Thursday, April 21, 2016

A day trip around Martinique with friends

One of many flowers at mountaintop botanical gardens
Recently friends invited us to accompany them on a day trip driving around the island of Martinique.  They had rented a car and it was barely large enough to accommodate the 3 of them plus the 2 of us.  Cramped quarters but manageable.  We joined Hassan, Zeyrha and Fatma of boat Kandiba for a day of land sight-seeing.  Bill and I had rented a car here years ago and had already seen the entire island, but that was so long ago that this day was a new adventure.  Plus, Hassan did all the driving; thus providing Bill an opportunity to actually see the island rather than just watching the road and other vehicles.

Bill strolling in front of the old church at top of a mountain.  
First stop was a very old church at the top of a mountain.  There was no literature available onsite which could have provided information about this church and I have not had sufficient internet access to research it.  But it appeared to be quite Caribbean island churches go.  Views down the mountainside were pretty even on such a gray and dreary day.  The skies drizzled off an on all day long.  The name of this church was Misericordieux Comme Le Pierre.
The Virgin Mary and Jesus are black.  Why not.

Not too far down the road we stopped for a nice creole lunch at a restaurant called the Bamboo.  Hassan refused to allow us to pay for a thing all day, as he insisted we were his guests.  This attitude likely is a Turkish custom.  We felt a little guilty about that as it is customary among cruisers to share expenses on these type outings and we felt a little like we were not pulling our own weight.   Lunch was good, but the creole cooking here on Martinique does not remotely resemble creole cooking found in Louisiana.  The Louisiana version is much spicier; and, frankly, much more to our tastes.  The creole foods here on Martinique are quite bland in our opinions.  I find this a little odd because they also cook with Scotch bonnet peppers and these are very hot.  Guess we just have not ordered the right foods to taste the spiciness. 

Stream at gardens
Our 'guide'.  Beautiful girl.
After lunch and a bit farther down that upper mountain road we came to some large botanical gardens.   We walked the grounds until rain began again and then we ducked into one of the informational buildings, sort of like a museum.  In one area there were a few video presentations.  These were all in French except one which was narrated in English and had French subtitles.  A little local girl stood with us and 'explained' many of the things discussed in the video.  She was adorable.  Loved her self-confidence and attitude.

Anchorage at St. Pierre.  Note the black sand beach.
The rain stopped and we moved on, farther down that upper mountain road and then twisting and turning down to the seaside at St. Pierre, where we found those famous black sand beaches.  The sand is black, even after more than a century, because of the ash blown down during the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee.  I blogged about Mt. Pelee back in 2006 or 2007, so will not write about that again.  Readers can research that volcanic eruption if further interested.

Canon atop the wall of the old French fort appear to aim at
the cruising sailboats in the anchorage at St. Pierre.
This is a nice anchorage on the northwestern side of Martinique.  In 2007 when sailing from Dominica to Martinique our prop became fouled with an old fishing net section which must have been floating submerged.  When we got into the lee of Martinique the winds died and we turned on the engine and discovered that the blades of our auto-prop could not spin.  We again put out full sail and it appeared that we were making slow forward progress.  But our electronic chart showed that in reality we were being forced toward the rocky shore faster than we were making forward progress.  We put the dinghy in the water and tied it just behind the beam on the port side and used the outboard motor to propel BeBe.  Actually got the big boat up to over 3.5 knots speed over ground!  Once at St. Pierre, Bill kitted up and dove to check the prop and discovered a huge ball of netting wrapped around it.  He cut it away and problem was solved.  That day is when we decided that we would never have an outboard engine so small that it could not be used to propel BeBe during an emergency.  That also was the last time we had visited St. Pierre until the day of this road trip.
Our new 3D dinghy and new 10 HP Honda outboard engine.
Photo taken at Rodney Bay Marina last month.

Bill, Hassan, Zehrya and Fatma at St. Pierre

After St.Pierre we drove down the western coast of the island to the main city of Fort du France, where we found a large shopping mall so Hassan and family could shop for a few items.  Bill lucked out and found a sportswear store and was able to buy several of those ultra-thin shirts that wick moisture and are so cool.  He also found some shorts in this material.  He now is all set for the hot weather of summer.

From Fort du France we headed east to return to Le Marin.  We stopped at a local roadside produce vendor and purchased a few things just as it was getting dark.  For what it is worth, the fruits and vegetables here are about 5 times the cost of similar items in Turkey.  And the selection here is very limited and usually poor quality.  Recently we started to buy a cantaloupe in a local supermarket.  We weighed it and printed out the price label.  11.16 euro for a single cantaloupe!!!  That is $12.68 USD for a single normal sized cantaloupe!  We put it back in the melon bin; refused to pay that absurd price for a simple cantaloupe.  The only bargain on these French islands are the daily baguettes.  Everything else is priced high, just like on all the other islands.  People planning to cruise down here need to be aware of how expensive things cost.  The popular idea promoted on sailing forums that one can cruise on $500 or $1,000 per month is totally unrealistic.  Food alone will cost more than $500 per month for only 2 people.

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