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March 12, 2003
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Land Rovers on St. Lucia

St. Lucia's beautiful. There are big trees and lots of lushness and tropical beauty and wonderful stuff everywhere. It turns out that since it's further away from the other islands it doesn't get hit by the tropical storms the way the other islands do. So there aren't periodic episodes of everything getting wiped out. This island actually had its own economy, and wasn't completely dependent on tourist dollars. That, in and of itself, was something of the relief. It was also a much larger island than St. Maarten/St. Martin, so we picked the right island moped on.

Also, since we had to go quite a distance to get here, we were able to get a later start than yesterday. John and I had breakfast in the Windjammer. We were able to watch the pilot boat drop off the pilot. It was just like on the Weather Channel, and the pilot handily transferred himself from the small, bouncing boat to the large ship. When we got into harbor the small pilot ship strung up all the lines to all the anchor points on the peer. We got off the boat at 10:40 for our 4x4 adventure. Cox was our driver, he had a sore neck so we got another guy who helped narrate the trip. He was with us part of the time, but hopped from truck to truck to tell different people different stories along way.

I guess I was kind of in the spending mood. When we stopped to look at the governor's mansion, I bought $15 worth of blue jewelry with black stones. A lady with cinnamon sticks sold me a bag while we stopped to watch men opened green coconuts for their water. The tour guide said that the water was sterile, and it had been awhile since I'd drunk coconut water, so I had Cox get me one. He was very cheerful about it, and made sure I got a straw. The water was warm, faintly sweet and tasted of almonds. I really enjoyed it, as I was thirsty. When we were done with the water, Cox brought the coconut back to the men and they opened it. There was a clear jelly inside that was slimy, sweet, a membrane with nut essence through it like almond tofu. John and I shared it. We both enjoyed it a lot.

We saw an oil storage area that was the largest in the region. Then they brought us to the banana plantations, which were the source of much of the island's wealth. There were hands of bananas all along the road, each covered with plastic to protect them while they ripened. Then it opened up to acres and acres of banana plants, nearly all of them bearing hands of bananas. They were British bananas, destined for the UK market, and they were smaller, sweeter, and more fragrant than the ones we get in the U.S.. While we drove through the plantation, because there was very little traffic, we were able to stand up in the trucks to see better. There were wild mango trees, papaya trees, and pineapples everywhere.

It was pretty impressive. I was very glad of the pride that the tourist guide had in his nation's capability to provide for itself.

From the plantation we went through a shantytown. There was barely nothing to the houses there, and half of them seem to be falling down or abandoned. I guess it's actually warm enough to not need much more than enough roof over your head to keep the rain off. But we got to see lots of kids, people, and goats wandering through before we headed out into the jungle.

We drove up to a trailhead that led to a waterfall and a small lake. The hike was a lot of fun, the guide showed us native plant life, how coconuts propagate, and helped us over streams. The waterfall wasn't that impressive, as it is the dry season, but the hike felt good in and of itself. It was nice to just get out of the truck and walk for while. We then went back to the swimming hole, and everyone that had swimming suits jumped in. John and I talked to Cox for while about the Land Rovers, as he maintains all nine of them. They even own a forward control, and he does the maintenance on that. He was amused to find that we were very excited about the forward-control, because it was his baby too.

After everyone was done with their swim, we went to a sugar mill. It was an old sugar mill, powered by wood and water, and completely shut down now but for tourists. It's now something of a museum. It's filled with old equipment, pictures about how they used to do things, and the store. It turns out that they basically crush sugar cane, and boil the juice into molasses. The entire production of the plant was eight barrels a day. At the end of the tour they had a fruit table, where they let everyone taste a fresh bean off of a cocoa pod from a cocoa tree. There was a slippery membrane around the bean that was sweet, and they said that if you bit the bean it would be bitter. Having eaten cocoa nibs, I believed them. They had custard apples, sour oranges, pommelos, star fruit, and sourness, by the time the museum guide was finished asking who knew what fruit everyone was looking at me for the name. John actually said, "I don't know her." When people looked at him to find out why I knew all these frui

One of the things they showed was a stick about one and half inches in diameter and eight inches long that was made of ground cocoa. It's kind of like a halfway process between roasted cocoa beans and chocolate, where the roasted beans are ground in a warm environment and molded into sticks. It's completely unsweetened, and they use it for "chocolate tea". It was very intriguing to me, but I thought the prices at the tourist shop were a bit high.

As we loaded up into the trucks, our tour guide gave us leaves and flowers. He told us to crush the leaves and smell them, and they smelled of cinnamon. I really liked that. On the way back to the ship, there was a friendly argument about which was the better sport, soccer or football. I did not wade in.

I was very unhappy to find that we did not have enough cash for the regulation tip what we stopped. We tipped as much as we could, but I was in a mild rage about not meeting my own expectations. We went back to the ship, got cash, dropped things off, and headed back into town to find a grocery store, rather than the very expensive tourist store in the sugar mill. On the way there was a bridge, and Cox drove by us in one of the Land Rovers. He waved at us. We flagged him down, and he actually stopped right in the middle of the bridge! Cars swerved around him as we jumped into the back of the truck, and handed him the rest of the tip we really felt we owed him. He looked mildly confused, but when John asked him where the nearest grocery store was, he was happy to point out the way. I guess he wasn't expecting anything more from us, but it felt good to actually be able to do what we thought we should do.

John said, quite happily, "I guess that's just proof that you gotta try." I was very glad that we did.

At the cursor store we found those cocoa sticks for about a sixth the price. They also had banana ketchup and ginger Shandy's, which looked something like ginger beer to us. The grocery store only took West Indies dollars, so instead of paying cash, we decided to use a credit card. It took a little bit longer, but it was worth not having extra change. John drank his Shandy immediately outside of the grocery store, and he felt it was really nice. It tasted malty, was cold, and he enjoyed it. We wanted around the outdoor food markets, the tourist market, and found that nothing really appealed. Most of the food stands were closed by the time we got there, as it was well past three. So we headed back.

It was a good walk back, and we were hungry by the time we got back on the ships we went up to the Seaview and had milk shakes and onion rings. Those really hit the spot. I went back to the cabin and opened my Shandy only to find that it was actually alcoholic. It was actually ginger beer mixed with actual beer. I thought it was pretty funny, and saved it for John. John swam and slept until after dark, but managed to get back to the cabin in time to change for dinner. I slept until 7:30, and woke up in time to change into my caftan. It's a J. Peterman's caftan, with rich blues, pure whites, and a really complex pattern on a flowing structure. I enjoy wearing it when I get to, and this seemed the perfect setting. It's cool and beautiful.

I was very sad that they only served the rack of lamb medium. It's a crime to do that to lamb, but it tasted pretty okay. Much better than the crunchy beans or bland ratatui. The crab cake was gummy. The lemon grass soup was far too salty. My main highlight, before dessert, was getting to sit in Rob's seat, as he hadn't had to move, yet, in all the moves John and I had initiated around the table. He didn't mind at all.

Poor Sathish had a friend whose father had died today, so he was really sad. We tried to cheer him up, but I don't think it really worked. Still, I think it made a mile impression on him that we even tried. That was cool.

Dessert made up for it. They actually had a Baked Alaska! With Neapolitan ice cream and an Italian meringue slotted between two slices of nice, yellow sponge cake. I really enjoyed that. There was also a chocolate mousse that made me even gladder that I'd gotten the Alaska. It was fun, too, to sit next to Ray and actually get to talk with him some about their biking adventure together. Ray, Joan, and Janet had taken bikes on the island, eventhough the adventure brochure had said that some of it might be only for experienced off-road riders, and they'd had a blast eventhough they were slower than nearly everyone else and found that the distance they'd had to go was further than they'd thought. Still, they'd made it and got back in plenty of time to catch the ship.

The adventure we all wanted for tomorrow was full when we tried to sign up for it, so we all decided to just make and early start of it and see what we could find. We ended up, as a group, in the Schooner Lounge, and got embroiled in Radiance Quest, which was basically a guy telling each team to come up with something mildly outrageous and if they had it they'd get points. It started with simple things like a Fitness Sticker from the Fitness area for participating in any of their fitness programs, a lip stick, a picture of the White House (on a $20 bill), or a schedule of the day. Then it went to two belts off two men (John and Ray, looking bored, just whip off their belts), or a bra. And ended with Kevin with lip stick, a bra, high heels, and earrings on...

Whoooieee...

It was pretty funny, all in all. Everyone was dying of laughter as we all got into it and did our share of things. It was pretty cool, all but the very last bit. I am not much into humiliation of any kind, though Kevin put up with it pretty well, it's not like he was liking it. But by the time it was done we were pretty tired and John and I headed back to the cabin.

The cabin attendant had made a towel dog, which I liked a lot, and we puttered around. John read while I wrote, and we ate our pillow mints, drank some water to make up for the hot day, and went to bed. Mmmm...

I am very used to the bed rocking at night, now, and I actually enjoy it a lot. I wonder if I'll miss that when I get home

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