If day 8 meant I was out and about, you can bet your knickers that Day 9 meant my ass wasn’t leaving this apartment all day! And sure enough, that was the case. However, I did manage to find something of interest- a full day snorkeling tour to Petit Terre island. But I didn’t want to go alone. All day with everyone speaking French and me having zero clue and being trapped on an island didn’t sound fun. So I posted on all the female solo traveler facebook groups that if anyone wanted to tag along on a trip with me, hit me up. I couldn’t believe it, but I got a response! An Australian girl who lived in Paris for a couple of years so speaks French. She called and booked our trip for us. That means tomorrow=adventure!
Today is day trip day!! I was supposed to meet fellow solo traveler, Naomi, at 7am at the dock in Sainte Francois. I was there a little ahead of schedule #ocd and checked in at the office of Uhaina. The front desk guy spoke pretty good English. I told him I was waiting on my friend. He said go to the dock, boat would be leaving at 7:30. Took the ticket down the dock with me and 3 guys were there. One sorta spoke English. He asked if I spoke French. Um, nope, but pequito espanol… And wa-la (as they say in France CONSTANTLY!!), one of the other guys speaks Spanish!! I’m saved! I explained that my friend was coming. He seemed a little confused that she wasn’t with me. Anyway, he waved me on to the boat where I nervously sat at the back waiting for her. It was going to super suck if she didn’t show…
By the time 7:20 rolled around, I had given up hope. Then, I see a blond girl heading my way! Yay, Naomi!! She boarded and we found a place up front to sit. I was super nervous for 1.5 hours on my tail bone and no cushion… Having lived in Paris, she could translate all of the details the guy was giving the group. He talked for like 10 minutes. Translation? Puke at the front of the boat, not in the bathroom. Got it. I have a feeling I missed some serious safety details in there somewhere…. We headed out on our catamaran for Petit Terre! We chatted a bit on the way out, about how we both love to travel, etc… Nice to be able to say something other than “Bon jour” or “Merci”!
It was a long, long, LONG ride out. Too long for my tastes. We did get visited by a dolphin though that raced us! That was fun. And every once in a while the Spanish speaking crew guy would come over and say something to me. Finally, we made it to Petit Terre! We had a choice of putting our things in the dingy and swimming to the beach or putting ourselves in the dingy with our things and boating to the beach. We chose the latter! The beach and water was stunning! And the coconut grove where we could relax and our lunch would be served was just so…Caribbean!
So yeah, I have a degree in marine biology and teach it online blah, blah, blah… That does not mean that snorkeling is my favorite past time. Honestly, my most favorite travel hobby is taking pictures of wildlife- especially in the jungle. And that’s the main reason I booked this trip. Yes, there was snorkeling involved, but there was something else….wildlife!! Now, this is the Caribbean so don’t get too exciting thinking about monkeys and sloths and poison dart frogs. There is, however, an endemic species of iguana on Petit Terre. It’s known as the Lesser Antilles Iguana, and it’s scientific name is Iguana delicatissima. It’s on the ICUN critically endangered list. And I wanted to see it! As soon as we got off the boat, walked to our little area of the coconut grove, and put our things on a table, one of the guides said the walking tour of the island would be leaving in 10 minutes. YAY! I gathered around with the group. He asked Naomi to be my translator, which meant everything was going to be in French. Le sigh. I wasn’t going to learn anything. Even worse, how can I be the Hermoine of the group if everything is in French and I get the questions later than everyone else!! The horror!! The vast majority of my self worth and validation comes from going on tours and being the first to answer every question (Brian can attest to this)! I mean, why do you think I travel so much?? Being a know it all is my calling!!
I think poor Naomi was a little overwhelmed with the idea of having to translate everything. I don’t blame her. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have no clue about anything. First stop was on the beach. The guide picked up a piece of coral and started talking about it in French. I was DYING inside!!! Coral is my specialty!! I knew I could answer any question he threw out there. 😭 He started asking questions, and no one could answer them. So in his very broken English he would translate them to me (I’m sure he could see that I was laser focused on what he was saying because I was really trying to figure it out!). And bam!! Hermoine was back! I answered question after question!! Why is some sand black and some sand white (black is volcanic, white comes from coral), what makes white sand (parrotfish), and the one that he has probably never had anyone answer- what is this pink stuff on this piece of dead coral. CORALLINE ALGAE!!! DUH PEOPLE, DUH!!!! So coralline is the same word in English and French apparently, so he knew I knew what I was talking about. Of course, he argued with me that it was a bacteria, not an algae (that’s pretty much the same word, too), but I didn’t have enough words to set him straight. I was pleased with myself, and that’s all that matters!!
We headed up the trail and were immediately met by iguanas!! There was a lighthouse up here, and we stopped for a very long lecture in French about something. I was trying so hard to pick out any word I knew and at least follow along kind of. A man walked over to me and in perfect English asked if I’d like him to translate. Yes, please!! He sat next to me on the steps of the lighthouse and told me everything the guide was saying about the history of the lighthouse, the flora on the island (it’s very desert/scrubby), and of course the iguanas!! So here’s the deal with the iguanas. There are 2 species found in Guadeloupe- the ones on Petit Terre (they call them the blacks) and the ones on the mainland (the greens that everyone is familiar with). The greens were brought here in boats back in the forever agos. Why? Because they could go a long time without water, which made them a great food source for long boat trips. Interesting! We started to walk to the next stop, but I had a question, and asked my new translator friend to ask, “Can the blacks and greens interbreed?”. The guide got all excited and said that was such a good question. Imagine me glowing and hovering about 3 inches off the ground to understand my reaction to the accolades. Apparently, the answer to that question is practically the whole story of the iguanas!! That’s why the damned Lesser Antilles iguanas are so endangered in the first place! They have bred with the introduced greens on the mainland, creating a hybrid species that has basically wiped out the native blacks!! However, here on Petit Terre (one of only 2 isolated islands in Guadeloupe where you can find the blacks), there are no green iguanas which keeps the species pure! Fascinating! I seriously live for this stuff….
So translator friend hung with me. He’s from Belgium, so he speaks pretty much every western European language because they start learning from such a young age. Dear United States, We suck. I know, because I can only say “We suck” in one language. Love, Mary. Next stop was on a cliff, and literally a 15 minute diatribe about reef safe sunscreen. Way, way, WAY too long. I’m not out here for a sunscreen lecture. Yes, mention it, definitely! Hell, don’t even let anyone on board with the bad kind. I don’t even use it, I use a UPF long sleeve rash guard in the water and a hat on the land. But teach me about what’s OUT here!!! Flora, fauna, history. Not sunscreen. #endrant I felt sorry for the poor Belgian guy trying to translate all of that, but didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d heard enough. After that, we walked back to the coconut grove along a lovely trail.
Back at the grove, the Spanish speaking guide was grilling lunch. He walked up to me and said something about Princess. Ok, yes I know I’m “all that” and everything, but some dude walking up and calling me a princess, as shocking as it may sound, is not an everyday occurrence. So I’m all like, “Que?” He reiterated that yes, indeed, I am a princess. I always KNEW I was French royalty!!! Confirmed by a Frenchman! Never one to take a compliment without making some joke, I slid my hand across my throat and make the “kkkkkkeeeee” noise- the universal sign for cutting off someone’s head. Hey, if I can get a French history joke in there, I’m not going to miss the chance!! He laughed and said no, no! He told me in Spanish that after lunch he would personally take Naomi and I snorkeling. Perfecto. For two reasons: a) It was a big area. I wanted to see the “good stuff”, and the explanations about where that was had all been in French b) I’m not comfortable snorkeling basically by myself (Naomi had expressed she’s not the world’s best snorkeler either), so having someone along to save me if necessary is always welcome (it’s why I bring Brian with me!!)
The company served rum punch and a couple of types of fruit juice. I had juice, of course. And if you sat your glass down for one minute, it would be COVERED in little birds!! They were so cute!! Research says Coereba flaveola, a fruit and nectar eating bird (I knew they were nectar feeders because I could see their little tongues!)
Soon, lunch was served! Huge piece of fish (kind of tuna-esque and really good), rice, cous-cous, salad- all super tasty!! After everyone ate, Prince Charming (He told me his name, but I suck at names and have forgotten it!) told me in Spanish that he had to clean everything up, and for us to meet him at the end of the beach in 15 minutes. We all got into the water. Now, Brian knows the first thing I say when we go snorkeling is “Hold my hand!!” #scaredycatmarinebiologist Prince Charming immediately reached out his hand. I grabbed on to it, Naomi grabbed his other one, and we all snorkeled for over an hour and a half. He knew right where to go!! It was our own private guided tour!! We saw SO MANY green turtles- I literally lost count after 10. We saw fish of every shape and size solo and in big schools, corals, sponges, stingrays, a barracuda, some kind of huge fish that hangs out under the boats, it was GREAT!! After we got out, I said Naomi still needed to see a shark. Well, apparently when we were on the big reef there was a 6 foot shark Caribbean reef shark that they saw but I missed. Baby Jesus knows it’s best that I not see such things… I did, however, see a lemon shark when I was on the beach! Naomi took a ton of GoPro pics. I hope she’ll send me some.
I thanked Prince Charming profusely in Spanish. It was time to gather our things and head back. I had already scoped out the hammock thing on the catamaran and had plans to grab a spot on it (only 3 people were allowed) and nap on the way back (and the cushion is good for the tailbone). Mission accomplished! I woke up just as the boat was pulling in to Sainte Francois. Naomi and I said our goodbyes, I again thanked Prince Charming, and that was the end. All in all, it was a really good day and I’m so glad I found Naomi online and went!
See Day 11
After 2 solid days of being in the house, another adventure was in order! It was Tuesday, and I had read that Sainte Francois (the same city the snorkel trip had left from) had a big night market on Tuesday that started at 5. It gets dark here about 6:45, it was about an hour drive, so I figured that if I got there right at 5 that would be perfect. But I wanted to see other things on the way! So I plotted out an itinerary. Brian actually found a museum online that looked cool, so that went on the list, along with a view point at the very southeastern tip of the island called Pointes des Colibris. First stop, Edgar Clerc Caribbean Heritage Museum. It holds a collection of indigenous peoples artifacts that have been excavated on Guadeloupe. The majority of the signage was in English! For a museum that was literally just in the middle of no where, it was really well done with nice modern signs and lighted displays. I was way more impressed than I expected. And it was free!
Next stop, Pointes des Colibris. The drive to it was really nice! There was a heavily treed area between the road and the beach, with cars parked along it here and there. And every once in a while you’d get a glimpse of a beautiful beach and blue waters through the trees! Looked like a great place for a picnic. I’m not the solo picnic type though, so I continued on. Got to the end of the road and it was PACKED!! Took me a couple of turns around the roundabout thingy to find a place to park. There were some souvenir stands and a lady selling something called coco sorbet for 2 euros, that I put on my “to try” list before I left! I decided to do the hike first. Let me preface this by saying that my idiot self who did not learn her lesson after passing out in Malaysia not once but TWICE (and on the plane from Singapore to Greece) due to dehydration left home with no water. Ask me about corals. I’ll tell you about them ALL. DAY. LONG. Obscure and amazing facts. Ask me if I brought water for a hike in 90 degree 100% humidity weather, and you’ll get a blank stare… Oy. First, I passed by some beautiful coastline. Nice, flat trail. But I saw what was ahead. A massive hill. With a massive cross on it. Rational Mary was thinking, “I have not had a drink of water in like 3 hours, it’s really hot, I’m already sweating, climbing a hill is probably not a good idea. Let’s turn around, grab a coco sorbet, and head toward the night market.” Rational Mary had just about convinced me of her plan, when WADD Mary (that’s wildlife attention deficit disorder) looked up. And saw the biggest freaking bird I’ve ever seen in my life!!! I was at the bottom of a huge hill. This bird was soaring high above it. And it’s wingspan was still MASSIVE! First thought? Pterodactyl!! Second thought? Shut up, Rational Mary! WADD Mary, get moving and get the camera mega zoom ready!!
Up, up, up I went. The last part ended up being stairs and no shade. Halfway up, Rational Mary was pitching a fit for me to cease this nonsense at once. WADD Mary was having a hard time getting the bird in the frame (because it was constantly moving and it was so high I had to do mega zoom) and figured the best vantage point was the top of the hill. By the time I got close to the top, I could feel it. That icky fatigue/nausea/dizzy feeling of dehydration. I was literally about 20 steps from the top. I knew I could not go any further up. So I steadied myself, kept my eye on this unbelievable bird soaring so effortlessly above me, and starting snapping. I’d say risking death was worth it!
Once I saw it up close, I was convinced it must be an albatross! I posted it in the Wild Caribbean facebook group and found out that it’s actually a Magnificent Frigate Bird- Fregata magnificens. The largest of all frigate birds, it reaches a length of up to 4 feet and a wingspan of…get this…8 feet!! I knew I needed to go slowly and carefully on the descent. The only thing keeping me going was hope of a coco sorbet, and I didn’t even really know what it was other than coconut something! Got back to the parking area, and I was completely out of steam. There was a juice bar right at the end of the trail, no more than 100 feet from coco sorbet lady. But I needed liquid NOW. Ordered a pineapple juice for 3.50 euros that was super watered down, but at least on ice. Sat down and drank it slowly. Had a mermaid sighting. Felt better.
Passed by the coco sorbet lady on my way out, and almost got one, but really just wanted to get into the car and turn on the ac. So did that. Drove back down the beach road until I got to Sainte Francois, and followed google maps to the night market. As I approached, the first thing that hit me was the smell. Heavenly spices of all kinds combining into a very unique olfactory experience! First booth I went to was a spice booth- dozens of bags filled with spice! The woman only spoke French, but she had me try a few different ones. One of them was REALLY good!! I wanted to walk around though before I bought anything, so I made a circular gesture with my hand (the market is round) so she’d know I’d come back around. I didn’t bring the big camera in here- it seemed a little too local for that and I already stick out enough as it is, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures. There were more spice booths. Junky trinket booths. Local artist and craftsmen booths. I walked slowly and looked at things for about 15 minutes and BAM! There was the spice lady again!! That was fast! I talked her into giving me less spice for 3 euros instead of the 5 euro bag and she agreed. I’ve been seasoning potatoes and rice with it. Mmmmmmm.
Headed back home. Stopped off at Carrefour on the way home- no Dr. Pepper, but I did pick up some more groceries WAY cheaper than Monoprix the other day! Not a super full day, but a day out none the less!
See Days 11 and 12. I know, I know…I really should be the poster girl for international travel and adventure….🙄