Lesser Antilles – Part 2: Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica

Hello everyone! Second part of the small trip to the “Southern Windward Islands” of the Lesser Antilles. This time I will tell of Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica.

Map of the Caribbean Sea (from www.arcgis.com)

The transfers between the islands were often uncomfortable. When there were no ferries, the airline LIAT managed each time to accumulate hours and hours of late for stretches where they had essentially just to take off and land.
Even worse, however, were the transfers by sea, with the catastrophic “Express Des Iles” which stole also 69 euro from my account with a fictitious transaction! When I made them notice it, they said that it is evident that there was a mistake but unfortunately they can not refund me because the purchased ticket is not refundable. Right, they made an unauthorized transaction for a non-refundable ticket, so following the strict logic, they can not refund it. Since now I’m too far for proceeding with simple and resolving acts of vandalism, in the next days I will sue them, as a good civil citizen.


In Saint Lucia or “Hewanorra” in the language of the Kalinago, “The land where iguana is found”. It is the place where I felt more the “Caribbean spirit”, among loud music of small bars with people getting drunk drinking rum.

In the ’500 and’ 600 it was primarily a refuge for pirates and smugglers. The first attempts at occupation by Europeans were rejected by the stubborn resistance of the Carib Indians.
In 1746 the French succeeded to settle down, after signing a peaceful agreement with the local population. Of course, here as elsewhere, the natives were punished for their naivety about the perfidy of European settlers and already few decades later were almost completely wiped out.
In the meanwhile the island bounced 14 times between France and Britain, until 1814 when it passed into the hands of the latter till the independence in 1979.
Nevertheless, French influence remained deeply felt and also the language is a kind of French dialect. Even more obvious is the African influence. It has about 180,000 inhabitants.


Bar in Castries, the capital of St.Lucia.






Street in Castries.


Among the typical wooden houses in Soufriere, who was the first French settlement.


Girls and colors.




Women in a bar.


And here we are in Martinique, called by the Kalinago “Madinina”, “Land of flowers”, which actually is not a nation in itself but still part of France, as “overseas department” . So in a way it’s like being in Europe, and in fact the currency is Euro.
Also this island was disputed between France and Great Britain (and may God curse the both! – well, this one is not much an impartial historian sentence) and also here the local population was wiped out or enslaved, before other slaves were brought from Africa.

In all the islands I met great hospitality but I have to give a place of honor to Martinique: when I arrived, wandering with the backpack under the sun in the forlorn search of my rented apartment, I asked a gentleman at the window if he knew the address. He left the house and took me in his car for searching the place. The next day a neighbor nice woman took me to the near village to look for a place to rent a car, and the last day her husband, former national football striker of Martinique, gave me a ride to the capital to take the ferry. Really very kind.


As I said, in Martinique I rented a car because it is too complicated to moving around using public transport. But apart from the need it is really worth for the pretty streets passing trough small villages, climbing the hills in the forest and running along the blue sea.


My apartment had a view on the spectacular “Diamant”, a rock-island 175 meters high. During my trip I used for the first time AirBnb, and it was always good.


St. Louis Cathedral, in the capital Fort-de-France.


In St.Pierre, first French settlement and former capital of Martinique. It was the most cosmopolitan city of the Caribbean in the nineteenth century, dubbed the “Paris of the Caribbean”. Everything disappeared in a few minutes on 8 March 1902, for the eruption of the volcano Mount Pelee, whose growing activities of the previous months had been considered not dangerous by the authorities.
On about 30,000 people only 3 survived. One of them, Cyparis, saved his life because was under arrest for drunkenness inside that solitary cell with thick walls and few ventilation.


A fishing village.




And finally, Dominica, the most wild and less touristy of the islands visited. The original name is “Waitukubuli”, which means “Tall is Her body”, and in fact is the one with the highest mountains. Unlike the other islands there are very few beaches, but is covered for more than three quarters of a wonderful dense forest, in which flow 365 rivers, one for every day of the year.

Again, France and Britain fought over the possession with battles, wars and treaties. At the end prevailed the United Kingdom, till the independence in 1978.
For its dense forest was one of the favorite places of runaway slaves, known as “Maroons”, who formed inland communities and fought often with guerrilla actions the British who were trying to recapture them. But at the end, in 1814, the British managed to prevail and all the Maroon leaders were executed.
As for the local population, also here fought a fierce resistance, but at least, unlike the rest of the Caribbean, they survived to this day. About 3000 direct descendants of Caribs, or Kalinago in their language, live in a territory of the northeast. It is the only existing community of Caribs.


In Dominica I was a little unlucky. In the last two days I could not walk for an inflamed foot, so I was not able to visit some places. But at least the place where I stayed was amazing: an hut in the middle of the forest! In the night I was surrounded by a concert of mysterious animal calls.


There are many species of birds, especially small, such as Hummingbird.


In the Kalinago territory, home to the last direct descendants of the natives of the Antilles.


A bar in the Kalinago reserve. The territory is about 15 square kilometers and, as I said, there live about 3000 people.


Kalinago guy.




A wooden sculpture. It represents one of the former chief of the Kalinago community.




Well, end of the second part. Thanks to me now you are a bit more cultured and aesthetically satisfied. Ah, if you see on the right, there is an option for offering me a beer ;-) Don’t be shy! Don’t be.

Windward Islands of Lesser Antilles – Part 1: Barbados and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines

Hello Friends! I’m back. This time I will write of a 3-week journey in the “Windward Islands” of the Lesser Antilles. Namely: Barbados, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica.

I divide it in two different posts, this time you will see Barbados and St. Vincent & the Grenadines and in a few days the other three islands. I put the Map of the Caribbean Sea (from www.arcgis.com/), so you can see where exactly are the islands:

So, the Lesser Antilles are those forming as an arc to the east, toward the Atlantic. The first island I visited was Barbados, the easternmost. From there I went to the archipelago of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and up to Dominica (not Dominican Republic) passing by Saint Lucia and Martinique.

Despite the proximity, each island-nation has its own story, and also from the naturalistic point of view are quite different.

Originally these islands were inhabited by the Arawak. At the turn of the first and second millennium the Caribs replaced them almost completely, making them flee towards north-west. The indigenous were later decimated or completely annihilated by the barbarian European invaders, which anyway for about a century after their arrival did not take in great consideration these islands, being more interested in places with precious metals.

In the 1600s it was instead realized their potential as ideal locations for plantations, especially sugar. They went then under the domination of the European powers, especially Britain and France, with islands bouncing several times under the control of one or the other as a result of battles on site or wars and treaties in the Old Continent. As workforce were brought slaves from Africa.

The history of these islands is also linked to the Piracy in the Caribbean , which developed during the 1600s, when the Spanish had a monopoly on trade with their own colonies in the New World. Being on the route of the Spanish ships returning to Spain from Panama, and being full of bays and coves to hide and escape, were the perfect place for pirates.

The pirates were mostly former British, French and Dutch sailors who escaped in this tropical paradise by the terrible living conditions on their ships and the economic hardship on earth.
Since in the Old Continent their nations were often at war with the Spaniards, they were at beginning tolerated or appreciated at homeland, if not authorized, as the corsairs, that had a “lettre de course” to loot legally. But when even British, French and Dutch developed business interests in these areas, the pirates had no longer any support. So, they became pirates in the real sense, against the whole world.
They began to expand in West Africa, in Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean. In 1700, off of Cape Verde, in Africa, is reported for the first time a pirate flag, the Jolly Roger, which will become a symbol of identity for this sort of trans-national libertarian community.

In 1720, in the heyday, there are about 2,000 pirates who roam the seas of the world, but soon they could not compete with the chilling monotone efficiency of the rising State-nations. In 1723 the pirates are already reduced to a thousand. A few years later are less than two hundred and almost all of the famous pirate captains have been killed in battle or hanged.
A fate well known to the pirates, who were aware were channeled into a dead end. And in fact, more than battles and loots, the undeniable charm of the pirates, then as now, comes from this extreme quest for freedom, from the extraordinary courage of the choice to escape from narrow economic and moral impositions toward the drift of a rebellious and self-destructive existence that mocked all authority, all conventions, and even death.


First stop: Barbados, the easternmost island, and for this reason more isolated respect to the others. It is almost 35 km in length and 23 km in width. All around the island runs almost uninterrupted a belt of amazing beaches. The beaches on the east side, toward the Atlantic, are wildest, with a dark blue sea and big waves, popular with surfers. On the south-western side, by the Caribbean Sea, the beaches are white and idyllic, with the classic turquoise Caribbean sea.

It was occupied by the British in 1625, and at time, unlike the neighbor islands, there were already not residual populations of indigenous Amerindian people, the few survivors of the incredible ferocity of Europeans had probably escaped elsewhere.
In a few decades the forest that covered the entire island was destroyed to make way for plantations, especially sugar. In recent decades however, as global demand for sugar has declined, the forest is reforming again in the inland areas.
The plantation workers were slaves from West Africa. The integration between the white and black population came fairly quickly, even before the abolition of slavery, thanks especially to several parish schools that from the 1780′s on were accepting the children of the slaves. Already in the first decade of 1800s there were mixed schools, unlike for example the United States, where racial segregation in schools was outlawed only in 1954 (but, you know, that is the country of freedom).
It became independent from the United Kingdom in 1966.


As you can see, the bus stops don’t need panels with pictures of palm trees and the sea, such as the ones used to relieve depression in our gray metropolis. They can just leave empty.


Orange barber.






Little girl.


Sea Turtle.


Mother and daughter.


In Kingstown, the capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an archipelago of 32 islands, plus one hundred islets and atolls. Only 7 islands are inhabited. Saint Vincent is the largest island, with about 100,000 inhabitants, of which 25,000 in the capital. The second largest island is Bequia, with about 4000 inhabitants.

The European powers did not immediately conquered the archipelago, both for a certain lack of interest and for the high hostility of the Caribs.
In 1675 a ship of African slaves shipwrecked near Bequia. The survivors intermarried with the local populations of Arawaks and Caribs, creating a new mixed race, the Black Carib, also called ‘Garifuna’. These islands will be also the preferred choice of runaway slaves from neighboring islands.
In 1719 the French were able to settle, and in 1763 came under British rule. In addition to the wars with the French, who managed for some years to regain power, the British had to fight several battles with the indomitable local population that was however defeated definitively in the late 1700s. Most of them were deported as slaves on Roatan, an island off Honduras.
It became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979.


People in St.Vincent. As in Jamaica, the Rasta culture is very strong. The official language is English, but the spoken language is a sort of English dialect with Spanish, French, Portuguese, Indigenous and African influences.


Young mother.




Several scenes of the film “Pirates of the Caribbean” were filmed at Wallylabu bay of Saint Vincent, as for example the first appearance of Johnny Depp, sinking directly on the pier.


The main port of Bequia, the largest island of the archipelago after St. Vincent.


A Bequia beach.


This bar is the meeting place of the last whalers in the world. In fact, the community of Bequia is one of the 4 communities in the world still allowed to catch whales by the International Whaling Commission. The other three are around the Arctic Circle. It is instead completely illegal the one carried out on a large scale by Japan, with hyper-technological tools and weapons.
It is likely that next year the permit will be revoked forever, since the community does not really need it anymore, being now able to survive by other means, for example tourism. In this moment the hunting is permitted from 1 February to 1 April. They can not catch more than 3 whales for year and can not use technological tools.


This fisherman caught the last whale, two years ago.


The boat used for hunting is not very big. The crew consists of 7 fishermen. Wen they spot a whale from a hill top, they run to the boat and try to reach it using the sail. To catch the whale, they use an harpoon attached to a long rope that is after twisted around a pylon in the rear of the boat. After an exhausting struggle, they approach the animal and and kill it using another harpoon.


Once killed, the whale is brought on that little island and is torn to pieces.


These fishermen have caught a shark instead.


A Bequia bay.


Ok, end of the first part. In one or two weeks I will write about Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica. See you soon! :-)