January 11 – January 31 2022; 7438 nm and 1047 days after departure from La Rochelle.
After the turbulent ending of last year we were starting the new year in a rather relaxing way. Anse de Saline, our favourite beach in Martinique so far, provided us with calm weather and beautiful sunshine. Just perfect to get in a laid-back lazy mood. Fisher were fishing, tourists snorkeling and the sailing boats smoothly swaying in the water. And even better we didn’t have any big projects on our list we could just enjoy the time being. Interesting to see was the fact how Martinique has changed regarding open bars, restaurants and tourists. In November when we arrived we hardly have seen anybody at this beach and to our regret only one beach bar was open. Now all the beach restaurants and bars were open. And of course lots of pale white tourists were sizzling in the sun and enjoying the still quite pristine beach. We loved the lively atmosphere, knowing in the evening we’d be alone again. And funny to watch the different sales strategies of the local vendors. They sell all kinds of beach accessories though mainly swim suits/ shorts and “pareos”. The very committed sales people (the guys always going the extra mile) were doing a hard job. The shorts selling guy e.g. put on one of his shorts and walked around the beach presenting this particular model. After a while he changed to another model and then he went modelling again. What a funny way of selling. Though I wasn’t sure if I would like to buy an already worn short or dress (I know the people are probably used to the heat but do they not sweat???), but maybe that’s just me. Anyhow my absolute favourite was the guy selling pareos. He started at 8am in the morning and only left when the last tourist left. He literally walked the whole day up and down the beach with his hands up presenting the whole beauty of his pareos, changing the paleo after each complete beach walk. What a workout! He was my hero!
Still enthusiastic we persuaded the Monte crew, Andrea und Gerhard to come over to Saline beach to enjoy the nice anchorage too. They did as they were told😉 and came to visit us. We planned a long walk including picnic at the coastline of the southern part of the island with the two of them for the next day. Then things changed and they had to cancel our walk. They got a great offer for their dream boat and the possibility to visit it. So we wished them luck and we went on our own and walked along the coastline through “La Savanne des Pétrification”. We already did a part of this hike in November, but I wasn’t aware that is was also a geological special area of Martinique as it was the only part which looks like a desert in the middle of the island of pure green nature. In our last impressions I already took pictures of the “desert” that is why I didn’t take more this time. Well I read that its origin is due to the fact that in the past, pieces of wood were found everywhere. Those pieces of wood and even whole trees had fossilised through thousands of years of exposure to the unique climate of the region. These geological remains however, were not visible anymore because they have been looted. Still it is an amazing landscape especially since it is located on an island usually so flamboyant of colours.
After a week or so we felt we needed a change, headed back to St. Anne and a day later to Le Marin to restock our provisions. That done we were ready to explore new anchorages. This time we sailed up a little north and set our anchor in the pretty little bay called “Grande Anse d’Arlet”. It was an authentic bay with coconut trees at the beach, cristal clear water, creole houses and lots of turtles welcoming us. The bay had a nice combination of peaceful tropical atmosphere as well as a pleasant not too lively touristic air. That was probably also the reason why locals liked to come there too. As laziness has still occupied our minds and bodies we just kept doing not much. A stroll to the next beach, a snorkel to watch some fish and a drink at one of the bars was the most exercise we had. Awesome!
One morning we were finished with our laziness and we felt like sailing. Up the hook and off we were. Our destination was Saint Pierre, the former capital of Martinique. (The town was completely destroyed in 1902 by the eruption of Mt Pelée, which overlooks the city. Today Saint Pierre seemed to be more like a tourist centre with shops, restaurants, the volcanic museum and the remainings of the historic theatre.) Our plan was to stay here couple of days and use the location as a start to explore the northern part of Martinique. Like this we thought, we could safe some miles of driving as the former capital is located on the north west coast of the island. Smart cookies, aren’t we? Well, we did not expect the difficulties of renting a car. It was just not possible. There were three car rentals in Saint Pierre and none of them could provide us a car. In fact I think we could have been happy that they didn’t start to laugh when we asked for a car for only 2or3 days. We learned that if we want a car in Martinique this time of the year we need to book it way in advance. So we only explored the surroundings of Saint Pierre. The most exciting for us was our walk up the hill to the statue “Notre Dame du Bon Port”, the maiden of the sailors, from where we could have had a great view over the bay but the weather was not in favour with us. At all, the weather was strange. It did rain a lot and it was often very cloudy and kind of cold. We did not like it cold nor rainy!
Fed up with the unpleasant rain in Saint Pierre we hoped for better weather back south of the island in Fort de France, the current capital. It did not work out immediately but at least the town kept us busy. It was nice to get to know the capital and stroll through the -only in the morning- vibrant streets. We think/hope that it was due to covid that the town is kind of asleep already in the early afternoon. When we arrived and went ashore it was around 4:30 pm. Everything was closed, no bar or restaurant was open, almost all shops were closed, very strange. All the better was the awareness the next morning when the city was very lively. Fort de France is not what you’d call a pretty town, but somehow we liked it. It seemed like the real Martinique and Caribbean – of course in its advanced developed way. An authentic city with dirty streets, lots of local businesses, some nice restaurants and mainly locals dominating the picture. A very modern part is the tcsp bus line. It takes the form of a very large bus (sometimes with two in-between joints) and its own lane. Managed by the local authority, it provides connections between Fort-de-France and “Le Lamentin” like a tramway, with multiple stops to the airport. The aim was to limit the very frequent traffic jams on these stretches of road, which had a high level of economic and commercial activity. For us a great and easy way to get to Le Lamentin, where all the big and for us interesting stores like Decathlon, L’eclerc and diys were and not to forget the easy reach the airport. Jana is coming soon!!!! Yeahhhhh!!
The upcoming weekend we actually had an appointment! The daughter of one of our dear neighbours back in Essen lives here in Martinique with her family. Degenhard, our neighbour was so kind to connect us with his daughter Nicola. As it was and is so difficult to get parts delivered to the Caribbean we took advantage of them living in Martinique. It is well known that Martinique is one of the islands where the delivery system due to connection to France works kind of normal. So early, like last year September, we send parts which we needed to their address. And now it was the time to finally meet the whole family. (We had already picked up the parts in November when we had the car.) They live in Schoelcher, a small town, a little north of FF. We moved Altimate to the pretty little bay of Schoelcher and got invited for lunch at their house. That was great! Being also into sailing they knew what sailors needed. They offered us to wash our laundry which we of course happily accepted. So nice! We had a lovely lunch, enjoyed being in a big house with very nice company and could go home with clean laundry. The kids explained, how to use the local busses. Well let’s say they explained that we don’t need pay for a trip. What? Funny, but it was true, when we took a bus a couple of days later it was not possible to pay for the bus. The driver is kind of separated in the front of the bus and one shouldn’t talk to him. There is nobody controlling or asking for money as well as no vending machines at the bus stops. So, we had a cheap ride with not even a bad feeling, thanks to the info of the kids.
At first we wanted to leave Schoelcher immediately but it is such a pretty little bay that we decided to stay. Everyday kids are passing by in optis, laser or other kind of sailing boats to exercise their passion. It seemed that every person in Schoelcher is on or in the water or at the beach and doing sports. At sunset the families gather together at the playgrounds. The kids having fun either at the beach or the playgrounds and the parents are watching them with a cool sundowner. We love this tranquil though very sportive atmosphere.