Aarrgghh, me hearties. Here is a tale about pirates and treasure, and this is the way I tell it … Aarrgghh.
My son Billy is hooked on pirates and has been since we visited the lush, warm and colourful island of St Lucia in the Caribbean, home of all things Jolly Roger. For centuries, pirates plundered passing vessels, then took shelter in the island’s Marigot Bay – which, by the way, was also the setting for Rex Harrison’s classic film, Dr Dolittle.
Today, St Lucia is paradise. There are warm, tranquil waters in which to float and sip cocktails, paddle in the black sand or swim among turtles. There are spectacular dive spots and plenty of museums dedicated to the island’s colourful past. But for Billy, the most exciting thing of all was the active volcano.
The Soufriere volcano is one of the few in the world that is literally a drive-in – that is, you park in its mouth, then walk a short way to the bubbling mud. We took a taxi and that was an experience in itself. On a lush and windy mountain road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, a small group of Rastafarians appeared from the bush. We stopped and bought wooden beads (which Billy promptly dropped through the hole in the back of the driver’s seat where the headrest should have been) and a carved boat, which we were fairly sure would be confiscated at the airport. My husband accepted the offer of a photo holding the group’s pet boa constrictor or anaconda or whatever it was.
When we arrived at the volcano, the sulphur stench and small ‘explosions’ in the earth were intoxicating. Having breathed our fill of the pungent air and taken in as much of the volcano as we could, we walked back to the taxi. Our driver opened the rear hatch to reveal the biggest set of speakers I’ve ever laid eyes on. He cranked up the reggae and we all had a bit of a dance in the car park.
Hungry from our volcanic experience, we stopped at a black-sand beach, nestled in a cove with views of the twin peaks called The Pitons and a weird-looking ship that Billy was interested in. As St Lucia wasn’t our first Caribbean port, he had already decked himself with cheap ‘pirate’ trinkets and by this stage of the holiday went nowhere without an eye-patch, but when we saw a ‘real’ pirate ship, he was terrified.
Docked at the marina, this tall ship was indeed imposing. So much so that just getting Billy to stand near it for a photo was almost impossible.
We headed up to the tiny Hummingbird Beach Resort – one of the most charming I have ever seen – for a Creole lunch and a swim in their saltwater pool. Then, with Billy dreaming of pirates, our bellies full of wonderful food, our cameras filled with fantastic photos and our hearts filled with warmth for the island and its people, we sat quietly and admired the view as our taxi made its way back from whence it came.