A Hike up the Deshaies River in Guadaloupe

A bit of fun on the Deshaies River in Guadeloupe

The Deshaies River hike is described in Doyle’s Cruising Guide as a “one to two hour”…, “cool and shady scramble”… ”  The trail was said to end about 20 minutes after a road intersects the trail on the left at “a giant cave-like gully, with a waterfall at the back of it”.  It is noteworthy that he acknowledges that “Several readers have complained that this hike is difficult” although at the same time he challenges this assessment with a comment “on the other hand, a five year old hiked here for two hours without any problem”.

Let me start by concluding that we enjoyed the hike very much.  It was indeed shady, and we scrambled up and down many, many, many boulders, but we were decidedly not “cool”.  I venture we sweat a half gallon each.  There is considerable overall elevation to the hike as the river flows from the top of a small mountain (large hill just doesn’t quite describe it).  We found it to be a very strenuous hike and Duhkxy agreed!!!

Bring lots of water, shoes that can get wet, strong legs, and some degree of balance (I am decidedly not strong in that regard and managed the trail without falling – YAY!).

The trees and plants were beautiful and often distinctly adapted to their environment. 

We were surprised to see palm trees growing in this dense forest – having associated them in our minds as the lovely trees lining beautiful salt water beaches.

Coconut palms getting their starts in unlikely places
Massive exposed root base of palm forging its way through the rocks to the water and nutrients it requires.  On left, a massive white lichen.
Reaching heights we have rarely seen

We were three hours into the hike and we saw no sign of any road connecting with the trail on the left or right side.  This was cause for dismay as our plan had been to take the road back.  It would be long past dark if we needed to follow the trail back.  We forged on for a considerable while.

We encountered some very large ants industriously carrying loads much larger than themselves.

But, we did not find an intersecting road.  The following two pics are of the most beautiful river scum I have ever seen.

We marveled at the unusual way some trees grow in the tropics.  We hypothesized their growth habits evolved in a world that never saw a freeze or snow.  When encountering an obstacle, a limb may snake around it.  It is sometimes hard to distinguish a limb from a root.  Trees thrive growing on top of rocks or with three quarters of their roots undermined.

This tree above, and the one below, are part of the same living tree.

We found a large ceiba tree a little way into the forest on the left side of the river.  These trees grow to enormous sizes and have the most amazing roots that extend 10 or more feet beyond the tree.

George holds up Duhkxy so you have a reference for how big this ceiba tree is
George takes a rare photo of me in which you can actually see my smile
Well beyond the sight of the ceiba tree, its root continues to scrawl

Moist forests in the Caribbean have many “air” plants that grow on other plants and rocks.  The one below was common on the trail.

Plants grow attached to trees and atop rocks
Seedlings of “air” plants just getting a start

Exhausted, going on four hours, with no sight of road or waterfall, we turn back.  We look for two concrete blocks that may be steps leading to something George remembered seeing that might have been a house in the woods.  Beside the steps was an old sign with “Interdict” barely discernible (equivalent to no trespassing).  Upon finding it, we clawed our way up a steep bank hearing what sounded to us like religious chanting.  The grounds and buildings appeared to belong to a religious group.  There were several areas with stations of the cross represented and there was evidence of vegetable gardens and animal pens.  A woman who had just driven up kindly showed us how to get to the road and we wearily headed for a beer in town.

This fun story cannot end without my sharing information we found on this trail (after we survived it).  Accounts from a number of sailing bloggers indicate that, indeed, there is a road and a lovely waterfall at the end of the trail.  I think Duhkxy was just slowing us down.

Our favorite was from http://www.gowitheflow.co.uk/2017-2/guadeloupe-nov-17/deshaies-river-walk/

Michael (Uncle and brother) is joining us in two days!

St. Bart’s to Guadaloupe

Beautiful mural on concrete wall in Deshaies, Guadeloupe

From Ile Fourchue we returned to the St Barts mainland to provision up.  The following morning, March 27, we began our sail to Guadeloupe at 6:30am.  The trip would take three days with lay over in Nevis and Monserrat.  We would not go ashore on either of these islands as Duhkxy did not meet requirements and we were not cleared to do so.

The first two days we sailed as close to the wind as Ice Floe can sail and endured 5-6 foot swells.  Wind was around 12-15 knots interspersed with squalls into the low to mid-20s.  This was pretty rough sailing and adding to the challenge, we fished most of the time.  Sadly, I only caught one very large and one pretty small barracuda!!  Are there any fish left in the sea?

The Soufrière Hills Volcano on Monserrat

We passed by Monserrat and viewed the Soufrière Hills Volcano blowing smoke from several places.this previously dormant volcano erupted violently in 1995 and 1996, burying the islands capital, Plymouth, and requiring the relocation of half the island’s inhabitants.  Fortunately, the town was evacuated prior to the major eruptions, but 19 lives were lost.  The southern two thirds of the island remain uninhabitable and the volcano remains active.

Our third day required us to motor sail as the wind was down to 5 knots.  The squalls were, however, the most severe we have encountered – with a top speed of 35 knots.  The sails were set for the squalls, with a reef in the mainsail, and no jib.  Nonetheless, a sudden 35 knot wind with substantial swells is a mighty force.

We arrived in Guadeloupe on March 29th around 5:00pm. We were bone-tired and ready for an early night when we anchored in Anse Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

The information we reviewed concerning the anchorage in Anse Deshaies had prepared us for it to be crowded.  Free moorings were all occupied by local boaters.  The depth of the anchorage drops off quickly.  We anchored out a bit, repositioning ourselves twice and settling in about 30 feet of water.  It was a comfortable anchorage with plenty of breeze, little swell, and a short dinghy ride to restaurants and a small grocery store.  Our only concern was Ice Floe, along with all the boats in the cove, continually shifted direction.  Of greater concern was that it was not unusual for one boat to swing in one direction and the boat beside it another.  With a great deal of anchor chain out, we regretted not having set a float to mark the anchor’s position.  This would give other boaters an idea of the substantial area Ice Floe might occupy depending on how she swung.

The following photos and comments are from our first day in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Local fishing boat in Anse Deshaies
We had a fabulous lunch of local fish and pork while entertained by bananaquits
Land crab ready to duck into its substantial underground home
Land crab half hiding in its underground home
Picture-perfect home on the waterfront of Anse Deshaies
The dormer of this lovely home with a balcony set up with children’s size chairs

Visiting St. Barthélemy

Hilltop view overlooking Gustavia Marina

St. Barthélemy, also known as St. Barth (French) and St. Barts (English), has approximately 10,000 inhabitants.  The language is French and many inhabitants speak little to no English. It was fun when I found myself in situations where I knew as much, or more French than the person I was speaking with knew English.

St. Barts is a wealthy island – sort of the Caribbean version of the Riviera’s St. Tropez.  It is said to be frequented by the rich and famous, although we met no celebrities that we were aware of.  We were told because many island inhabitants are well off, the recovery from the 2017 hurricanes was very fast.  Any able-bodied person could earn 50 euros / hour (~ 55 US dollars) just on a cleanup detail.

The culture is decidedly French.  We enjoyed our first pain au raison and strawberry tart since we returned from Europe and fresh(ish) baguettes became a staple once again.  I do not mean to imply that a store would sell a day old baguette; only that they were not baked fresh every hour and purchased warm.

Most food must be imported as the soil is dry and rocky.  However, much like in France, most properties have a collection of well-maintained fruit trees native to the Caribbean (mango, papaya, breadfruit, sour sop, bananas, coconuts…)

Sour sop – Wikipedia describes sour sop (aka custard apple) as having an aroma similar to pineapple with a flavor described as a combination of strawberries and apple and sour citrus flavor and an underlying creamy texture reminiscent of coconut or banana.  We have yet to have the opportunity to try it, but who could resist with that description.

Most natives are indifferent to other people’s dogs.  Duhkxy is learning not to expect pats and praise from everyone he meets (which is a good thing).  He now rarely runs to jump on people unless they encourage him to do so.  He also finds that he is not welcome in supermarkets and many stores.  Restaurants are about 50:50 as to whether they will permit a dog to enter and many beaches are off limits.  The beach restriction is primarily to ensure dogs do not disturb turtle nests, but it sure has been hard on Duhkxy, who loves nothing more than to run and play in the sand.


The capital of St. Barts is Gustavia, a very beautiful town with a busy marina and crowded anchorage.  As such, we anchored Ice Floe in a cove, Anse de Colombier, a short distance away and visited St Barts by dinghy and by car.

The island , just 9.7 square miles, is very small, even when compared to most of the small Caribbean Islands.

On the evening we arrived, the Gustavia marina and harbor were full of enormous sailing yachts.  We learned shortly afterward that a series of sailboat races was planned for the weekend.  The contestants were by invitation only and qualifying sailboats had to be a minimum of 30 meters in length.  What a sight!!

These boats sailed neck and neck in relatively light wind
These two goliaths sailed so close to each other they sometimes looked like a single vessel with a bizarre attire of sails.  The one created a wind shadow for the other, perpetually keeping it a bit behind.
An unusual instance in which competing boats chose vastly different sails
All the ships carried dozens of people to serve as ballast to minimize healing
Some beautiful classic sailboat types participated
The lovely schooner was so swiftly overtaken by this sleek, black sloop, it looked like it was standing still

To see more of St. Barts, we rented a car and traveled every public road on the island.  Our first road rivaled the steepness of anything you have seen or driven on in San Francisco.

Photo absolutely fails to show how steep this road was.

We finished our week’s visit St Barts on one of its small, unihabited, islands, Isle Fourchue.

We anchored in the cove where you see a couple of other boats in this photo and spent two days exploring and watching the sailboat races.

This barren, rocky, island was once home to many goats.  Unfortunately, they exhausted the food supply and the few remaining, after most starved, were relocated.

This sparcely-leafed vine left behind seed pods that sprung open and resembled silver flowers.
Areas of the island were covered with these beautiful barrel cactuses.

It was now time to move on to our next Caribbean island in the French West Indies, Guadeloupe.