Monday, December 21, 2015

Ste. Anne - On a Different Kind of Caribbean Island

Our arrival in Ste. Anne, Martinique on Friday felt almost like a revisit to Grenada - as we pulled into the anchorage we were greeted by Blue Moon and Neptune II and soon joined them, along with Avatar and others for a sundowner at Dunette, a local bar with its own dinghy dock.

Fiona, Gary, Jason, Henry, Mark, Venessa, Brita (and our server Katie).

The next day we had a plan - we would hike the peninsula south of Ste. Anne.  Its a good one to get our legs back into action, about 23 km but not too steep and this one visits many beaches on the way.

To get you oriented, here's the south-east corner of Martinique.  Follow the yellow line anti-clockwise from Ste.Anne and you have the plan for the day.

We set off from the dinghy dock nice and early knowing that we would be hitting the hot southerly side of the peninsula with the heat of the sun.  The early morning started with some pastoral scenes and then moved on to some obviously popular weekend beaches.

Almost proper fences encasing grazed lands - could this still be the Caribbean?

The beach at Anse Caritan, looking out to the anchorage at Ste. Anne.  Probably about 200 boats out there!

Moving along to Anse Meaner and Pointe Catherine, some early morning souls take in the beauty of this remote beach.

The morning progressed and Jason & Henry were ready for some hi-jinx.

The surf rolled in past Pointe Pie.  With the Christmas winds upon us, only a few hardy souls were out sailing today.

Grande Anse des Salines is a huge expanse of untended beach.  Sunday morning brought out many families to enjoy the surf rolling in; I'm sure its even more crowded by afternoon but still enjoyable compared to some beaches we've been on.

The "Trace des Caps" trail that we were following, and I'm sure most trails on Martinique, are very well marked with strategically places benches for the weary.  It was starting to get pretty hot as we passed Grande Terre with a view of Ilet Cabrits.

Not sure where he came from but this proper French rooster sure strutted his stuff for us.

We then entered the Foret Littoral where this young banyan tree caught our attention.

Jason tested his climbing abilities - did just fine going up...

Having conquered the beast, getting down might now be a problem!  

Along the way we passed a campground and picnic site - replete with a proper French outhouse.

The landscape evolved yet again to a series of salt-ponds and inlets from the ocean.  Our next challenge was to make it across this bridge.

The stepping stones seemed to be placed for legs just a little longer than ours.

Nothing daunted, Brita practiced her yoga to get across.

They made it!  Just me left to make it across.

Our next landscape:  used to be a petrified forest but all the wood has long been removed.  Now it is a "savanna" - barren wasteland was our translation.

Christmas winds are ripping up the ocean - it was difficult to stand here in the salty mist and buffeting winds.

The trail was easy to follow across the grasslands.

But as we went on there were areas with absolutely no vegetation.

How long since it has rained here?

Finally we exited through this copse of greenery and the world once again changed before us.

Incredibly, a wind surfer and kite boarder were out braving the swells and waves.  Most of the time we could only see the top of the wind surfer sail between the waves.

Along the way we passed a few of these little stations, this one for the Virgin Mary, and an earlier one for St. Pierre (holder of the key and patron saint of fishermen).

As soon as we walked a little way inland above the Baie des Anglais, we encountered commercial farming on a giant scale.

A little herd of sheep carried on down the road ahead of us - all jaunty in their yellow collars.

And fields full of cattle skittishly kept an eye on these strange humans walking by.

The only wildlife we were warned about, we just didn't see!

We didn't count, but I'd guess there were more egrets than cows in this pasture.

Beautiful doe-eyed ladies.

And finally after meandering down country lanes and byways, we were spit out onto a bike path beside what felt like an interstate highway - well only two lanes but dead straight.  Could we make it to the end in the blazing noon heat?

Well, we made it about 3/4 of the way where Henry & Brita found us some nice cold Lorraine beers, and Jason and I found a place in the shade.

We finally completed our loop and made it back to Ste. Anne - although we still had to walk into the town-centre.

Almost there - our boats are somewhere in the anchorage out there.

Time for some sustenance so we pulled up to a table at Rendez-Vous where we wolfed down our lunches.

As the table next to us cleared check out who moved in to clean up the sugar-rimmed glasses!
Our first hike on Martinique completed and tired legs were ready to head home for some R&R.

The French islands definitely offer up a different experience than the others:  obviously much better off with support from the 'mother-land'.  In this area there are no beggars or low-level vendors, where there are vendors they have a pretty laissez-faire attitude and don't push you to buy.  The infrastructure is head-and-shoulders better than anywhere else with good roads and well laid-out hiking paths (almost too good to be true), agriculture is conducted on a huge scale - we didn't see any individually tethered animals, just herds which are unknown the other islands.  Cars are for the most part well repaired, there is little to no litter along the roads and long stretches of uninterrupted green verges - where are the dead appliances, wrecked cars and indescript dumpage we see elsewhere? I have a feeling that in a while we will hanker for the charm and character of the other islands but for the moment it feels rather civilized to hang out here, so we'll continue to do just that for the next few weeks.