St Lucia
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Saint Lucia

Written by Rick Archer
Last Update: December 2012

Saint Lucia was our fifth island visit of the trip. 

Like the other islands in the area, Saint Lucia has a long history of slavery and exploitation dating back to the 1600s. 

It was also one of the most contested islands.  In 150 years, Saint Lucia changed hands between the French and the English 14 times! 

Someone with an odd sense of humor nicknamed St Lucia the "Helen of the West Indies".

This was a dig at Helen of Troy, the much coveted woman who caused the Greeks and Trojans to wage war for ten long years.

It was the English who won the last battle. 

In 1814, Great Britain took control of the island for good.  Today English is the predominant language and the legal system is based on British common law.  Yes, they drive on the wrong side of the road. And yes, they still speak a lot of French. 

To this day, St. Lucia's heritage is split between African, English, and French. 

Saint Lucia is not that large.  It is 27 miles north to south and 14 miles wide.

The capital city of Saint Lucia is Castries (60,263). A third of the island's population lives here.

Saint Lucia is more mountainous than many other Caribbean islands. Its highest point is Mount Gimie at 3,120 feet.

Two mountains, the Grand Pitons (see Gros Piton on the map), form the island's most famous landmark. They are located between Soufrière and Choiseul on the western side of the island.

Saint Lucia has semi-active volcano. The Sulphur Springs provide an impressive display of steam, but you better hold your nose.

Since Saint Lucia is so mountainous, the majority of the island is covered with a thick forest.  Most of the population lives in the fishing villages that dot the perimeter of the island.

Like most of the Caribbean islands, St Lucia was enslaved for about 150 years.  Conditions were so harsh that almost all the native Carib indians died.  The British resorted to importing African slaves who proved to be much hardier.

These Africans were also more difficult to control.  In 1795, an army of St. Lucian freedom fighters defeated the small battalion of British troops stationed on the island.

For the next four months, a united front of recently freed slaves and freedom fighters known as the Brigands forced out not only the British army, but every white slave-owner from the island.

A year later, the British Army returned with many more troops. 

The freedom fighters could not repel this many men.

Soon the British regained control of the island and imposed ten more years of slavery. 

However, many of the rebels escaped inland into the thick rain forests.  These ex-slaves lived a guerilla lifestyle in the mountains.  They conducted raids that made life miserable for the army and the plantation owners.  The British spent ten years trying to track them down, but the guerillas proved too elusive.  Since they were able to live off the land or off whatever they stole from the British, there was no base to find them at.  Finally the British threw in the towel and formally ended slavery in 1808. 

Today the population of the island is 90% of African descent.



Mara had done extensive research about this island.  She lined up a man named Cosol, one of the top guides, to whisk us around. 

As I later discovered, 'Cosol' is not his real name, but rather his nickname.  His real name is Nereus Francis.  The nickname 'Cosol' comes from the French patois name for the sop, the green tropical fruit in the picture.  The sop is often shaped like a heart.  It has a rough green skin and soft spikes.

As it turned out, Cosol is a self-made man.  From what I gather, Cosol spent much of his childhood selling this fruit to make money for his family.  He worked his way up from poverty to create one of the top tour companies on the island.  Cosol told of how as a young man he worked both as a taxi driver and as a driver for a tour company. 

At some point, he took a risk and bought his own car.  He began soliciting people as they got off the ship. Then he added an old broken down bus. Then he exchanged it for an attractive minivan. Then he added an attractive large bus. Then he hired some people to assist him... and so on.

Cosol has an incredible personality.  I have never met a tour guide with more charisma than this guy.  In addition, he is extremely hard-working.  I noticed he spent every spare moment returning messages. 

Cosol was an impressive guy.  When Cosol wasn't busy entertaining us with lively anecdotes, he spoke like the businessman he is.

He said that Saint Lucia's economy was above average compared to most of its neighboring islands.  Cosol pointed out that thanks to the fishing and the fertile soil, there is little hunger in his country.  Anyone who is hungry can catch a fish or grab a piece of fruit that grows naturally in the forest.

Saint Lucia's economy depends primarily on revenue from tourism and banana production.  Both sectors are doing very well. 

However, these two sectors are not enough to create jobs for everyone.  The unemployment rate is 20%.  This leads to another problem - rampant teenage pregnancy.  When people don't work or go to school, they relieve their boredom by... well, figure it out. 

I got the feeling that Cosol cared deeply about these social problems and was trying to figure out some solutions.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Cosol in an elected office someday.  He has the personality and the natural leadership ability to pull it off.

There were a number of excursion buses waiting for the passengers

Cosol immediately put Kurt to work advertising his business

We were soon out of the city.  Cosol pointed out a lovely beach below

The terrain is mountainous and heavily forested

Cosol said that once his country decided tourism was its bread and butter, the leaders made a conscious decision to treat its forests like a national treasure.

Consequently the size of the St Lucia rain forest is actually growing.

The Sulfur Springs are a popular tourist destination in St Lucia.  One popular feature is the ability of the tourists to literally drive up near the edge of the springs. Note the springs and the road in the same pictures.   

At one time, tourists were also allowed to walk right up to the edge of the tar pits. However, in the mid Nineties, a local tour guide named Gabriel fell through the crust into the pit. He received scalding third degree burns over most of his body.

Those days of close proximity are over. Viewing is restricted to a platform 200 hundred feet away.  For his suffering, the tour guide achieved a type of immortality. His fate is mentioned at every tour.  Plus the Springs are now called Gabriel's Hole.

Sulphur Springs is billed as the "world's only drive in volcano".  However, despite the ease with which tourists can come visit and the low-level of fear, the volcano is a ticking time bomb. 

While doing research for this article, I learned that the volcano is still active.  It is supposed to erupt again in about 100 years.  When that happens, depending on the severity, the impact could wipe out three quarters of St Lucia.

I am glad I didn't know this at the time of my visit.


A little refreshment at Sulphur Springs

Kurt, Jean, Joe, Patty, Wendy, Joan, Tiffany, Bruce, Mara, Ann,
Rick, Marla, Zorro in front

Another look at the Grand Pitons in the background

As you can see, I bought myself a souvenir.  Also notice my "St. Thomas"
tee shirt from a previous stop.  We don't give it much thought, but our tourist dollars play an important role in these fragile economies 

Cosol stopped his bus to give us a tour of a banana plantation.

Bananas are my favorite fruit.  I consume them with great fervor.  However, I learned a devastating secret during this visit.  Each tree produces ONE banana crop in its life cycle. 

Once those bananas in the picture are harvested, they chop the tree down to make way for another tree.  Fortunately, the root system is preserved.  Soon enough an offshoot automatically grows in a nearby spot to produce its solitary crop... then it too is chopped down to make way for the next tree.

Since I am a born tree hugger, I found it difficult to accept that a tree has to be destroyed for me to eat a banana.

My life has never been the same.  Although my consumption of bananas has remained at the previous level, now a little slice of guilt zaps me every time I peel a banana.  I can't eat a banana without thinking of the tree that gave its life to give me a banana.  Some things I guess I would rather not know.

I might add that same soft-hearted nature extends to Christmas trees too.  I hate cutting a tree down just for a month of use.


That is the town of Soufriere, a fishing village.  Behind are Gros Piton and Petit Piton, the giant volcanic plugs that serve as the national symbol of St Lucia 

Our next adventure was a boat ride to get a first-hand look at the Grand
Pitons around that bend.  I will explain what we saw in the next chapter.

In Soufriere, we boarded a speed boat. Here we are headed to the Grand Pitons

Here we are returning from our trip.

Upon our return, Cosol declared it was party time.  Out came the rum.

Veronica used her ample charms to score her very own bottle

I'm not sure what Bruce was up to, but he looks happy.

Bruce wasn't the only one who was happy.  The Rum mix had us all smiling

So how did Veronica get her very own bottle?  Hmm. I wonder.

All in all, a great day in St Lucia.  Thank you, Mara


Conclusion - Chapter Five of Mara's Triumph: Grand Pitons and Jalousie Plantation

Virgin Islands 2011 Who Went? Mara's Triumph: A five-chapter saga Next Chapter:  Grand Pitons and Jalousie Plantation
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