I was couchsurfing in Fort-de-France, at a collocation of twenty-something metropole males and one French Guyanese girl. Heliott picked me up from the ferry terminal in the city center, which at 7pm on a Sunday was a total ghost town. Even the streets were carless, which was partly due to the gas station trike happening island wide. The few gas stations which were open had dozens of cars waiting patiently in line, some waiting over an hour just to refuel.
I was back in France, but it just wasn’t the same France. Algae grows on the rear view mirrors of every Peugot and Clio, stainless steel gates are somehow stained, concrete walls and houses crumble, wood rots, and any white paint turns to shades of brown and grey. Martinique is a department of France, but its also a developing, decaying island constantly battling the humid, infectious jungle overtaking all the manmade comforts we’ve tried to establish in a place that screams to stay wild.
I was in Martinique only 5 days, but it was the first island I visited and felt like doing nothing. It was not because of the appeal of the island, but with myself, my tired body,
my exhausted mind from weeks of traveling. So many new places, people, sensations, and yet, a big blur of similar experiences, persuaded me to take an entire day to rest, digest. I sat still and relaxed for a day and a half, only seeing the balcony and my bed, and enjoying the people and things which passed by me. I met all the roomates, their boyfriends and girlfriends, tasted their rum, ate dinner with everyone, and talked in French and English about my journey so far.
By the second day, I still hadn’t looked at a map, and had no idea where I was except that I was in Martinique, but not even sure what or how big Martinique was. I was in Tivoli, near the middle of the country east of Fort-De-France. There is not much tourism in Martinique, and little infrastructure for a visting tourist. So the rest of my days in Martinique were equally relaxing, doing little else than fraternizing with my new household.
Julien, the other couchsurfer in the group, took me out of the house for a couple nearby hikes. We visited Chute des Didiers, a beautiful waterfall to swim under, so long
as you don’t mind freshwater crabs and shrimp scurrying past your toes. And, you have to make it through a 200m, dark, bat-inhabited tunnel, walking along a narrow, slippery, waterpipe, that if you slip off, end up in knee-deep bat shit/mud. Luckily, we managed to stay on the pipe.
Me and his roommate, Jerome, explored another river which wasn’t trail marked, and decided to follow it down to a small waterfall which wasn’t quite deep enough to jump into. But, we were stuck on top of it and had to go downstream to return to the car, so we took turns lowering eachother down and keeping our fingers crossed that no blood baths would result at the bottom.
Another day, I went with their neighbor Alex to the north west part of Martiniqe. We visited his friend in La Carbet, who lived in a house with a beautiful 180 degree view of the ocean from high up on a hill. Together we went on to St. Pierre, the former Petite-Paris and cosmopolitan capital of the French West Indies. It was totally destroyed in 1902 by a volcano, wiping out 28,000 people and all the beautiful architecture, a story similar to the catastrophe of Pompeii, but survived by two who lived to tell the story first-hand.