St Lucia

Exploring the Breadbasket of St. Lucia

Impulse Travel Plans

Without much consideration, and no planning whatsoever, I booked a flight to Saint Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. A friend of mine had extensive family there and had given it rave reviews. Unlike many of my travel plans, I had booked this ticket several months in advance. It was nice to look forward to a vacation as opposed to simply buying a ticket and flying out the next day. But, I wasn’t used to proper planning.

Boat At St. Lucia

Castries – The Capital of Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an island that depends on tourism. In the north lies Castries, the current capital of the island. The seaport of Castries is a frequent stop for all of the major ocean liners. I was quite shocked to see one for the first time, towering over Castries like a skyscraper. Further north in Gros Islet, an abundance of resort villages common on Caribbean islands occupy the sandy beaches. I was told by several locals that several posh resorts had gone as far to import white sand from neighbouring Trinidad. The sand in Saint Lucia is predominantly dark. A bit much I thought.

Book a Room Before Arrival at Hewanorra Airport

After disembarking from my flight, I proceeded to the immigration office at Hewanorra Airport where I was to report my travel plans to the attending officers. The problem was that I didn’t have any. I wasn’t travelling with anyone, I didn’t know what I was going to do for my week on the island and I certainly I didn’t know where I would stay. The immigration officers, understandably, weren’t too impressed. She tucked my passport away in a drawer and told me to visit the tourist office next door, book a reservation, and come back to claim my passport.

Passport Safety

I was very hesitant about leaving my passport. I had images of having to make feeble bribery attempts to get it back; that would surely be a failing venture. I wandered over to the tourism office and booked a room in Soufrière, a small town situated along the southwest coast of the island. During French rule, Soufrière was the former capital of Saint Lucia, and is referred to by some as 'the breadbasket.'

Despite my bribery fears, when I returned to the immigration officer she reviewed my accommodation arrangement and allowed me passage – I was in.

Now I just needed to find a way to Soufrière.

Mountain St. Lucia

Getting to Soufrière

To further illustrate the perils of poor planning, consider this: on Sundays in Saint Lucia, most businesses are closed for the day. Unfortunately for me this included the business I was hoping to rely on to get me to Soufrière: the bus.

I was left with no choice for transport, there was no resort shuttle at my disposal as there was for so many other tourists. I was left with the most amazing option that made me embarrassed to think I never considered it. I was going to rent a car.

Renting a Car and Driving in Saint Lucia

The rental agency had a limited number of cars in their lot. Coming from Canada I was familiar with the following: automatic transmission, driving on the right side of the road. The driving situation in Saint Lucia was the exact opposite: standard transmission, driving on the left side of the road.

I would definitely spring for the insurance.

According to the locals, it is possible to drive from the south to the north of the island in roughly one hour. After inspecting a map, I concluded that I could be in Soufrière within twenty-five minutes.

Two hours later, I arrived.

St. Lucia

Soufrière Accommodation

My room for the night wasn’t much. It consisted of a bed, a dresser and an overhead fan. There was an open window, and when the light in the room was on, it seemed to spawn a multitude of flies. Within the building were at least two families. We would share the kitchen, living area and washrooms. They fed me the first night, but after that – I was on my own. This was not an all-inclusive.

Getting to Know the Locals in Saint Lucia

One of the family members, a young girl – who was surely into her sixth month of pregnancy – offered to show me around the island. We walked around the harbour area of the small town, visited nearby sulphur springs, a nearby rainforest and a small boat tour led by her boyfriend. It was nice to get her perspective on life on such a small island. Whereas I was expected to attend university and get an education, she was expected to work and raise a family. She hoped to one day leave Saint Lucia, not forever, just to travel as I was.

I returned to my room that night exhausted. The flies had consolidated their power and were preparing for another evening onslaught once I turned on the light. I kept the light on just long enough to make sure that all my things were still there and that there was nobody hiding in the closet waiting to do away with me. It was, however, all the time that the flies needed to find me. Back in the darkness, I gazed out the window at my goal for the next day: the Pitons.

Mountain Hiking in the Caribbean

I woke up at dawn with my legs swollen from bug bites. It didn’t matter. Today I was going to climb Gros Piton, one of the Piton mountains that could be found just south of Soufrière. I hopped into my car and drove down an asphalt highway, which quickly turned to a dirt road, which turned into a beaten path soon after. I arrived at the guide station after an hour; another case of a supposed 'ten minute drive' to the locals.

Climbing Gros Piton was a strenuous hike, mostly on account of the heat. The climb isn’t something done traditionally by visiting tourists. In this case it was just the guide and myself. The guide glided up the mountain effortlessly while I huffed and puffed, making frequent stops. I began wondering how many times the guides could go up and down the mountain in a day. After a few hours we were at the top. My view was unobstructed, you could see Petit Piton across the bay and the lush rainforest in the distance.

I stayed in Soufrière for another few days before heading north to Castries and to another hostel.

The flies in my room did not follow me.