Saturday, December 21, 2013

In Martinique - Our First Tropical Vacation

We sent a few weeks in the Caribbean in the island of Martinique this winter. Martinique lies about 12 degrees from the Equator, which means it's always warm here - even now in December. However, we are still in the European Union! In fact, we are in France! Martinique is French territory. So, no visa or other strange paperwork was required. To get to Martinique, we took a 9 hour direct flight from Paris, and before that the TJV train from Zurich to Paris. It was a long trip, but totally worth it!

Piracy flourished in the Caribbean up to the mid-1800. Unfortunately, the big ship that appears slightly on fire in the picture does not belong to pirates. OK, I should say fortunately since pirates were neither as nice nor as good looking or as funny and charismatic as  Johnny Depp's Captain Sparrow. Oh... and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were really filmed in Hawaii, CA, the UK, and a few other places, which did not include the Caribbean because to most people all beaches look the same.
Mihai and David playing in water.

We are renting a house in Grande Anse, a tiny village by the sea. The Martinique island is about 50 km across. Supermarkets and other modern commodities do exist on the island in Fort de France & other nearby cities. The village we live in only has a small local boutique and another store with beachwear that can be quite expensive. My hope is that a larger fraction of the money I spend reaches the providers. We do have Internet, two bathrooms, and everything seemed clean when we moved in. The Internet is really slow, and blogger keeps deleting and reposting this post at seemingly random times. Note that these Internet problems would be solved with a high performance fiber optics network that could also be used to monitor the island with atomic clocks. A simpler faster network would also do the job, but perhaps the tourists here spend more time on the beach than on the Internet.

Edward with a star fish.
The beaches in Martinique seem particularly beautiful to me. There are some tourists, but not enough to cover the beaches with blankets (and trash). The water is clear. The corals are amazing. Our landlord gave us glasses to go sea snorkeling. It's the first time I have ever seen the bottom of the sea, which is very colorful in a tropical island - we saw very many crabs, starfish, corals, puffer fish and some thorny black animals behind which regular fish hide. We ate coconuts that fell straight from the tree. They take quite a lot of work to open!

We succeeded in outwitting a crab and a fish with teeth! We tried to catch the crab in the bucket and that did not work because it kept jumping out. Then, with the help of a scuba diving lady, we found out that the crab liked to hang onto the bucket! Of course, we released it afterwards, but it's noteworthy that it took 3 physics PhDs + external help in outwitting a crab. The dead-fish-capturing entailed more physical exercise. Mihai found a fish buried deep in the sand, and Andy had to lift Mihai's legs to help him stay underwater to dig the fish out.  We wondered if it was hiding or reproducing there. However, upon closer inspection the fish appeared to not move or breathe. It was also fairly tiny. So, we threw it back in the sea.

Our next fabulous experience was to a walk to the next village.   We noticed that the grazing cows
Petting a cow with horns
had horns.  We even saw a calf that was not separated from his mother. This is unlike the civilized world where the horns are taken out to prevent the animals from hurting each other, and the calves are separated from their mother upon birth.

We then decided to hike back across the mountains. It was very rocky, and beautiful, but a little tough on the kids. David, Mihai,
Up the mountain barefoot
and I were also barefoot, which was  a challenge, but we made it. It also rained several times on the way there, but the rain was relatively warm and my big hat acted almost like an umbrella.

Under the double rainbow
It rains every day here for short periods of time and after it rains we can almost always see a double rainbow. I think I can get used to living on the beach in a warm place like this.

In Martinique, people have a very friendly and relaxed attitude. There is almost no concept of distance or time. We shop at a small store that brings a few supplies every day. By the evening there is very little left to buy.

We bought fish from a local fisherman - they had caught some 4 kg of fish, and we bought 2 kg for 20 Euros. They catch fish and crabs in small cages that lie under the sea. The fish and crabs get in, but then they fail to figure out how to get out. It's a fairly non-invasive way of fishing. As the dry season approaches with more tourists, they increase the quantity based on demand.

1 comment: