Chapter 11 – Martinique

Ceci est Martinique…


Ceci est un pays d’une beauté et d’orgueil…

Cette est un pays qui est naturellement riche…

Ceci est un pays qui peut soutenir son peuple, qui n’a pas besoin des conseils d’un empire lointain…

La France peut nourrir nous, mais la France nous a opprimé depuis trop longtemps…

Aller, voter pour la Martinique…

Le temps pour l’indépendance est maintenant…

The megaphones echo off the hills preaching independence as they drive through the traffic filled streets of Fort de France far below me. The highway roar is distant now. Here it is quiet with bird song as the wind rustles through these hot, humid bushes and refreshes me. I’m learning against the imposing fence of a government establishment, but the bushes conceal me and I have a flat space of concrete on which I can sleep tonight. My view in one direction is clusters of shambled and colorful houses in Fort de France leading to a couple high rises, cruise ships and the sparkling Caribbean sea. Mountains close the city into a sprawling bay and one large highway tears through. The other direction is the bold volcano Montagne Pelee obscured by clouds. It’s 10AM, a clock tower rings. I’m stranded here today, but enjoying myself.


View from the wretched mountain I camped on!

Bibliotheque Scholcher

Bibliotheque Scholcher

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So I should mention I left the International Crew. My time with them came to an end after I decided I had paid them enough of my money. I loved travelling with them, and I loved the people I met. There were problems, like skipping the pristine spots in the Grenadines. Through it all, the good and bad moments, I had the time of my life. We successfully sailed from Grenada to Martinique, now I must go on my own again and keep trying to find my way to Australia. To find another boat, or to find the right boat, is a daunting challenge and feels impossible. I’m just going to keep following where I’m led.

We sailed to Martinique from St. Lucia after spending two nights there and climbing the volcano Petit Piton. Our anchorage was at the most sublime spot, off the beach at the foot of the mountain where it boldly rises from the sea. I woke up early in the morning, knowing the challenge lay ahead to organize my 7 friends and make this mountain climb happen. We needed to hire a guide, without doing that we never would have found the trail which is a well-kept secret. It was most likely the steepest trail I’ve ever hiked in my life. At ¾ of the way up however, the guide stopped at an overlook and told us this was the top. When I said it clearly was not, he said the remaining trail was closed because it is dangerous. I certainly wouldn’t take that answer without even trying , so I left the group and encouraged my friends to come join me. Petra and Alex did, the rest stayed behind. The trail became more difficult and involved climbing on ropes but was extremely fun. We made it to an incredible view at the summit, no thanks to our guide, and we did not find it dangerous. We were thrilled with the accomplishment, it was only bittersweet because our friends did not make it. Pessimistic advice can sometimes be the main obstacle you face when climbing a mountain, or bureaucracy like “the trail is closed.” You don’t know until you go.

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After descending, we went to the town of Soufriere in St. Lucia, in the shadow of the Pitons. It was dark, cloudy and warm. The surrounding mountains were enormous and deeply green. Soufriere felt like a third world town, crumbling infrastructure, chickens in the streets, and crazy people ranting, begging you for money. It had a dark and powerful energy, a sort of voodoo magic, the fruit market was laid out on the sidewalk on the ground. We got incredible food there, a chicken roti and huge ice cream for very cheap! I loved this town.



The next morning we hoisted the sails in the pouring rain and headed off to Martinique. I was sailing, a little chilly in just my bathing suit, and completely soaked. Soon the sun came out and dried everything and again I was warm. Until the next squall hit and we became drenched again! We were slammed with fearsome wind, whitecaps on the water, and soon it would pass too. We found the stormy sailing very fun, punctuated with rainbows as usual, and soon we were pulling into Le Marin in Martinique.

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I’ve been in Martinique for two or three days and at times it’s been utter chaos. New crew has been coming here by air, to fill the spaces of the international crew when people like me leave. Our eight person group grew to 14 people, all who sat together and ate dinner on Shalom. Silvia and I cooked an enormous amount of food for the dinner and subsequent breakfast. Trying to manage that many people was crazy (three dinghies we moving around constantly shuttling people from one place to another), but still everyone was really cool and I made a bunch of new friends. The countries we represented in the end were Sweden, USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Argentina, Holland, (and Texas.)

The party the last night we were onboard was outrageous and I drank more than usual with my new friends. Much of the original crew was trying to organize their plans, so we spent the night laughing and fondly reminiscing over the good times we had. Silvia, Francisco and I expressed our true love for each other, and Petra and I wondered what the morning would bring for us as we left together. Ciaran and the girl from France, Leticia, went into a three hour heated conversation about Australia, while Alex went for a swim with the Canadian girl Lou and suddenly fell in love. The boat was so ridiculously crowded cooking dinner, and when I looked on deck I saw two people who I didn’t recognize at all who I hadn’t even noticed! That was strange…


I love these people!!!


Heading clockwise around the table stating with: Alex, Petra, Lou, Leticia, Robin, Tom, Dillon, Ciaran, Silvia, Me, Chico, Claes, Antoine, and Deke!


Sneak portrait of Antoine…

Things also got complicated and grew crazier because I made the spontaneous decision to buy a tiny sailboat for 1000$. The plan originally was that the four of us, Petra, Robbin, Ciaran and I would buy it together, then sail it up the Caribbean. After that, Ciaran and I who were more serious about this idea would take it trans-Pacific! So Petra and I swam aimlessly off the beach, in search of this tiny sailboat for sale. We swam to the smallest boat we could see (out of about 200 boats anchored there). It was perfect, named Amadis and flying a Swedish flag. Sure enough, it was indeed the 1000$ boat we had heard about, so the next day we arranged plans to meet the owner. The four of us swam back out and crowded onboard Amadis, it was the perfect boat. He won’t be ready to sell it for another week or so, if it was for sale now our crazy plan might have actually happened.

Petra and Robbin lost interest, but Ciaran was still keen to make it happen. The boat was originally named “The Flying Teapot,” at 20 feet it’s tinier than most small boats. Still, it was sailed by a group of four Swedish people, the captain being the oldest at 25, to Africa, across the Atlantic, and all over the Caribbean completely filled with musical instruments. Then our friend Daniel the one eyed pirate purchased it and has lived on it for 8 years. I agreed with Ciaran to buy the boat, but he was very low on money. This would have to be my project as the captain with him as my crew. I sat on the ground eating ice cream and one euro baguettes outside the grocery store with Ciaran and Petra. We discussed life. The day ended with that wild party (16 people on the 40 foot boat), and the days-worth of insane and complex plans weighed down hard on me. So I drank a lot.

In the morning, Ciaran, Petra, Antoine and I were set to leave the crew. Alex as well, he was whisked off by friends we knew on a sailboat and headed directly for Antigua where he can look for a yacht job. I’m so happy for him. I woke up slightly hungover with the responsibility of these plans unbearable. I had to break the news to Ciaran that I was flaking out of the sailboat endeavor, for now! But in three weeks time I might change my mind… Any rate, he needs to catch that cheap flight to Paris so he can go to London or Austria and find work. And Petra was going home.

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So Ciaran changed his mind and decided to stay with the International Crew a few more days. We had a highly exasperating and long morning in the bar at Mango Bay in Le Marin. I wanted to go to the mountains to find peace and solitude, I had totally lost my voice from being around so many people. So I’d have to go to Dominica. My plan was to go north on Martinique for a few days and then return to the international crew when they were ready to sail for Dominica. My plans changed when I learned there was a long distance hiking trail on Dominica called the Waitukubuli trail. I decided spontaneously to hike it, or to attempt it, and went to buy some groceries. So much good food on this island for cheap!

Unfortunately I just have too much stuff in my backpack… so long! I gave my fins to Ciaran to take back to Shalom, I ditched three of my four books. I also gave Ciaran my jeans and my electric razor. Gave my knife sharpener and bike air pump to the waitress. Ditched a shirt and my winter gloves. Everyone was a little frustrated/ upset that morning, but I think that me giving my stuff away elevated everyone’s mood!

So Petra and I hugged Ciaran goodbye, after already having touching goodbyes with everyone else. We took up our little sign “Aeroport” and hitchhiked 44 kilometers on a big highway with a friendly guy. Then Petra and I hugged a nearly tearful goodbye too. Soon I was in a city, a big, wretched, falling apart and colorful city. A tropical city built into the mountains as always, but a real city this time with wild traffic. All in French and now I was on my own. I walked far and even with the things I abandoned my pack was very heavy. I made it to Fort de France, the capitol of Martinique and I got a cheap hotel room for the night. To me, that small, strange, attic room was heaven.

Still I woke up at dawn, packed my monstrous backpack and headed for the ferries. There was absolutely no way to find the ferry schedule on the internet. I was to learn no ferries ran that day to Dominica. It made me sad, I was stranded in Fort de France. So I bought a ticket for the next day and looked for a place to hide. I climbed a mountain out of town searching for somewhere to drop my things out of sight, somewhere to sleep near the city for free. The road winded precariously up, and at the summit I found a large military complex and some sort of powerplant. It’s hard to describe, but I found my spot behind that with an excellent view and patch of concrete to sleep on. I dropped my things and spent the day in town, but the night was horrible. A person walked into me, turns out I was in the path. Then another person, which prompted me to move to a slanted spot in the dirt with cockroaches and rain. It was the worst night of my life but morning came and I made a mission to the ferry boat to get out of this confusing French city. A rundown, romantic city which I couldn’t help but feel great affection for.

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On the boat I saw Antione! The guy from Holland, I was so happy, and we stuck together on our way to Dominica. Dominica, the nature island, the place of legend. The place my Dad’s always talked about. The largest rainforest in the Caribbean, where the parrots live, and the boiling lake! I fell asleep on the ferry and dreamed I was in Guadalupe, being driven through tropical cities and trying to tell the bus driver, “Just look at my GPS, this is not Dominica!” “This is Dominica…” one passenger said to me, and as I woke up, I saw Dominica out the windows. It was big and green, jagged and saturated with mist on the mountaintops.

The city of Roseau was colorful and the boat docked, but then at customs Antoine was carted off by the police! He had a one way ticket, and the things I’m learning about customs, that is not okay! You need to have proof you are leaving the country, so I had my ferry ticket to St. Lucia. I’ll go back there on the 21st and look for another sailboat to work on when I’m done here. Roseau is an amazing small city, Dominica from the roads (with the insane bus driver) is the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen. The bus took me to Scotts Head where I climbed through the town following the blue and yellow blazes. Up there the Wai’ Tu Kubuli Trail entered the bush. A strong, cool tropical wind blew hard through the green jungle, and I plunged in.

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