May 31st, 2003.
We arose Saturday morning after a fitful and unsatisfying night’s sleep. Not only was Peter back to his usual kicking ways, but the sheet wasn’t quite the right size, so most of the night was spent sleeping directly on the itchy plastic mattress.
We drove into Vieux Fort to pick up some groceries for breakfast, but decided on an upstairs cafeteria in the mall instead. We were amazed to see a Dikembe Mutumbo 76ers jersey for sale in one of the shops (for those of you who don't know, Dikembe was traded by the Sixers to the Nets over a year ago)! Incidentally, the other jerseys on offer were Iverson, Garnett, Sprewell and Bryant, prompting Peter to pontificate about the connections between the globalization of basketball and hip-hop. Rice and chicken, along with a generous supply of the local habanero hot sauce, really gets you going in the morning!
After breakfast, we drove up the long and winding and bumpy and pot-holed and occasionally dirt and occasionally grass road (and I do use the word 'road'loosely) to the Des Cartier trail head. The change to rain forest from banana planation is remarkable – there is literally a line drawn at the gates of the trail where the plantation ends and the rain forest begins.
A couple of hundred feet into the trail, we happened to meet Ethan Temeles, a biologist at Amherst College in Massachusetts, and his grad student, who were setting nets to catch hummingbirds. They had recently discovered (and published as the cover story in Science) that the purple-throated hummingbird’s sexual dimorphism was due to the ecological pressure of the Haliconia plants! The male hummingbirds have short, strait beaks while the females have longer, curved beaks. These biologists discovered that one type of haliconia plant is pollinated exclusively by the male of the species, while another is pollinated by the female. The photo on the left is a picture of the flower polinated only by the males, on the right, is a female sitting on her plant of preference. Not only are their flowers shaped differently (corresponding to the difference in the beaks), but the type supported by the male produces a richer nectar to support the larger average body size of the males! Very cool stuff. This photo Peter took of the hummingbird was accepted as "Photo of the Week" in Birders' World Magazine.
We walked on through the forest, pausing once or twice to try to take photos (unsuccessfully, I might add) of passing hummingbirds. I managed to take a few photos of an unidentified bird on the path, but they are probably not of sufficient quality to allow for identification. At the second parrot lookout, we did manage to see two St Lucian parrots fly by. They flew in front of the sun, so we were not able to make out their colors, but their curved beaks were prominent.
After the rain forest, we stopped at nearby Latille falls, which turned out to be a bit disappointing. We did, however, manage to snatch a cashew from one of the trees, and promptly ate its fruit. I can’t say that I’ll ever do that again. It’s not that it was bad. It was just overpowering. It was a bit like drinking Coca-Cola syrup straight (which, yes, Peter has done). Anyway, we checked into a lovely hotel called the Foxgrove Inn. After a rather amazing Mamiku salad (sausage, apples, lettuce, tomato, and pickles smothered in this mustard-based sauce), we played (badly) a round of 8-ball on the lobby pool table, then retired to our room. We returned to the restaurant for dinner, where we were surprised to see the biologists we had met earlier in the day on the Des Cartier Rainforest Trail!
was also wonderful. The view from the dining 'porch is pictured.
Tara had MahiMahi with lime sauce (which was served covered with
slightly baked limes). Peter had the Padillia, a kind of ‘sampler’
platter of all the fish dishes for the night. Both were fantastic,
and we were both happy to retire with very full stomachs.
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