An early morning awakening saves us from the worst of the traffic caused by the influx of workers into the capital Pointe-à-Pitre.
It allows us to cross the Riviere Salée faster than we expected and to the other wing of the island, which the settlers christened Basse Terre.
We are in one of the most remote territories in the European Union.
The massive injection of Euros by the French metropolis has endowed these domains of the Lesser Antilles with roads and other infrastructure that most Caribbean neighbors dare not dream of.
On both sides of the road, banana groves as far as the eye can see fill the landscape from the coast to the foothills of the mountains that protrude from the interior. That sea of green ensures Guadeloupe's main export and the livelihood of many families.
We advanced to the south. We also come across the rival sugarcane culture, once the only one to deserve the attention and dedication of the colonists who lined their vast domains with it and supplied the rum distilleries.
The villages of Goyave and Sainte-Marie are left behind. Shortly afterwards, we found a Hindu temple as exuberant as it was out of place in these western parts and that only a whim of history could justify.
Little India on the Butterfly Island of Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is home to one of the largest Indian populations in Latin America.
Around 1850, as a result of the French Revolution and the dissemination of their ideals, the colonists, sometimes French, sometimes British, on the island could no longer rely on slave labor to cut the sugarcane.
The two powers decided to unite in the solution. They imported some 40.000 workers from the Tamil Nadu region, where Pondicherry served as a bridgehead for an eventual Francophone expansion in the subcontinent.
A few years later, this recruitment ended. The Indians stayed and integrated. Today, there are about 55.000. They stopped using the Tamil dialect and names. Only a few elderly people maintain ties with the India.
Towards the Lush Chutes du Carbet
In Capesterre-Belle-Eau, there is finally a detour to what we had defined as the first stop of the morning, the Chutes du Carbet. It was neither more nor less than the waterfalls most impressive in Guadeloupe, divided by three distinct jumps on the slopes of the great mountain of the butterfly island, La Soufrière.
As we move away from the seaside, the secondary road becomes steep. It penetrates into a dense, humid forest that the morning fog strokes and irrigates.
For a while, we are the only travelers to travel the winding road. Until a small Peugeot driven by a lady who is peeking over the steering wheel comes out of nowhere and presses us to speed up the mountain.
We have a feeling that a park employee had overslept. We hit the narrow, steep path to the pursuer, like a forced escort.
A grass roundabout announces the end of the race. The native runs to chop the point. She then returns relieved and smiling to let us know that we had arrived before opening time. And that, as a prize, it exempted us from paying the entrance fees.
We gladly accept. In the always expensive French Antilles, any savings are welcome.
In less than 15 minutes, we reach a balcony conquered by the vegetation and the Carbet river. We lean over the barrier but almost only see a tropical tree with dense foliage.
Perhaps surrendered to legitimate environmental concerns, the authorities had forgotten to uncover the park's attractions. Determined to achieve a clear perspective, we are forced to invade the rocky bed of the river.
And it is on one of its biggest pebbles that we can unveil the majestic waterfall.
Cycling, Cockfights: Pastimes on the butterfly island of Guadeloupe
We return to the coast along the same route. At that time, the awakening of most of the surrounding villagers was confirmed. One of them prepares to ride a colorful bicycle. we see you at the entrance from your home single storey planted by the roadside.
We get excited about the strange sporty photogeny, which is only reinforced when the cyclist picks up and strokes a white fighting rooster.
“Around here, cycling is the favorite sport”, informs us Daril. “I was just going to meet some friends. We do 150 km a day to prepare for the most important races in Guadeloupe and the Martinique. But also we bet on cockfights.
If you want to see it, I'll be in Petit Bourg soon with this one and others. Show up there!"
We stopped our tour at the southern tip of the butterfly-shaped island, to examine some beaches of black sand and the diffuse silhouette of the Les Saintes archipelago.
The Mercantile and Political Frenzy of the Delicious Basse-Terre Market
We return to Basse Terre, the main village on the homonymous sub-island. There, we walk by the market location, between the tropical fruit and craft stalls.
Some of the jaunty vendors try to foist their wares on us. Others prefer to take refuge from the psychological threat of our chambers. At first, this is the case for Marie-Louie Jelda and Legois Polycarpe. With due insistence and conversation, we won the trust of the ladies there. They end up letting themselves be photographed.
Ismael Patrick calls us to the nearby stand and expresses his disagreement: “If your idea was to take images of people from Guadeloupe, you should have chosen other people. They are Haitian immigrants.”
It also complains that a significant part of market traders sell Chinese products. After justifying his distinctive look with the ethnic roots of Tamil Nadu, he confesses that, lacking good deals with local goods, he had opted for Indian spices and essences.
He then proceeds to a quasi-contestatory monologue that promotes the political collective LKP (Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon) and its demands against the injustices of the metropolis' government and the beckes, the all-powerful settlers who continue to control Guadeloupe.
Even before we leave the market, we have fun watching an elderly mother beating her son, in public, while he listens to her with a very heavy sack on his back, bare-chested, patient and jocular.
The Beaches of the Island and the Ti Punch that Gives You More Flavor
We continue to discover the butterfly island, now on a south-north route full of tiresome curves. We ended up using this tiredness as an excuse to stop for a swim on the beaches facing the Caribbean side.
In one of them, a couple of meters (French Europeans) do what they can to alleviate the monotony of the relationship. He shows his partner and other bathers his mastery in any martial art. She, ignore him as much as she can. He makes an effort not to lose the thread in the skein of the novel he is reading.
On another beach, Grande Anse, lost among hundreds of folklore bottles of liqueur, Fredy Punch and his wife Martine recruit us for a tasting of ti punch. We sip rum samples with a taste of tropical fruits while talking to the native host.
Meanwhile, a newly arrived group of French seekers approaches Fredy. Enticed by its far superior numbers, Fredy is dedicated to enticing new customers.
We cut our way on the northern slope of the island's butterfly mold, modernized, overturned by buildings and with less visual interest.
Jordan, the Eddie Murphy of Pointe des Chateaux
We return in three times to Grande Terre, the other flat “wing” of Guadeloupe. Take a look at the Pointe des Chateaux, the end of a capricious tongue of land that points east.
There, the confluence of the north and south seas, exposed to the elements due to the geographical isolation of the place, provokes an instability that agitates the waters, the low coastal vegetation and the stalls of handicraft vendors.
Jordan Etienne leaves the shelter of the tent to foist us his hats made of plaited palm leaves.
Looks like an Eddie Murphy clone to us. Conversation starts, joke after joke, we confirmed that Hollywood wasn't your thing. Jordan had studied crafts at Algés.
He loved Lisbon where he had learned some Portuguese and left friends.