Trip Start May 13, 2008
128Trip End Ongoing
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So I persuaded the hotel owner to phone the English embassy and explain the situation - she then passed me over to probably the only other English person on the island who gave us some vague directions to their HQ. Lucky this island is ridiculously small. When we turned up it was a couple of tiny rooms on the second floor above a clothes shop in the outer suburbs of Fort-de-France - that's how popular this place is with English people! Anyway - by some sort of freak luck, someone had handed it in to the police at the airport, so we were off back there to pick it up. I'd pretty much written it off and was busy thinking about a plan B, or indeed shouldering the cost of an emergency passport! Thank god France must be one of the only places in the world where it is more shameful than valuable to nick off with a British passport!
Crisis averted and with several slaps on my wrist we were then making our way north up the coast to St Pierre. Like everything in this country it was deceptively close, but with numerous winding roads meandering through the hills adding time to the journey. I know it's low season, but really, there's barely anyone here. Which is brilliant but where are all the places to stay? Slightly stumped for that, we headed into St Pierre, which sits beneath Montagne Pelee, an active volcano that practically destroyed the town in the early 20th century. We stopped for lunch by the water which again confirmed my suspicions that France is the most carnivorous nation in the world, with pretty much nothing on the meny that I could eat! So I had some bread and avocado patee whilst Gam had a giant plate of red snapper and Caribbean veggies.
We went back down the coast to look for somewhere to stay and hit a little gold mine right next to one of the best beaches, Anse Turin. We had a little bungalow with outdoor kitchenette for 50 euros a night - a steal really for this country. It may have had a giant spider in the bathroom but it was literally 100 feet from the beach. Still nursing some sunburn I mostly cowered under the trees for shade all afternoon.
As the sun began to go down we got in the water for an early evening dip and watched the sunset on the beach - absolutely gorgeous, serene, enticing, and everything you expect a Caribbean sunset to be, it has to be said.
The next day it was spotting on and off with rain and we were making our way into it, into the high country and the Route de Trace. To start we checked our the ruins of St Pierre which are very well integrated into the town as it stands today. Slightly ominous really as the volcano still looms eerily in the background, threatening to strike again. There is a small museum and fortification on the hillside, and also an old theatre and jail.
The road took us up towards Morne Rouge and then cut down through the centre of the country and luscious rainforest. We stopped halfway down and caught a couple of walking trails out to a waterfall.
We then attempted a rather more ambitious hike, which unfortunately failed rather dismally but amusingly. The guidebook that I had indicated there were a number of hiking trails up the Pitons du Carbet, and when we followed the signs from the car park the trail quickly became completely impassable (see picture below). Had we possessed a machete, I'm not even sure the "trail" would have resembled a walkable trail. Probably for the best as it was getting extremely hot and sticky.
Our fallback plan - to the beach of course! The weather was less good today - which was all the better for swimming and playing on the beach. We spent the afternoon on Anse Turin again until a thunderstorm just after sunset drove us back to the bungalow.
For dinner we tried out the restaurant at the hotel, which was also very much deficient in vegetarian options, although they did come up with the standard offering - chevre chaud avec de salade.
The north was great, but with the weather the way it was we decided to head back down south for the next couple of days, fingers crossed for sunshine.