Monday, 30 November 2009

The Voyage: Wednesday November 25

Position: 16°13'46.26"N 61°32'37.15"W

4am. I wake up, Alex is already awake and walks into the cabin. 'Anything to see out there?' 'Oh yes'. I follow him outside and we see the lights of Guadeloupe in the distance.

It feels like an achievement, but it comes with a sense of sadness. We've reached out destination. And we'll have to get off this ship.
We stare into the distance for a while and go back to bed.

5.30am. We wake up to the feeling of the boat slowing to a halt. Pilot time. We climb up to the bridge deck and meet Kjell and Margit. The rest follow soon after.
We can smell land. The scent of Guadeloupe soil. There are bugs. I spot mosquitoes and red wasp-like bugs.

6.30am. We have docked at the port of Point-à-Pitre. The boat has stopped moving completely. The voyage is over. It's too early for breakfast so we make our own out of all the leftovers we have: Turkish coffee, biscuits and chocolate. We sit in the deckchairs and watch the bay. The sea. East. Where we came from. Doru walks past us and gestures us to follow him into the crane. But only two of us can come. Alex and Kjell follow him up.
Margit and I go up to the bridge deck to watch Alex move the crane. The crane needs to be lifted and swung out so they can get to the containers.

Let me go back two lines:


When they get back down we decide to go for breakfast early.

8am. We pack up the last bits and tidy up our rooms.

8.30am. We move our suitcases down to Deck A so Speedy and Mario can lower them to the quay.

8.45am. We walk down the steps and say our last goodbyes. It feels strange to know that the ship will continue its journey without us. First to Martinique, then back to Guadeloupe, and then across the Atlantic back to France. Marie-Louise will be there all the way. As will Yannick, Guilhem, Delphine, Virginie, François, Xavier, Adrian, Doru, Speedy, Mario and all our other new friends. But we won't. We'll be going home the fast way. The normal way. In a plane.

9am. Taxis take us out of the harbour, away from the Fort St. Louis. It is hot. It is humid. It is the Carribean.

9.30am. We get out of the taxis. I'm talking to the driver about our airport transfer tomorrow and suddenly get struck by the weirdest sensation: I'm on solid ground yet my body is swaying. But maybe it isn't. Maybe I just feel like it's swaying. The swaying stops as soon as I start walking into the hotel. We check in and get the things we need for a day on the island. Margit, Kjell, Alex and I rent a car together. As I sit down in the car rental office the swaying feeling comes back. The others feel it too. The rolling of the sea is still in our bodies.

10am. We have two rental cars and separate into two groups, each on our own path of discovery.

Margits space/time continuum is slightly different from everyone else's. Her colour coordination still functions, though.

Our car crosses Basse Terre and drops Alex of at the Jacques Cousteau diving site. The sand is black. Volcanic.

It is quite an experience to be so alert to every sound and smell. Birds, bugs, earth, rain, jungle.

Kjell, Margit and I leave Alex behind to go diving and we drive south. Along the way we find this cemetery.

We carry on to visit a coffee plantation in the middle of the jungle. The drive their is spectacular: a steep and winding road that feels like a rollercoaster.
It's still hot and humid. Very humid. The smallest effort makes us sweat.

Our entry ticket promises us a free juice, so we all go for the guava juice. It's fantastically fresh.

After having explored the plantation museum, we head into the jungle. Their is a tour group ahead of us, so we decide to take the path they don't take at the fork in the path.

Banana trees, tangerine trees, palm trees and coffee trees. We carry on deeper into the jungle. The path gets worse and worse. We are hoping to find the actual coffee plantation, which in our imagination is a field with just coffee.
After an hour or so we find a clearing with a shack in it. We pluck some tangerines straight off a tree and take a rest. No one knows we're here. There is no phone reception. In two hours it'll be too dark to see the path. Suddenly we hear something: it sounds like someone crying for help, but the sounds goes on for too long so we decide it must be an animal.
Two minutes later we hear a very loud grunting sound. There are a few seconds of fear, until we realise it's a donkey. But we can't see it because the jungle is too dense.

We retrace our steps and understand that we've been walking through the coffee plantation all along: the coffee trees are the thin trees that grow all around us in between the bigger palm trees and banana trees.

When we get back down we're starving and go in search for some food. But by this time it is 4pm and in Guadeloupe that means not the right time to eat.

So we drive back to the diving beach to pick up Alex and have some crêpes there.

Back at the hotel we meet the other guys and decide to join the troupes again for dinner.

We have an amazing dinner in downtown Gosier.
The walk there is even more amazing, but I'll leave that for when we meet and have a drink together. It involves clambering over a jetty with missing boards, falling over in a bush, edging along a cliff being blinded by a security light, smashing coconuts, being hopelessly stuck behind fences and locked gates, and climbing of the wall of an official looking building. We did this in two groups, independent of each other, and miraculously managed to climb over the same wall within 5 minutes of each other. It was supposed to be a shortcut. It wasn't.

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