It is January in the Northern Hemisphere and all of our country (including my little Island) is in a major deep freeze. The morning we left for a vacation south, our jeep was registering -28 degrees and with wind chill it was dipping to -36. The entire country is blanketed with several feet of snow and layers of ice. This morning though, the roads had been cleared and were somewhat bare after a major snowstorm the week before. We picked a perfect window of weather to escape to a warmer climate.
We’re off to St Lucia in the Caribbean. After a two day trek across the country to connect to the flights that would wing us south, we settle in our seats on the Air Canada Boeing 763 and along with the other 210 passengers we prepare for take-off. Books, headsets, and reading glasses are safely tucked within our reach for the 6-hour flight south. It is mid-day so sleep will not be an option, which is fine – couldn’t imagine sleeping today anyway!
The flight attendants maneuver a drink cart down the aisle and we prepare to partake of some refreshments. We raise our glasses and toast the New Year and our upcoming year of milestones. 2014 will mark the year of our 40th wedding Anniversary. Cheers to us!!
I finish watching a movie on board and try to concentrate on the book I have with me. The words are on the page but my mind is elsewhere. I gaze out the window and I silently count my blessings. The passenger on the aisle seat talks to my husband nonstop. I again count my blessings that I do not have that middle seat. Call me antisocial or whatever, but idle chat like that for six hours would exhaust me!!
I interrupt their conversation to tell my husband that I could see turquoise water. We are approaching St. Lucia and the view is amazing. The clouds are scattered now and mostly above us and the beautiful Island of St. Lucia is in sight. With camera ready, I start clicking. The view is overwhelming. With mountains in the distance; white caps frothing at the shores; and boats of all descriptions sailing those bluish turquoise waters – I couldn’t believe there is no snow!!
Around 4pm our plane lands at the Hewanorra International Airport near Vieux Fort in the southern part of the Island. The entire flight was as smooth as a fine scotch and the pilot happily announces that the temperature today is +28. YES! Followed by cheers and clapping from everyone on board of course. We are the only plane on the tarmac. Long metal stairs are wheeled out and as we deplane, we are greeted by a warm stiff breeze and our multiple layers of clothing are the first indications for the locals that we (like many others before and after us) have come from a cold climate. We are processed swiftly and with broad smiles and shouts that are co-mingled in English and French based Creole, we are escorted to our shuttle. St. Lucia is in the same time zone as our Atlantic time in the winter and because it is their winter here, it gets dark around 6pm. The driver announces it will be a 1.5 hr drive to our resort.
Enroute to our resort (Sandals Halcyon), my head was on a swivel! The roads were like a snake’s trail and my ears popped as we gained altitude. The views on both sides were amazing. (As if the roads weren’t disconcerting enough, here they drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the right). There are few (if any) guard rails so the multi-thousands foot drops in some places had me leaning in the opposite direction…with every turn in the road there were audible gasps and each weary traveler did a double take!
Earlier in December, St. Lucia experienced record rainfalls with flooding and mud slides and a resulting death toll of 5 people – one being a police officer. One of the areas hit the hardest was in Soufriere and we saw firsthand the devastation. Floods had washed out roads and bridges and makeshift roads had been quickly engineered for traffic. Our shuttle had to stop at one such washout because a tanker truck with too heavy a load was stopped on the crest of the hill. As we waited (around a sharp bend), the traffic built up behind us and curious drivers hopped out and ran ahead to see what was causing the holdup.
Welcome to lovely St. Lucia where the population is approx 170,000 and a popular mantra is “relax mon – no problem”. The Island is roughly 27 miles long by 14 miles wide. For the next 10 days we are prepared to take in as much as we can of their beautiful Island and Creole culture. Relax? Oh yeah!