Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tourguide Of The Year - Part II Little Paradises

Since our guests seem happy to leave it up to us to plan the itinerary, I took it as a personal challenge to make sure they get the full Island Experience!  With two days of car rental, I thought it would be nice to do an overland tour of the island first, and then spend the next day concentrating our activities on the many attractions near Soufriere.

Since we got our rental car, Bruce and I have picked up two hitchhikers... three if you count the other Cruiser we took with us to the grocery store!  It's nice to do something good for someone else when we can! So when we saw a young woman on the side of the road hitching... of course we stopped to pick her up!  I just scootched over on the back seat, we swooped her up and on we went!

The girl was on her way home after her morning shift as a school crossing guard.  She lived in the tiny village of Millet and would have been happy to be dropped off at the head of the road... but we had time and the interior of the island is beautiful, so why not just take her all the way to her doorstep?  We hadn't driven this road before, and actually it was an accident that we were even ON this road...  We zoomed past acres of banana plantation and wondered out loud if the downed banana trees were normal or if they were damage from the recent near miss by hurricane Maria.

In some places almost 50% of the trees were down!
Our accidental tour guide answered that question.  They were hurricane damage.  From that point on, I peppered her with questions about things we saw and island life in general.  She smiled indulgently and answered all the questions she could as we bumped along the pothole riddled backroads in the mountains of St. Lucia.

Chris Cox's vast farmland
There are rolling fields of farmland in the valleys that follow the rise of the mountains like a carpet.  Our guide pointed out that most of the property on our left down the valley belonged to a man named Chris Cox.  He produces all types of crops from dasheen, banana, plantain and yams... to okra and the best tomatoes I've tasted since I was a child!  She said that most of his produce was for the people of St. Lucia...

I asked our guide if it was safer up here in the hills than it is down on the slopes closer to the water when a hurricane comes.  She said it was safe enough up here from the storm, but their problems arise from landslides and flooding rivers.  Villagers can be trapped in their homes for days after any storm or hard rain.  But that is just a part of life in this Little Paradise. The people clear the roads and wait for the waters to subside, then go on with their business!

All along the way we saw little Island Life scenes worthy of National Geographic magazine... I was aching to take photo after photo... but we will have to view these memories in our mind's eye because I think taking photos of these people in their homes would be an invasion of privacy.

We dropped our accidental guide at her front door and backtracked to Millet road to continue our route eastward.  The roads on the eastern side of the island are an improvement over the ones on the west side, both in relation to potholes and treachery.  There are more gentle gradients and fewer hairpin curves making it easier to drive.

But... there isn't as much to see over there... so when we saw the sign pointing to Latille Falls we made a quick detour!

We've traveled this road twice before and never saw the turnoff to Latille Falls... Many of the must-sees have only vague directions on the internet and even when they show up on Google maps, they are difficult to find without asking a Local.

What a Paradise this place turned out to be!

We were greeted on the trail by the owner of the property, John Selie.  Already impressed by his thorough knowledge of the many plants growing here... our admiration grew by leaps and bounds as we realized how extensive his work on this property turned out to be.

This piston pump (top of pic) bumps constantly...
John has created a Tranquil Paradise for his guests and visitors... and his welcome is genuine!  His well-deserved pride is obvious in his eagerness to share this hidden treasure!

A subtle pathway led us down into the river ravine. John has carved out natural stair steps in the dirt and stone, and fashioned hand railing where needed using local wood.  Hand-cut trees, dried reeds and vines are used to make benches, bridges and mat walls!

But his Paradise is not only aesthetic...  He has built a completely self sufficient compound that uses the power of the waterfall to provide both piped water to his property at the top of the ravine, as well as hydro-electric power!

We could have swam but we didn't...

Looking back at the pool from the falls.

Bridge made from local wood
Steps hand carved in the stone

We climbed back up from the river ravine and rejoined John in his reception center.  He was just laying out a refreshing snack of late season mango and golden apple slices, both grown on the property.

To make it even better, he served the fruit up with a lemongrass syrup for dipping that he made himself... and yes... there was one last bottle for sale!  We'll take it!

Lily Pads in bloom!
John led us through the garden to his fish pond... created by pumping water up from the river through a simple piping system driven by his hand made pump.

What a delight to find that the pond was stocked with gold fish and little perch that loved nothing more than to nibble the feet of visitors!

Don't people pay big bucks for a fish pedicure in some countries???

After having our toes thoroughly tickled by the fish, we followed John back through the garden to see his latest construction project.

He is literally creating a Paradise here and will soon have this rustic little B&B open for visitors.

He constructed this all by hand from local materials... A.ma.zing!
Living area with a hammock for relaxing

It's got a tiny kitchen and dining area...

The restroom is still a work in progress but he's almost done...
It's got a shower and this tub will have fish in it so you can get the full body treatment!

We enjoyed meeting this gentle soul.  He is a delightful mix of Rasta on the outside, hiding a sharp intelligence and talent for design and building that leaves you wondering what other secrets he is withholding...

Oh and he asked as we were leaving if we had seen his sign out on the road.  We told him that we had...  and that we've been down this way twice before without seeing it.  HA!  He just put it out there three days before!  Well, it's working!

A wave tossed open beach on the SE edge of the island.

Wow are we ever glad we found that place!  It wasn't even on the agenda!  We continued on our way to the Cap Moule à Chique Lighthouse near Vieux Fort on the southeast end of the island.

Our little 4WD car took us right up to the Keeper's house but we had to walk up the last bit on these crumbling stairs!  The house is painted black and white with colorful accents and it's just as cute as a bug!

After a brief discussion with the Keeper, during which we learned that he, just like the Vigie lighthouse keeper, was part of the St. Lucia Port Authority and directed shipping/air traffic for the Port... we were allowed to proceed to the summit.

The lighthouse itself is a stubby little thing, but it is actually one of the highest above sea level in the world at 745 ft. and although the tower is rather dilapidated... the view is breathtaking... even on a hazy day!

This lighthouse has had some love... but not enough.  It has deteriorated to the extent that it really is not safe to climb to the top.  They have even stopped using it as a beacon, replacing it with an automated light on a concrete pole.  Sad.

Looking up from the bottom center of the tower.
The door was blowing open and then banging in the wind.  We stepped inside...

The view from the Keeper's porch
That was as far south as we could go... We stopped for lunch at a little place in Vieux Fort for an authentic St. Lucian lunch... I had chicken and fries, but everyone else had chicken Rotis.  They were tasty but full of bones.

I really think the people in the Caribbean islands cut the chickens by chasing them around the yard with a meat cleaver!

Nobody seems to notice that you get more bone than meat... It is what it is...

Peter, our guide
It took us a while to get to our next stop... I wasn't even sure we would find it.  The Harbormaster here in Capella Marina where we are staying has been telling us about a place he calls the Warm Baths.  I couldn't find it on any of the maps.  Before we left this morning I stopped by to take some directions from him.

We found it... but it wasn't called Warm Baths! At no time did Ford mention the word "Waterfall"!!!

What an amazing place!  Bet you're getting tired of hearing me say how amazing and wonderful and awesome these Paradises are...right?  Well it was.

We followed Peter down into yet another river gorge... He did a running commentary of the names of things.

He told us the names of things.  The chenille plant, AKA the Red Dread

Almost there...

Back over our shoulder... Petite Piton!
Pig Plum
There it is!   A young couple was enjoying the pool with the falls, so we started with the warmer of the three baths...

The water runs down from the mineral springs here below the volcano.  It is really hot when it first comes out of the pipe.

Just below the water's edge is an inch thickness of minerals lining the bath.
It is also very rich in minerals that have been left deposited all along the walls of the baths and the rocks... literally everywhere it touches there is a thick layer of hard mineral.

The young couple left soon after we arrived... This entire Paradise was ours alone for some time....

We moved over to the bath beneath the falls... I climbed up behind the falls...

Just try to imagine having this magical place all to yourself!  This is our real life!!!

Looking up into the trees all around us!

The water runs down the roots and drips into the pool

Peter returned with cocoa pods and coconuts for us to sample
Inside the cocoa pod is the purplish center used to make CHOCOLATE!
Nature's Bounty!

More people began to arrive, so we left them to enjoy the warm baths alone and hiked back up the ravine.  Too bad the strenuous part of these waterfalls comes AFTER you've enjoyed the water!  Sweaty again!!!

Can one ever really have enough Piton photos?

The haze was so thick we couldn't see the horizon!

By now I'm becoming familiar enough with this road that I can point out all the many interesting things along the way.

We were speeding along as fast as is practical on this stretch of road... it's like tacking upwind... one step forward, two steps back!  But we had to stop and take more pictures when awesomenesses presented!

We were losing light quickly and needed to be heading for the barn, but I couldn't let us zoom past the Cassava Bread place without stopping for a taste!

Adding more...
It was late in the day but they were open and still roasting the cassava to make flour on one oven...  I had to tell Robert and Kathy about the rest of the operation but I think they got the general idea.  We picked out four flavors for tomorrow's breakfast!

Constant motion while roasting
Serving up the little cakes in Paradise!

We made it home just before dark but our day wasn't done!  No way was I cooking dinner after all of this! Remember?  I'm vying for Tourguide of the year!  I can't let the awesomeness stop now!

We quickly regrouped and dressed for dinner at DooLittle's just across the Bay.  There is a water taxi that ferry's guests between the marina and the restaurant that is an event in itself!

We toasted Little Paradises and relaxed with the lights of Marigot dimly twinkling in the still night.

After dinner we took a short walk on the sandy spit... A group of Locals greeted us and we spent some time chatting and learning about them and their life on the island.  Here in St. Lucia, they know how to welcome us... It is sad to hear that some Tourists don't appreciate all that it takes to make this Paradise for us...

We packed as much into one day as is humanly possible and it all went flawlessly!  We had surprises, adventure and got to know the island a little bit better...  I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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