Exploring Martinique (finally!)

Saturday morning – in between rain showers – we went ashore to explore a bit more of Sainte Anne. We trekked up the long winding path to the shrine. At each turn on this steep path there was a small shrine which depicted various stages of the final journey Jesus made bearing his burden of the cross. Clearly this is a place of significant worship for the people of Sainte Anne as each of these little shrines were maxed out with candles… At the top the big shrine was closed up behind padlocked gates so we were didn’t get to see what was in there….but the view from the top of the hill across the anchorage was worth it alone.

Saturday afternoon we headed back to our favourite beach and Richard tried out the rum punch whilst I was far more attracted to the taster deserts served with expresso… Yumm… We also went for a few walks people watching and came across aqua basketball, which looked like a lot of fun. We had a quiet night on board watching the sun go down….

Sunday we were woken by serious downpours of rain which continued for most of the day on and off so we spent a few hours underneath Morphie cleaning her bottom of growth which had accumulated at a frightening rate of knots…something to do with the very eco-friendly US anti-foul paint that doesn’t do its job properly…. If we had left it much longer we could have opened our own dive site!!!!  Definitely something to change when she has been hauled out this season – which we have now finally organised for Grenada. After more boat jobs we went ashore just for sundowners for a couple of hours and then retired back on board just in time to watch another sunset as the rain clouds continue to move around us.

Monday morning we picked up our anchor and moved to Marin – which is one of the Caribbean’s largest yacht centres. The Marin Yacht Harbour is huge with over 600 berths and a range of charter boat companies are also based here. The anchorage around the marina is also huge – but loads of shoals to watch out for – not to mention the sheer volume of boats. We did try to get anchored relatively close to the channel but there really wasn’t room so we opted for a longer dinghy ride in and snuck away to the back of the mooring field behind a shoal where we set happily.

In the afternoon we explored and managed to spend some money in the chandlery buying up some more bits and pieces…. Whilst out and about we came across some old ruins in front of the church and the cemetery where most of the graves have little houses built on top of them with windows, wall tiles, locked doors etc making them look like multi-storey shrines…. Interesting.  Monday evening we were not impressed by the boat who came in late and dropped his anchor a bit too close to us – then he let out just enough chain so that he was level with our cockpit and now we have no privacy. Grrrrr….. We always try to be considerate of other cruisers when we drop our anchor and it annoys us when others don’t return the favour….

Again Tuesday was a bit cloudy and rainy at times. Having breakfast we were entertained by the massive yacht transporter who sits high in the water – then gradually sinks as they pump water into the stern so that the yachts can be motored inside – and then it rises up getting ready to go to sea. Amazing that huge motor superyachts were being loaded as these are clearly ocean going vessels, we were left wondering why they transported them like this rather than just driving them wherever they wanted to go? Apparently it is £10k for a 40 foot monohull to be shipped across the Atlantic so I can’t envisage how much it would cost them for this service!

Time to get on so we went ashore with loads of washing and spent a few hours in the laverie marvelling at the machine on the wall that takes money and starts the machines according to the number you punch in. Was a great system – would have helped if the instructions had been in English as well as French though! But I managed to work it out although it took a little while…… After returning to Morphie with lovely clean and dry stuff we headed back out to visit Leader Price for provisions – a huge supermarket with its own dinghy dock. This had come highly recommended by a few people, but I was disappointed with the selection, although what they had was good value. On the dink trips today we were amazed by how many dead or abandoned boats that were around – some still tied to docks and others to the mangroves. Seemed a bit odd that the harbour / township would just let them rot in the water… Oh well… Back on board for another quiet night…and a lovely homemade Chicken Jalfrezi!

Wednesday we hired a car in the morning for a couple of days – a baby Renault Twingo. We were amazed as we drove away from Marin on the main road. Are you sure we are in the Caribbean? Three lanes of motorway through industrial and shopping centre areas and traffic jams too. Not what we were expecting at all!

We headed north bypassing Fort de France – the capital city – and ended up driving through St Pierre to visit the sciences museum which has been built in a modern style and, apparently, it is hurricane and earthquake proofed. This museum is at the foot of Mount Pelee and pays homage to the devastation caused by the 1902 eruption. At the ticket office we were asked by the guy whether we were over 60 years old because then we could have concession tickets. I said no, we wanted to pay full price… He clearly wasn’t convinced that I understood the question because then he sent out his English-speaking colleague to ask us again. Not impressed – really?!?!?  Anyway she then gave us listening devices that would be our electronic tour guides as all documentation here is in French only. They were useful and we learnt a lot – including the scientists’ views on global warming and the impact across the world….

Leaving this building the heavens have opened up again and we dash for the car and drive up the mountain. As we move away from the main roads we are amazed to find that even the roads into the interior of the island – albeit narrow, windy and almost vertical in places – are still tarmac. We drove as far as you can get by car to the top of the mountain and we were in the clouds which masked any chance of getting a view! But at least we did it…and the mist did clear a bit later on so we did manage to get some mountain shots…. The funniest thing we saw on the way up was a really sweet looking little grey and white cow sleeping in the bus stop – but didn’t get a photo and when we came back down she had moved. Shame!

Heading away from the mountain we crossed the interior and continued to be amazed by this island. It is relatively rich in that houses are all of decent construction and appear to have power and water – not like the corrugated shanty towns that we have seen on other islands. Also the land has been extremely well cultivated with banana plantations everywhere and rolling fields and the photos could easily have been taken in Wales!!  But all around are lush tropical plants, beautiful gardens and the odd glimpse of rainforest here and there. Amazing diversity and really enjoyed the ride. Over on the Atlantic side heading back down the coast it is quite dramatic with indented bays, little islands and huge Atlantic rollers running up the beaches. A really good day and hope you enjoy some of the photos:

We have another day touring the island planned again for tomorrow.   But for now, we are absolutely shattered, so back on board for a quiet night.  Night night…