Sunday, 14 February 2016
14.02.2016 - 14.02.2016
The island's mountains blocked the sunrise which limited my photo opportunities. Decided to stay up on Deck 15 to take some images of the port as we entered. The size and extent of the infrastructure is surprisingly extensive. While we were still at least a mile off shore a woman with a high end DSLR came up to shoot some images with the camera flash on. I suspect the camera was set to full automatic and she had no idea of the futility of the flash over that distance. Seems a shame to see such equipment in incompetent hands.
Unlike the Maldives and Seychelles this island has massive steep-sided hills dominated by the Piton des Neige a 10,000 foot high volcano as a result the visible development is on the shoreline and the lower slopes. The wharf is remarkably clear of clutter and looks to be well maintained. There are no passenger facilities ashore and with an expected temperature in the thirties it is to be hoped there are no long lines as waiting will be in the full sun.
There are lots of red hearts decorating the Horizon Court and the dining rooms. Our cabin steward Romulo has fashioned some small hearts for each of our cabin doors. A small, over the top touch. We have nothing to do until our shore excursion at 12:45. Sat in the International Café and eavesdropped on some loudly voiced criticisms from independent travellers regarding the availability and outrageous costs of taxis. They'd been ashore and were back on the ship looking for ship sponsored transport only to find it was fully booked. To add to the general frustration it being a Sunday and locals are advising them that shops are not likely to be open. Thankfully Jenny had booked a tour and we're not effected.
A quick early lunch and we get our gear sorted for the tour. When we assembled on the wharf for our tour the rain clouds had moved in. We boarded the coach and headed Eastward along the coast of the island passing through La Possession and while driving through the capital St Denis the rain came down as only tropical storms can do. Further along the coast we turned inland to one of the three craters that make up the centre of the island.
Along a road that twisted and turned and appeared far too narrow we wound our way along the edge of a gorge to arrive at Salazie where we stopped for an all too brief comfort stop. The remnants of once opulent mansions lined the narrow streets and although the rain had eased there were only limited photo opportunities. Back on the coach and we drove back out of the crater to the coast.
Our next stop was the vanilla plantation in the town of St André where we were greeted by the head of the family run operation. Under a makeshift shelter she explained the history and life cycle of the vanilla bean. All the flowers need to be manually pollinated by the "Match Maker" a lady trained to perform the job that an insect performs in native Mexico. The life of the flower is very short and she has to complete as many as she can before noon by which time the flower is passed its prime. It takes two years from pollination to final packaging as the beans grow, ripens, are picked, dried and processed.
There ware a number of vanilla products for sale and a complementary punch to try. Made on coconut milk with rum, vanilla and a little sugar, it lived up to its name, it packed a punch. Most of us felt no pain as we boarded the coach and returned to the ship after a quick detour through St Denis. Being Sunday, all the shops were closed and shuttered, the place resembled a ghost town. Many of the buildings had shutters over the windows and doors as protection from the cyclones that visit the island from time to time.
Back on board we changed for dinner and afterwards took a seat in the theatre to listen to an encore performance by Toni Stevens and Jenifer Gray. Don't know how we missed Jenifer's first show but we're sorry we did. She looks great and belts out a song as well as anyone we've seen on ships. Great performance.
Managed to capture a shot of some immature vanilla beans, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today
Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony