Up and down (Martinique)

I’m currently on Martinique, lying in a hammock, a cool breeze brushing through my hair and the sun warming my skin. It’s hard to decide where to look, the green of the palm trees and bamboo, the blue sky or the surrounding mountains. The volcano we had climbed this morning is also partly visible through the clouds covering it nine days out of ten. Up here in the mountainous Southern region of Martinique, the temperatures are lower and it’s always windy. Great hiking weather. Enough of that, I wanted to tell you about our first days on the beautiful island of Martinique.

Somewhere warm

After falling in love with Guadeloupe two years ago, my boyfriend and I knew we had to go back to the French Caribbean. On 21st of February, we hoped on a plane from Munich to Paris CDG. We’d dreaded changing airport in Paris, but I went really well. When flying with Air France, the shuttle bus (le bus direct) from CDG to Orly is free. Once arrived in Paris CDG, we got told to go to a counter and there, we were given our tickets for the bus to Paris Orly. The transfer takes about 75 minutes. The flight to Fort de France, the capital city of Martinique, went by fast and we even arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We checked in with our car rental agency called AloeLocation and then our adventure could begin.

Our first Hotel

We had booked the first two nights in the South, at Sainte-Luce. As the island is rather small, most places can be reached within half an hour from the airport. Our accommodation “Brise Marine” is located right at the beach and the bungalows offer everything you need. Only a well-kept garden with palm trees and sunloungers separated us from the sea.

Breakfast on the beach

Due to the different time zone, we woke up early and went on a sunrise walk along Gros Raisin beach and into the neighbouring town. In the mornings, it´s not that hot yet and very quiet. Still, as we also discovered the following days, locals enjoy jogging and working out on the beaches. From circle trainings to aqua fitness, you´ll see everything. Back to our morning walk. Fortunately, we found a bakery to buy some French pastries… two croissants, two pain au chocolats and a baguette.

Feet in the sand

We ate our first breakfast in paradise at the beach, watching a diver with a harpoon. Besides going grocery shopping at the “Simply Market” (highly recommend) in Trois-Rivières and stepping on an insect that made my foot hurt for a while, the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the sun. As “Anse Figuier” is right around the corner from our bungalow, we checked it out but weren’t impressed because of the insane amount of people.

On Saturday the 23rd of February, we went on a walk to check out the beaches towards the West of our apartment. They all have a unique vibe and seem inviting in different ways. Our favourite was Désert… few people, white sand, turquoise water, very clean, “cocotiers” as the French call their palm trees.

Former theatre of Saint-Pierre

The owner of Brise Marine kindly showed us his highlights of the island and following his advice, we didn´t take the coastal road up to the North but drove up the “Route de la Trace”. It’s a very scenic route through small villages and the jungle. Additionally, this is the way to drive if you want to visit “Jardin Balata” or “Sacré Coeur de Balata”. We didn´t, and therefore reached Morne Rouge, our final destination of the day, early in the day.

So, we drove to Saint-Pierre, the “Little Paris” that had been destroyed during a volcano eruption in 1902. Parking is limited, but it’s a charming town to go for a stroll. There’s a covered market with two restaurants upstairs and ruins of the former theatre, prison etc. If you want to go for a dip, I’d highly recommend the beach in Le Carbet. Don’t be put off by the Northernmost part, it gets more beautiful the further South you go. We stayed there until sunset and then drove to our AirBnB in the “highlands” of Morne Rouge. A major part of this island’s beauty is that you can go from Caribbean beaches to mountainous jungle in 20 minutes.

Nightly visitor

Sunday, 24th of February. A cat that had held us awake at night, had kindly eaten the baguette we’d prepared for our trip up to Montage Pelée. That’s why we didn’t arrive at the foot of the volcano until around 7am. We’d heard that the summit is usually covered in clouds, but that the chance of a view was better in the morning. However, we were greeted by strong wind and bad visibility.

A change of heart

We decided to abort the mission and drive up the coast instead. If you continue until the road ends, you’ll find yourself at the starting point for a 14.5 km hike to Grand’Rivière and a one-hour hike to the waterfall “La Cascade Couleuvre”. We went for the short version, because I was feeling a bit under the wheater. Luckily, because it seems like you have to book a boat in advance to bring you back from where the hike ends in Grand’Rivière, Martinique. Otherwise, you have to walk all the way back. The waterfall is pretty but not spectacular, at least not as spectacular as the hike through the jungle to get there.

The “Anse Couleuvre” is also worth a visit while you’re there. It’s a black sand beach with big waves, just 500 metres from the parking lots. On the way to or from these hiking spots, there’s the possibility to visit “Habitation Ceron”, a kind of botanical garden with a restaurant. The visit costs 8 Euros per adult, which seemed too pricy to us.

Back at it again

Now, at 12 o’ clock, was the time for the second attempt to conquer the volcano. As we’d hoped, the view had gotten slightly better. Officially, the hike to the top takes 4 hours, we ended up only needing 1.5 hours. Needless to say, that this differs strongly depending on how experienced and fit you are. There are definitely tough spots involved and the strong wind near the summit makes the journey even more adventurous.

On top

Once at the top, there’s the possibility to walk along the crater. We made our way right back down, because there was no view from up there and the strong wind would’ve made the walk too dangerous. Closer to the ground, the clouds disappeared, and we were rewarded with a gorgeous 180° view of the sea and the island of Martinique. The rest of the day was spent in our idyllic bungalow, enjoying the silence, soaking up the green of the forest around us and, as I already mentioned, lying in the hammock.

Part II coming soon. In the meanwhile you can check out my last trip to Guadeloupe (also on Instagram) or join me on my stay at Cambridge University!

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