Thursday, July 01, 2010

St. Lucia and the Volcanic Mud Bath

The adventure continues! After the coral paradise of Barbados, it was back to the volcanoes on St. Lucia (pronounced Loosha). Kent and I had signed up for an excursion on this island, one that involved slathering ourselves in hot volcanic mud. Score.

But first, we had to endure a two hour drive to the volcanic park. And I say endure, because St Lucia is hilly. Actually, it's VERY hilly. I don't think we encountered a single straight stretch of road. We're talking winding, twisting roads here. The volcano might have actually only been like 30 miles from the ship, but we had to take such a circuitous route to get there it was INSANE.

But the longish drive to the volcano meant that we got a great view of the island. We did some of the scenic overlook action, and then drove up to a place called Marigot Bay. According to wiki, it's considered the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean and has been featured in movies like Doctor Dolittle (the Rex Harrison version) and Romancing the Stone. I think our guide also mentioned that they shot some scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean there, but don't quote me on that.

While driving around the island, we also a ton of banana plantations. I know it sounds crazy, but I found all the information about bananas pretty fascinating. Turns out, each tree produces only one bunch of bananas (but you can get up to 200 in a bunch), and the bunches are wrapped in these special blue bags to protect them from insects and the sun. We also drove by pineapple groves (and saw baby pineapples!) and tons of bread fruit and mango trees.

But the island is most famous for the Pitons, two large volcanic mountains that are called "volcanic plugs." Right next to them are active sulphur springs and pools of volcanic mud which were our final destination!

There was no doubt where we were when we got to the volcanic park; the smell of sulphur was very evident. Or as Kent so eloquently put it, "it smells like damn rotten eggs here." He seemed particularly sensitive to the smell, but I had spent every summer of my youth in Hot Springs, Virginia where there are natural mineral springs that smelled pretty much the same. So I guess it was familiar to me. Anyway, we got a brief tour around the park, seeing the natural springs (with temperatures over 120 degrees) and a broad volcanic wasteland area with bubbling pools of boiling mud. It looks like an alien landscape right out of Star Trek. People actually aren't allowed to walk around on it anywhere since a tour guide fell through the ground and sustained second degree burns on half his body (he survived and fell through because of air pockets underground).

Then it was on to the baths. We walked down a few stairs and there was a pool of hot mud. And it was HOT. The first time I tried to stand in it (it was about ankle to mid-calf high) I had to jump right out. But the best method was just to grin and bear it for about a minute, and then the body acclimated to the change. The mud was actually on the bottom of the pool; you just scooped it up and rubbed it all over your body. And it felt amazing. It was chock full of minerals and the bits of gravel acted like a natural exfoliant. Once we washed it all off in the shower, I could not believe how smooth my skin felt...for several days afterwards! Of course I walked around with volcanic mud under my fingernails for the next 3 days, but it was so worth it.

Me and Kent rock the "volcanic mud" look, straight from the runways of Paris and Milan.

After our mud bathing, Kent went in search of food as he is want to do and we bought some amazing fried chicken and fried bread (think of it as a pita combined with a tortilla). I know we were in a total tourtisty area, but it still felt somewhat cool to be enjoying the local cuisine. All of our meals had been eaten on ship before then, and while I'm not the most adventurous diner, I enjoyed sampling the local flavor.

Then it was back on the van for our return ride! And it seemed even more twisty on the way back. Although we did get to stop at a fab overlook restaurant to take in the view and rum punch. Ah, rum punch. It's like the water of the Caribbean.

A few more pictures:

Mangoes (yes, I think they look like balls too)

Mineral pool at the volcanic park

Me and Marigot Bay. Thanks to the nice Australians who took my picture since Kent had wandered off to look at souvenirs.

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