Castries, Saint Lucia
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Jeff and I have never been to St. Lucia so we decide instead of taking an organized tour we’ll strike out on our own and go snorkeling.
We wend our way off the boat through the hordes hawking tours and taxis. We do stop to ask a cabbie how much the fare would be to Anse-La Raye. Our Fodors tells us that there is excellent snorkeling there. “$120. US” is his answer. When we laugh, he drops it to $100. We laugh again and tell him, “No, thanks, we’ll take the bus.” He says “There in no bus to Anse-La Raye.” I immediately retort, “Oh, yes there is, right across from the police station!”
It helps to have done your homework ahead of time…
We walk to the bus stop, which is actually quite a ways and it’s hot. As we stand there, a cab driver comes over to tell us that we may be waiting awhile as the bus doesn’t leave until it is full. Not sure if he is bs-ing us or not, we ask him how much he would charge to take us – $20. We clarify that that is $20 US and that’s for the cab, not per person. Yes and yes, so we climb in.
Holy mackerel! St. Lucia is twisty and hilly! Turns out that our driver, Quincy, is from Anse-La Raye and that it is a nice fishing village. He stops along the way to run into the market and buy some Windex and off we continue. We get to Anse-La Raye in about 45 minutes, and arrange for Quincy to come back in 3 hours (at 2 pm) to pick us up. We get out of the cab and head for the beach…except this isn’t really a beach. I mean the ocean is there, there is sand and a few colorful fishing boats pulled up on shore and 5 or 6 dogs sleeping in the sand, but there is no one in the water, no tourists at all. “This isn’t right” we think. I point out a small protected cove to Jeff “Maybe we could try there” I suggested. We wander that way. A man steps out of the shadow of a building and stops us. He saw our snorkeling gear and tells us “The water is very dirty. Most people in the village don’t have flush toilets. You don’t want to get in this water.” Well, ****, now what?
We go back to the street and see a couple of policemen. I ask if there is a dive shop in town. “No, no, this is a fishing village”. We want to be over on the point and he gestures out to sea to a point about 5 miles away. He calls to a kid and asks if he’ll take us in his boat to the point. “Sure, sure. $60 US” “No thank you” we say, he drop his price to $50. I told him that it costs us only $20 to get from Castries but he doesn’t budge.
The policeman comes back and we follow him into a combination shop/bar and he calls to the owner.
Now, the owner was incredible in his stereotypical-ness! He was a wither guy, long gray rasta hair and beard, one armed – we just KNEW he had been a pirate in some incarnation. He and the cop started talking about our options. Rasta man was kind of talking to himself, “no, that would be too expensive” “No, that is not a good solution…” Then it occurred to me that we had passed Margit Bay on our way to Anse La Raye. Margit Bay is a very popular place and is where the original Dr. Doolittle movie was filmed. “Maybe if we could get to Margit Bay?” I suggest. Rasta man calls his son – “There are some people here at the shop who need a ride, please come get them.” Okay, now we have a plan. We chat for a while with the cop and rasta man. After about 5 minutes he calls his son again “Where are you? These people are waiting!” We couldn’t believe how wonderful this guy was.
Pretty soon his son pulls up in the family car…we tell the cop, rasta man and rasta man’s son to please tell Quincy, our cab driver, to come to Margit Bay to get us. Quincy is from that village so they know him. We pile into the car and very shortly are at Margit. The son, who has a degree in hospitality and tourism and works at the Sandals resort(!), drops us off and never says anything about money. Jeff gave him $10 for getting out of bed and rescuing us.
At Margit Bay, one side is shops and yachts and you take a VERY short ferry ride (literally about 100 yards) to the beach. People were getting on the boat so we scurried aboard. We cast off…I said something about our travails and how happy we were to finally be at the beach. The pilot stopped the boat. “This boat isn’t going to the beach. This is a tour going to the Pitons. That will be $40 each US!!” Jeff asked “What’s the stowaway rate?” but there wasn’t one, so our pilot whistled for the ferry, and we climbed from one boat to the other!
Some days are just like that! The snorkeling was “okay”
We relaxed on the beach, had a couple of beers and soon it was time to hope that Quincy the cab driver had gotten our message. We decided to wait an extra 1/2 hour or until 2:30 and if he didn’t show we’d take another cab. Sure enough, 2:20 – here comes Quincy. We told him the whole tale with much laughing. He said if we had mentioned snorkeling he would have taken us to some place – which was actually the place outside Anse-La Raye in the book!
We had Quincy drop us off back where he picked us up. We walked to a liquor store because though you can’t take liquor on the ship, we had a plan – and two empty water bottles…
We bought a small bottle of gin and were quietly deciding how to discretely pour it into our water bottles (there was a cop in the store). The cashier overheard us and said “Oh, I can do that for you!” She opened the gin and began filling a water bottle. The cop said “Don’t fill it full, make the 1/2 and 1/2 so it doesn’t look suspicious!” Then Quincy walked in and the 3 of us burst out laughing.
A good story, right? Getting off the beaten path can be a little nerve wracking – you just need to keep your sense of humor!
As we sailed out of St. Lucia, we noticed the island’s airstrip…yikes! Airplanes take off and land right off the water (and over the ships).