GUADELOUPE

The morning started yet again the same way – coffee, fruit, and warm bread.  We were in a rhythm by now.  And one that was fitting me well.  Another 90 miles and we would be arriving at Guadeloupe.  We would be staying at Les Saintes, a series of small islands off the coast of the larger Guadeloupe island.  We would stay here two nights, in a harbor with about 50 other boats.

We hadn’t left LUNA in almost 72 hours, so when we had the chance to get in the dinghy (a small boat, similar to a life boat) and go to shore, we hopped in immediately.  It was a crowded ride with the three of us, Nim, and a wheelchair, but we made it for the 10 minute ride.  Nim gave us a radio that we would use to call him when we were ready to go.  With no agenda in mind, we walked the few streets on the island, stopping to get a drink here and there, stopping to get souvenirs, and just embracing the small island that had no cars.  Before we knew it, the sun was getting ready to set and we rang for Nim to come get us.  Dinner and the setting sun with green covered mountain peaks and an endless ocean would be putting us to bed.

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The four of us on the dinghey.

The next morning, we were up early for breakfast.  Today, Tony and I would be scuba diving in Guadeloupe.  We arrived at the dive shop early and were handed a tank and a regulator.  Nothing was connected, and I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve had to prepare my own gear.  I was a little uneasy since most dive shops do this for us.  The woman who would be our dive master was pretty flaky and spoke mostly French, so we felt a bit on our own.  She was running around from here and there, putting things on the boat, and then attempting to attend to us.  I was glad we had the training we did and a good number of dives under our belts.

The ride to our dive shop was only 10 minutes (thank goodness…I really dislike the longer rides).  Julie came along and was planning on snorkeling.  Before she knew it, everyone on the boat was diving – the captain included!  It’s unheard of for the captain to abandon his ship, especially with someone still on it.  None the less, Julie jumped off and snorkeled around, keeping close to the boat.  She was back on board when we finished our first dive.

Once we got settled back on the boat, Tony pulled his regulator out of his mouth and pointed out to both the dive master and me that it had a giant hole in it.  Air was leaking out, and water was coming in.  The dive master seemed unbothered and did not offer a solution.  I decided to opt out of the second dive (my BCD was not fitting well and I was spinning in circles, onto my back, in the open water) and gave Tony my regulator.  It still seems odd how carefree our dive master was.  I guess perhaps that’s just the island life…

While Julie was snorkeling, she saw two large seashells (conches) under the boat that she really wanted.  They were the size of a basketball and about 20 feet deep, so pretty easy for a diver to grab, but virtually impossible for a novice snorkeler to obtain.  She gave Tony strict instructions to get them on his way up from the last dive.  When they all surfaced, Tony had nothing in hand.  But, his dive master (also the boat captain) had two conch shells in tow.  We took them with excitement and gratefulness.

Later that evening, when we met up with Nim and Fabiola, he chuckled at how excited we were about our shells.  It turns out that there is a surplus of conch shells in the area, and they are nothing to be too excited about.  In fact, there’s a ‘conch island,’ an island made entirely of conch shells.  It’s referred to as Happy Island and has a bar on it.  I guess years ago someone was tasked with cleaning up excess conch shells.  Rather than bringing them far out into the ocean, he piled them up and made an island.  What a cool idea?!  So, sitting on my mantel is one of the conch shells.  It might not be a big deal to many, but the stories and memories behind it are worth more than an island of conch shells.

That afternoon, we decided to rent a golf cart and explore the island.  We got out of the little town a ways and found ourselves at the top of a mountain with a long gravel road going virtually straight down, eventually leading to a beach.  The three of us debated for a good while – should we go down the hill or turn around?  Tony and I were afraid of going down and not being able to get back up.  Julie was optimistic that it wouldn’t be a problem.  In the end, we went flying down the hill, all three of us roaring in laughter.  Tony was driving at this point and when he turned around to go back up, we only made it a few feet.  We decided to take one person off.  No luck.  So, I took over driving and Julie and Tony stood at the back, prepared to run and push behind me.  I made a solid start, and just five feet or so from the top, started to putter out.  After a very slow climb though, I got over the top of the hill.  In all honesty, this hill and the golf cart might have been the highlight of the trip.  We laughed for hours after the event!

Before we knew it, exploring Les Saintes in Guadeloupe was over.  We left early again the next morning, sailed the remaining length of Guadeloupe (it’s a long island), and made a final overnight stop at the tip of the island.  It was an uneventful evening, considering the previous day’s events, but we did explore the city and, of course, had a fabulous dinner while watching the sun set.

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