St. Lucia is one of those places that many people dream about visiting. The whole island is absolutely gorgeous, both from the water and on land, and it is said to have some of the most magnificent beaches in the world. That said, we were quite apprehensive about going.
In the weeks leading up to our leaving Martinique, we had heard about a slew of robberies targeting sailboats, particularly their dinghies. Most of these incidents occurred in Rodney Bay, home to a large marina, many shops and restaurants, and lots of beaches. We decided to forego these perks and go straight to Marigot Bay, the next anchorage on the western side of the island.
We have to admit that our first impression of the island was not a positive one. Upon arriving in Marigot Bay, we radioed the marina and asked to tie up to one of their mooring balls. We had trouble understanding the person on the other end, but at least got that we were to look out for someone in a blue shirt. As we entered the lagoon, there was the blue-shirted guy approaching us in his dinghy, and we followed him to a mooring ball in front of the marina. We were quite excited about this marina, since it was part of Capella Resort and had amazing facilities like a swimming pool and showers (as much as we love how little water we use onboard with our solar shower, we admittedly get super excited about private showers with unlimited water). We paid our guy for two nights on the mooring ball, already relishing the thought of a hot shower. We then went ashore to clear in and register with the marina. Imagine our surprise when we learned that we were not in fact on a marina mooring, but rather on a private one managed by someone else entirely, and therefore we would unfortunately not have access to the pool and bathrooms. Frankly, we were pissed. We had radioed the marina specifically and they had said nothing when someone else responded. So in the end we paid the same price for a mooring ball, with none of the services. Cruisers, be forewarned!
Faced with such disappointment, we did what any other cruiser would do. We went to the pool anyway. And it was glorious.
We even surreptitiously used their showers after. It was exactly what we needed to warm up a bit to St. Lucia.
A couple of days later, our friends from S/V Calicoba came and picked up a marina mooring ball, and we rafted up with them, splitting the costs. We then were able to use the showers guilt-free 😉
Our Australian friends also arranged to go on a tour of the island one afternoon and invited us to join them. We all piled into our driver Julian’s van which whisked us through lush rainforests and along coastal roads affording amazing views of small fishing villages and isolated beaches. In the rainforests, it felt like being in Jurassic Park, with plummeting valleys and tall peaks, all covered in ferns, bamboo and other tropical foliage. I was just waiting to see pterodactyls flying overhead.
Our first stop was to pick up some coconut from a road-side vendor. Later, after we’d all quenched our thirst with the fresh coconut water, we stopped so Julian could hack open the coconuts with a machete, revealing their yummy flesh.
We also stopped for a great view of St. Lucia’s famous Pitons, twin peaks that are lava domes formed 250,000 years ago by tectonic plate movement. Apparently climbing the Pitons makes for an incredibly rewarding (but looooooong) hike, but we were more than happy to be lazy and just enjoy the view.
We then stopped at the Sulphur Springs Park. First we had a guided tour of the caldera, smoking from the heat of the dormant volcano. The French used to mine it for sulphur but it is now a protected world heritage site. [Sidenote: did you know that St. Lucia changed hands between the French and English 14 times??] During the tour, Mel had a hard time getting past the stench of hydrogen sulphide, all too reminiscent of that time our waste tank exploded.
Next we stripped down to our bathing suits for a volcanic mud bath. We waded into waist-deep steaming hot mud, letting it squish between our toes and other parts when we sat down to be fully submersed. When we got out, we lathered on a different mud and let it dry, which is said to have fabulous detoxifying properties. After a final dip in another mud pool, we finally rinsed off, leaving us feeling rejuvenated and our skin feeling lovely and smooth, albeit with a remnant hint of sulphur.
Apparently we had luxuriated in the mud bath for just a tad too long, and we arrived at Diamond Falls just as it was closing. We abated our disappointment with a walk through the gardens, admiring the peaceful beauty of the place.
On our long journey home (on these mountainous islands, distances seem so short on a map yet so long in actual practice), Julian must have heard our stomachs rumbling, so he stopped at a cassava joint, which was really just a small shack by the side of the road. Here, they grind cassava into a flour and make patties that are cooked in banana leaves on a large rounded hot stone. YUM! These dense cakes with just a hint of sweetness was practically a meal for two, but was exactly what we needed to get us back to the boat.
In the end, we got over our original first impression and came to really enjoy our time in St. Lucia, but after five days, it was time to move on. We set the alarm for an ungodly hour, and dropped our lines from the mooring ball at 5:30 a.m. We appreciated the beautiful early-morning views of the Pitons as we headed south towards the Grenadines.
Where the wind takes us next: Bequia, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines!