Martinique stole a piece of my heart. Martinique is a French territory in the Caribbean that can be located above South America. It was never a bucket list destination or anything like that but when I was asked if I’d be game for an impulsive adventure- the price was right.
Her name was Emily-a sweet girl. A beautiful human. Long blonde hair that sweeps in front of her piercing blue eyes. Each one of her features perfection as if Adam painted Eve himself. Beneath her beauty she searches for answers to justify her pain. That’s where her and I connected. I used to work with her older sister and always knew of her. Through social network we both became aware that we both have a passion for travel. After just a few conversations, and a few hours of searching we had tickets to leave in less than a month. The first time ever hanging out with her was the drive down to to the airport. We talked about life over a few bowl packs. Two very different girls, both looking for answers to similar questions not realizing whats about to be thrown their way.
We knew this trip was going to be something else when it began with being told in a cold heartless voice, “you missed your flight, we closed 15 minutes ago”. Immediately i tell her ‘NO’. I look at Emily’s smile fall to the ground as her face turns white. I insisted she calls a manager. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. Hell I was ready to buy another flight. I was not going home. Luckily due to the fact of not having checked baggage we were able to check in. Nervous giggles melt from Emily’s mouth and I literally can’t even…. We look at each other as we approach the terminal and we just knew this trip was going to be well-a trip.
Consider the fact Emily and I were on a budget and only visiting a few days we decided to camp out of a car rental. Since Martinique is a foreign island all the cars are manual. To rent an automatic was something crazy like $200-day compared to $20-day for a manual. I asked Emily if she knew how to drive a stick and she said “no, but I’m sure we can figure it out”. I understood the concept of how to do it, but have only actually driven stick a handful of times. I thought about it and said ‘FUCK IT’. It will be a learning experience and let me tell you it was just that. We got our tiny purple Opel- a name I’ve never heard before. After stalling in the parking lot multiple times we were finally on our way. It was night when we arrived so we decided to drive to the other side of the island to the active volcano know as Mount Peele. We planned to hike it first thing in the morning. The further we got away from the city the quicker we realized that Martinique is nothing but very steep narrow hills. A learners worse nightmare. At this point I didn’t understand the importance of being in low gear. I lost all power, on a hill-stalled. I was so overwhelmed, traffic began to form behind me and the horns followed. Panic set in and I asked the local in the car behind me to help move my car. I told him I rented a manual and don’t know how to drive one…smh. He didn’t speak much English, he just knew we were well-Americans. He just laughed at me and moved the car into the lot off the side of the road and went on his way. This moment I realized how nice the people of Martinique are because this same incident happened on three other occasions. Proudly I will say I eventually got the hang of it and was killin it. Emily even commented on my skills at one point. We were stuck in rush hour traffic on these vertical roads and I had the RPMs down to a science. If you ever really wanna learn to operate a manual transmission just rent one on an island filled with sketchy-ass roads and you’ll eventually figure it out. Guarantee it.
We woke up surrounded by fog at the trail head of Mt. Peele. Peele last erupted in 1902 and killed and entire city in 90 seconds- and we hike it. The entire hike was stairs after stairs, the air was suffocating due to the amount to moisture in the air. Straight up kicked my ass. As we hiked back down we encountered a group of Mormon nuns who have been on a mission trip in Martinique for 14 months. I remember one of them was originally from Haiti and I found that interesting. These sisters were very nice, but interesting to say the least. We returned to our car and continued our adventure.
We cruised the island as tropical sun showers came and went. As the sky cleared we stopped at a black sand beach to throwback a bottle of champagne. Here we met a stray cat that loved attention. After giving him some love he continued to follow Emily and I up and down the beach. The three of us sipping next to a palm tree Emily asks,”have you ever been to a nude beach?” Next thing we know bikinis are hanging off branches and bottles are in the air. We felt alive and free. Here is where Emily and I talked about our dreams of choosing to make this lifestyle a reality some day. This girls knows whats good.
We spent the remainder of the daylight wandering deeper in the jungle. We pulled over to take pictures and met a group of three men. We didn’t speak the same language so it was a game of charades. They flirted with us by asking to get pictures taken of and with them-it was cute. We ended up smoking a few joints with them and they gave us a handful of weed to take with us. They wanted to take us on a boat to the neighboring island Dominica. As tempting as the thought was, it was too dangerous for us girls. We told them we had to go but they didn’t understand they thought we were going to follow them. Two of the men got on a dirt bike, the other on a bicycle. They linked arms and off they went. We drove in the opposite direction waving goodbye to three confused faces.
As night approached we drove to the cruise port to find dinner. After eating we sat on the pier where another local asked us if we smoked-signed smoking with his hands- and gave us a handful of weed. These people are fucking awesome. As we walked back to the car Emily and I realize we have so much weed, but no way of smoking it. In front of our car were two men from Dominica sitting on a bench. They come to the cruise port to sell natural body oils. I decided to ask them if they would mind rolling joints for us. One man spoke English and said yes, as long as we agreed to sit down and talk with them and share one joint with them. As the men offered their seats Emily and I insisted on sitting on the pavement next to them. This blew them away. He told us for being white American woman he was shocked by how humble we were. This made me happy. The man that interested me didn’t speak English. Our conversations were translated by the other man and made it all more powerful. He was a spiritual being, he spoke of King Shaka Zulu- an African God. He wore beads in respect of this King. These beads covered his arms, legs, waist -everywhere. He handmade each one and wears them each day. What gave the two of us goosebumps about this man was that he went on to describe the ‘spirit’ that was held in each of us. The accuracy was unreal it left us in shock and on the verge of tears. In the car, repeating to each other,”How could he possibly know”? I don’t think either of us fully understood what just happened. What we did know was that this encounter was powerful and somehow this man knew us. Left overwhelmed and exhausted, we pull over to sleep .
In the middle of my sleep I awoke to men standing around our car. I see flashlights and immediately hide my face out of fear. One man knocks on Emily’s window and she opens the door. Around our car is a group of several police officers. fuck. I began speaking English and the man asked “American?” I nodded and he asked what we were doing. I replied, “sleeping”. Confused he asks why no hotel and I told the officer were were saving money. He informed us this ‘isn’t allowed’ then asked if our doors are locked. I nodded and they let us be. They even parked near us and stayed around for a few hours to ensure our safety. These people are fucking awesome.
Waking up the view ahead was breath taking. Parked behind a bench overlooking the ocean we decide to make our way to the water to shower. The two of us in the water, suds in our hair, as morning joggers stroll by. It was a sight to see. We spent the morning driving around the island just wandering. Then CRUNCH.
I was going around a rotary and took the wrong exit. There was a spot in the road where in America you are able to turn around. In Martinique, not so much. Following us was the only full sized Jeep on the entire island. Operating her parents car was a seventeen year old girl who was texting and following too close. Next thing we knew our tiny two door go cart is sideways. We pull over on the side and this girl is a MESS crying in French and knows little English. I just kept saying, “YOU ARE OKAY! WE ARE OKAY! ITS JUST A CAR! I HAVE INSURANCE!” Once she calmed down we agree to follow her to her insurance company to file a claim. Trying to explain what happened with drawings and shapes wasn’t exactly easy. The representative started to talk to the girl in French and she became very mad. Either way I’m covered so I didn’t really care how it turned out – her fault or mine. From what I got from the conversation, regardless of me attempting to turn where not permitted, she shouldn’t of hit us either way. She was going to fast and following too close. When the representative said this she was irate. I just signed the papers the continued my day. SHIT HAPPENS
We couldn’t help but laugh. Walking out of the insurance agency one side of our purple car is now white. The drivers door only opened from the inside now, so Emily lets me in. I try to roll down the window and it goes up, down, up, down. I bang the door to make it stop. Sitting in a totaled rental with a window stuck halfway down I look at Emily and say, “What cha wanna do now?” She laughs and says, “to be honest I thought we hit a curb”. I died laughing the car is defiantly totaled. Luckily it still drove. I’ll deal with this later. We left the parking lot and headed directly to the nearest beach. Emily says to me, “I don’t know how you handled that so calm. Most people would let that ruin the trip”. “Shit happens, its just a car”, I replied as we smoke dubies in the sand. Trying to internalize the fact that we just totaled a rental we spent a while at this beach relaxing. This beach had dozens of crabs,the size of hands. I’ve never seen so many at once, running sideways back into the water. It was comical the rest of the day sitting in traffic in a totaled car-made us laugh for sure. On our way back to the city we stopped at a field next to the ocean filled with tall grass. Emily and I loved this place it was special. We spent hours laying in the grass, eyes close, listening to the waves wash up onto the rocks. As it got later it came time to face the music.
I called the rental company and the lady told us we can switch out the car. I didn’t want to risk totaling another car and our flight was at 8AM, so we just returned the car early. This was the most embarrassing walk of shame I’ve ever had. By looking at the lack of expression on the ladys’ face I was under the impression this happens often. We took the shuttle to the airport 12 hours before our flight. Killed a few hours at the airport bar with good conversation with other travelers. We thought we would be able to chill in the airport under the impression airports don’t close. WRONG. At midnight airport security kicks us outside to the benches where we spent the night next to the homeless. This night Emily and I spent a lot of time talking about past experiences, and really learning to understand each other. Mid conversation Emily noticed a man standing in the shadows watching us and shaking. She asks me if I can see him. It was hard so I reached for my camera and zoomed in on him. I nearly threw my camera when I see this man was masturbating in the distance. We both look away and I ask her “what do we do?” Emily shakes her head in disbelief and says, “i don’t know, nothing I guess. Just let him finish”. So grossed out I ask, “What is this, a pity hand job?!” We laugh it off not knowing what else to do. As it gets late, my eyes grow heavy. So much has happened in the last few days-chaos. I try to get a few hours of rest before we head back to New Hampshire and resume our typical lives.