Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rental Car Guadeloupe - Day Two Exploring Basse-Terre

View from Les Mamelle toward Pointe a Pitre
Saturday May 16th 2015
Today we explored the western side of Guadeloupe or the western butterfly wing.  This side has mountains running all through the middle - north to south.  The north mountains are part of the Foret Departmentalo-Domainiale.  The southern mountains make up Parc National De La Guadeloupe.  
Smoked chicken patie
First we had a breakfast snack (meaning in addition to breakfast) in the form of flaky, crossiant dough, meat filled pastries/pastie/patties.  A booth outside the grocery store was selling these fresh made yummies along with various fancy sausages.  Tom had beef.  I had lambi (conch) and we split the smoked chicken.  YUM-O.
Bamboo lined narrow road that narrows more ahead (see sign) and sugar cane truck
We went searching for a thermal spring first.  It turns out the one we were looking for was no longer open.  We found this out from a nice gas station attendant who actually pumped our gas - they do that here.  Our next stop was a hike up Les Mamelles - a climb of 713 meters.  Whew!
YES - We hiked up to the top

Terrific trails

Pretty purple flower of some sort

Interesting foliage in the rainforest
HUGE leaves in the rainforest

The top
Then we drove a short distance to the leeward side and the little coastal village of Malendure where Preserv Cousteau is located just off shore.  Yes, that Cousteau as in Jacques Cousteau of National Geographic fame.  He filmed part of the movie "Silent World" in the waters near here.   Last year we anchored here and snorkeled the area a bit.  A late lunch was canned sardines' crackers, leftover chips and two beers (see the Beyond Burgoo tab for more on sardines).     
Thermal power plant
We then drove north to the Pointe-Noire region.  We stopped at Mason du Cacao to continue our education of all things chocolate and sampled the best Caribbean chocolate we have tasted to date.  Yes, we bought some - brand is actually Mason du Cacao.  
Best chocolate to date
Cacao pods growing

Beans drying -left side new, right side dried

Roasted beans, cracked, nibs - grinder above
Rolled chocolate 
Chocolate rolls like those above are sold in most Caribbean open markets.  It's used to make a warm chocolate drink.  Only water is used because the roll is make from pure, ground chocolate vs powered and thus has the coco fat still in it.  The Mayans drank warm chocolate at 100% strength = bitter.  This brand uses sugar cane that is less refined than regular sugar...aka better for you.  Ya-hu - the lady said so!  The taste was wonderfully rich and smooth.  
Tom tasting the warm chocolate drink

With our brains high on chocolate, we headed up into the hills in search of Le Saut d'Acomat (Acomat Waterfall). We were learning that the roads up to these trail heads are generally very narrow - like less than two lane and often one lane only - for both in and out traffic!  And often through narrow, hilly, residential areas.  For those from Kansas City, think West Plaza with it's narrow streets, lined with parked cars and then add steep hills - that was often our road.  Good thing most cars here are tiny.     
Road in and out

My wingspan is wider than the car
Road narrows - MORE?
We knew we were getting close because the non-existent shoulder was lined with several of these tiny cars parked as best they could and people were returning to their cars in swimsuits with wet hair and towels.  However, we couldn't find the trail head.  (FYI - this are is NOT Parc De La Guadeloupe)  I asked a nice group but they didn't know either.  But they were French and asked someone else.  Oh- that sign in French saying something about danger was actually the start of the trail. Ok.  The path was rocky and then the last bit was very steep with rocks that we had to crawl down on our butts.  Once at the bottom, we were rewarded with a 15 meter high (45 ft) waterfall and pool.  Ahhhh.  We went for a refreshing dip and watched the macho, single guys jump off high boulders.  The married guys in the crowd didn't have anything to prove so none jumped. 
The steep part
Tom on the left

Tom cooling off his head
The sun was starting to set so we climbed back out of the valley in our wet swimsuits and Keens - trying to dry off a bit, returned to our little rental car and headed for home back at anchor in Pointe a Pitre. 

What a fun day.  

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