For Sunday we had scheduled an ATV tour on the East side of the island. Our taxi driver picked us up from the hotel at 8:30am for the hour long ride around the island. Our destination was ATV Paradise near Dennerey. We were a little early for our appointment at 10am so a random guy went to get the owner. We hung out by the "reception" area for about 10 minutes. ATV Paradise is located on a working plantation that is so big it includes parts of the rainforest. The reception area is a small white shack with two rooms and a little grass area out front.
The owner showed up on his Honda ATV, opened the shack and lined up two 4 wheelers for Wendy and I. Once again, it would only be the two of use on the tour. The owner's name is Kurt, who is originally from Belgium. He told us the tour would take about 3 to 4 hours, during which we'd ride through plantations, the rain forest and on the beach. He gave us a quick introduction to the bikes and we were off.
We started off riding down what looked like old access roads to the different parts of the plantation. We climbed up about 800 ft, catching glimpses of the ocean along the way. Eventually we were surrounded by mango and wax apple trees. We stopped and hopped off the bikes where Kurt told us all about the different types of mangoes grown on the plantation and what exactly a wax apple was. He picked a few wax apples from the tree and offered them to us. The apples are nothing like regular apples, they are sweet and very juicy. Kurt told us that they're good for hangovers with all the water in them. He pulled out a jug of water and mango juice. Apparently he makes the mango juice himself from mangoes he picks from the plantation. It was better than any mango juice we'd ever tasted. When we were finished, we hopped back on the bikes and continued our ride through the different kinds of fruit trees.
Kurt showed us his "secret" garden. It's a particular point in the ride where you can see about 20 different kinds of fruit plants and trees. Why its called secret I'm not really sure, but the variety in such close proximity is pretty cool.
We learned from Kurt that over the past two years he had personally cleared all the make shift roads we were on. They were left over from when the plantation was in full use, but had fallen into disrepair over the last couple of decades. He had cut back all the vegetation by hand with a machete and a couple of local helpers. Over the day, we probably road over 20 some odd miles of trail; quite a bit of work for one guy to keep up all by himself.
Apparently, Kurt's tour is the only tour on the island where you can ride through the rain forest. Its illegal to ride through rain forest owned by the state (country?), but the plantation is so big that it is criss crossed by the rain forest in several places. We road up a small mountain on a trail thick on all sides with vegetation. Bamboo towered over the trail at least 50 feet in places.
Toward the top of the mountain, Kurt stopped us to take a picture. Note the bamboo disapearing into the sky in the background.
Eventually we came to Kurt's favorite spot on the tour. There's a river that runs through the property, crossed in a couple of places by the trails. In the picture below, the river is a good 50 feet below the trail.
We stopped in the river for about an hour and talked with Kurt. We learned that he used to be an air conditioner repair man by day and a street vendor by night in Belgium. He decided to move to St. Lucia and try to make find a viable business where he could "live in paradise". He only started speaking English when he got to St. Lucia two years ago, and for only speaking such a short time he speaks very well. He met the brother of the plantation owner in a bar by accident and the had his business set up a few months later. The bikes were imported from Canada and he lives with his wife and new daughter (not quite a year old when we were there) in a house on the hill above the ocean. A great part of this tour was how personable Kurt was. By the end of the trip we felt like old friends and knew most of his life story.
While stopped by the river Kurt walked into the fields a short ways and found two Rastafarians who hacked down some coconuts for us. They chopped the tops off them and we all tried fresh coconut water. It wasn't quite what you might think. Wendy was definately not a fan and it was... interesting for me. The water from inside the coconut husk is slightly bitter, not really sweet at all. Kurt told us that it was good for your kidney's and "made your pee white". Like I said, Kurt was fun to hang out with.
After hanging out by the river, we hopped back on the bikes and retraced our tracks over the mountain and through the rain forest. We crossed the highway and rode through a short set of fields before emerging on the sand of a beautiful beach.
We scooted around the beach for a few minutes before stopping to take some pictures. The same river we had spent time near earlier in the ride empties into the ocean on the beach. Kurt was nice enough to take pictures of us in front of the river and the ocean.
We finally pulled back into the reception area after nearly 4.5 hours of riding and sightseeing. We thanked Kurt for such a fantastic time and took some brochures to give to the hotel.
Late Sunday afternoon we grabbed a quick bite to eat and took a nap. After eating an excellent dinner we went to bed happy from such a great day a little sad that tomorrow was our final day in paradise.