Caribbean tour - 2002
After Malaysia I decided to continue my search for the
perfect beach. I think that most people have dreamed of
Caribbean sun and so I started looking for flights to some
Caribbean destination. As Air France seemed to have
reasonably priced flights to Guadeloupe and there seemed to
be good ferry connections to the neighbouring islands I
booked the tickets to Pointe-a-Pitre. I spent my two-week
winter vacation on three islands: Guadeloupe, St Lucia and
Dominica. Every island had its own culture and vibe - I
enjoyed my stay on every one of them but St Lucia was
probably my favourite. The scenery on the islands was
somewhat contradictory - after visiting the most beautiful
and empty beaches you can quickly end up in a dirty town
packed with the ugliest concrete buildings. But in general
if you avoid the bigger towns you sure are going to see some
of the most charming scenery in the world. Catching a ferry
is also highly recommend to visit the smaller and even more
idyllic islands! People are friendly even though on
French-speaking islands it is pretty hard to communicate in
Check out the
(The photos are scanned from paper originals so the quality
can be poor)
22.3.2002 Helsinki - Pointe-a-Pitre
- Les Saintes
I started my tour from Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe. I spent
most of my time on the smaller islands of Marie-Galante and
Les Saintes. After several days of touring I returned to
Pointe-a-Pitre and took a catamaran ferry to St Lucia.
Before returning back home I spent two additional nights in
the Gosier area.
- Gros Islet
In St Lucia I spent most of my time in two locations
- the small village of Soufriere (one of my favourite
spots of the whole trip) and the Gros Islet area in the
northern tip of the Island. After a couple of days I
started my journey back to Guadeloupe via Dominica.
During my brief stay in Dominica my hotel was located in
the capital (Roseau) but I did day trips to various
destinations like Portsmouth. Unfortunately I did not have
the time to visit all of the most famous sights and natural
wonders of this beautiful island (boiling lake for example).
After Dominica it was the time to return to Guadeloupe...
My trip does not start too well as the plane from Helsinki
to Paris is overbooked. Fortunately I manage to get a seat.
Another interesting surprise is the hindu meal that the guys
from Intia-Keskus (my travel agency) have for some reason
ordered to me. The rest of the trip is uneventful and I
arrive in Guadeloupe pretty much in time (around 20.30 local
time). I head straight to my hotel - the whole city seems to
be practically deserted! The only place that is open is the
local McDonalds. As LP warned the city is not too attractive
- the first impression is the somewhat dirty and ugly
concrete buildings. As I'm starting to feel the jet lag I'll
go to sleep.
23.3.2002 Pointe-a-Pitre - St Louis
I wake up early and try eat as much as possible from the
breakfast buffet. In the morning sun the city looks lot more
interesting than the night before - on the other hand it is
not much different from modern Mediterranean small towns. I
visit the local tourist information office to get some
up-to-date information about ferry schedules and bus
connections. I decide to move on and book a ticket for the
next ferry to island of Marie-Galante. My destination is the
small village of St Louis - which proves to be a really
laidback place. The "city center" is basically just a couple
of blocks that are explored pretty quickly. I walk to the
nearest beach a couple of kilometres from my hotel - pretty
good but not perfect. There are lots of annoying dogs around.
I return to hotel, buy a bottle of white wine (wines are
really cheap here) and watch the cloudy sunset at the
harbour. Sun sets really early here (around 18.15). And as
Pointe-a-Pitre the town is practically deserted after dark.
I still have some jet lag so I go to sleep early (around
24.3.2002 St Louis
I wake up really early (at 7.00!). After having breakfast I
rent a bicycle to explore the beaches further up north.
There is a lagoon-like beach that I spotted yesterday that I
want to check out. After an hour of cycling I reach my
destination which proves to be worth the effort. There is
lots of white sand and palm trees and a couple of sailboats
anchored a little bit further to the sea. Huge cliffs
protect the bay. Not too many people around - mostly locals. I enjoy a couple of hours of sunbathing
flavoured with soulful house tunes from my CD player before
returning to town.
The sunset is cloudy once again. I have dinner at a place
called Chez Henri which proves to be an excellent choice.
The place itself is very impressive with its terrace by the
sea. They play zouk and reggae rhythms in the background
(and later even some balearic chill-out tunes as well!).
Waiting for the food takes a long time but it is worth the
wait (and the hefty price) - one of the most memorable fish
dishes ever! I'll continue the evening by listening to music
on the balcony of my hotel room until midnight...
25.3.2002 St Louis - Grande Bourg
I take a minibus to the "capital" of the island - Grande
Bourg. A pleasant one-hour trip with zouk music. Grande
Bourg is not a particularly impressive place - seems that all
the bigger towns here are somewhat dull and dirty.
I've burned my skin so today there won't be any beach life.
Instead I walk to the nearby old sugarcane plantation - an
interesting piece of history that gives a good understanding
of the life on the islands a hundred years ago...
I spent the rest of the day by hanging around in the
downtown area and trying to once again catch the perfect
sunset. Again I'm disappointed as it is getting cloudy. I
buy grilled chicken from a street vendor and taste some
local rum before going to sleep.
26.3.2002 Grande Bourg
- Trois Rivieres
The day with lots of "technical problems". I leave Marie
Galante on the first ferry to catch another ferry to
Martinique. It appears that all the ferries for the couple
of coming days are sold out already. So I have to change my
itinerary and as plan B I try to rent a car. It shouldn't be
a problem but at the rental agency I realize that I have
left my driving licence home. Then I have to resort for plan
C which means taking a bus to the village of Trois Rivieres.
Fortunately it appears to be an idyllic place at the bottom
of a mountain. After locating a hotel I try to find a nearby
beach. After a couple of kilometres there's still no sign of
beaches so I decide to turn back. On my way back I come
accross some sort of local botanical gardens (combined with
an exhibition of prehistoric artifacts). Quite impressive
I return to hotel to enjoy the magnificent
sea views. Apart from the views the place is nothing special
- air conditioning is not working and there are insects and
small lizards in the room. In the evening I enjoy an
excellent menu in the hotel's stylish restaurant.
Trois Rivieres / Les Saintes
I did not sleep too well as the numerous mosquitos kept me
awake for a long time. My plan today is to visit the island
of Les Saintes. As soon as the ferry reaches the harbour I
realize the beauty of the place - it is really an
unbelievable place with no single ugly building. The
architecture has strong French influence and the nature
reminds me of the rocky Balearic islands. There are lots of
tourists in the downtown area though. I climb up to Fort
Napoleon to enjoy the splendid view of the bay area. It also
good fun to watch the life of iguanas that live in the
fortress. After the descent I head straight to the beach -
which is equally beautiful coveted location with deep blue
waters. Probably even a better beach than the one at Marie
Before catching the ferry back I spend some time
in the downtown area. I think I'll return here before
leaving the Caribbean. The rest of the day I spend by
chilling out at the hotel terrace - watching the stars and
enjoying fresh fruit and bread bought from a nearby store...
Trois Rivieres - Basse-Terre - Pointe-a-Pitre
Technical problems, part 2. I leave early in the morning to
visit the other main city of the island (Basse-Terre). The
intention is to stay overnight there before returning to
Pointe-a-Pitre. I'm not too surprised to realize that the
city is quite a dull place - apart from the stylish beach
boulevard there is not much to see. I walk to the local
marina, watch boats and do some swimming on a small black
It seems that you can see a perfect sunset from the
beach boulevard - at least there is something to see!
Around 5 o'clock I realize that the next day is Easter
Friday - which in practice means that it is public
holiday and probably nothing is happening. Also it
probably means that buses are not in operation - and I
was supposed to catch the first morning bus to
Pointe-a-Pitre! So I run to my hotel, check out and run
to catch the last bus to P-a-P. I'm in the nick of time
and get to to P-a-P as it is already dark. In P-a-P the
only hotel that is open is some overpriced place where
shower and airconditioning are not quite working. And
electricity goes off every now and then... The city is
more or less closed already so the only alternative for
dinner is a local pizzeria...
Pointe-a-Pitre - Castries
It is Easter Friday and not surprisingly it is really silent
in the morning... The marketplace is open though and I buy
some breakfast from there. I've booked a ticket to the St
Lucia ferry that is leaving Guadeloupe at 12.00. For some
unknown reason it is 1,5 hours late though... I meet an
American guy called Dave as I'm waiting for the ferry. He
tells interesting stories of sailing to the Caribbean with a
boat he has built himself. Dave is now on his way to meet
his family. We continue our discussions until we reach St
Lucia. From the ferry you cannot but admire the mountainous
scenery of the islands along the route (Martinique, Dominica).
When I finally arrive in Castries I'm greeted by some
bureaucratic officials who want to check all the bags from
everybody. The city looks somewhat grim in the dark. Quite
contrary to Guadeloupe it is by no means deserted - actually
there are quite a few people around but many of them look
like somewhat suspicious or even aggressive. Lots of
rastafarians around. The only restaurant that is open is the
local fast food chain so I enjoy some chicken nuggets for
30.3.2002 Castries - Soufriere
After a quick sightseeing tour in Castries I decide to move
on to the south to visit the village of Soufriere. As I
enter the packed minibus the feelings start to get better
and better. The front seat is packed with rastas wearing
funny-looking hats and volume of the reggae tunes keeps
increasing as the driver accelerates the old van. The roads
are quite dangerous with lots of hairpin curves - regardless
of that the speed remains constantly high...
appears to be a really genuine peace of East Caribbean
culture. One of the first things I notice is the sound of
bass drum that comes from a sound system at the central
square of the village. I book a room from a local guesthouse
high above the main village. The views are just awesome.
There is a splendid beach that actually belongs to some
5-star hotel but seems to be open for the general public as
well. It is also a perfect location for sunsetting. I enjoy
an excellent fish meal at a local restaurant. I think about
chilling out at the balcony but it seems that the sound of
partying from the village makes listening to my CD player
somewhat difficult. But that's not a problem as the sound of
reggae beats suits the atmosphere a lot better. I keep
wondering about these cultural differences between the
French and English speaking islands...
Time to do some sightseeing again... I first check out a
nearby waterfall that is a half-hour walk outside the
village. The special thing with this waterfall is that
the water is lukewarm (because of the volcanic heat) and
that there is an artificially built pool under it where
you can swim. That is actually a very pleasant
experience to stand in the "shower". I hire a local
guide, a rasta that seems to be constantly smoking joint
and tells interesting stories of nature. The guy
persuades me to do some hiking with him and to visit the
volcanic lakes. We spend about 1,5 hours in the jungle,
taste some wild fruit and me some locals living in huts
in the middle of jungle. Finally we reach the volcanic
lakes (that are actually a crater of a collapsed volcano).
I thank my guide for an impressive tour and continue
to the beach do some swimming and watch the sun come
down. On my way back I meet a Canadian guy called
Winston - a retired man that has bought himself a villa
from Soufriere. He says that I can borrow his snorkeling
gear tomorrow. As I have never snorkeled before he
promises to give me a crash course on the subject as
well. An offer not to be refused!
My first ever day snorkeling (and definitely not the last)!
With Winston's instructions I quickly learned all the basics
- as soon as you master the breathing technique observing
the underwater world is fairly easy. Anse Chastagnet was
quite unique spot as it was easily accessible from the beach.
No need for long boat rides - just swim some 50 metres to
reach the marine reserve area. The sights were gorgeous -
lots of colourful corals, occasional barracudas, some
pike-looking fish and dozens of others species I cannot name...
Swimming in the middle of hundreds of small fish is an
After a couple of hours I'm
starting to feel exhausted and I have obviously burned my
back - therefore it is time to return to the village and
thank Winston for borrowing the equipment. Not much
activities for the evening - I quickly visit the village to
have dinner (this local rotis pie with creole chicken).
Tasty but expensive. Anyway a perfect day.
- Gros Islet
Time to change location once again... This time I head to
the northern part of the island for the village of Gros
Islet. The bus ride is as scenic as expected - this time the
soundtrack is for some reason country music! Another
interesting observation is a Finlandia Vodka advertisement
painted on a wall in the middle of nowhere! Gros Islet is a
weird place - a poor-looking village next to luxury hotels
and a fancy marina packed with big sailboats.
I spend the afternoon at Pigeon Island, a rocky island
with the remains of an old fortress. The ruins are not
particularly interesting but the scenery from the top of the
hills is awesome. On my way back I end up on terribly dirty
stretch of beach - the locals are throwing everything on the
beach / to the sea and some rasta gangsters are breaking
beer bottles. Scary stuff - Gros Islet definitely is not
most idyllic place of Eastern Caribbean.
In the evening I meet two
"sail bums" Maurizio & Stewart in a local restaurant. These
guys work as crew members in sailboats and have toured the
Caribbean for a while. Really good guys with lots of funny
stories to share. The owner of the nearby hotel joins our
party and tells interesting stories about his career as
singer and his plans for opening a new club...
Gros Islet - Roseau
Time for island-hopping again. The day started in Gros Islet
with a morning swim. I had breakfast and had chat with
Maurizio and the hotel owner before taking a minibus to
Castries. In Castries I'm greeted by hordes of American
tourists coming from a cruise ship. They are herded like
cattle to the tour buses for their compulsory shopping /
sightseeing tour... I visit the local tax-free store that
seems to have sky-high prices and check in to the
The trip to Dominica is really rough - it is very stormy
so that people are throwing up constantly... After a couple
of hours the ferry reaches Roseau. I realize that for the
first time I'm experiencing really strict immigration
procedures as the officers want to check every single item
in my backpack - including dirty underwear! Anyway as I
finally get the stamp on my passport I go directly to a
guesthouse recommended by LP - the hospitality is really
unbelievable. I have some fish for dinner, visit a Internet
cafe and go to sleep. As usually Roseau transforms to real
ghost town after dark so there is really no reason to stay
outside the guesthouse.
4.4.2002 Roseau / Portsmouth
Instead of moving to another place to stay overnight I
decide to make a day trip to Portsmouth. That was a good
decision since Portsmouth is not particularly attractive - a
small town with rundown buildings and lots of rusty
shipwrecks. I visit Cabrits national park that is a
combination of ruins and jungle. The ruins are the most
impressive so far but the best experience of the day is
Indian River. I take a one-hour guided boat tour along the
river that goes through the rain forest. Unfortunately there
are some cruise ship tourists around but still the tour is
I return to Roseau and check out the local shops (not the
best place for serious shopping). I'll spend the rest of
evening in a cosy restaurant / bar / internet cafe called
Cornerhouse. Good atmosphere with lots of travellers - only
complaint for the terrible music (some sentimental adult
oriented rock) in the background.
5.4.2002 Roseau - Gosier
The ferry back to Guadeloupe will leave Roseau at 17.00 so
there is plenty of time to spend in Dominica. My first
destination is the waterfalls in Trafalgar. It is an easy
way there by bus. After some hiking I reach the lower fall -
which is definitely the most impressive one I've seen so far.
There are two falls next to each other that can be both
reached by following the slippery path. I spend almost one
hour there just admiring the power of the nature...
back to Roseau and spend the afternoon by having a buffet
lunch, send some postcards and do some shopping in the local
taxfree (which is quite reasonably priced). The journey back
to Pointe-a-Pitre is a pleasant one - it's calm waters today.
The ferry is late so it is closer to midnight when I finally
arrive in P-a-P. I've booked a hotel from Gosier and as I
finally get there the room is already gone. Fortunately
there is another one available somehow so I have a place to
sleep. This is the best room so far - a considerable upgrade
after the various guesthouses!
/ Les Saintes
As I promised I will return to Les Saintes today. I take the
morning bus to P-a-P and catch the first ferry. Even though
it was cloudy in Gosier it is clear skies in Les Saintes. I
buy some fruits and bread from a local store and head
directly to the beach of Saint Pierre. This time I go to the
far end of the lagoon to enjoy the sunshine in peace and
silence. Time passes quickly even though I've doing
practically nothing. I return to harbour and buy a poster
from a local artist and a small african-style wooden statue.
As I return to hotel I realize that I have burned my skin
really badly. I thought that after almost two weeks of
Caribbean sun there is not that much need for sunblock but
apparently I was wrong...
7.4.2002 Gosier - Helsinki
It is time to go home today. I still have half of the day to
spend on the beach of the Isla Gosier. Interesting place -
the small island is densely populated by trees, locals and
occasional tourists. Apart from the lighthouse and a small
restaurant there are no buildings there. Locals are having
their barbeque parties and tourists are lying on the beach.
As I have burned my skin I have to stay in the shadows with
the shirt on.
In the afternoon it is the unpleasant moment
of heading to the airport. On the other hand returning back
home is always a pleasure but of course I would rather enjoy
the Caribbean sun than return to office... As there have not
been any major obstacles on this trip so far my journey back
turns out to be problematic. The flight to Paris is delayed
so I miss the first flight to Helsinki. Then in Paris the
baggage claim takes for some unknown reason at least one
hour (the French - once again...) so I also miss the second
plane. I get a standby ticket for the last flight. As
compensation I get the usual vouchers and spend the rest of
the day overeating in the airport restaurants. I finally
manage to check in - here I come Helsinki...