St Lucia: Once more unto the beach
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