Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Land Tour

Later that day we called Richard again, to get him come to Port Louis instead of Prickly bay for us at 9:00 am sharp. He said he would give us a call at 8:30 regardless, to see if we were really going. I guess he had a point.

We told him to take us to Concord Falls, where we would swim in fresh water, then to Belmont Estates, the cocoa plantation, and Rivers Rum factory, which we estimated to take the whole day. 

Since Concord Falls is situated close to the north of the west coast, we were to pass through St George’s. So Al thought that we should pass by Fort George as well. Richard did not agree, he said Fort Frederick was more spectacular, towering the bay from higher ground, and more interesting, being much larger and better preserved. We had no idea, so consented. Of course Richard was right, we all were glad to make it there. The buildings were all intact, with a portion now used as a small night club. And the view was incredible; I could see as far as the end of Prickly Point to the south!

There were two cruise boats in town, so the major attractions were swarming with mostly elderly people. Arrival of new buses limited our time spent there, which was a good thing, we had a long terrain to cover.

We made it to Concord Falls, in an arduous ride through the narrow and winding road parallel to the west coast. As soon as we reached the entrance to the falls and saw the numerous parked buses almost blocking the road, it started to rain. While we hesitated on what to do, Richard promised to take us to a better spot to swim later, and persuaded us to abandon Concord altogether, pointing out that the natural pool would be full. We listened to reason, and back-tracked the whole way, to tackle the high mountains to reach to the east side of the island, where Belmont Estates are located. It was another long and arduous trip, which took some hours. 

On the way, we stopped at the souvenir shop at the top of a mountain, which we had seen on our previous trip. Zeynep made some purchases as gifts, and posed with one of the ladies carrying colourful baskets on their heads, etc. 

While Deniz and Zeynep were busy, I asked the proprietor if there were any good restaurants around there. He showed us a building down in the valley below, but we could not make out the name. I asked Richard, but he was adamant that Belmont was the place to eat. Oh well.

At last, around 1:00 pm, we were seated at the restaurant of the Belmont, famished and tired. It is a very nice setting, open all around and breezy and quite big, with open buffet for food, but appetizer and dessert were served by young girls. The previous time we had been there, we were early to start, so the service had not been bad, but I did not like the food that much. Selection is limited and some of the stuff not that tasty, but is adequate at best, for quite a lot of money.

This time, there was a huge group (15-20 people) from the cruise ship, who came right after us. While we were endlessly waiting for our appetizer to come, they attacked the buffet, and finished whatever was left. So we had to wait some more for the kitchen to replenish the food, and some more at the line-up, since the group had still precedence and insatiable appetites. They were Germans.

I made the mistake of asking for coffee with the dessert, which extended our lunch period at least half an hour. It was not a good experience for me, but our guests were polite enough to refrain from complaining. Even Richard expressed displeasure, agreeing with my misgivings.

Anyway, that was over, we went on to a quick tour around the stations for fermenting/curing cocoa beans to be prepared for the chocolate factory, a bit further up. Al gave them a call, but learned that none of the managers he knew from previous visits were there to admit us. So, no tour of the factory.

We went to the rum factory, and had a quick tour. Unfortunately the plant, which had not changed for several centuries, was not in operation on that day. All the workers were gathered at the office to get their pay checks, so we could not see them in action.
It was getting late, and we still had a long way to go. Richard, as promised, took us to Seven Sisters Falls. As the name implies, it consists of seven water falls at varying heights of the mountains, some of which are more accessible than others. Richard told us that we were to go to the easiest one, only a twenty minute hike from the road. 

When we came to the cut-off point, he drove into the hiking trail, to reduce our walking time, since it was getting dark. I think it was around 4:30 pm, and we were in a dense rain forest, high up in the volcanic mountain. We left the minibus at a crude bridge, in which Richard had no confidence, and started the hike. We first walked on a marked trail, winding down for a while, then up a bit. Did I mention that it had been raining quite heavily for some time?

 We started descending through a narrow and slippery ghost of a trek, some of which was carved into stairs, some only had stones to be used as such. I always find going down harder, since controlling one’s speed requires more vigilance. After going down, up and through some fast moving streams by hopping on slippery stones, we started to hear the roar of the falling water. There we were, at the edge of a small pool, fed by a cascade of a powerful water fall. We left our clothes at a crude bench at the side, and jumped into the water. Although the air had been quite cool on the way, as we went down into the valley, we felt warmer, either from exertion or lack of wind. Anyway, the cool water felt so good!
We saw that Richard was sitting on a rock, watching us. We asked him to join us; but he was not crazy, why on earth would he swim in such cold water? Crazy or not, we were quite refreshed after the long day. We were of course mindful of the trek to return to the minibus, but going back always feels shorter. We bundled our clothes on our backs, and started the hike back. As I thought, we got to the bus in no time. Zeynep and I told all the guys to get lost, so that we could change in the bus. After we returned, Richard confessed that he chose the most spectacular rather than the convenient one to take us. Oh well, after reaching safety, we were grateful.

Richard brought us back to the dinghy just after sunset, so the ride to the boat was done in semi-darkness. It was a long but interesting day, quite a change from the previous week. I think our guests had a good time, although it was kind of tiring.
The next day (Saturday), we took it easy, and did some shopping, having depleted our stocks during the holidays. Sunday we walked up the Fort George, to see the less spectacular view, at the entrance of the St George’s harbour.

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