30 November 2018 St Anne, Martinique
The alarm went off at 06:45 - no time for a lie-in when you’re on holiday. By 08:00, we’d picked up our hire car and were on our way up the east side of the island. The roads are incredibly narrow and winding, so it was a bit tense for the first hour as I drove on the right-hand side of the road with lunatic French drivers whizzing around the bends in the middle of the road and others tailgating me. Having said that, the scenery is fabulous with many large banana and sugar cane plantations.
After a couple of hours, we made it safely to the Caravelle Peninsula and parked when the road turned into a dirt track. Most people were driving up the dirt track for a kilometre to another car park, but the road looked very rough for our little hire car. We walked up to the car park, where we joined the well-marked trail which goes around the end of the peninsula.
We took the route in a clockwise direction and started off on a single track concrete road, which leads to a meteorological station. On the way, we missed a path that led to a lighthouse on the top of the hill, oh well… The meteorological station is closed to the public, but that didn’t matter because the path continued along the rocky coast over varied volcanic rocks with dramatic scenery.
The route took us over a few hills with some great viewpoints and then dropped down into a Mangrove swamp, so we saw many different terrains on the 2½ hour hike. The walk ended at the ruins of the Chateau Dubuc, which had a sugar cane processing mill, a distillery and a coffee mill. It only cost €5 each to gain access and was moderately interesting, but our tired legs soon made us give up wandering around the ruins.
On the way back we stopped off at a couple of supermarkets, but we weren’t very impressed by the selection of items on offer. However, we filled four large bags with provisions as well as three cases of beer and a few boxes of wine.
It was a bit of a logistical challenge when we arrived back in St Anne, because there is no parking near to the dinghy dock. Eventually we parked in the town square; walked to the dinghy dock; dinghied over to the fishing dock; Glenys stayed in the dinghy while I got the car; loaded up the dinghy; I parked the car; and we then went out to the boat…
1 December 2018 St Anne, Martinique
It was another early start to go to the north end of the island to Mont Peleé. It took us a while to go through Fort de France and then negotiate the treacherous winding road through the middle of Martinique. So we didn’t get to Mont Peleé until 09:30, by which time the cloud had built up on the top of the 4,500ft volcano.
We made our way up to the car park at the start of the Aileron trail, where we could see groups of intrepid hikers slogging up the steep muddy path and disappearing into the cloud after 300 metres. It’s about a mile to the first crater rim, so it seemed to be pointless to slog up a hill to see nothing but mist. We headed back up south, driving past the majestic Pitons de Carbet and passing through some impressive “cloud” forest with lush vegetation, including tree ferns and bamboo.
Our next stop was at the Botanical Gardens. It was very pleasantly laid out, but crowded with tourists and very expensive at €14 per person. The highlight was the dozens of Purple-throated Carib hummingbirds darting around some artificial feeders.
We called in at the Sacré Coeur de Balata Cathedral, which is just another church. After a quick stop at another couple of supermarkets, we retired back to the boat.
2 December 2018 St Anne, Martinique
There’s no peace for the wicked - we were our way early again, this time we drove to the south-west peninsula of Martinique. After travelling through the small seaside town of the Trois Ilets, we dropped down a steep road to Anse Dufour. It’s a popular little fishing village, so the car park was cram-packed, but we managed to park on the side of the approach road without any problems.
Our purpose for being here was to do a hike called Cap Solomon, which goes over a steep hill and down to Grand Anse D’Arlet. As usual, the hardest part was finding the start of the route. We walked into the small village and eventually spotted a sign for the route next to a small restaurant. We turned left along a concrete path, which ended at a house with a very small dirt path leading down the side of the house.
The path remained narrow, turning from dirt to rocky boulders and steeply rose up the hill. After 30 minutes, the path levelled out and we came across a small pond covered in lilies. The next 15 minutes was fairly level and then we descended towards Grand Anse D’Arlet. After a further 20 minutes, we came across a small sign showing another route along the side of the hill, promising some viewpoints so we turned right.
The viewpoints were almost none existent, but we managed to get some glimpses of the Grand Anse bay and the dozens of yachts anchored there. After stopping for lunch of our usual baguette and tinned mackerel in mustard sauce, we retraced our steps back to Anse Dufour. The whole hike took just over 3 hours and was enjoyable, but a tad tough.
We drove back along the winding coast road, stopping to look at Diamond Rock and the statues at Le Diamant, which are a tribute to the slaves. In the evening, we were invited over to “Relax” for sundowners - Ralph and Carmen are also heading up to Florida, so it’s very likely that we’ll bump into them on the way.
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