Saturday, July 7, 2012

St. Lucia drifting between the Pitons

St.  Lucia is a wild breast of green land hunkered down on a line that extends across the Caribbean down to South America, an ancient mountain chain that just peaks above the water line to say hello.   Virgin forests overgrow the quiet asphalt roads that lead to black sand beaches and quiet jungle trails. Steaming collapsed calderas lurk inland, and Afro-Caribbean dancehalls fill the humid nights with the thumping jams of reggaeton.  The oft-used dancehall air horn blasts across the tear shaped island and out towards the Atlantic from decaying colonial outposts like Soufriere.  It feels like a unifying blast of something, though I never pinpointed what that something was.  It is perhaps a revelry that has taken many forms since the colonial overlords left centuries ago, shape-shifting the island into a post-colonial sliver of decay.  Or more likely, it is simply a blast that accompanies a great time at a crowded club next to a beach, under the gaze of the pitons, where tomorrow will be hot and freedom is cheap.

When we arrived in St. Lucia, we were greeted with a damp blast of Equatorial air and expensive cabs.  In a US denomination, the fare approached three figures, and we saddled up next to the Avis car rental desk to procure keys to something small and nimble to carve our way through the back-roads of the jungled land.  Bureaucracy and annoyance followed:  a hard sell for insurance, a driver's license, a 30 minute car inspection.  Each bead of sweat on my brow spoke to my annoyances with this cumbersome process.  But, suddenly, the keys were placed in my palm and we darted out of the sad little airport, left hand driving, heading somewhere.

As I turned the ignition, the radio came alive with air horns and speedy reggaeton as we slalomed around hills, past little beaches where families gathered for picnics, and under towering palms with roots just deep enough.  The DJ blasted his signature sample every 5 minutes or so, "Can I get a hammer, hammer, hammer."  It would echo and trail off.  The soundwaves exited our car and flat-lined as they hit the dense Caribbean air.  Major Lazer's "Get Free" came on as we sped past decaying barber shops and dilapidated  pastel buildings:

Look at me
I just can't believe
What they've done to me
We could never get free
I just wanna be
I just wanna dream
All of my life been wading in
Water so deep now we got to swim
Wonder will it ever end

The drive was always gorgeous and sometimes perilous.  We eventually found a place to stay - La Haut.

La Haut is a small property of buildings clinging to the side of a mountain overlooking the Pitons and the town of Soufriere.  The godly view and somewhat inexpensive tariff is balanced with a lack of air conditioning, which, one a hot island, must be given a proper weight that we neglected to comprehend completely standing slack jawed at this view: