- Here's my learnings from one of the hikes we did: the main island of Guadeloupe is made up of two islands of completely different nature and age. Grande-Terre to the east is low and flat, sedimentary limestone the same as Marie Galante, while Basse-Terre to the west is volcanic with a ridge of mountains running north-south down the centre of the island. The two islands are separated by a narrow salt-water 'river' and spanned by three bridges. The geology of the eastern Caribbean comprises two arcs of islands. The outer that begins in the south with Marie-Galante and includes Grande-Terre, Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla and Anegada are all about 400 million years old and are all part of the same limestone plate. The inner arc starts all the way south in Grenada running up through all the islands we have just visited but splits at Guadeloupe to include Basse-Terre and then Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Eustacia and Saba. I assume that St. Martin/Sint Martin and St. Barts are also included in this arc since they too are volcanic in nature. These islands were all formed much more recently (in geological terms) about 150 million years ago. Interesting huh? Well maybe not riveting, but it explains the difference we have noted in the islands and I think it's pretty cool that Guadeloupe is made up of two islands from these distinct formations.
Ok - back to our excursion. Apparently it is difficult to get a rental car on Guadeloupe at the moment due to pending Carnival celebrations, so I guess we were pretty lucky to pick up a two-day rental right in Deshaies.
For our first day we headed up to the north of Basse-Terre, over the top to Sainte-Rose and down to the outskirts of Pointe-A-Pitre where we fed our new compulsion to visit Decathlon. Once we escaped with our wallets only a little bit thinner, we then continued east to Grande-Terre with a stop in Petit-Canal and right up to the northern point where we caught a spectacular sunset complete with a really good green flash (unfortunately not on camera.)
|The anchorage at Deshaies (taken from the Botanical Gardens the day before). The anchorage goes much deeper inland and this shows about half the boats in the bay.|
|The coast at Sainte-Rose is much like the south shore of Puerto Rico, with outlying reefs and mangrove islands.|
|We're back in the land of pelicans.|
|At Petit-Canal we found a monument to the abolition of slavery, built rather fittingly right next to an old slave market. One can grimly imagine the ships arriving and unloading their human cargo ready for market.|
|The steps rise up four flights where there is a bell at the top.|
|Nearby were the remains of an old building that had been overgrown by a massive tree with a most impressive root system.|
|The buttress roots flowed over everything in their path, like oily water.|
|Through the bars of this old window...|
|Almost like a creature from the black lagoon ... reaching, reaching...|
|And finally escaping the walled confines. The back root comes right through the base of the concrete while the forward root/limb went right over the top.|
|We reached "Pointe de la Grand Vigie" as the sun started to set - the cliffs below to the east just picking up points of remaining light.|
|Looking north it was too hazy to see Antigua, but this is the northern-most point of Guadeloupe.|
|And looking west over Pointe Petite Tortue.|
La Souffliere was fascinating and would now rank on our top-ten list of hikes (hmmmm - should we put together a list?) You can drive up until just 1.5 - 2 hours of hiking remains to reach the summit at 4813'. As you rise above the tree line, cloud usually envelops you and sometimes the visibility was just down to a few metres in each direction. Once at the top, active vents puffing sulphur and chlorine gases into the atmosphere sting the eyes and provide the stench of rotten eggs. It is not the view that one hikes for, it is the experience of standing on the rim, and in small craters, of a volcano that last erupted in 1977 and will most likely erupt again.
|The first part of the hike up from the parking lot, is well formed but slippery with cobblestones. We were already up high enough to be feeling the cold, damp air of the mountain.|
|As we climbed higher, dense clouds descended on us but we could still pick out good views occasionally through the breaks.|
|Onward and upward, with well-protected switchbacks to prevent landslide.|
|We crossed deep ravines that not only provide run-off for the huge quantities of rain that falls, but also act as side-vents to the volcano.|
|We reached the summit, and oh boy, was it windy. We hung onto the sign and each other not to get blown over.|
|Jason gave body/wind (?) surfing a try.|
|We then found "La porte de l'enfer" (the gates of hell), spewing out sulphur and chlorine gases.|
To really get a feel for the atmosphere up here, have a look at this video from this portion of the hike.
|As we descended the mountain I took time to admire the variety of alpine growth surrounding us.|
The little spines on this plant had captured a glistening coat of dew.
|Tiny flowers like dainty little earrings.|
|And just as suddenly we were crossing a more desolate area with warnings to be wary of landslide.|
|And then once again we were back among trees and huge ferns.|
|Back below the clouds with a view of Gourbeyre to the south.|
|The top cascade at 3000' falls 410', the second falls 360'. We couldn't see the third below us but it falls another 66'. Quite impressive!|
|Due to a recent earthquake, the rock wall of the second falls is unstable and the national park has limited access to a viewing platform that is still pretty close considering the size of this rock face.|
Guadeloupe is a spectacular nature island of great diversity and we feel that we have still only scratched the surface. Lots of hiking, rainforest, more waterfalls and mountains, loads of beautiful beaches - there's something here for everyone and all served up with delicious French food, wine and beer.