Bicycle Origami In Guadeloupe - May 11th, 2002
I awoke and loaded the dinghy with one of our folding bikes. I had to make my way to the nearest telephone booth, a good two kilometers away, and coordinate the day with some friends we were to meet. Taking the bike I thought would be quicker than walking...maybe it was. I got ashore and took the bike out of its bag, unfolded it and hoped the pieces that fell off were not too vital to the bike's operation! Folding bikes are really an exercise in frustration. If cruising is meant to be a relaxing endeavor, the engineer who deigns folding bikes is jealously sitting in his/her office thinking of ways to frustrate the cruiser, or at least make him look ridiculous. After getting the folded metal into the correct shape I hopped onto the thing and headed off up the road only to discover that the gear shift lever has a mind of its own. It would shift between gears at strange intervals and sometimes shift to a mystery gear in which peddling had no effect whatsoever on the wheels! Being a volcanic island Guadeloupe is rather hilly and the gear shift problem quickly became an issue. Going down hill was fine, coasting along at high speeds the bike became a glorified skate board. Going up hills was another matter. Even when I did eventually find the right gear the chain slipped if the grade was moderately steep. I would slow to a halt then have to hop off and push the bike up the hill with the locals all looking at me in wonder, thinking what a useless form of transportation this white guy has.
But, I made it to the phone booth and talked to the friend with whom we planned to meet for the day. While on the phone we realized if I had walked the bike up the hill in the other direction, I'd have been at his house talking to him in person! Anyway, I rode back down to the beach where I had left the dinghy and spent the next 20 minutes trying to fit the bike back into the bag from which I had taken it not 15 minutes before! You would think that there would be one, maybe two ways to fold a fold-up bike. But, I can tell you there are more like 67... I know, I tried them all. I'm sure the fishermen on the pier were in hysterics by the time I finished. Each time I tried a new configuration I would try again to stuff the bike back into a bag that was just too small. Finally I cracked the code, and was on my way back to the boat to pick up Miranda so we could go meet these friends.
We were going to meet up with Wabe, his brother Simian and their mom. We had met Wabe and his friend Matthew in Les Saintes a couple weeks before when they were on a weekend vacation during their 8 month stint of teaching English in Guadeloupe. We struck up a conversation with them on a ferry and spent a lovely day hiking with them around Terre De Bas and eating mangos on the beach. When we arrived in Guadeloupe we looked up both Matt and Wabe, and as luck would have it we caught them just as their program was ending and they were getting ready to head home. Matt invited us to his going away party and we enjoyed an evening of local cooking and local rum. At the party we met Wabe's mom and brother who had come down to help Wabe haul all his stuff back to the US. The next day they were planning on driving inland up to the waterfalls in the rain forest, and they invited us to come along. We jumped at the opportunity. So the next morning, after my bike ride, we walked up to Wabe's small cabin and sat around eating mangos that had fallen from the tree in the yard while we waited for them to get their towels and suites together. The five of us jammed into the little Citron and zoomed off onto the winding road that leads around the coast of the island. A half hour into the drive we pulled up to a point with a lighthouse on it, a lighthouse Miranda and I had passed twice from the water. We walked out onto the rocks that surround the house and Wabe showed us a spot about 30 feet up from the clear deep water which was perfect for cliff diving. We spent a good hour doing just that, perfecting our jacknives and cannonballs and working up the courage to do one or two real dives. Back in the car we drove on, and up into the mountains. The hills became very lush and green with a cloud of mist hanging overhead. We parked again and walked down a path for about half an hour before coming to a spectacular waterfall that reached up 330 feet. We stripped to our bathers again, and plunged in the water, this time it was fresh and COLD! The mist and wind from the waterfall flew with such force that you couldn't look directly at it without it stinging the eyeballs. We swam until we were shivering and then Wabe revealed a wonderful secret he'd been hiding... that just up the hill next to another smaller waterfall were a couple of thermal hot springs. We bathed ourselves in the steaming pools and emerged very relaxed. The hike back to the car was made as the sun was getting low, and we drove back to the boat in darkness. Miranda and I launched the dinghy and quickly rowed ourselves back to Baggywrinkle, as we were keen to get started on the stir fry we had planned for dinner.