Travels in Bananaland
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Here's what friends, family or visitors I've been in contact with had to say about their visits to Bananaland...

Michael Kutelmach, Yardley PA. Visited June/July 2003.

I never met Mike personally, as his visit coincided with my trip home to PA for my sister's wedding/mother's birthday. Oddly enough, he is from about 45 minutes from my Mother's house, so I guess we switched places. He found my website and I gave him a  little bit of advice on what to do during his visit. Here's what he wrote to me afterwards:

My trip to Saint lucia was the trip of a lifetime. I like the people and the general attitudes I gleaned from newspaper articles and TV news stories. For the most part there seems to be conern for the matter at hand and many times wise attitudes prevail, not sensationalism, (like in the US). I got this feeling the first time I visited 3 years ago when staying in Sandals, La Toc. I realize I was isolated during that short time, (6 nights), but I paid attention to current events & public opinion.

In the most recent trip, 6/21 to 7/5, we rented a private home for 2 weeks. It was called 'Villa Cadasse' in Cap Estate. I loved being able to see both sides of the island for up on the hill. A maid/cook came in 6 days a week, (tried to send her home a lot). As it turns out her oldest son met a tourist from Ottowa, Canada & she asked him to move up North with her. We could tell our housekeeper wasn't feeling well & she was kind enough to share her story. The day he left we got progress updates - he made a special trip to his grandma's to get Tamarind balls. It seems to be a custom to give someone Tamarind when the go on a journey. Our housekeeper told us how to make them & we bought some Tamarind at JQ's in the Rodney Bay Mall. I ended up buying them first because there were bags of them on sale at "Pizza Pizza". I recognized them from the housekeeper's story. The girl at the counter seemed pleased that some 'foreigner' knew what they were.

I learned a few words of Patois. Certainly not enough to keep up with a
fast conversation. I mainly used it to tell jokes. The old clincher was that I would point to my wife & say "dudu".(
dou dou is sweetie in Patois
) people always laughed when they got the double meaning. I thought one guy was going to hurt himself he laughed so hard.

From our house, we were able to drive to many nearby places to explore
- Pigeon Point, Rodney Bay, Castries, (a little bit), and the Beausejour
Cricket Grounds. I did get to see the last day of the match & I witnessed Brian Lara get his double century, (209 runs). I was beside myself. I couldn't believe I was watching my first cricket match ever which was also the first international test cricket match ever in Saint Lucia.

We made several trips: Brig Unicorn sunset cruise, (I used to crew on a
Tall Ship slightly larger then the Unicorn back when I was a kid), we took a motor yacht trip down to Soufriere, the volcano, & the Diamond
Gardens. It was beautiful weather the whole time - the whole 2 weeks. Our last 'big' trip was a flight to Union Island in the Grenadines where we had about 9 people on a nice catamaran trip. We stopped in 3 locations in the Grenadines & I snorkeled for the first time ever in the sand bar (Mopion) which is in the middle of nowhere. I floated peacefully & saw a lot of fish. I decided quickly that I loved snorkeling.

We spent a good amount of time in the north. One thing that I couldn't
quite accomplish was getting to Cas-en-Bas. I tried to approach it from
the golf course side, but I had to abandon my attempt because once the
road ended I went on foot. It was a very hot day & by the time I was
about 2 miles from my car I realized I should have brought my water with me & the end of the trail did not seem close. I did get to see the
windsurfers who were flying very fast back & forth. When I got back to the US I logged back on to your web page & saw your Cas-en-Bas pictures. It looks like I missed out on some beautiful trails on the route from the south.

I'm impressed by how much hiking you accomplished. I certainly would've
liked to try more trails & more snorkeling while I was there. I do have
to watch out for my leg, however; I almost lost it when I was hit by a car
years ago. I felt like I really stuck out at the cricket match being a
light-skinned foreigner with a funny looking leg. But it was fun nonetheless. There was so much to do & so many more things I would have liked to try. I would like to visit several times, especially now that
I'm more familiar with the North end of the island. I never got to any of
the fish fries. I did not trust myself to be able to find a town in the
middle of nowhere, (and return safely), especially after the sun went down.

One big deterrent was that wake-up time was around 6:00 AM and after
hiling, snorkeling, & exploring I found myself going to sleep earlier
& earlier. (I may have also been fighting the local bacteria. We boiled
all of the water, but we found out too late that the storage container
hadn't been cleaned in a "long time". We had to dump everything & start
over as far as h20 was concerned.)

It seemed like every day I learned something totally new, like what a
cashew fruit looks like. One cab drive & one guide we had near Soufriere stopped & pointed out every type of tree they could see. It was amazing & beautiful. We had soursop juice, lime juice, and an apple juice, (forget the name of the apple, but it was very tasty). We got the whole explanation of how to make soursop. One of our guides from the boat ride had a lot of stories for us. Of course, I also got to drink the  ubiquitous coconut water! I could go on & on about this trip, but I better stop now or this email will take a long time to fit into your mailbox. This was the best vacation I ever had & I loved my stay on St. Lucia. I want to come back & see more of the island & meet more of the people there.

Bill and Ruth Norris, Elmira, Ontario, Canada. Visited February 2004.

Bill and Ruth found a great travel deal to St. Lucia when looking for a nice vacation. They quickly notified Ruth's father, who had done some work here in the 70s, and he decided he wanted to come back. A group of 11 of their family and friends made the trip. Before coming, Bill found my website and contacted me to see if I could give them information on a school in Laborie her father, Francis, had built. I passed the word on to Lauren and Greg in Laborie, and once they began asking, people got excited that Francis was coming back. (The school is still there--it is now the infant and girls' primary school, where Greg works.) They planned a big celebration, which Lauren, Greg and I got to take part in. I spent the day in the van to and from Laborie with the group, doing some sightseeing, and later in the week they kindly invited me to their hotel to spend a beach day and have dinner with them. I think of them as a new adopted family. Here's what they wrote when they returned:

Hi Deb
Yes, we arrived home safely and are back into the old routine but not a day goes by without thinking about St. Lucia and what a wonderful experience we had visiting the island and meeting up with you and Greg and Lauren.  I truly believe this was meant to be.  First of all I can't believe we found the trip to St. Lucia on the sell off vactions site.  This is unheard of, but there it was.  Then how Bill came upon your website and how everything came together with such ease!  Isn't it crazy how things can happen?? Who would have ever thought something like this was possible.
The reception at Laborie was incredible.  As Bill said, the film you took was great and Dolores calls it "priceless".  Both Francis and Dolores are still overwelmed with how everything went.  When they watched the film of the reception, Dolores said she cried all over again. We really enjoyed our trip.  The people are great, the weather was great and the complex where we stayed had everything we could have wanted.  The visit to Laborie was definitely a highlight!!
St. Lucia is really a rather mountainous island and I found it very interesting how fast things could change when we got into the rain forest area.  Everything was so lush and green.  After a while I even got used to the driving, but then again we lucked out and always had good drivers. You were so good to us during our holiday, it was just like having our own personal tour guide.  Thank you so much for spending time with us and being such an important part of our adventure in Laborie.

Arturo Lopez-Portillo, Mexico D.F. and the Caribbean, worked in St. Lucia with me at NEMO for about 9 months.

Arturo lived in St.Lucia for 2 years, and is back working in Barbados now. In the time we worked and limed together, I really came to appreciate his hilariously bizarre sense of humour and his personality which is truly out of some art film director's dream. He's one of the most unique individuals I've ever met, and is pretty darn smart on top of that. He can make me laugh until I nearly pee. Here's a sample of why:

Forgive me, Deb, for I have sinned. I fell into temptation: I'm drinking a coke while I write. I confess this terrible sin. Also, some Pringles sour cream and onion. The flesh is weak. But, seriously, I will try to quit. I'll stop this horrendous vice from Monday on.
So, I receive Caroline's email notifying about her new address and then I go to her website, and from hers I go to yours and start reading the Tales from Bananaland, and I start laughing and laughing. Now I have become a Bananaland Tales addict. I can't wait for your new adventure!
You do have a good sense of humour and you have talent to write, believe me. I was laughing so much particularly at your list of people and things that suck. Maybe it's also the fact that I lived there and I know the places you mention in the Tales. But when I read about the story when you fell into the Abyss, I laughed and laughed. I'm glad you could get out from there. I hope you're OK now. You were very lucky to escape from the Abyss. I guess most of the people that fall there are not able to escape and never come back. Maybe there's a whole Abyss civilisation down there full of people and cars and leaves that fall from the trees. All living in the bottomless pit, in the dark, eating breadfruits that fall there, drinking rain water...
Since you quote Czeslaw Milosz, I will quote Friedrich Nietzsche:
"And when you look into the Abyss, the Abyss looks back into you."
I don't know what it means, maybe that one has to be more careful when getting off a car or something like that.



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