St Lu­cia: Once more unto the beach

The Star (St. Lucia) - - 36TH INDEPENDENCE - By

Barry Egan Travel WorldUSA

Af­ter ap­prox­i­mately my sec­ond spiced rum, I’m slowly start­ing to feel like a lo­cal in St Lu­cia.

(I’m pos­si­bly even pick­ing up a bit of the French-Cre­ole Pa­tois, mon.) Equally as slowly, but surely, the sun is be­gin­ning to set and I’m stand­ing at the counter of a beau­ti­fully ram­shackle bar in Soufriere, dis­cussing the mu­sic of Burning Spear with a Rasta­far­ian fish­er­man. Back-lit with the golden glow of sun­set, my new Rasta friend is more in­ter­ested in Ire­land, 6,366 kilo­me­tres away. He wants to know about Bono and U2. More of­ten than not in life, it ap­pears my pock­ets have more holes in them than money but here, tonight, you don’t need much to have a few drinks in the golden sun in a lit­tle fish­ing vil­lage with rain for­est be­hind you and a vol­cano ris­ing out of the sea in front. I can see my wife walk­ing out of the afore­said sea in her itsy-bitsy bikini - like a county Dublin ver­sion of Ur­sula An­dress in Dr No. I say good­bye to my Rasta mate and join my wife for a quick dip. The sea twin­kles like jew­els. It is also like a bath and the colour of pure turquoise. (For the record: cour­tesy of the sun, I’m the colour of pure pink. I look like a prawn in shorts with gin­ger hair. For the record: She Who Must Be Obeyed is al­ready in pos­ses­sion of a rich sun­tan, de­spite this be­ing only our third day.)

When wifey and I look up from the warm wa­ters, we can see the tow­er­ing twin peaks of the Pitons - the na­tional sym­bol of the coun­try, th­ese two vol­canic spires, 770 and 743 me­tres high re­spec­tively, jut straight out of the ocean floor as if put there by magic. You’d be hard pressed to find a bet­ter view any­where else in the world. That said, ex­hil­a­rat­ing views are de rigeur in St Lu­cia.

An hour later, in the ul­tra­fab­u­lous Ladera ho­tel high up in the moun­tains we are look­ing down on the sea and eat­ing fresh fish (Ca­jun-marinated snap­per and tuna with flavours to die for) in the ho­tel’s world­fa­mous, three-level, open-air restau­rant Dasheen. (St Lu­cia is full of sub­lime restau­rants of­fer­ing field-to-fork, or sea-to-fork, menus. Ev­ery­thing in the Caribbean is nat­u­ral - apart from maybe the oc­ca­sional sur­gi­cally en­hanced Cal­i­for­nian glam­our puss ly­ing on a beach near to you.) Af­ter din­ner, we go for a mid­night stroll through Ladera’s sump­tu­ous prop­erty. There are a mil­lion stars in the Caribbean sky. It is like a gi­ant space­ship over­head with all its lights on in the oth­er­wise pitch-dark sky. It is im­pos­si­ble not to feel in some way en­tranced by the as­tro­log­i­cal won­der of it all. We’ve just em­barked on the adventure of a life­time, even the trop­i­cal adventure of a life­time, here in the un­spoilt beauty of St Lu­cia.

That said, ev­ery­where you go, you see some­thing that is vis­ually or sen­so­rily ex­tra­or­di­nary on this most moun­tain­ous, and green, of the Caribbean is­lands.

One morn­ing, we took the cour­tesy bus to go for a walk in what can only be de­scribed as breath­tak­ingly lush rain­for­est (St Lu­cia has some 19,000 acres of rain­for­est) stuffed with wild or­chids, ex­otic plants and trees of ev­ery colour as well as colour­fully plumed trop­i­cal birds and the like.

The is­land’s No­bel Lau­re­ate, Derek Wal­cott, de­scribed what we walked through as “forests of his­tory thick­en­ing with am­ne­sia”. He also called St Lu­cia, just as ac­cu­rately, a “vir­ginal, un­painted world.” You don’t have to be par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in hor­ti­cul­ture, bi­ol­ogy, en­to­mol­ogy, or or­nithol­ogy to find all this fas­ci­nat­ing. It af­fects you at per­haps your deep­est level. There is some­thing be­yond words about walk­ing in this kind of exquisitely un­touched nat­u­ral world, with all the sounds and noises com­ing out of the veg­e­ta­tion cour­tesy of our new best friends, the St Lu­cia Pe­wee, the St Lu­cia Ori­ole, the St Lu­cia par­rot, and the White-breasted Thrasher. It is like mu­sic. Maybe the spiced lo­cal rum is still in my sys­tem from the night be­fore, but there is def­i­nitely mu­sic in the air in the Caribbean. It’s in the soul of the peo­ple. Re­ces­sion and Ire­land seems like light years away when you are trekking through the jun­gle in St Lu­cia.

Af­ter our jun­gle ex­pe­ri­ence, we go for a swim in the sea from where once upon a time the pi­rates of the Caribbean ruled the waves and waived the rules. It is like be­ing a kid once again, when your imag­i­na­tion ruled your head not thoughts of eco­nomic hard­ship in Ire­land. Lo­cated be­tween Mar­tinique and St. Vin­cent, this lit­tle is­land is one of the most beau­ti­ful places on earth. I’d say it would be dif­fi­cult to have a bad day here, un­less you’re a com­pletely mis­er­able cranky-pants who hates sun­shine and pos­si­bly even life and more prob­a­bly him­self too.

Glo­ri­ous hot sun­shine is a given. Some­times it gets so hot that when it rains the odd day you en­joy the benefits of be­ing cooled off. In­deed you al­most look for­ward to it be­cause the rain out here is not like the rain you get in Dublin. No, it is like the dra­matic trop­i­cal down­pour you get in vin­tage James Bond movies, with 007 be­ing fu­ri­ously pur­sued by some bad­die through the jun­gle. That said, the rain is brief enough, and be­fore you know it, you are bask­ing in the sear­ing heat of the sun once more; and me look­ing even more like a pink prawn in shorts with

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