If there's a perfect anchorage, it would have to be Deshaies, a small, picturesque fishing village in the northwest corner of Guadeloupe. I say this because it has the perfect combination of attributes that make up the optimum cruising experience for me: a good French bakery, rigorous hiking trails (to walk off those croissant calories), excellent snorkeling off the boat, accessible WiFi, and a healthy local economy where fisherman and small tourism-related businesses coexist in harmony. In other words, Deshaies is a place where cruisers and other travelers are warmly welcomed, but not depended upon exclusively for economic prosperity. An especially decadent treat for visiting boats is early morning delivery of French bread and pastries by Lydi, an entrepreneur with a dinghy and a smile!
On our initial stop in Deshaies, we spent a few days getting settled and resting after our passage south from Antigua. The village is set in a deep, well-protected bay surrounded by hills and mountains, and our map and guidebook showed a large beach on the other side of the northern point, Le Gros Morne.
So, one morning we decided to hike over to the beach. As we headed out of town and up the hill, we encountered a cemetery with elevated crypts, each decorated with colorful tiles in unique patterns -- another reminder of how many aspects of living (and even dying) are different here from what we are accustomed to back home.
Our trail was well-marked and after walking along the side of the hill for a while, it led us seemingly straight up over large stones and huge roots, up higher and higher.
We huffed and puffed our way up, taking breaks now and then, and finally reached the top, soaking with sweat. The trail continued to wind around the top of the hill for a while through the verdant tropical forest. We finally reached the summit and an old fortification, and could glimpse our destination, Grand Anse -- a flawless semi-circle of white sand a mile or more long.
The descent was much faster than our trip up and, as we walked down, we were reminded of the late time of day by gnawing hunger pangs. Luckily, the north end of the beach was located adjacent to a small village with numerous charming guest houses and beachside restaurants so we had our choice of lunch options. Our lunch included fish kabobs for me and grilled whole fish for Mike with the traditional creole accompaniment of rice with beans, lettuce salad, and shredded carrots. Every morsel was delicious and so memorable. Was it as tasty as it seemed or was our morning of exercise responsible? Mike also got the “Ti punch” as an aperitif, which is a heady mixture of sugar and pure rum -- too strong for me, but just right for him!
We took the local bus back around the hill to Deshaies with both our need for exercise and our hunger satisfied. We walked from the bus stop back to the dinghy dock and headed back to Cayuga, arriving with enough time to do a few boat chores before settling down for the evening.