10th April 2022
Grand Anse D’Artlets, Martinique – Fort Du France, Martinique via Anse Mitan,& Petit Ilet, Martinique
Geometric shapes are categorised by the number of sides they have. Decagons have 10 sides, squares have 4 and at the bottom of the pack is the lowly triangle with 3. If the west coast of Martinique were to be a shape it would be the lowly triangle, but each side would be vastly different, unexpected and not confirming to expectations.
The first side that Martinique showed us was that of the classic French West Indies. After hiking the hills we either found ourselves in the ruins of an old colonial forts or being serenaded by the smells of Pain-au-raisin, croissants or baguettes. The signs of France were everywhere from the names of the hills to classic surly French service or from the churches that dominate the villages to the unfathomable opening hours of shops. So France, so Caribbean, so great.
Away from land the FWI’s continued to impress with Fiona being in her element. With new found, post diving confidence, Fiona literally took the water, like fish to water. Snorkelling an underwater trail she was beside herself with excitement as not only was it teeming with fish and coral but also had floating information boards. Just like on land she read every word, umm-ed and ahh-ed at each factoid, but was sorely disappointed that she couldn’t recount these to Iain with a snorkel in mouth and water splashing everywhere.
Keen to experience the other sides of the Martinique triangle we left the information boards behind and found something completely unexpected. We passed a packed Anse Noir, an overcrowded Anse Dufour and the boat park that was Anse Mitan and then found splendid solitude. Behind us were the crowds, the palm tree’s and the white sand beaches; they’d been replaced by birdsong, mangroves, signs of ancient civilisations and unexpected adventure.
In the early dawn we slipped along silently on our paddleboards and into the darkness of the mangroves. The water was so still the ripples the Waterboatmen made looked like tidal waves and the air was only disturbed by the gentle flap of Egrets wings. The water which is usually clear, blue and inviting now looked dark and dangerous, and as the forest enveloped us our SUPing had to change to LDPing*; we had to get close to the danger.
Tree’s lay over the river blocking our way, but with a few gentle strokes, perfect timing and great balance we squeezed our bodies flat down onto the paddle boards. Gingerly we slipped under them hoping the branches wouldn’t catch our clothes or upset us into the deep. Lying down the silence was complete as we could only hear the lapping of water and those tiny Waterboatmen now looked enormous being just inches from our noses.
Although Ruffian was all alone, we were in the company of the ancients. We’d anchored behind a tiny island, inspirationally named Petit Ilet, which has been left scarred by ancient man. Every solid stone surface had cup and ring marks, and where the sea touched the shore, intricate patterns had been laboriously worn into the rock. With this isolation and silence, we could almost hear the sound of stone on stone and the excited chatter from undecipherable languages. The second side of Martinique’s triangle was nothing like we’ve ever seen in the FWI’s.
After being alone visiting the capitol of Martinique, Fort du France, was a shock. Ruffian jostled for space in the busy anchorage, but as usual Fiona had gently nuzzled her into the perfect spot with just inches below her keel, a world of sand around her anchor and a perfect distance from her neighbours. This positioning was important as we were off for a day of shopping.
The thought of shopping filled Iain with dread and was only offset by the thought of a fun bicycle ride and being able to walk about without his bottom falling out of his shorts. Donning his only shorts without holes in the bottom we wheeled the Bromptons into the bus lane and we were off.
All around us cars hooted and honked while zipping around corners at breakneck speeds, but we felt safe. The bus lane, devoid of busses, gave us protection as we cycled down dual carriageways, over roundabouts and straight through traffic lights. Usually cycling is a death defying affair but here in Martinique the bus lane delivered us to the out of town shopping centres without a single heart stopping moment.
Usually when Iain shops he leaves his ‘will to live at the entrance and only expects to regain it when he manages to escape through the exit. This time it was different, everything was on sale, everything fitted and there was even some excitement. This was no normal shop, this was Deathalon and Decathalon in a sale.
Shorts, T-shirts, shoes and new exciting dive gear all made their way into the trolley and after mere minutes Iain was able to regain his will to live. Now he just had the challenge of cycling back on an overloaded Brompton and looked like he was ready to go diving with flippers overhanging the back wheel, a BCD limiting his steering ability and his backpack raising his centre of gravity to a worrying height.
The 3 sides of the Martinique triangle have given us some unique experiences from swimming with fishies after dining on Pan-au-Raisins, to having solitude in a busy cruising ground and finally equipping Iain with clothes that save his modesty and reduce Fiona’s embarrassment.
*LDPing is known as Lying Down Paddling.
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