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Guadeloupe

Curious what backpackers do in Guadeloupe? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • In all of our travels, Mike & I have never geared up for a destination, traveled there, then left; all the while never completely knowing the correct way to pronounce the town we were visiting. Before we left two people who have been there pronounced it differently, while we were there the transients mumbled different ways to say Deshaies, and even as we left… other cruisers just shrugged their shoulders. We have confirmed pronunciation now….

    DSC_0389From Falmouth Harbor Antigua to Deshaies Guadeloupe, it’s about 40 nm. We left early and caught great wind, a bit gusty from the land at times but overall beautiful. In our sail we got a bit cocky, in which, the Ocean responded very clearly with a rogue wave dousing me (at the helm), the wind completely dying then changing direction, then taking one of our winch handles (we then performed a winch overboard drill – yes OUR Titan winch handles by Lewmar DO float…. they look “dinkey” but by George, they float… Plus, we’re not down a winch handle ! woot). We learned a lot how wind moves and fluctuates as you near land.

    Deshaies is a small sleepy town on the NW side of Basse Terre. It has beautiful mountainous terrain and steep slopping harbor to go with it. We found most people anchored in 30-40 feet of water. The mountains can create high winds that funnel into the harbor so anchoring can be a bit dicey. If you’re lucky you grab a free mooring ball. When we arrived it was crowded and one mooring ball was available but it had markings on it that was different from the surrounding balls. Unsure if it was public we left it alone and anchored near shore snuggly between a steel-hulled French boat and a black boat from Nantucket.

    {Kirsten’s Little Glory Story: In the process of anchoring Gaia drifted a little too close for comfort to the Nantucket boat. I was at the helm (Mike on anchor duty) and the other captain tended to his own bow. I threw over a fender and calmly maneuvered the boat as best I could waiting to make the turn so our davits didn’t hit his boat. The captain on the Nantucket boat seemed impressed that I didn’t crack under pressure and asked us over for drinks.}

    We had drinks with these salty seasoned sailors and serendipitously found out one of the men lived but only a few blocks away from Anne, Mike’s moms home on the Cape! Thousands of miles away in Guadeloupe, on this night, in this anchorage we happened to sit next to a “neighbor”! Talk about ‘Of all the gin joints in the world’… WOW. So we enjoyed our tropical drinks with, OF COURSE, nutmeg freshly ground on top. :) Then a dinghy with two ladies came up to the boat. They handed over a package of beautiful tuna steaks. Mike & I quizzically looked over as to …. what was going on… You could place your orders with these ladies and they would deliver food to you, really good food. I heard “croissant almond” in all the French conversations and knew I needed to get in on this. Without hesitations I threw up my hand waving frantically saying ‘ Bonjour! Je voudrais du croissant. silt tu plait.’ And that was that. Like placing a trade on my stock portfolio I had just engaged in a kind of futures contract. Tomorrow would be the delivery. They soon left and we continued our drinking.

    {Anchoring Woes Story: Around 5 AM the wind and current caused the boats to “dance” around their anchors in an odd manner. I heard an odd noise. Opened my eyes and saw a beam of light in our boat. We were hitting the French boat behind us! We jumped up turned the engine on pulled up the anchor and politely left the anchorage area. The odd looking mooring ball was still available so we grabbed that. At 6:45 AM we awoke again to grab a more “legit” looking morning ball as soon as someone left. And by 7:30 AM the croissant women arrived with my breakfast. Best Croissant Ever. And we all lived happily ever after.}
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  • Guadeloupe Je sui desole (sorry)! For all these years, I’ve been pretty ignorant in Caribbean geography. If you’re like me, you know the Caribbean as turquoise waters SE of FL, right? Let me shed some light on these amazing islands. Let’s give Guadeloupe a “face”.

    Firstly Guadeloupe is located in the West Indies and to be more precise the Lesser westind
    Antilles, and to zoom in a bit more The Leeward island chain. This elementary map
    spells it out fairly clearly. Guadeloupe is a French territory so ‘parlez la Francais’ is a good-to-have in your bag of tricks when traveling here but honestly you can get by with limited French. I know enough to be polite and attempt a conversation but the conversation always backfires after they respond. I must say, attempting to speak basic verbs or grasp at whatever French you do know reflects very well and is much appreciated. Don’t worry ‘Merica, we’re making you look good (sort of). Like Bermuda, everyone says Good Day /Good Afternoon (Bonjour/Bonsoir). And I’ve noticed when placing a request or order, even with a long line of patrons behind you, you don’t start with: ‘Je voudrais….’ ( I would like…). You start with ‘Bonjour/Bonsoir, Cava bien’ (Hi how are you). People seemed fairly ‘put-off’ whenever we just say “I want” then point.

    Christopher Colombus was no stranger to these parts and named the land after a Spanish monastery around 1493. Inhabited by the Carib people, Guadeloupe was previously known as Karukera which means Island of Beautiful Waters. The Carib people fought off invading Europeans for quite a while until the 17th century when the French took over. In the 18th and 19th century there were several British occupations and even one brief Swedish takeover.

    So that’s Guadeloupe in a nutshell.

    Traveling in a small space with one person over an extended time can be taxing, which is why we touch base and regroup on what we want to get out of our travels and what’s the least hair-pulling teeth-grinding way to go about it. Mike has asked me what my expectations are and which island I’m most excited for. Call it zen or taoist, but I honestly have no expectations. Weeellll, complete disclosure, the extent of my expectations are to see a turtle, drink some tropical drinks, snorkel and (realistically) work on the boat. I’m reading my guidebook, safety warnings, and sailing tips so I’m not completely ignorant. But I’ve learned from talking to other sailors along the way, everyone has their OWN opinion, their OWN comfort levels, and have traveled to different places. I tried listening to others advice but in the end take it with a grain of salt. Arriving with no expectations…. it’s allowed me to explore to it’s fullest. I had no idea it would be this beautiful. Accepting the jaw dropping lush mountainous scenery, the humid weather, the culture change, it’s all a shift and in a few weeks, I’ll move on to something different. So live in the moment.
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  • Where is Jacques Cousteau’s favorite dive spot? Pigeon Island Guadeloupe.

    CousteauA man as cool as he is legendary, Mike & I had to stop over and check it out; the Jacques Cousteau National Underwater Park. We blared our soundtrack to Life Aquatic and made anchor just a few miles South of Deshaies in Pigeon Bay.

    Mr. Cousteau is an accomplished man; famed for underwater exploration and research, he is also a renown oceanographer, naval officer, and filmmaker. As a kid growing up next to the Atlantic, I loved the water. You could barely pull me out of it for lunch. In his films and books, I, like so many others, was influenced by Jacques Cousteau and his amazing work to introduce the Ocean to the masses.
    Upon entering the boundaries of the Underwater Park we were still in 200 feet of water. We spotted the largest turtle I’ve ever seen floating on the surface 30 feet starboard of us. It had a dark brown shell and couldn’t have been smaller than 3.5 feet long (head to tail). We didn’t see the head but I think it may have been the Loggerhead (status: Threatened and known to grow quit large) or the Hawksbill (status: endangered). We anchored and jumped into the clear water. We checked the anchor and Mike spotted a large turtle in front of us. We followed the turtle leisurely diving down to see there were two long thin white fish swimming directly under the shell of the turtle. It was surreal. We were chasing turtles in the Leeward Islands. As we sat and watched the sun dip down, I spotted turtle after turtle dipping its grumpy little head above the surface for only a moment of air before diving back down.

    We dinghy-ed over to Pigeon Island and tied off to a mooring ball used for small dive boats & dinghies. We rolled over the side and plunged into the warm crystal clear water. The Underwater Park is famous for being untouched by fisheries and holding hundreds of species of coral and fishes. The entire time I kept giggling with happiness. We had drinks with a couple we met in Deshaies, Nills & Lisa on a C&C 36. Nills was once a dive master in Puerto Rico. We had seen him dive down in Deshaies and he moved effortlessly and stayed down what seemed like an eternity. It was really impressive. So, with me being barely able to free dive down to 17 feet, I asked for some tips. He was very encouraging to practice little by little and gave me the most helpful advice. People overwork themselves. Once you jackknife down into 5 feet, you don’t need your arms and you don’t need to work until you jackknife back up. I tried it. And wow. He’s right. If I don’t use my arms and legs while I’m below I can hold my breathe so much longer. You really need to calm your body and not exert yourself. Over those 3 days I went from diving 17 feet and gasping for air at the surface to about 28 feet (and gasping for air).cousteau-status. On the SouthEast side of Pigeon Island is the commemorating statue of Jacques Cousteau giving the okay diving sign. Unfortunately he’s missing his “OK” arm, must have been sacrificed to the sea god. Mike dove down the 38 feet and touched the beanie of Cousteau. I got about as close as Mike’s fin to touching the statue before I said nope, that’s all the air I got for this and surfaced. I was creeped out when my mask for a third time suctioned tighter onto my face. I had never felt that much pressure on my mask and didn’t want to push my limits too quickly. On our snorkeling trips and free dives we saw the most amazing corals brain, staghorn, elkhorn. We saw countless butterfly, angel, and parrot fish all gorgeous in their own way. And my big take-away was watching a barracuda about 2 feet long pass right past me (mind you, everything looks distorted and larger underwater… so this thing appeared to be about 3 feet long!).
    I was torn between floating perfectly still and frantically swimming over to Mike to get his attention and warn him of the predator in our vicinity. I ended up waving my hands frantically trying to get Mike’s attention only to notice my gold wedding ring. Barracudas are notoriously attracted to shiny objects and me being me decided that was just too much shiny to be waving around in front of said barracuda. So I stuck my left hand above water and swam just behind the barracuda for a moment. There were also 3 black fish (shaped like an angle fish but rounder) swimming behind the barracuda like a posse. So that was cool, I swam with the barracuda posse.
    In the end. I fell in love with the clear water perfect for novice or expert scuba divers novice or expert snorkelers. The amount of life and color which drenched the ocean floor was overwhelming. It also opened my eyes to how much we need to do to protect this environment. We’re not all accomplished oceanographers and marine explorers but we can change our daily lives bit by bit so we consume and waste less. We can find programs that aim to preserve and clean the ocean.
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  • We continued our snorkeling and hiking streak. And we’ve taken great strides to assimilating ourselves to island time. We’ve completed small projects onboard with screens and perfecting our internet wiring to capture as many internets as possible. We also tried the local drink T- Punch. It’s a deadly 100 proof rum with a lime and a touch of sugar (ice optional but I think you’d have to be a viking to withstand it/enjoy it without ice). Made properly, (i.e. made with our friends Nills and Lisa) the drink can be enjoyable and festive instead of a heavyweight knockout.

    Below are our meanderings around Terre de Haut. Quaint beautiful island with old french zeal and class. Terre de Haut has a great community. Again, I could stay in Guadeloupe indefinitely. I love trying to learn the language and the beauty here.

    Today we relocate to Marigot Bay for more snorkeling and free diving on a shipwreck!
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  • So I loved the Saintes... and strolling the streets swimming in their waters and drinking their wine. Below is the town square, the no name bar, a fancy street restaurant we ate dinner at and us finally leaving the Saintes and our first view of Dominica

  • We left Pigeon Island in such awe, it warranted another stop and another day of snorkeling. As did Deshaies. Love to the freedom we lived while in Guadeloupe.

    To the West the sun is setting over a seamless horizon of the Caribbean ocean and I am moving about the boat in vain to gain a stronger internet connection so I may write emails and see what friends back home are doing in winter. I hold my computer up like a baby Simba before yielding to the lack of signal and retire to the bow of the boat to journal about our anchorage instead. (It’s now 3 nights without internet. Scoff at me but I dare you to live your life in the city for 3 days without internet… In many ways I love the detachment but sometimes… after 4 months of traveling further and further away from friends and a steady job… it’s nice to reconnect even for a stalkerish facebook moment.)

    To the East, I see the lush vibrant green mountains of Deshaies Guadeloupe; large formidable cumulonimbus clouds gather on the other side of the mountains. But I feel protected in this harbor. The mountains extend outward like a hug in the form of a U shape. Light waves lull the boat back and forth and I sit here on the bow with the last good beer we stashed away. A crazy Frenchman is blowing a conch shell emitting the deep blast of a horn-sound throughout the entire anchorage for an impressively long time. This moment, this relaxing moment, everything is good. The anchor is set soundly in the sand below, Mike is putting chicken on the grill, and my biggest concern is if some Frenchman decides to anchor right in front of our view for sunset tonight.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

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