Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Visiting St. Lucia

Last month my husband and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with a trip to St. Lucia. This small Caribbean island was the perfect getaway! We knew we wanted some place with beaches and mountains and St. Lucia delivered on both of those. We also wanted to have a laid back vacation ... most of our time on the beach, not a bunch of touristy stuff and lots of beer :)

We flew in Sunday afternoon to Hewanora Airport and were met by our host for the week, Tony. We did an Airbnb rental from Tony and his wife Jan. And let me say, they were the best hosts! Tony drove us from the airport to Laborie, a small fishing village about 15 minutes from the airport.

Tony gave us the tour of Laborie and pointed out where to pick up food for the apartment, where to grab some lunch and of course where to buy beer! We stopped outside Mama Tilly's and ordered up our dinner for that night - 1 fish and 1 chicken meal. Once we arrived at our apartment, Mango Splash, we settled down and immediately checked out our beach-front view.

After hanging outside for awhile, we decided to head into the village to pick up some supplies. Pretty much everything closes down on Sunday afternoon in Laborie so there were only a few places open to grab some beer. We found our way to Mama Tilly's where she whipped up a true Caribbean meal for us.

We spent Monday laying out on the beach and wandering around the village. We stopped in many of the shops to pick up breakfast and snacks for the rest of the week. The locals we met throughout our trip were super friendly and always willing to answer any questions we had.

On Tuesday we decided to wake up bright and early and hike Gros Piton. Gros Piton stands 2,619 feet which doesn't seem like much until you try to hike up! We were severely misinformed by some websites that this was a "moderately easy" hike.

We drove about 30 minutes to get the access path to begin hiking. It's a good 25 minute walk to the base of the mountain before the true hiking trail even begins. The streets in St. Lucia are narrow, curvy and full of pot holes. My motion sickness was kicking in so I didn't start off this journey in the best condition. Before we reached the 1/4 mark I didn't think I was going to make it to the top. We were hiking with Tony (our host), our guide, along with Tony's son and his 4 friends. I was slowing everyone down. Once we reached the 1/4 mark, we told the rest of the group to go on and maybe we'd see them at the top. Tony stayed behind to guide us through the rest. After many stops we made it to the 1/2 way mark. The motion sickness I was feeling had worn off and I was feeling pretty good. Plus the quarter to half way section of trail seemed pretty easy. We decided to go on.
I thought the 3/4 mark would never come! At this point we were climbing up "stairs" that had been built into the side of the mountain with large boulders to climb over. Once we rested at the 3/4 mark, I was determined to make it to the top. I hadn't come all this way to stop now. The last quarter of the trail was brutal with more stairs and a steeper climb. Being only 5' 4" means I don't have very long legs, this also means some of these "stair" steps came up to my knee or sometimes my hip. We finally arrived at the top ... 2 hours and 30 minutes after we started. The rest of the group was so surprised to see us! We immediately checked out the right side of the mountain.

There were a few other people who joined us up top, but for the most part we were alone. Getting an early start is key. We were headed to the start of the trail by 7am, any later and we would've hit the heat of the day and been way too hot to make it.
Our guide then took us to the left side of the mountain. This is so important! If your guide tells you that you can't go to the left side, it's because they don't want to spend more time up there. The left side view is where it is at people! You must force your guide to take you. It's a bit more of an obstacle to get to the viewing point, but oh so worth it.

From the left side you can see Petit Piton, which as you guessed isn't as tall as Gros Piton. You can also see the town of Soufiere. The view is amazing. We spent a good 30 minutes here before deciding to head back down the mountain. Of course I couldn't go back down without a fun picture.

The way down wasn't much easier than going up. I slid a bunch, I got muddy, I got scraped up and my toes were jammed into my shoes from trying to hold my ground. It took about 2 hours to climb back down. Upon reaching the bottom, we strayed from the path back to the car and headed for the beach. We all hopped in the ocean to cool off. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday was more of the same from Monday, hanging out on the beach and drinking beer. There was no way our legs wanted to move after our hike on Tuesday. We made friends with one of the locals who brought us all sorts of goodies including fresh picked cashews that he roasted for us.

They were so amazing! He also brought us coconuts to try and explained how he takes the sea kelp he catches in his boxes and creates a super healthy jelly from it.

Thursday was more beach fun before heading back to the airport and back to our girls. One thing I hadn't read before our trip was about the amount of dogs in St. Lucia. There are a few breeds around the island and they all want to make friends. Our hosts had about 5 dogs that they had rescued, but many more would roam around the village and along the beach. Since most people can't afford to spay/neuter their dogs, the dog population is quite large on the island. I was glad to learn that our hosts were looking out for these animals. As part of the recycling efforts on the island, you are encouraged to turn in your beer bottles for a small refund. Tony and Jan use this money and donate it to the local animal shelter. We were more than happy to leave a few bottles behind for them.

It was a trip we won't soon forget. If you have any questions, please let me know! I would of course recommend staying at one of the 3 places that Tony & Jan have available on Airbnb - Mango Splash, Bay Treehouse or Driftwood Cottage.

Now to plan our next trip :)

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