Explore St Lucia
1 PIGEON ISLAND
We are not big hikers or marathon runners. But after a few days of drinking rum punch and eating some of the most delicious food we ever had while on vacation we felt guilty. We had looked at the beautiful gym on our way to and from the Spa. But it was not exactly our idea of a Caribbean vacation to spend an hour in an air-conditioned room. To get that feel-good factor we decided to explore St Lucia.
That is why we talked to Kenisia at the Calabash Cove concierge desk. We wanted an outdoor activity, that did not take us away from the beach for an entire day. Kenisia said: did you bring any walking shoes? Lucky for us we had brought some sneakers along. She then told us about Pigeon Island and park. This little peninsula is located in the north of St. Lucia app. 20 minutes from Calabash Cove. It seemed a reasonable start to explore St Lucia, so off we went.
OFF WE GO
Kenisia called a Taxi and we went to put on our sneakers. Back at the concierge we were introduced ta Sadique our Taxi driver. On the ride past Rodney Bay Village and the Rodney Bay marina, Sadique told us a little about the area and we learned about the “ARC” Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. Once at Pigeon island we paid EC$5.00 ($2 USD) each to enter the park and started our hike up to Pigeon point.
On the way we stopped at several ruins, with signs that told of English and French sea battles, ammunition storage and officers’ quarters. Who would have thought that 200 years ago sailors used hemp ropes to pull thousands of pounds of heavy canons from their ships up the mountain? All to protect the sea passage between St Lucia and Martinique.
These sailors were not wearing comfortable sneakers and quick drying micro fibre shirts. Imagine doing that work in clumsy heavy boots or even barefoot and in thick linen coats. Never mind that they also had no guard rails to hold on, the way we did!
VIEW TO A KILL
As we came closer to the top spectacular view across Rodney Bay open up. There were dozens of small sailboats anchored in the sheltered bay. To top all of this off was the incredible 360 degrees view from the highest point. With our bare eyes we could see cars driving along the coast in Martinique. After all it was only a mere 20+ miles from Saint Lucia.
As we sat there recovering from the climb, we thought about Pigeon island coming alive for St Lucia’s annual Jazz festival. Thousands of visitors from overseas visit for what is billed the biggest party in the Caribbean. Over the last 20 years performers like Kenny G, R. Kelly, Herbie Hancock, Courtney Pine, George Benson, Santana, The Isley Brothers, UB40, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Luther Vandross, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, Angie Stone, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross have at different times entertained the crowds. Many reasons indeed to come back to this beautiful Island.
There was however one thing wrong sitting at the top of a mountain. We were getting hot and thirsty. So down we went in search for one of the 2 small beaches at the bottom. As it happens, we passed right by “jambe de bois” (peg leg in French) and never made it to the beach where a young couple was about to get married. That cold Pition beer was just too tempting. Sadique and the drive back to Calabash Cove just had to wait…..
Diving St Lucia
Have you ever thought about writing a blog? Sitting on the beach at Calabash Cove nurturing my first Pina Colada for the day I decide it’s time. While daydreaming watching the boats go by, a dive boat came by and picked up snorkelers in front of us. They seemed excited about their upcoming adventure and so I resolved that my first blog would be “Diving St Lucia”
Finding a beautiful leather bound book at the concierge, I saw it contained information about diving St Lucia. We had both dived a couple of years ado but as luck would have it, we had our PADI certification cards with us. When I inquired about the process, it was all straight forward.
LET’S GO DIVE
We could book the dive and present our certification credentials while answering a few questions to ensure we were fit to dive. So we arranged that for the next morning. Once we were signed up we were offered the chance of a wreck diveif we were ok with that. Naturally we were excited about that. The Lesleen M. is an old freighter that had been sunk close to the St Lucian coast at Anse Cochon.
It is all very easy.Your SCUBA gear is readily available on the dive boat. Mike the dive master told us the water was app. 28 degrees Celsius or 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So diving St Lucia is like is taking a warm bath.
THE BOAT TRIP
Once the boat leaves the dock and Rodney Bay behind a wonderful sea to land vista opens up. On special mornings like these with the sun up, the sky blue and the breeze cooling and laden with the scent of salt, you feel life is very much OK.
Before we knew it, we arrive at the dive site. It was time for a briefing on the dive and a refresher on the most common underwater signals to be used. The dive team instruct all not to touch anything and to follow the old diver’s motto “take only pictures and leave only bubbles”. This is as true for when diving St Lucia or anywhere else in the world.
The wreck of the “Lesleen ‘M’ sits in 65 feet or 20 meters of clear Caribbean Sea. Leaving the boat and then holding on to the mooring rope, we descended and established neutral buoyancy. Mike had told us there would be lots of fish. From previous dives in the Caribbean we had kept our expectations in check. Today however marine life surrounds us more that we could ever have hoped for. Yellow and Black striped Sergeant Majors were everywhere!
Once at the bottom of the ship, a more detailed exploration can start. Circling the ship we see a variety of Parrot Fish, Yellow Goatfish, Trumpetfish, a variety of Wrass, a large Lionfish, 2 Lobsters, banded Shrimps, large Angelfish, a school of blue Tangs, a very large Blowfish, Durgons, Triggerfish, a school of Squirrelfish and a whole lot more. To many to count and all too often unknown to me by name.
Before we knew it the 40 minutes of bottom time was up and we were ascending to our safety stop depth. Back on the boat the dive crew brought out some sandwiches and the original Caribbean power bars – bananas. If you felt energy before the dive, you should have seen and felt the dynamics now. It sounded like an adrenaline laced mixture of did you see…, I saw …., I can’t believe…., that ….. was incredible and of course, are you going again?
Back at Calabash Cove we spent most of the late afternoon comparing mental notes about our dive adventure. Adrian had promised to send me a short underwater video or two of our dive.
And guess what? I had my first blog…
Author: Joe diver
Climbing the pitons
There’s hardly a week goes by without some of our guests at Calabash Cove would ask me “have you done it”? Done what-I say? Gone SCUBA diving? Been to the Gros Islet Friday night street party? Walked the rain forest birdwatching? Flown through the tree tops zip lining? No, none of the above. It was always the same question. Have you climbed the St Lucia Pitons?
The time had come to put myself in a position to say: yes of course, I have climbed the St Lucia Pitons.
So here I was slipping quietly into my hiking clothes arranged neatly to the side of the bedroom. I was also trying not to wake my wife at the ungodly hour of 5.30 am on a Saturday morning.
After all, good European I was, I would not be late for a 6.00 am rendezvous with the other climbers. I was sitting at the mall, waiting for my friends to arrive and finally the bus to turn up 40 minutes late. We boarded the comfortable bus and the driver mumbled something like…..they always tell me at the last minute I have a trip! As we were at different stages of awareness, it did not bother many. After all, had the bus been on time, some of our group would have missed out. Island time, mooohn.
As part of our resolve to conquer the mountain, power bars were consumed. Others slept to catch up on the lost sleep from Friday night.
St Lucia Pitons
We arrived in Soufriere safely. After paying our fee to our guide, we assembled in front of a model of the St Lucia Pitons for a briefing of our adventure. In addition to being allocated a guide we were advised to take at least 2 bottles of water each.
In single file we headed out on the trail. Initially traversing large boulders before reaching the real bottom of the St Lucia Pitons, 5 minutes later. We had a first close up look at the steep incline ahead of us. Small groups of us established themselves into teams as we all tried to find out own pace. After all this was not a race. Initially our stops were infrequent and we made good progress to the first spectacular lookout facing the south coast of Saint Lucia.
Reaching the halfway point after about 45minutes we were rewarded with the most spectacular view of Petit Piton across a blue Caribbean Sea. Time to pass around a few snacks and sweets and allow us all to catch up and re-group. Some of our more mature companions announced that this would be as far as they could go and they made themselves comfortable as we headed on up to the peak.
Over the next hour our steps were ever so slightly smaller and taller, the boulders larger and larger and the trail steeper and steeper. This also meant the stops became more and more frequent. By now it was a question of who would make it and who would prefer to just chill in the shade with a spectacular view, before heading back down to base.
With spirits high, the top felt moments away. Every turn promised to reveal the peak, only to show another step and another turn in the steep trail. By now the roots, small saplings and rudimentary built roughly hewn railings had become our friends.
And then, all of a sudden the trees seemed to turn into shrubs and then there were no more trees, just blue sky with cumulous clouds. The top suddenly flattened out and we were at the peak, the weight of our back packs no longer noticeable. We waited for the 19 out of 26 climbers that had started to summit.
The group was all smiles, everybody was reaching for their smart phone to take pictures. In the absence of a cellular signal, the world waited for the good news that we had made it. One of our French friends had carried a delicious chocolate cake to the top while others shared candies, nuts, fresh and dried fruits.
Before we know it, it’s time to head back down. While the climb had taken the greater part of 2 hours, descending was quicker, completed in half the time and all I seem to remember is how wobbly I felt in my legs. Reaching the base was a welcome moment and sitting on a beautiful grassy patch to stretch legs and gaze at the clouds we seemed to have been so much closer just a short hour ago, we were happy. It surely turned out to be a day never to be forgotten.
And guess what? When now asked, have you done it? The answer is yes of course, are you going to do it too?
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