Jul 112012

After landing and a very quick trip through immigration where I confused the officer (transit? how do you transit? oh, you’re going to the domestic/regional airport….what will you do here for 10 hours? Oh, fascinating.) I was through in less than 3 minutes thanks to the American escort. Talk about amazing service. I think I’m going to get some business cards with this website printed…if nothing else to share with immigration officers. It lends credibility to my “country collecting/visiting” story, and immediately defuses the tension when they see my 192 page passport.

Based on very strong recommendations on TripAdvisor, I’d booked my day with Serenity Vacations and Tours.  I was doubly sold when their transfer service promised “homemade rum punch.”  I mean, come on, how much better does it get?!  Immediately through immigration the very cheerful representative and driver met me, and we were set for the day.  Up front, the van was wonderful (at least six people could have fit in it comfortably), the rum punch was delicious and plentiful, and the local beer was also supplied.  Now, on to what we actually DID!

Landing was just before 2pm, so it was around 2:15 by the time we got going.  We did a short drive, and my guide was fantastic in answering all the little questions I had about St Lucia.  Questions about the demographics, economy, politics, you name it.  She knew her country well, and was thrilled to share the details.  I knew I was in great hands!   First, a view from the side of the road near the start of our drive:

Before doing any actual climbing, we stopped at the Tet Paul nature reserve, where I got a fantastic view of the Pitons….this is two small mountains known as Gros Piton and Ptit Piton.  Honestly, they’re almost the same size, and the easiest way to tell them apart is that Ptit Piton is more “pointy” shaped.  We did a short hike around Tet Paul, and got some great views of the Pitons:

Gros Piton:

Ptit Piton:

After this, we headed over to Gros Piton, and did a bit of the hike.  It’s around a 4-5 hour round-trip (which I didn’t have time for, so we did a bit of hiking up it to give me a flavour.  It was absolutely wonderful, and I can’t wait to come back here and do the full thing.)  The nature was stunning, there wasn’t a tourist anywhere to be found, and it was fantastic!

From there, back into the van, and I was ready to bust into the fruit punch!  Yum, a couple glasses later, another 30 minutes in the van on some incredibly windy roads and switchbacks, and we stopped (at my request) at a local shack that supposedly makes the best cassava bread anywhere in St Lucia.  They had five or fix flavors, and I went with the cranberry and raisin.  OMG it was delicious, but talk about filling!  I think it was the size of an average pancake, but I swear it weighed at least 500-600g.  This thing was DENSE!  Even washing it down with a local beer, it was all I could do to finish half of it!  However, stopping at the shack rewarded me with an amazing view of the countryside:

At this point it was already about 6pm and time to start thinking about dinner.  I requested that we go “somewhere local and tourist-free” so they brought me to a place called the Golden Taste Restaurant on the north side of the island.  It was just me and a few local couples, but it was al fresco dining, and I had a view of the street while everyone was setting up for the Friday night festivities.  It was the first weekend of Carnival, and everyone was preparing to go all-out.  I wish I’d done a bit more research, because I would have loved to spend a night dancing, drinking, and partying in the streets with the locals.  Alas, it was not to be.

Dinner was delicious, a grilled local fish with lots of delicious local veg sides and a few local beers, and it was time to head to the airport.  It was nearing 730pm at this point, and I had to get to the airport!

Check-in at SLU (the domestic/regional airport for St Lucia) was quick and efficient behind a couple who’d showed up 5 minutes before their flight and been told they missed it.  They couldn’t comprehend why 5 minutes early just wasn’t ok.  With 4 kids in tow, fortunately the LIAT agent took pity on them and waived the change fee, booking them the next day.  So far, LIAT scored points!

Agent was friendly with me, check-in was super quick, and she confirmed my flight the next day was really correct (my travel agent couldn’t find it, no online reservations system showed it, but LIAT let me book it) and I was off.  Piece of cake!  There was a small coffee shop about to close, but at 8pm I really didn’t want coffee.  No worry….yes, we can get you two beers, but we’re closing.  Can we put them in to-go coffee mugs?  LOL sure, of course!  So, I sat in the departures “hall”  (aka outside under the stars) sipping beer from styrofoam coffee cups.  Ahhh, loving it!

Finally 45 minutes before the flight “immigration” opened and consisted of one person taking a quick look at your passport.  On the other side of the door was a small mini-mart (10 square meters maybe) where I shared another local beer with a group of local guys.  We spoke some mix of english, creole, french, and who knows what else, but were best friends in a few minutes.  I miss places where people are just friendly to strangers…are you listening to DC?

Above, you can see the small hut where the one “immigration” officer sat before letting us through.  Boarding was super quick, and there wasn’t a single empty seat on this flight.  It was open-seating, and I decided to grab the first/bulkhead/exit row.  Now, the amusing part, on the right side there are TWO row ones….fhe first one is backwards and the second is forwards.  I grabbed the backwards window and was promptly joined by a local POS….passenger of size.  He was rather jolly along with his other two friends seated in our four seat pod.  I just had to remember if there WAS an emergency…my several beers notwithstanding, I had to get out first because these three were NOT fitting through the door!

LIAT flight 509
St Lucia, Vigie (SLU) to St Vincent (SVD)
Depart 21:45, Arrive 22:15, Flight time 30 minutes
Dash-8 Series 300, Registration V2-LGC, Manufactured 1992
Seat 1F “window”

Flight?  Well, it was maybe 30 minutes and quick.  Honestly there’s zero to say.  It was almost 10 minutes early, the crew was friendly enough (but no drinks were served) and we landed in St Vincent a bit early.  So far, LIAT was proving to be just fine by me!

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