First a little about the island…St Lucia is the second largest of the Windward Islands, and like most islands that we’ve visited recently it was created because of volcanic activity. It is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, with a shape that is said to resemble either a mango or an avocado…depending on your taste 🙂 The earliest inhabitants of St Lucia were Arawaks from South America who called it Louanalao, meaning ‘land of the iguanas’.
Tourism and bananas are the main industry earners for St Lucia. We passed soooo many banana plantations on our drive! The bunches of bananas are covered with plastic bags for three reasons: to provide a suitable micro-climate for the bananas to ripen more quickly, to protect the bananas (at least to some degree) from insects and other pests, and to prevent the bananas from being bruised when it is windy and leaves may brush against the bunch.
Surprisingly, Christopher Columbus did not discover this island for Spain. While it is true that the island was along the route he sailed, it is not credited to him. It is said that the history of the island’s European discovery is a bit hazy. It was long believed that Columbus had discovered St. Lucia in 1502, but recent evidence suggests that he merely sailed close by. An alternative discoverer is Juan de la Cosa, a lesser-known explorer who had served at one time as Columbus’ navigator. In any case, there was no European presence established on the island until its settlement in the 1550s by the notorious buccaneer Francois le Clerc, a.k.a. Jambe de Bois, or Wooden Leg. Peg-Leg le Clerc set up a fine little base on Pigeon Island, from where he preyed upon unwitting and treasure-laden Spanish galleons sailing by.
As a result of Saint Lucia’s strategic location, the French and British went to war repeatedly for possession of the island between the mid seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, resulting in the island changing hands 14 times between the two powers.
I found this strange, but St Lucia is the only country in the world named after a woman. I did not believe this when I first read it, but it is true! There are some countries named after legendary figures and goddesses but Saint Lucia is the only one named after a real life person. It was named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse. (Saint Lucy was a young Christian maiden of Syracuse in Sicily.)
Marigot Bay. James A Michener, the novelist, is famously quoted as describing it as “The Most Beautiful Bay in the Caribbean”, it is also a historic landmark having played a roll in a number of battles between the French and Royal Navy. The bay is so small and hard to see from the sea that legend has it that a British admiral hid his fleet from the French here by tucking themselves inside the bay and tying palm fronds to their masts to camouflage them. It is also famed as the setting for the 1967 film version of Hugh Lofting’s classic Doctor Dolittle books, which starred Rex Harrison and Anthony Newley. The bay is used for the scenes involving the shipwreck, the fictional Great Pink Sea Snail and the construction of the harness for the Giant Lunar Moth. This a bit before our time but some of our readers may remember it. (This may be our next anchoring spot so more pics on this beautiful bay later.)
For most the first image that comes to mind when they think of Saint Lucia is the majestic Piton Mountains. The twin volcanic spires are the iconic image of St. Lucia, the green hulking peaks rising from the sea side by side in dramatic fashion. Images of the Pitons are everywhere: from shirts to postcards to the labels on the local beer, Piton.
The Pitons are such an emblem of St Lucia that they are also resembled on the country’s flag. The Pitons were also a filming location for a scene in Superman 2. (Superman flies from the North Pole to fetch a rare orchid to take back for his romantic dinner with Lois Lane.) There is also a waterfall nearby called “Superman Waterfall”. The waterfall was featured in the films Superman 2 and Romancing the Stone. (We tried but could not find this waterfall but saw some others)
Upon our first glimpse of the Pitons we also had our first chance to buy necklaces and souvenirs. Every stopping point to view the Pitons or to see a sight we were bombarded by locals trying to sell us their “homemade” necklaces ect. Funny though because every island that we’ve visited seems to have exactly the same “homemade” necklaces no matter what part of the Caribbean we are in. Some of these guys are very insistent and will not leave you alone. We do support locals by buying crafts and such but how many seed necklaces does one really need? Each one of these locals also insisted on telling us the history of the island and of couse wanted to be payed a little something at the end for the information that they shared. We handed out lots of coins as we visited each scenic spot to hear the same thing over and over again! Don’t get me wrong we love talking, really talking to the locals but being hassled with the same game is a bit annoying.
St Lucia is an island where a tourist must be careful about places they visit. We rented a car to see some of these towns so that we would not have to anchor in the harbors that were known to have high crime. Unfortunately, the bay and town of Soufriere at the base of these beautiful Piton mountains is known as an unsavory harbor. It would have been an incredible place to anchor but, needless to say we decided this was not a good idea so we drove there instead taking in the usual tourist sights.
Here is also home to the world’s only drive-through volcano. Supposedly there is no where else in the world can you drive up and park right next to an active volcano. We drove to the site and went to pay the entrance fee however were disappointed because it was much more expensive to just drive through on your own than to take a tour or pay to use the mud baths. We were really trying to watch our time because there was so much that we wanted to explore while we had the car. We`ve seen sulfer springs before, bubbling up from the ground with puffs of cloudy sulfer and that lovely rotten egg smell and did not think that we wanted to cover ourselves with the mud so we decided to skip the drive in. We were technically in the volcano crater just not at the photo spot and we still got to enjoy the putrid smell so that was enough for us.
Even though the island is only 27 × 14 driving along it’s main highway and a few off branches of winding and hairpin roads took all day (9-6). We did not want to drive after dark because the roads were skinny, very steep and full, very full, of potholes not to mention everyone either drives like Miss Daisy (that means slow for my younger readers that have not seen the movie), or they drive like they have a death wish. Even though I had a firm grip on the handhold by me the whole time Brian did an excellent job maneuvering through the streets and highways like a pro!
We saw as much as we could, stopped at lots of overlooks and spent time at some beautiful gardens and waterfalls. It was a perfect day. We ended the evening with some pizza at a restaurant in the marina our dinghy was at and of course had a Piton beer to top it off!
Looks like we might be here for a few more days. Wish that we could play every day but Moon calls and we have to give her some TLC. It’s not all fun and games here. Back to sanding, grinding, painting, glassing or whatever else needs to be done. Take care for now all.