy to hire the services of the (optional) Tourguide... We've learned our lesson that being too cheap to hire a guide means a very limited experience..

These people are very knowledgeable about the island and the plants that grow here as well as the history of the area. Our guide answered every question we came up with... and there were many!

Fishtail Palm berries... If the birds don't eat them... YOU shouldn't either!
I learned a LOT and only wish I had something to write down all of the names of the beautiful flowers in the garden.  See the pictures below... I'll post the names I remember.

Pear Avocados
Flowers are pressed into the wet cement for traction with flair!
Wax Begonia
Bread and Cheese Begonia
Heliconia Caribea - Red
Cocoa is grown in the island and there are two places that offer tours... Put that on our list-of-things-to-do...

There is a local drink made from grated cocoa stick called Cocoa Tea. I have tasted it and I will concur that it is indeed...  an acquired taste...

Click above for the recipe.  The cocoa tea I had was somewhat thick and our guide told me that some people use flour to thicken it.  I suggest making it without the flour.

I mentioned before that these gardens are part of a private estate.  This land has been in the family since it was bestowed upon three brothers by King Louis XIV in 1713.

It is amazing to me to think that one family has passed this property down from generation to generation for so long.

Also amazing is how well laid out and kept these gardens are.

The Golden Shrimp Plant
This stream is grey from the volcano.  It leaves the volcano hot and cools as it goes.  Here it is slightly warm.
A mass of Walking Palms
This is mace. It grows like this wrapped around a nutmeg.  There are nutmeg trees growing wild all over the island.

I am continually amazed to see how much FOOD is just growing here!

We trample it when we're hiking in the jungle!

See more here!

This is the flower from the nutmeg tree.  This tiny little flower packs a powerful scent.  Earlier in our walk, I asked the guide if there were cashews growing nearby because I could smell something that I could only imagine was the cashew fruit.

She told me it was the nutmeg trees and that their scent was similar to the cashew although the plants are not related.

I could always smell the nutmeg trees when we came close to one.

Red Torch Ginger will die if touched by the human hand.

In St. Lucia, Vanilla vines are planted to grow on Cocoa trees. They are a type of orchid and harvesting is very labor intensive, thus the high price for real vanilla.
The Corkscrew Ginger plant...

Another name for the Corkscrew Ginger is Crêpe Ginger
Ahhh, a new type of Heliconia... The "Sexy Pink"!
Checking out the display of a FEW of the foods grown on St. Lucia

The Pagoda Flower - I've seen these growing mostly in patches in the mountains and rain forrest.

The Castor Oil Tree
Fun facts about the Castor Oil tree
Mineral baths.  Water comes from the volcano and is filtered for a hot, crystal clear soak.  $6 pp US
A beautiful exotic flower?

Or just an ordinary banana.  The little bananas begin growing up, then turn downward later.
A little butterfly lands on this Papyrus plant.  Yes, the paper plant!
A large cocoa pod

The beautiful Diamond Falls. 

This is a tiny spring where a crab has taken up residence. 
This is one of the original mineral baths that were built in the 1700's so that people could take advantage of the therapeutic mineral waters coming from the sulphur springs.

These baths were mostly destroyed by "Brigand" (escaped slaves and deserters) but this one has been reconstructed for display.

As you can see, the soaking tubs on the left are not very big.  People were smaller back then!

The Chenille Plant

The Golden Chalice
Soap Ginger... No wonder I couldn't find the name!  It has many!
A walking tree, walking over the pathway!
 A Mahogany tree
An old aqueduct no longer in use... because it's too much work to keep all the stuff out of it!
Wow!  Made it through the gardens and you're still with me!  We've been to several Botanical Gardens in our travels and this one moves up to favorite status.  It is SO well maintained and the layout provides an easy and enjoyable walk along cool, shady pathways.  We never saw anyone working but with all the rain they get here... there must be an army of people keeping the forrest at a manageable level...  Good job Diamond People!

I'm going to shut this one down and continue it in Instead of Irma - Part II Sapphire Falls