23 – 26 November 2012
Island history - Due to lack of fresh water and poor soil the island has never had any interest for the Arawak or Carib people. As all other Caribbean islands St-Barths was discovered by Columbus – on his second journey to the Caribbean in 1493 he named it after his brother Bartolomeo. The French colonised the island in 1648 but due to poor soil they traded it with the Swedish in 1784 for a warehouse in Göteborg. The Swedes created an active duty-free port but after increasing diseases, a big fire in the capital Gustavia as well as several hurricanes and battles with the English they returned it to the French in 1878 - now as part of Guadeloupe. The islands 8,500 inhabitants are primarily descendants of the colonial French from Normandy, Britany, Pitou and Anjou. The current up-scale tourist reputation was initiated by David Rockefeller in 1957 when he bought a lot of land and started a trend for rich Americans seeking tranquillity. Today. during the months December to March the world's jet-set arrive in great numbers.
Patrice had a day off and was nice to get up early and take me to the harbour at 8am. The boat left on time at 9.15am and it was a tranquil trip of about an hour to Saint Barthélemy or St-Barths as it is better known. I spent the first hour sightseeing in the capital Gustavia – the Swedish prison and clocktower, the anchor and some of the small cosy streets containing shops with most international brands. Afterwards I hiked up-hill to Fort Gustave from where there is a beautiful view of the town and bay. Back on the road I quickly understood that St-Barths is not as posh as people say – the first guy I asked for directions drove me – back where he came from - some kilometres up the coast to the old fishing village Corrossol (though not much left of the old days) and afterwards another guy took me 3-4k to the Colombier viewpoint in the Northwest from where there is an awesome view of the coastline. It doesn't sound like a lot of kilometres but the island has many steep hills and with the big backpack it's quite nice to get a ride. From the viewpoint I walked down through the forest to beautiful Colombier Beach where I stayed some hours before heading out to the nearby (deserted but also very overgrown) peninsula where I found a small (far from flat) grassy area to put up my tent for the night. A lot of mosquitoes and some noise from nearby yachts in the bay having late evening parties, but with my earplugs I quickly fell asleep. As almost all islands in the Caribbean it's also illegal to camp in St-Barths but with more than US 100 per night for the cheapest accommodation and many remote areas it seemed like an obvious choice.
The next day I got up early and walked the last kilometres of the trail into the village Flamands with yet another nice beach. It's kind of ironic that I get to experience many of nicest beaches in the world and I don't even appreciate it like I know a lot of other people would. I didn't even get my thumb out before I got a ride to the airport in the middle of the island... crazy - the world's shortest runway of only 400 metres ending on the beach – and occasionally planes do end here.... I walked a little bit around the bay and got another ride to the next bay in Lorient where I bought some supplies for the next couple of days where I would go to the more remote areas of the island. At this point I felt so confident in hitch-hiking that I asked to be dropped at different viewpoints even though the car would continue in the right direction.... and rightly so. A while later in the Southeast part of the island I did a short hike out to the end of a peninsula where relaxed in the sun all afternoon – and since it's not an official path only 3 local boys came to swim and fish. I had been told that it was impossible to walk around to the next bay where I wanted to go the next day, but few things are impossible especially when it comes to hiking.... there is always a way. There was no trail but using trial-and-error I finally found my way... across steep slopes through dense bushes and lots of cacti. However, reluctantly I had to admit that it wouldn't be possible to go with my big backpack now that my sandals were almost fully broken.
A great night and delightful to wake up in such a beautiful and quiet spot – the only sounds were from some goats and the waves crashing into the rocks. After breakfast I walked back to the road and - yes you guessed it – got a ride all the way to the next bay at Grande Salinas (even though the people were going in another direction). It was overcast and once in a while raining a little so it took about an hour to get some fairly decent pictures. Another ride but this time only halfway uphill - due to construction work the last part of the road was closed so I had to walk up the steep hill....hot hot hot... It would have been easy to get a ride downhill to Anse de Guverneur but I decided to walk partly to enjoy the view and partly to look for a place to camp later – though neither with success. The beach is very popular but I found a quiet place at the far end and eventually the weather improved. Mid afternoon I felt “well done” so I got a ride up the hill and started looking for a place to camp - I had to stay within short walking distance to Gustavia because the ferry was early next morning. I asked around and eventually a nice family of old brothers and sisters living on their parents farm allowed me to camp in their garden. Besides feeding me and meeting the whole family for the traditional Sunday gathering, I got a lot interesting information about the islands history and development as they had lived their whole lives on the island. Up early next morning, a short walk to town and the ferry back Saint Martin. St-Barths was a memorable place to visit because of its beautiful nature and gorgeous beaches but not least for its wonderful people.