You follow the beach, painted in yellow and red vegetation, towards the hill the taxi driver had pointed out on your first day in St Lucia. You walk across a field with overgrown bushes and thin brown grasses bending in the wind. Some goats nearby stare at you, as you make your way towards a deteriorating road, slowly chewing.
The house tones dot the hillside with diversity: monochromatic, vivid and fading. The streets are empty; it’s quiet and calm. A dog investigates the drainage ditch for leftover food—pawing at chicken bone remnants—while a rooster meanders down the center of the narrow street.
The downtown of Vieux Fort is hollowed out with overgrown shrubs and decaying, boarded-up buildings. Cars pass infrequently, a fish seller hawks yellowfin tuna from a wheelbarrow-like cart and locals chat in the shade. Not one tourist is anywhere about in these parts.
As you walk towards the minibus lot, you enter what appears to be the new commercial center, with an IGA supermarket, some banks and some street sellers. The uptick in energy is palpable, but still gives the feel of a relaxed Caribbean island. It is interesting how so many people “travel” to St Lucia only to be whisked off by a helicopter or private car to the all-inclusive resorts up north.
There are no sidewalks and nary a proper shoulder as you walk towards Laborie from the west. Cars and minibuses speed by, hugging the curves. The latter aspects gives you pause as you come up on a curve, ears alert for any early notification that sends you up into the shrubs growing on the bank. The terrain is hilly, the road torturous but, foot after foot, you arrive to a viewpoint of Laborie, set down at sea level along the southern coast.
The village has an intimate design to it, well concentrated with structures in a well-designed layout while also devoid of a hectic environment. Kids play soccer on a field set by the water. You walk along the water as the sun is setting. The silhouettes of boats all lined up in a row stare back at you.
“Where is a good place to eat,” you ask a local.
“Follow me, it is this way, but I am going this way anyways,” he retorts and soon thereafter is pointing you into a shack with a counter and menu. You thank him for his assistance, especially because the last bus back toward Soufriere is sometime around sunset, and making that walk back is not in your plans.
“I’ll have a fish roti,” you say, reading off the menu. The restaurant is empty inside, and has the feel of a place as if you were visiting between meals.
“Oh, we are out of that,” the older woman responds. This volley goes back and forth, until you find that she only has chicken roti left.
The chicken is tasty, and, as expected, full of bones which you pick through as you eat. It is a decent meal, nothing too special, but a good refill of the calories burned on the 3 mile (5km) walk over.
“When does the last minibus go by towards Soufriere,” you ask.
She grimaces and looks skyward. “You best catch one that passes in front here back to Vieux Fort and then catch another that goes to Soufriere,” she suggests. “It will be awful hard to catch one without backtracking to Vieux Fort,” she notes, advising you to go back to the main hub.
You thank her for her time and head out. You turn and start heading west, up the steep road out of the village, the one that intersects with the main road towards Soufriere. Dark is certainly settling in, and walking the main street back without being visible seems like a less than optimal choice.
A car passes, you wait and another car passes. With each passing moment, it seems you are running out of luck. A minibus whips by the other way, heading towards Vieux Fort. Perhaps you need to go backwards to go forward. You will give it ten more minutes.
And then, cruising down the street heading west is a minivan. You raise your arms and flail to catch the driver’s attention. The van blows by. You whip your head from right to left, catching the glare of red taillights streaking. A man, waiting by the side of the road waves you to hurry. You sprint towards him, finding just enough seats necessary. You climb in, squeezing past the others and the van continues onwards.
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