Exploring new heights with friends

We see how much we can pack into 9 days, including hiking a volcano in Guadeloupe and diving in Dominica!

Once our water tanks were full again and our laundry clean, we were ready to welcome our friends JP and Kellen on board. We were anchored at Gosier, a small island about three miles from the major center of Pointe-à-Pitre.

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Map c/o worldatlas.com
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Gosier panorama

We had rented a car to run boat-related errands before JP and Kellen arrived, so with the chores out of the way we were able to get straight to sight-seeing the day after their flight. That day’s challenge was hiking La Soufrière, Guadeloupe’s tallest mountain and also an active volcano which last erupted in 1976. While Guadeloupe may look like a small island, it’s actually the largest in the Leeward Island chain, and it took us over an hour to get from Gosier to the start of the hike in Bains-Jaunes. The drive up to the parking lot was an adventure in itself, with roads barely wide enough for one car to climb on an insane incline,  let alone to make room for another descending. Kudos to our chauffeur David for showing us what the Peugeot 208 is made of!

The first part of the hike was quite civilized, with stairs carved into the rocks. After about 25 minutes, we came to a flat, paved area, which we assumed was an old parking lot. At that point the hike got a little more involved. No more stairs, just paths over the rocks and soil worn down by decades of hikers. This lasted about 55 minutes, with rain pelting down on us on more than one occasion (luckily we had come prepared with rain gear).  Every now and then, we’d get whiffs of rotten eggs, reminding us of what awaited us at the top. The last 10 minutes of the hike was practically hand-over-hand rock climbing in an eerie fog. But we all survived and were rewarded with an amazing view of…more fog. Which is apparently pretty common at 1467 m above sea level.

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15 minutes in, JP is off to a great start and Mel is either already trying to catch her breath or super focused on vegetation
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I swear this wasn’t posed
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Fog + lush rainforest
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They aren’t kidding when they say “rain”forest
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We made it to the top!

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After this intense three-hour hike, we decided to take the next day off and chill. We spent the morning on the boat then took the dinghy over to the island of Gosier, a Sunday hotspot for locals and tourists alike, with beaches, a snack bar and a lighthouse.

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View from the top
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The lighthouse at Gosier

After two days of land-based exploration, it was time to go sailing! We headed to the picturesque Saintes, a group of islands just 20 miles to the south.

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Great view of the mooring field in Terre-de-Haut captured by JP and Kellen during their hike (Mel and David were all hiked out and opted out)

At this point we decided to pick up the hook and continue our journey south to Dominica, where we’d heard the diving was amazing. The sail down was a bit challenging with the wind on the nose, but we made it well before sunset and as luck would have it, arrived in Portsmouth on a PAYS bbq day during Yachtie Appreciation Week! This meant free mooring balls and a night off cooking. This weekly bbq hosted by the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security is super popular with yachties as there is always plenty of food and plenty of rum punch, which generally leads to plenty of dancing. Since we were diving early the next morning and had learned the hard way the year before, we knew to limit ourselves in the rum punch department and leave by 10 p.m.

The next day we did two amazing dives with Cabrits Dive Centre. On the first dive, as soon as we were all in the water we saw a white octopus doing its best to blend in with the rocks on the seafloor, the sneaky trickster. Mel also spotted two sting rays that swam  alongside us for a few minutes. In between dives we were treated to coffee and home-baked loaf while waiting to decompress. The second dive at Toucari Cave was even better than the first. The colour of the coral was spectacular, as was the variety of fish. We saw eels bobbing out of coral heads trying to intimidate us with their teeth-baring grins, little coral shrimp doing their cleaning dance, and were escorted back to the boat by a few curious barracudas.

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With our dog posse in Portsmouth, Dominica

We spent one more day in Dominica before it was time to head back to Guadeloupe so JP and Kellen could catch their flight home. We sailed due north for 40 miles and dropped the hook near Ilet à Cochons just outside the marina in Pointe-à-Pitre.

On our last day together, we did the one thing everyone must do when visiting Guadeloupe: visiting the Memorial ACTe museum. Its permanent exhibition is dedicated to raising awareness of the dark history of slavery, exposing not only slavery in the Caribbean but around the world, and not only that of the past but also that of modern times. Throughout, the exhibit underscores the importance of human rights and how we must continue to fight for them. Despite stirring up feelings of anger by showing the despicable things humans will do to others for wealth and power, the museum left us feeling hopeful—hopeful that we can learn from our past and do better in the future. It was poignant, thought-provoking and particularly relevant in these times where intolerance and hate seem to be on the rise and hitting closer to home.

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Not only is the exhibit great, the museum itself is architecturally beautiful
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View of the inner courtyard

 

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Cruise ship playing hide and seek behind the museum
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A quiet Sunday at the museum

To send off JP and Kellen properly before they returned to the land of 8-feet tall snowbanks, we celebrated in style with a lobster dinner at La Frégate. It had been a jam-packed 10 days but we loved every minute of it!

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Where the wind takes us next: we turn around and head back north, with lots of stops along the way!

 

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