Tag Archives: St Lucia

Trouble in Paradise? Travelling Through Protests in Martinique, St Lucia and London

I’ve been travelling a lot this summer.  I’ve been magnificently blessed.  I’ve also travelled with my eyes open, and something unusual has caught my attention:  Quite separately from my natural antenna keenly tuned to signs of social upheaval, it seems that every place I’ve visited has been in the throes of a political drama.

Seriously!

I’m not expert in international political analysis, but I swear every stop involved someone explaining that something wasn’t working normally as a result of protests.

Before you write me off as some leftwing fantasist seeing the revolution everywhere I go, here’s what I mean:

1) Martinique:  Petrol Strike.

Firstly there was the question of whether I could leave for my adventures in the first place.  A week before my anticipated departure, there were talks of yet another petrol strike.  Two days later it was confirmed and began.

As usual in Martinique, the petrol stations were blockaded and the island came to a swift, choked standstill.  In a petrol strike, business meetings are postponed, schools lack teachers and pupils or close, services – including health and police – effectively shut down because key personnel can’t get to work. The state doesn’t appear to have reserves in these eventualities/make provisions for ‘key’ staff.  Riots don’t break out because the would-be opportunists/discontented are also conserving whatever petrol they have left.  Thus it was that all movement in the country halted days – hours really – before I hoped to begin the adventure of a lifetime.  ‘Off island,’

C’est pas possible! I fumed.

No one knows how long it will last.  Although the petrol strikes in the last year have always lasted five days or fewer, everyone remembers how it was a ‘mere’ petrol strike that started the historic 40 day national strike/protest of 2009.  The discontent which fuelled that moment remains widespread – particularly the social complaints – so I’ve often heard Martinicans say they expect another such outbreak, with some rather apocalyptic predictions of a violence which will be markedly different from the last period of protest.

On the Friday before I was due to leave, the worst happened.  My ride to the airport phoned me to say she’d run out of petrol; if Coralie couldn’t get some the following day, I’d need to try and find somebody who still had petrol, and who loved me enough to use the little remaining petrol they had on me.  She might be able to take me the 10 mins to the port with what little petrol they had left, but not the 30 min drive to the airport.  Boats and planes had the fuel to get me off Martinique to St Lucia, where a flight would take me to London and my summer adventure would begin.  But could I get to the port or airport to board? Continue reading

Three Guianas in Thirteen Days: Overlanding in South America

A pirogue, my ride from Guyana to Brazil

A pirogue, my ride from Guyana to Brazil

I am a reluctant air traveller.  Between being concerned about climate change and not enjoying being treated like a criminal every time I go to the airport, I avoid it wherever possible.  Perhaps it’s my coming of age on London transport, but the way I see it, trains, boats and buses tend to depart and arrive from/in city centres, have better and/or amazing views, are cheaper and simply more convenient and relaxing modes of transport.  Obviously over long distances overland travel is much slower, but personally I subscribe to the notion that the journey is the destination; a measured pace makes for plentiful opportunities for immersion and absorption in the travel experience.  Thus it was that I departed St Lucia for a whirlwind view of the South American continent. Continue reading

One Day In St Lucia

Toes in the sand and nose to nose with the horizon line, today I tried to contemplate how I ended up here.  When did I become Neo?  I saw The Matrix; I was not enthralled with the nebuchadnezzar.  I could have chosen the blue pill.  Heavy-heartedly maybe, but I would have done it.  That porridge three times a day would have driven me mad and I would have been no use to the revolution.  So which part of my journey through life determined that I would step off the treadmill, out of the rat race, move a gazillion miles away from my beloved London and set up home in the French Caribbean?  Clueless, I retraced my steps. Continue reading