Saturday, February 8, 2014

Boat People

Day 3. 
Needing more adventure after a day of recovery, we had signed up for the Jammer Tour.  This entailed a ride on a catamaran boat that holds up to 60 people, taking us across the Caribbean to view the Pitons, a stop-over at the city of Souffriere to visit the “drive-through volcano” and a cocoa plantation, lunch, followed by a what was billed as a relaxing swim at a private cove on the way back.  It was an all day tour. 
Our boat was filled with fellow Windjammer Landing tourists.  Meeting fellow tourists (usually identified by our white skin), the same line of questioning followed, much like it does in college.  Instead of, “What’s your major?” we asked, “Where are you from?”  The first couple I noticed as we waited to launch was a physical replica of my brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Denise.  The husband was a bit goofy and large while his red-headed wife was quite slender.  The Southern accents clinched their likeness as my brother has a pronounced drawl and his wife is a Texan.  
On the Jammer Tour, Pitons behind us
We initially sat under the cover of the boat, wanting to avoid sunburn.  There I got to know the “pregnant couple”.  The wife was 7-months along, two small children at home.  They were from Nevada, originally from Utah.  We seemed to run into the pregnant couple everywhere that week, including on the flight home.   We never once asked each other’s names though.  Once the boat got under way and the sea became more cantankerous, we moved to the bow, sun be damned I was not going to risk sea-sickness.   There I was sitting next to middle-aged couples travelling together, from Brooklyn.  When I raised my eyebrows at hearing the word Brooklyn, the woman quickly explained, “But we’re originally from Russia; that’s where the accent comes from.  Twenty-six years in States, but I can’t lose the accent.”  The one African-American couple on board was quite young, from Atlanta via New York.  Other scantily-clad thirty-something couples lay out on the bow, catching rays.  The one that caught my eye was a man reading his cell phone while his wife read magazines she’d brought.  How sad, I thought.  You’re on a boat in the Caribbean Sea, surrounded by natural beauty, and you can’t put the cell phone down? 
Text to wife, "Isn't this fun?"  Wife: "Leave me alone, I'm reading Vogue."
We saw St. Lucia’s landmark mountains, the Pitons, affectionately referred to as “Helen’s breasts”.  Landing in Castries, we split into groups and boarded mini-busses which took us through town and up the mountain to the volcano.  Well, volcano is really a misstatement.  It’s sulphur springs, much like what they have at Yellowstone Park.  The traditional coned walls of the volcano had come down centuries ago, exposing the inside; stinky, rotten-egg smelling, boiling water. 
This is billed as the World's Only Drive-through Volcano
 The plant-life on the tour was very interesting.  The ferns are way bigger than ours; mango, banana and coconut trees are abundant.  Orchids and poinsettia grow naturally.  The animal life was lacking, being that St. Lucia is an island, most of their animals are domestic.  We saw one seagull and no squirrels or pigeons.  We were told that the snakes were brought over a couple of centuries ago to intimidate the slaves at the time.  When the snake population grew out of control, the mongoose was introduced to kill off the snakes.  Way to go, White People.  The only other wild animals mentioned were opossum, wild pigs that used to be domesticated, and a parrot.  We saw none of those.  We did see chickens in the road and very sad, emaciated, sickly street dogs.   I fantasized about moving to St. Lucia and establishing a dog rescue or bringing the small cats back home with me to start a new breed of small cats in the States called the St. Lucian.

After the volcano, we were bussed up the hill to a buffet lunch held at a covered, outdoor pavilion.  The mountain was steep and bus was challenged enough that at one point we thought we’d have to get out and push.  Our driver cut off the air conditioning so the engine wasn’t so taxed.  The buffet area was so crowded with fellow tourists that the staff called tables up to get in line one at a time.  We didn’t expect much for quality here, but the food was delicious.  From there we traveled to the Fond Doux cocoa plantation where we learned just how long it takes to process cocoa beans and that their major contract for cocoa is Hershey. 
Docking in Souffriere
Back down the mountain to our waiting catamaran.  The boat took us to our promised private cove so we could enjoy a swim or snorkel.  As our boat prepared to anchor, three canoes approached with men hawking their wares, beaded necklaces and conch shells.  We politely turned down the canoe pirates as we got in the water.  They were impossible to ignore, shouting that they were cheaper than Walmart.  These guys stayed with our boat the entire time we were anchored, hanging onto the side, calling the entire time.  So much for a peaceful swim.  We couldn’t wait to get out of there. 
Even with the hawkers, we felt like the Jammer Tour was a great deal as we got to do a lot of different things and met several fellow tourists that we would continue to get to know throughout the week.  I loved that they played real island music on the boat, even Christmas reggae.  St. Lucian bananas were offered as a snack (the best bananas we've ever eaten, ever), and of course, rum punch.
 Next: Segs on the Beach


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