Ahead of crossing the start line for World ARC 2020, participants have been enjoying a day out swinging in the tree tops of the luscious Saint Lucian rainforest, on a zip lining adventure. We had a record turn out on the first Sunday of the event with 35 crew taking part, and the tour ran again today – with our youngest crew members on Deo Juvante brave enough to come for a second time!
En route as we drive through Castries we learn that there are 78,000 residents here, which is a large amount of Saint Lucia’s population. The city is built over a dormant volcano which has created the deep natural harbour, and so the cruise ships which stop here, 3 of which we see in the port today, easily fit in the 72 foot deep basin. We drive past the artisan and handcrafts section of Castries market and see where the farmers market begins. Seon explains about products available to buy here for provisioning for the trip. Interestingly bananas are a chief export of St Lucia – largely going to Sainsbury’s supermarket in the UK, and cocoa beans – 80% of which go to making Hershey’s chocolate in the US. In Castries market we will also find mangoes and huge avocados. We are now in mango season, and are incredibly as many as 50 different types of mangoes on the island.
Past the market is the island’s oldest church, which is two tier and can hold 2000 people. Whilst a number of religions are practiced on the island these days, the island is predominantly Roman Catholic. Next to the church is Derek Walcott square, home to the island’s two Poet Laureates figureheads. After reaching the other end of Castries we head up the nicknamed ‘Lucky Hill’, another rather steep windy road, which was used as a strategic defensive look out point by both the French and British (whichever one owned the island at the time!) Half way up the hill we reach one of the best views in St Lucia, the official residence of the Governor General, before catching a misty view of the island’s highest point, the peak of Mount Jimmy.
Once we reach the zip lining centre the participants are geared up in harnesses, big gardening-style gloves, hairnets and helmets. We meet our experienced tour guide Seon, who introduces himself as “the guy that pushes you off the podium if you hold up the line”! He is a real character, and explains about the day – advising us to use the bathrooms at the base before the tour, as the only bathrooms along the route are the natural kind...
Trained guides then took us on the ride of our lives over 12 different zip lines, and walking across 5 net bridges. At first, we tentatively watch the demonstration (keep your legs crossed, hold the strongest arm back and hold onto the lower wire, learning how to stop ourselves… what could go wrong?!) feeling quite nervous. But once we take the plunge on the first line, adrenaline kicks in and it’s an experience like no other!
One of the zip lines is the island’s longest, highest and fastest – and had to be re-set up in 4 different ways to be able to become safe enough for novices to zip line. The course is designed for maximum thrills and exposed us to some of the best panoramic views of the Saint Lucian rainforest. We take in the magnificent flora and fauna indigenous to the forest, and see some more familiar beings – including a huge bay tree which is used to help make rum in distilleries, crickets, small lizards and even some massive crickets (the length of your hand).
Each line has a different name, showcasing something particularly on that line. One of the lines stands out particularly because it is called ‘Serpent’s slide’. There are a number of different snakes on the island – including the boa constrictor, and this line is so called due to a boa constrictor found resting on the lines in the morning, on not just one occasion…
After all the excitement we grab our lunch and get back on the coach. On the way back to base camp, we learn a little more about the island’s nature from Seon. There are a whopping 162 species of bird on the island of St Lucia – and possibly now 163, due to a few cheeky pelicans arriving on the island last year. Interestingly, one final fact we learnt is that the Butler Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is originally from the island!
It was a truly great day out for our participants who took part, and a great way to see and learn a bit more about the island from a great height!