Exploring Guadeloupe in Some Depth

We rose early on Monday and managed to get under the north bridge over the Riviere Salee. However, our problems weren’t over as daylight was still two hours away, leaving us 30 minutes to pick our way through the dark river to the south bridge for its single opening de jour. A multitude of inlets and canals complicated the task, as did shallow water and an unlit buoy that almost grounded our vessel. In the end, we managed to get through the second bridge and into the ironically spacious Petit Cul-de-Sac Marin. Sadly, width does not equal depth, and we were forced to anchor and wait until daylight so we could navigate by sight.

At dawn, we pressed on, coming within inches of the bottom and finally anchoring outside Pointe-a-Pitre. We took a nap and then sought a better anchorage with a bit more breeze and a few less bugs, though quite a bit further from town. Our battle with the Riviere Salee behind us, we dove into Guadeloupe feet first. Leaving our dinghy at a nearby marina, we walked over a mile into the city and checked out the scene. A lunch of a baguette, cheese, and pate quickly became a cheap staple, and we frequently enjoyed it in the Place de Victorie, site of numerous beheadings during the French Revolution.

Through several passes, we’ve become acquainted with the streets of Pointe-a-Pitre. Among the highlights is a fresh fish market where business is transacted directly from the small boats of the fishermen to buyers on an asphalt pier. This is flanked by a colorful produce market, which we’re sure our mother would appreciate, but which completely baffles us. A few blocks down is a third market where vendors hawk food, spices, and handicrafts. Some way beyond that is a pleasant flower market, which lies in the courtyard of a beautiful sand-colored church. A sign next to the statues outside, though in French, plainly says “Beware in Case of Cyclones.”

The town of Gosier was Tuesday’s destination. After walking the streets there, we picked up our usual lunch and a bottle of wine, then headed for Ilet du Gosier, a small island with palm trees and a nice beach. We had a relaxing few hours there eating and swimming, though we quickly realized that we’d forgotten a corkscrew. Wednesday, we took a lunch of baguette and Nutella to Basse-Terre, the west island of Guadeloupe. Our plan was to hike up to the volcano there, but our lousy French combined with the local dearth of English saw us end up in the city of Basse-Terre, many miles from the trails.

We did some urban hiking, and found the city much like Pointe-a-Pitre, and therefore not hugely interesting. We wanted to get back before dark, lest our dinghy be stolen, so we caught a bus back a few hours later. Though our original plan was thwarted, the five hours of bus riding allowed us to see many diverse parts of the island, including waterfalls, cattle, villages, and Guadeloupians.

On Thursday morning, I decided to address an infection in my finger, which has been plaguing me for several months. Attempts to find a hospital, and then the correct area within the hospital made me realize that it would have been better to seek medical help in an English-speaking country. Nonetheless, we eventually found the emergency room. There, I spent thirty minutes in a line that may or may not have been for off-duty nurses with labor disputes, but which was certainly the wrong line. Finally, a doctor who had just finished his shift and spoke a bit of English helped me out, and I thought things were going well when he positioned me close to the door to listen for my name.

For the next four hours, we watched from the waiting room chairs as people with conditions more pressing than mine were admitted. There was even time for one of my fellow patients to try to sell me marijuana(as I understood him). Finally, I was called in, briefly told the doctor my problem, and got a perscription for an antibiotic. Amazingly, there was no charge at all for the service, and we were able to track down the medication at a nearby pharmacy quite easily.

We plan on heading south within the next few days, first for the Guadeloupian island of Iles des Saintes, then for Dominica. We hope to find a more suitable oil for our transmission and fix our running lights before departure, but the language barrier may prove prohibitive. Still, we are enjoying the French/Caribbean atmosphere and have learned a great deal, satisfying the main goal of our exploration.

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