Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gideon boot and a khaki suit.

By Cam Ferrie

My recent travels took me to St. Lucia. Friends of mine, Lukas and April, moved to the island the year before and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit. On arrival I was inundated with taxi drivers offering to take me anywhere on the island “for the best price” - whatever that meant. Luckily for me Lukas had sent a driver. “306” I said. “I’m looking for driver 306.” The sea of taxi drivers parted ways until I saw a lonely driver named Aluscious waiting patiently for my arrival.
That first drive was memorable. The airport sits about 55 kilometers south of the capital Castries, which translates into about an hour of driving when obeying the speed limits. My driver took 40 minutes. With hands grasped on to anything in reach and my feet planted firmly on the floor mat, I attempted to make small talk with Aluscious, who seemed to take pleasure in driving at atrocious speeds; passing around corners and barely missing pedestrians.  About 15 minutes in, we stopped in the town of Dennery for  an afternoon snack. For a couple of dollars I was treated with freshly baked creole bread made in what appeared to be a home-made earth stone oven.

I arrived in the capital late afternoon and was greeted by April, who was busy assisting youth in planning an upcoming conference. I sprawled out on the bed that was made for me and enjoyed the breeze of a fan that blew warm Caribbean air onto my face. Lukas returned home from work shortly after.  It had been four years since we’d talked. And we picked up exactly where we left off. Some say it’s the experience that binds friendships together. But I’m convinced it’s the music more than anything else. We immediately broke into a chorus of Jesus Christ Superstar’s Hossana before departing for a late night swim. Luckily, April and Lukas’ home is situated less than five minutes from Halcyon Beach. The moon was bright and lit a pathway to our destination. There’s nothing like reconnecting with old friends while bobbing around in the Caribbean Sea hours after sunset.

I am a brunch guy. I love it. It’s my favourite thing to do in Vancouver. Drinking coffee and touching base with passerbys that may or may not know you. What’s not to love?  To my surprise, brunch in the Caribbean is reserved for special occasions and is not often the norm for the everyday. It did not take us long to make drastic changes to the morning routine. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were replaced with steaming hot cups of black tea, fresh fruit, eggs, toast, and a pan de chocolate. Brilliant.

One of the best things about vacations is the ability to break the routine.  With a great start to the morning April, Lukas, and I discussed our plans for the week. We spent the first couple of days exploring Castries and Rodney Bay and snorkeled at a number of beaches in the north of the island. Near the end of the week we rented a car and headed south, picking up Danny – a Rastafarian who appreciates good reggae music - and continued down the long and winding road between Castries and Soufriere until we hit Gros Piton. And there it stood. A one mile hike ahead of us; a mountain whose incline shoots straight into the air.

I am in terrible shape but was excited about the idea of completing a four hour hike. For those that know me, know that I do not hike. But that’s the beautiful thing about vacations. There are no rules. And you crave activities outside your norm. It’s a strange thing that happens. How come I don’t hike in Vancouver? Is it the climate? Is it the hassle?

We began the ascent. Singing Richie Spice’s “Gideon Boot” until we finally made it to the top. Perhaps it was the love of music that got us all up in one piece. It certainly spurred some dynamic conversation, “what exactly is a gideon boot” Lukas asked Danny, who stated that it had something to do with spirituality. I was panting for breath but eager to hear some insight to the reggae song that had become our anthem for the day.

At the bottom we agreed it would be best to take a quick dip in the ocean to cool off.  We arrived at Jelousie Beach, which sits nestled between the Pitons. It’s gorgeous and is walled off magnificently betweenthe two giant mountains. The bay is protected and the reef fish spectacular; a snorkeler’s dream.

It was a memorable trip and one that will go down in the books. It is likely a mix of friends, places, and songs that made the experience so noteworthy.  The island is packed with fresh fruit, crazy drivers, and delicious jerk chicken. What’s not to love? Lukas and I had our last brunch together and listened to some Cat Stevens as we gorged on freshly picked papaya and flaky croissants. I said goodbye knowing it wasn’t and held on for dear life as Aluscious drove me back from Castries, through the small villages to the airport. I took one last breath of that sweet Caribbean air before stepping onto the plane and thought, “St. Lucia, I’ll never forget you.”

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