After years of reading about the island of St Lucia, her emerald twin mountains jutting from the sea and the delicious mineral waterfalls throughout the island, I was excited to finally have the opportunity to jump in and partake in its wonder. My friend had discovered a magical spot and was anxious to take me there, near the village of Soufriere.
We started our journey near the southern tip of this avocado-shaped island. The old white station wagon we borrowed seemed as anxious as we were to head out, or maybe that was just a timing problem. In any case, we stopped at a little family run bakery in Choiseul for local bread and juice. And I still don’t understand why it’s nearly impossible to get a decent cup of coffee on an island which was once known for it’s coffee bean production, but who was I to quibble when there was fresh mango juice available.
Just a few hundred yards away, there was a local crafts shop which made my friend slam on the brakes. We saw, we fondled, then we purchased small bags of locally grown nutmeg and cinnamon as well as giant hand woven baskets and place-mats. They told me to bring my antique English stool and they would reweave it for me for a good price. But right then, we had a mission to accomplish and the only thing that could slow us down were the children in their crisp school uniforms reluctantly shuffling across the road to their classes or meandering goats and dogs.
As we continued the drive, we seemed to be getting higher and higher into the verdant, green mountains and seemingly closer and closer to heaven. We drove straight into soft, white, billowy clouds and were encompassed by their charm. In between flashes of deep green banana trees and shocking pink bougainvillea, we would catch glimpses of the sapphire blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. I decided if this wasn’t heaven then I must have entered a Gauguin painting.
The road twisted and turned past ancient plantations, some restored to their original brilliance, others not so much. My mind kept slipping into the 1800’s when slaves were brought from Africa and then India. Almost everyone here had descended from one of these two groups, largely the former, and still worked hard for their meager wages. Men continued to toil in the fields with machetes as their only tools and women still stitched together their children’s clothes and washed them on rocks in the nearby rushing rivers. Many of these southern villages have only seen electricity in the past ten years, some still do not have power or running water, except that which streams down from the mountaintops after a heavy rain.
Finally, the sign we had been looking for – Jalousie Plantation with an arrow pointing to the left. We turned and followed the road examining everything around us with child-like amazement and anticipation.
Suddenly we see the sign signaling our arrival – Piton Falls. We parked in their small dirt parking lot and gathered our beach bag and towels. We seemed to be the only visitors this early in the morning and that suited us just fine. A caretaker manned the little house at the entrance and we happily paid our $5EC (about $2US). A big box held about a dozen long straight tree branches which I later realized were walking sticks to help us balance ourselves down the steep pathway to the healing waters. Only later did I come to this conclusion and made a note to myself to get one the next time I visited.
As we followed the pathway, we were entertained by gardens of fruit and nut trees as well as rare, exotic tropical plants occasionally labeled with their names on small wooden signs. After about 10 minutes of this we finally climbed a steep hill and, to our amazement, we saw tall copper colored rocks with steamy rushes of water falling into a nice big pool.
We had our swim suits under our clothes so we quickly peeled away our tops and shorts, slipped out of our sandals and stored our gear on a nearby rock wall. Heaven was waiting for us.
The first pool directly below the waterfall was no deeper than 3 or 4 feet. I slid in and felt the volcano- heated mineral waters sweep over my body. It was delicious, but the best was yet to come. We laughed like children, so happy to have finally made it to this ancient bathing spot nestled into the Piton Mountains. It was the perfect place for hikers to rest their weary bones after a day of exploring these sacred stones.
With little preamble, I made my way to a rock ledge just below the falls where I sat like the star of a shampoo commercial and let the rushing waters splash over my head and body. It was everything I had hoped it would be. The only sounds we could hear were of wild birds singing and the sound of splashing water. Whatever cares and worries I had suddenly seemed to vanish along with my aching muscles in these medicinal, mineral rich waters. I headed to the deeper waters at the end of the pool and floated for over an hour in a trance-like state. I was certainly relaxed until my friend woke me from my reverie when she screamed as she jumped into a third pool of much cooler water. Ah yes, the hot plunge, cold plunge thing. Once that initial shock wears off, it is quite invigorating.
And the perfect way to end a perfect day? A short drive back the way we came led us to Ladera Resort where we hiked up to their bar situated perfectly between the Gros Piton and the Petit Piton mountains and watched the sun set with spicy rum punches sprinkled generously with fresh nutmeg. It just doesn’t get much better than that.