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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Guadeloupe redeems itself

So after the ups and downs of Point a Pitre, we rented a car and explored some of inland Guadeloupe for a day. It turned out to be a fantastic day. We started nice and early, having a quick pain au chocolat as we sorted out the paperwork for the car, then headed into the interior towards a well publicised waterfall in the middle of the national park rainforest. This was a nice walk through the forest to a small cascade falling into a very pretty pool in the river, where Issie went for a bathe and we all munched on a bit more breakfast.

We headed on across the island, back to the West coast, driving past Pigeon Island where we'd anchored before christmas and on down the coast, scoping out the bays for our northward journey in April and finding a seaside picnic area for our lunch.

After lunch we headed inland to the Maison de Cafe, an old coffee plantation turned museum. I was a little sceptical, jesting that this is about the furthest the Gesa has dragged me for a cup of coffee, and as we drove our little hire car around perilous hairpin bends with hundred metre drops on one side, even Gesa was wondering what she'd led us into. The valley was steep and dramatic, reminiscent of photos we've seen of Peru, although I guess it's even more dramatic there.

At the end of the road was the famed museum. We paid a remarkably cheap entry fee and walked up a beautiful stone path past dilapidated old mill buildings to find a lovingly restored plantation mansion and a fantastic arrangement of buildings making up the museum. A women came out to say hello and told us that a tour would start soon, she would do it in French but translate some if we needed. We milled around for a while, looking at the displays about coffee manufacture and the decline of growing in the island, when suddenly there was a coming together of about twenty visitors and the tour started. We were walked through the coffee process, the plantation gardens, cocoa trees, because they grew that here too, and vanilla to flavour the chocolate. It was fascinating, and even held the kids interest as they attached themselves to the guide and were allowed to do cool things like mash up the green coffee beans and later the cocoa beans too. The tour lasted almost two hours, and ended with a cup of the plantation coffee, very nice. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the magical mountain landscape but time was getting on and the light was starting to fade.

We made our way round the bottom of the island, hunting out some takeaway food but it seems that 6pm is too early for this place, nothing is cooking till later so we ended up back at the marina getting a couple of pizzas and back on the boat a very tired group, but having had a really interesting day.

Next, we go to Les Saintes, a small group of islands just South of Guadeloupe, which are supposed to be beautiful and are also a good jumping off point to Dominica, the next island South.

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