May 30th, 2003.
Friday morning found us leaving the Still Plantation early-ish and hitting the road (literally!) for Vieux Fort, a town where according to the Rough Guide there isn’t much to do or see, it’s a good stopping place en route to the hiking trails in the rainforest. There was a great deal of construction along this road and it wasn’t easy going; after only 45 minutes we felt like we’d been traveling for hours…Between Choiseul & Vieux Fort near Laborie, we were pleasantly reminded, by seeing the sign, that we wanted to check out the Balenbouche Estate, which is still a working plantation with a wonderful old house! It was such a tranquil respite from the arduous road journey.
We spent a wonderful hour in this sanctuary, which really is in the middle of nowhere. We got great photos of the old mill machinery, and were accompanied on our walk to the ocean by two household dogs (named by Tara-Biggie as he was the bigger of the two, and Little Buddy, who waited for us patiently whenever we stopped to take pictures.)
Biggie was more rambunctious and pushed past us which was especially sensational just after they’d jumped in the water. Balenbouche owner, Uta, told us that they had found Little Buddy in a terrible condition on the beach and brought him back to health, so his patience and gentleness was particularly touching.
One of the most interesting things we saw at Balenbouche are the Amerindian 'washing' holes near the creek. These small, circular indentations found near the water's edge are pre-Columbian! Most people think they were used for washing, although no one is sure.
After this respite, we somewhat reluctantly climbed back into our jeep, for which we were still very thankful as it allowed us to visit all sorts of places we never could have reached without it but we still wished it had better shocks! Our next stop was a very high lighthouse, over 700 feet above sea level, where we were welcomed by Alan, the lighthouse keeper, who admitted that he didn’t receive so many visitors!
The lighthouse was built in 1901, and it’s a wonder how Alan gets his stationwagon up the driveway let alone how the builders got the material up there to build back then!
We made it back down to sea level and, with some difficulty as we never did see a posted name on the building, located the Kimatrai Hotel to have lunch (again by ourselves-we had been the only customers at almost every restaurant; we were starting to feel we might have trouble sharing the space at busier establishments when we return to the more touristy north of the island!) These brightly painted fishing boats where in our view from the balcony at the hotel.
Then we located Juliette’s Lodge where we wanted to stay for the night, after passing it the first time because we were looking at the egret who was keeping the roadside cows company. We chose it because the Rough Guide says it has a pool, but it was not one any sensible person would want to plunge into as it was green with algae. So, we got into our cossies and headed out to the beach, where there were only a couple of other people on the sand.
We strolled and then had cocktails at The Reef, where the bartended giggled with embarrassment when I suggested she’d forgotten my rum! I was right. We had our second dip in the ocean before heading back to the hotel for the night. The water was very warm, but the currents quite strong.
We continue to experience the off-season, as the lady at Juliette's Lodge reception had laughed at me when I’d called to make a reservation the previous day (it was the first & last reservation we made while we were there). There were only a couple of other guests at the hotel, who we saw as we were leaving the dining room after dinner; we imagined they were pilots as the hotel is near the southern international airport. Peter had grilled lamb and Tara had a wonderful chicken curry (and chocolate ice cream for dessert) and we witnessed the evolution in action as a gecko ran up the wall above the massive windowless window of the dining room, sans tail!
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