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Dominica - Saint Lucia  30 April - 3 May

Landing and parking fees at Canefield airport were a very reasonable US$ 15.  The departure formalities took no time at all, and we were soon up and away.  Martinique was mostly shrouded in cloud as we flew over.  We landed in Castries, St. Lucia , after a 50-minute flight.  The airport was about as small as Canefield in Dominica, but much busier, so we weren't allowed to leave the plane near the terminal.  Flemming had to move it to a nearby FBO while I came to meet him with a taxi.  I chatted to the taxi driver of Indian descent while we waited for him.  He seemed to be taking an age.  Finally he came, complaining that they wanted to charge him US$ 25 a day parking fees.  He'd got the telephone number of the boss, Mr David Deveaux - apparently someone of an old family of plantation owners - and later tried to call him.  Flemming never got to speak to the man himself, but one of his managers suggested pushing the plane onto the grass where the parking fee would 'only' be US$ 15 a day. Still rather steep, but acceptable.

We booked into a spacious apartment at the Candyo Inn at Rodney Bay (north-west of St. Lucia).  Compared to Dominica, Rodney Bay is quite over-developed.   But at least that meant we didn't have to take a car every time we wanted to go out for a meal, as there was a good choice of restaurants within easy reach.  The first evening, we ate at a Chinese restaurant for the first time since Malaysia!  The food was excellent and there were just as many locals as tourists eating there.

The next day we rented a car to drive south to Soufrière.   Heard the name before?  You're right - there's a Soufrière village in Dominica and the Soufrière mountain in Guadeloupe.  Either there was lack of coordination between the islands or they ran out of names, but several place names are repeated from island to island.

The roads in St. Lucia were thankfully in much better condition than in Dominica.  We lunched at the Dasheene Restaurant at the exclusive Ladera Resort which has a stunning hillside setting.  There was a magnificent view of the nearby Pitons - twin volcanic cones that rise straight up from the shoreline.  Then we drove to the Anse Chastenet Hotel on the coast where Flemming did a shore dive for the first time, while I went snorkelling.  It was there that I saw the one and only turtle (in the water) that I've seen on the whole trip!  I was able to study him closely for a couple of minutes before he suddenly shot away.  That really made my day! In addition to that, I saw huge numbers of large needle fish.  Couldn't count them all.  Flemming wasn't quite as impressed with his dive, but maybe he's just getting blasé.

Before heading back north, we drove to a nearby mineral waterfall in a Garden of Eden-like setting where we could stand under the fall and let the warm water run over us.  On our way north, we stopped for our sundowners at Marigot Bay, another idyllic spot.  It's a cosy little bay with a picturesque sand bank in the middle, decked with coconut palms.

Back at Rodney Bay we dined at the Roof Garden restaurant, and then enjoyed some good jazz, played by a small band from Guadeloupe.

The next day, we had a more relaxing time and just took a small ferry from Rodney Bay Marina to Pigeon Island National Park.  Apart from lounging on the beach and snorkelling, we wandered around the remains of Fort Rodney, named after the admiral who built it in the 18th century to monitor the French fleet on Martinique. Many a battle was fought between the British and the French, and St. Lucia changed hands between them 14 times before it was finally ceded to the British in 1814.

Our last morning in St. Lucia was spent walking in the rain forest on the Barre de l'isle Trail up to Morne la Cambe. Then we hopped on a public minibus and had lunch at a cheap and cheerful place in Castries (the capital).   Most of Castries' historic buildings were destroyed by fire, but the Catholic cathedral survived them.  We stepped in there to see the colourful paintings with Caribbean and African influences and were delighted to find a marriage ceremony in full swing.  There were hardly any wedding guests - if any apart from the witnesses - and people wandered in and out.  It didn't seem to matter that we were dressed in sweaty t-shirts, shorts and muddy walking boots!  It was just a pleasure to sit there for a while, watch the simple ceremony of a marriage between a black woman and a white man and listen to the choir sing.

The annual jazz festival was due to start in Castries that evening but it was also Friday night, and there was to be the Friday night jump-up at Gros Islet, just north of Rodney Bay. Jazz festivals are held the world over, so we opted for the jump-up.  Unlike Roseau in Dominica, this jump-up takes place in the streets.   Women grill food on the corners, music streams out of loudspeakers (not live music unfortunately) and crowds of people dance in the main square, clutching bottles of Piton lager. The guidebook warned against taking the public bus to the jump-up, but we decided to live dangerously for a change and ignored the warning. It was fine and we thus went to and fro for a tenth of the taxi fare.

Forgive me if this is beginning to read like a tourist guide to the Caribbean islands.  We certainly feel less adventurous here than in a lot of the other places we've visited around the world, but it's great to have fewer hassles: short flights, no need to request flight authorizations, a warm climate without the suffocating heat of the South Pacific...  I'm still not looking forward to the long flight over the Atlantic, but won't think too much about that just yet.

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The twin Pitons after which the local brew of lager is named

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View of Soufrière with the twin Pitons behind
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View from the Dasheene restaurant, Ladera Resort
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'Underneath the mango tree', tra-la-la
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At the mineral waterfall
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View of Soufrière
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View of Rodney Bay from Fort Rodney, Pigeon Island. Flemming has a thing about cannons!
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