120 miles to go. You'd have thought after the 3,000
mile Atlantic crossing that such distances would go in the blink of an eye, but
it still seems like a big deal. We'll be under way for today, tonight and a bit
of tomorrow as we head south to Prickly Bay on Grenada for Christmas. We're
puttering past the Pitons at present, which local guides say you can climb, but
which look far too steep to attempt.
Despite a rainy start to the day, we jumped in the
dinghy yesterday to motor in to Soufriere town, where a bevy of little locals
offered to take care of the dinghy for us. After going through the fast, but
bureaucratic rigmarole of checking out of the island at customs and immigration,
we set off in a taxi to explore the crater that gives Soufriere its name. The
volcano last erupted in the 18th Century, blowing one side of the crater apart,
and making this the self-procaimed 'only drive-thru volcano in the world'. It's
not quite true. The sulphur springs are fenced off, after a local guide a couple
of years ago fell into a pool of boiling water as he demonstrated how weak and
porous the ground was.
Great towers of steam rise hissing from the blasted
ground, and pools of murky-looking black water bubble vigorously. Occasionally,
a fountain of scalding mud and water is projected into the sky, but our guide
said you don;t need to worry until the steam stops. About 100 yards from the
springs, the water is funnelled in through a concrete pool, where you can bathe.
It has cooled down to about 40 degrees C, but is still chraged with sulphur and
other minerals, leaving you smelling slightly off eggs. Apparently it's good for
We also visited the Diamond Botanical Gardens -
whose rich, dripping foliage extends up a steep hillside, around a muddy stream
of warm volcanic water. It's a beautiful spot, in spite of the damage inflicted
by Hurricane Thomas, with hordes of exotic fruit trees, battalions of
brightly-coloured tropical flowers and plenty of noisy parrots.
Our final stop was Jalousie Bay. Once an unspoilt bay between the two
Pitons, carpeted with a rich green mantle, it is now an exclusive resort. Boats
do anchor up here still, but the beach is imported sand and the cafe charges
more in US dollars than a normal place would ask in Eastern Caribbean $. Very
beautiful, though. We dined in Soufriere on expensive but good grilled fish, and
we're now trolling for some of our own to barbecue. We're after something a bit
bigger than the bony ballyhoos that we bought from Canaries.
Watch this space for futher fish reports!