Thursday, December 15, 2011

THE BLOODY CARIBBEAN Me Hearties! Or, A Wet Bum and a Bottle of Rum

We’re doing over 6 beautiful knots of tropical sailing as we pass the legendary volcano of Monseraat. I’m in my underpants as I type, on our way to Antigua under clear skies of light blue. It’s 9:30 in the morning and the sun is wicked. As if all this wasn’t brilliant enough, there’s a new destination waiting to be plundered dead ahead. What adventures lay in wait…? Today we pass from the French Caribbean (Guadelopue) to the British Caribbean (Antigua). Fascinated to see how they differ. A few days in Antigua and I’ll fly to JAMAICA!  Unbelievable.

The availability and cost of airfares meant that I couldn’t swing Cuba. Damn. Next time!

As no doubt you all know, all the islands in this area are known as the Lesser Antilles. The islands are more or less lined up in a row (everyone got their charts out?) and as we sailed between them a day or two ago we could see Martinique, Dominica, Marie Galante, Le Saintes and Guadeoloupe all at once, lined up into the distance.

The view of the town of Grand Bourg from the Napoleonic lookout on Terre de Haut, showing Guadeloupe and Mari Galante in the distance. Guadeloupe was given to the French by the English in return for...Canada.  Seriously!

We spent our 7 first  post-Atlantic evenings in the fishing village of Grand Bourg on the island of Terre de Haut in Le Saintes group of islands. Caribbean colours, with their trademark in-your-face beauty, decorate colonial style houses and vintage fishing dingies, to a backdrop of steep hills of the richest green you can imagine. Flowers blossom all along the immaculately swept streets that run more or less parallel to the lukewarm tideline that laps the white sand, gently for the most part. One of my first impressions of the Caribbean (second actually, after a resoundingly impressed fucken wow!) is that the sea is teeming with life. Fish, squid, turtles, diving pelicans, big frigate birds, terns, boobies (the bird!) etc. etc….it’s amazing to live this close to wildlife again after so many years in a jungle of the urban variety (equally as amazing, for different reasons all together). Terre de Haut is small enough to cover in a couple of hours on a bike. There is an awesomely maintained Napoleanic fort on one hill, and a lookout way up on the hill opposite. I made the split second decision to climb it one day, pushing a bike. Suffice to say that I probably wouldn’t have done had I known how long and bloody steep it was, the view from the top will stay with me for the rest of my life. Luckily for you all I have photo evidence.

Grand Bourg. A French sensitivity to aesthetic combined with a Creoley, jungley, fishing villagy feel and a long history of Naval and no doubt piratical activity.

Grand Bourg is a beautiful and tranquil fishing village, we did however rock out at the Saturday-nightly Dance Party on the balcony of rum punch bar La Crique that fronts on to the water looking out over the boats at anchor, and whose coconut punch should be illegal, only for the fact that the black market trade in such a case would be impressive no doubt. The only 3 white dudes there, we didn’t hesitate to let fly with some of our more snazzy moves on the floor. A couple of Le Santoise (Saintes locals) chicks started shaking their not inconsiderable behinds as only Caribbean chicks can, no doubt in a show of gratitude at witnessing me cutting the floor up. The after party involving just us whiteys went down in the boat, and Dusty’s present to Herve of a bottle of Chivas Reagle (the details of which could fill a book on their own) got a punishing, before the inaugural Le Saintes Naked Midnight Bombing Grand Prix was held on (or should I say off) the aft deck. The water is so warm that we could’ve easily stayed in there all night. And we nearly bloody did.  Eventually Dusty took honors in the competition with his “horsies” that defied the very fabric of naked midnight divebombing in their sheer tenacity. We bonded as only men who have shared an amazing journey, and have seen each other drunk and naked, can bond. I have memories of trying to set Herve’s spectacular belly on fire with Chivas and a lighter – all in good fun of course.

French Caribbean tradmarks, accras (deep fried codballs) and Boutaine (??) sausage @ Chez Lulu, Deshaies.

Now, the food. Oh my god. Caribbean creole cooking is debatably even better than the Portugese variety we got in the Verdes. And now I am firmly hooked on Ti-punch, basically a massive shot of local white rum (50%) with a big teaspoon of cane sugar and a squeeze of lime. If surroundings count for how good a drink tastes then I could’ve sat happily at (any of) the (many) bar(s) with a bucket of diesel, seriously though, I feel the dire need for you all to understand the sheer genius of this drink. But I guess you’ll just have to see for yourselves. I am currently amassing an arsenal of rum punch recipes to unleash in a double strike on a cold and unsuspecting Christmas Tokyo and a summer Christmas in Tassie. Look out.
It’s not the season at the moment, but there are mango trees, bananas, star fruit, and breadfruit. French bread and wine also grow on trees. In the water there are lots of fish. I jumped off the boat and found a little shark directly below me, probably wondering what the bloody noise was. There are turtles and pelicans that divebomb fish in the sea right in front of you. Massive frigate birds circle over head, waiting to hassle other birds with a less-than-secure grip on the fish in their mouth. There are literally thousands of massive conch shells discarded on the seabed, on the beach, decorating people’s gardens, polished and sold in stores. The conch is the coral vacuum cleaner. They eat the algae that would otherwise suffocate the corals. The people have taken too many conches and now the reefs are basically dying. Each conch take somewhere around 500 years to get to full size. The human race’s inherent talent for fucking the earth up is pretty astounding sometimes. But good luck trying to tell someone to stop doing something they’ve been doing for generations. Any whale fan living in Japan knows what I mean.

Deshaies anchorage, northwest corner of Guadelope. Le petit Jesu!
Adagio is at centre, of course.

The view of a Le Saintes evening swim, and the site of the official
Le Saintes Naked Midnight Bombing Grand Prix.

Friday, December 9th, 2011
Le Saintes – Guadeloupe - Antigua

Moving from Le Saintes to Guadeloupe, we pulled into Deshaies (“day-ay”) another gorgeous little fishing town. The first bar we walked into on the first night ended up becoming our base of operations in Deshaies. Ti-punchs, tapas and pizzas. Cool staff. We also met Eric there. Eric is a friendly French local dude who matched us drink for drink and then some. Later in the night he mentioned some interesting stuff about how it isn’t always easy living here and dealing with the locals, with the occasional runaround being given out. Hmmm, trouble in paradise? But I guess nowhere is perfect.

Many a rum later, and with all four of the staff from the bar following in a separate car, Eric and I drove around the headland (Dusty had probably wisely made his tactical withdrawal right as things started to fire up) to another beach where there was an amazing bar, the Green Cafe. 

150% percent Caribbean, with three dudes belting out some wicked French Caribbean Reggae, the proudly dreadlocked vocalist introducing himself to me as Thee Lion of Thee Caribi-an mon! Sunburnt people much like myself sweated it up on the floor and quenched thirst with rum and tequila and all kinds of fruity mixers. I ended up at Eric’s place somewhere in the hills for a jam session afterwards, damn good guitarist!
After five rums, two beers and four tequilas, and before he remembered that he had to teach in 4 hours we had promised to meet at the pizza n rum bar the next night and have a jam. He didn’t show. I know exactly why.

I woke up still very pissed. Nevertheless, despite basically being told that we were crazy by a couple of locals, we acted on a rumour of a secret waterfall a km or 2 up a river on a hill. Sounded like a pretty decent hangover cure. We found it. Try and imagine a secret waterfall behind a boulder at the back of a cave-like ravine holding a cool pool of water. That picture in your mind right now, we were there! It was straight out of a movie on how awesome the tropics are, perhaps enhanced just a little by my hospital-grade painkiller-induced sense of tranquility.

The cavern...

Those aren't white undies

The view out. gollum!

The funny thing was,  hardly any locals even seemed to know it was there.
This rumble in the jungle was nicely topped of with a chicken Colombo and a beer at Creole mecca Chez Lulu, then later it was back to the bar for more rums, pizza and tapas. I couldn’t but notice the staff were noticeably slower that night, refusing every my every offer of more rum. But that’s OK, this is the Caribbean. Nothing happens quickly.

We will be in Antigua in 4 hours. Next!

The view from Chez Lulu. Pelican divebombing fish left right and center.

Riding the breath of the gods to new lands! Kind of. Somewhere near Monseraat. (spelling?)

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant mate...really enjoying these vicarious escapes from droldy Kyotes.
    Plz keep the historical accounts coming. Devil is in the details.
    Now excuse me while I go wank off to those scenery shots (although pics of local talent would be much appreciated).
    Take care of yourself and the other 2 Illustrious Nude Dive Bombers