Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Relaxation and Party Time in St. Martin

Today really showed us two completely different sides of St. Martin. The day dawned absolutely still without a breath of wind in Grand Case but nevertheless we headed out to Tintamarre, a large, flat island off the north east coast of St. Martin. In the SXM nature preserve, mooring balls are provided and by mid-morning they were all full so we were glad we got there nice and early.
Glassy waters on the approach to Tintamarre Island
Lined up on the mooring balls - but check out how clear the waters are!

We also wanted to beat the heat for a hike on the island which took us along the south shore and then inland, past many old dry-stone walls and a herd of goats. Carefully, we picked the evidence of the goats out of our shoes before returning to Mowzer.
The flat interior of Tintamarre, the masts of boats in the anchorage and the peaks of St. Martin in the distance.
In the afternoon we watched a sea-turtle grazing on the sea-grass under the boats in the anchorage so we snorkeled off the back of the boat. Just before we jumped into the water I commented to Henry that this had better be a pretty boring snorkel since the battery in the underwater camera chose that moment to die. Of course, the most surreal moments are those that can't be captured so I will just have to lock this one up in the memory banks for recall. As we hovered over the turtle grazing about 10 feet below us, he finally decided to come up for air. He must be pretty used to the snorkelers so he rose up through the water to surface about 5' in front of me and after a casual 3 breaths he headed back down to the underwater pasturage. Unreal!

Late in the afternoon we returned to Grand Case, making a short detour to explore the harbour and canal of Anse Marcel, a pretty little marina nestled in the hills and only accessible through a narrow, winding channel.

By 6pm Grand Case was starting to prepare for the last street parade of the season. Through the winter there is a parade and bazaar put on by locals every Tuesday night and with the restaurants and lolo's all firing in high gear it is a fun event not to be missed. I think all the stops were out for the last night and the streets were thronging with tourists and locals alike. Small vendors were selling cold drinks for those wandering the street where everything from purses made of pop-can tabs to the most beautiful paintings and inlaid wood pictures were for sale. After a little shopping of the local wares, we eagerly anticipated the first drum-beats to be heard at the end of the street indicating the start of the parade. The one-way main street is about a kilometre in length and just over a car's width, in some places widening out where a shop has a little more space. The parade of feathered and painted women and flashy men with drums and horns mingled with the hundreds of on-lookers down the street and sometimes, other than the costumes it was hard to tell where the display and the voyeurism ended and began. The energy and friendliness of the whole crowd was wonderful and we followed along behind, alongside and at times right in the parade itself.

Once the parade had passed, which took almost 45 minutes, the empty space was taken up by a number of street bands and a group of buskers who kept us entertained but couldn't quite pull off getting me to join as a participant. Maybe a few more street-beer but by then we noticed that the crowd had definitely changed a bit as the tourists headed into the restaurants or back to their resorts for the night so we decided it was time for dinner back at our favourite lolo.

I can't say enough for how much we enjoyed the whole event and hat's off to the locals and the gendarmes who kept it all very family oriented and welcoming of locals and tourists alike.