4-27-2013 DAY 112 CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA

One of the trademarks of our Captain is that he is never late.  And even with the three hour delay leaving Devil’s Island, he had us in Castries, St. Lucia right on schedule.  We came from the southern part of the island and sailed north toward Castries, the capital and main city on the island. 

The “trademark” of this island is its twin peaks – Gros Piton andP1190694 Petit Piton (now a UNESCO World Heritage site.)  These two “spikes” of lava which reach a height of over 2,500 feet have been a sailor’s landmark for hundreds of years.   When we were here before, we saw them from a different angle and in a different light as it was later in the day.  While this is a good picture of them, the ones I took some years ago actually show how green the slopes of these Pitons really are.

A few quick facts about this tropical island in the Caribbean:  St. Lucia is another island peak in the Windward chain created by the still active volcano, La Soufriere, which is a bubbling, sulfurous mass with the distinction of being the only “drive-in” volcano in the world.  The island is 27 miles long and 14 miles across with a population of 145,000.  While the island was originally settled by the peaceful Arawak Indians from S. America, the war-like Carib Indians came in and took over until they met their match when the Europeans arrived.  The British and French spent many years fighting over this island, which finally gained its independence, but the influence of both of these countries is still found throughout the island.

The sail-around the island was beautiful.  Because the island is P1190656volcanic and has slopes that soar from the sea to the central mountain spine crested by Morne Gimie (3,117 ft.), and because it is so green and lush, I spent a lot of time on the deck taking pictures.  Unfortunately, because of the position of the sun, the pictures didn’t do justice to the beauty of this island.  BUT, all of us on deck were treated to one of the best dolphin sightings.P1190693  There were huge groups of dolphin swimming and jumping all around our ship.  I have never seen so many jump so high.  I have a great video clip of it, but here is just a sample picture which really doesn’t show the great jumping or the huge group they were.

Since Doug and I had been here before and had done the whole island tour, and since it was our last port of call, we decided to try to go out on our own and enjoy a relaxing day at a beach where we could hopefully snorkel.  We met two other couples who were looking to do the same.  When we found out how far it was to the beaches near Soufriere (where I had read had the best snorkel beaches) we decided to go somewhere closer – Pigeon Island, where we had not been on our last visit here.  It was about a 20-30 minute drive north of Castries.  We had a great taxi driver who promised to return for us at 2 p.m.

The 40 acre island is joined to the mainland now by a causeway.  It is famous for its remnants of 18th century forts and ruins and century-old trees scattered over sprawling lawns.  But today wDSCN1329e were interested in the beach in Rodney Bay.  When we arrived, we paid to get into the national park and use their beach chairs.   It was a lovely walk on a dirt pathway to the beach area where we were told the snorDSCN1331keling was the best. When we arrived and looked up to one side of us, we could see part of the wall of Fort Rodney at the top of the hill.   It was not a long hike up, but we opted to stay on the beach.

This was truly a relaxing day – probably the most relaxing day we had off the ship during the whole trip.  Because we thought we would be at a different beach and had been told not to take anything valuable, we opted to only take our underwater camera today since it could be with us in the water.  However, what I didn’t remember was I had taken out the chip the week before when I was working on making more space for pictures on my computer.  So, I could only take about a dozen pictures – the amount that the battery would store.  At first I was upset that I wouldn’t be able to take the hundreds and hundreds of pictures I usually take on our excursions.  But then I realized that not being able to takeDSCN1330 as many pictures was actually very “freeing.”  I was able to sit back and truly enjoy the beauty around me – the birds singing, the sound of the water, and the wonderful view we had from our beach chairs!

It turned out the water was a bit murky and there were no fish and no coral reefs.  We later learned that all the coral had been removed years ago to build the causeway between the island andDSCN1335 mainland.  So, while the snorkeling was a bust, the beach was wonderful.  We decided to get a bite to eat at the little park café called Jambe de Bois just a few minutes walk away.   We had a great outdoor table with a wonderful view of the bay.  DSCN1336Doug enjoyed a local Piton beer!  [I still have my bottle from the last time we were here!]  After my rum Diable on Devil’s Island, I opted for a diet coke!  This is the view looking back at our beach area.  In the distance, you can see one of the Sandal resorts with its red roofs.  While we were having lunch, we saw a couple of their catamarans dropping off their guests in the bay for swimming and snorkeling.  Needless to say, they didn’t stay very long!  Before we left, I asked what Jambe de Bois meant.  They showed me a little wooden statue of a sailor with a wooden peg leg!  It means, “wooden leg!” 

After we spent a few hours reading and just enjoying time away from the hustle and bustle of the ship and all the people, it was time to meet our taxi driver.  And true to his word, he was there.  Right outside the park area was another beach where there were huge waves.  It would have been great for surfers except that the beach where they would end up was nothing but craggy volcanic rocks.  It was fun to just watch these huge swells come in (didn’t get a pic!) 

Our driver decided to take us on a more scenic way back to the ship.  So, we went through some beautiful residential areas DSCN1338(where the more wealthy residents had homes) to the top of a hill where we had a view of part of the island – and in the distance, Pigeon Island.  From this viewpoint, we could see how the causeway joined the island with the mainland as well as the hill where Fort Rodney was located – and why it would have been a good place to build a fort for protection from invaders. 

On the way back, our driver stopped by a cashew tree and showed us how they grew.  In this picture, the greenish pepper lookingDSCN1343 thing hangs from the tree with the brown nut shell on top of it.  If you take the shell off and open it, you get the white nut inside.  Until it is cleaned and processed, the oil from it can burn your skin.  It was an interesting lesson. 

When we got back to the ship, we had about an hour to look at the little shops at the pier (not enough time to go back into the town of Castries.)  It was a very nice area.  We really weren’t looking for much so it was fun just to browse around.  This is the island where Ted and Heather had honeymooned, so we had hoped to find a P1190707picture of the Pitons to bring back to them – but we only found them on a postcard!  And of course, we found that WiFi café – one of Doug’s favorite stops on any excursion!!!

It must have sprinkled while we were computing because when we left to get back on the ship, we saw this large rainbow.  IP1190714 thought it was an auspicious “sign” – a great last port and a great journey.   As we were ready to get back on the ship, I suddenly realized that this would be the last time we would walk up the gangway to board the ms P1190720Amsterdam.  The next time, we would be getting off in Ft. Lauderdale.  So, one last picture of this momentous (and a bit teary) moment!

We went to our last sail away.  I now had my regular camera back in hand and the lighting was much better.  So, here are a few pictures of the island as we sailed away. P1190723 

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The first is the town of Castries which we didn’t even see this time. The second shows the airport at Castries (the smaller of the two on the island) and how you don’t want to miss that landing strip!  The third is just a great view of the island and harbor as we get further away. And the last not only shows the last we saw of the Pitons, but also shows how quickly it got dark as we sailed away. 

We grabbed a quick dinner in the Lido since we had missed our 5:30 dinner in the dining room.  We were happily tired after our time in the fresh air and water and went to bed early.  Great day, great last port! 

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