The Road to Soufriere
31 July 2000, by Tom Waid
"Let me see that map" I said. Since I was able to find my way on the sea from the Virginia Capes to St. Lucia, finding the road from Vigie Airport to Soufriere should be a piece of cake. My friends gladly handed over the navigation chores to me. "Hum," I thought, "none of the roads seem to be numbered. This may be a little difficult." Two minutes into the journey there was a traffic circle where I had to choose between two roads. "Take that one," I said. ...Already we were lost.
Since before we set out we have been planning to meet our friends, Dan and Jeanie Swanson, somewhere in the Caribbean. Their time off was during the last half of July making St. Lucia the best pick. So in the early afternoon of the 22nd of July Linda and I were at the airport waiting for their arrival. The plane arrived early and we were soon reunited with our friends. Listening to the news from home and confirming or denying the rumors that have been circulating about us and our voyage. They had decided to rent a car, which at the time seemed to be a good idea since the cab fare to the resort in Soufriere was between $50 and $70 one way. That is how I found myself sitting in the back seat of Suzuki Samurai trying to relate what I saw on the map to what I saw outside the car.
There was a lot to see outside the car but not much of it helped you to find your way. Very few streets had signs to identify them with and only once in a while was there a sign directing you either to Soufriere or another town. Jeanie was driving and asking for guidance while all I could do was scratch my head.
The road was well made and maintained, just not well marked. It was narrow, however, and had deep trenches on either side that acted as storm drains. Since you can make a Suzuki Samurai roll over just by whistling at it this was cause for some concern. The road began to climb at what appeared to be an impossible grade. We also had to share it with people and livestock that showed no concern about four gringos careening toward them in a Suzuki Samurai . If it were I, I would’ve been terrified.
There were also parked cars. Since there were storm drains or minimal margins, cars had to be parked either partly or wholly on the road itself. This led to an interesting game of chicken. Many times parked cars would reduce the width of the road to one lane so the drill with oncoming traffic was to barrel along at full speed toward the constriction in the road until one of you reaches it first. The other then concedes defeat and screeches to a halt to allow the victor his spoils. I have to hand it to Jeanie. She did well in this game against the locals.
It didn’t take too much of this to convince us that we hadn’t a clue about where we were going and, in spite of the fact that two guys were amongst the occupants of the car we stopped to ask directions. We handed the man our map and asked him to point out where we were. To nobody's surprise he also couldn’t make sense of the map. He just said, "Wait a minute and you can follow me. I will lead you to the road to Soufriere." Jeanie took advantage of the pause to hand over the driving chores to Dan.
With a fresh driver we were soon following the man’s van out of the maze to the road we desired. When he got us there he spent a little time to give us guidance. "The road to Soufriere has a white line down the middle. Stay on the road with the white line." Finally something concrete, something to stay with. Follow the white line.
With new confidence we started to relax and take notice of our surroundings. Steep mountains covered with riotous tropical foliage. St. Lucia was a truly beautiful place. We once again started to climb but we were unconcerned because our road had a white line, a beautiful white line. I continued to look around and enjoy the scenery and as we slowed down to take a particularly steep grade I took notice of something next to the road on the left. It was a sign. Finally a sign but this one had been knocked down and was partially covered with undergrowth. It indicated that our road is about to take a sharp bend to the right and at the beginning of the bend there was a road that branched off to the left. There were more than a few words on the sign but the only word that was not hidden by the foliage indicated that the right fork led to Marigot. Once again doubts began to spoil my mood. Does the left fork lead to Soufriere or does the right fork lead to Marigot and Soufriere. We were soon upon this fateful fork in the road and had to make a quick decision. "The white line." I said, "The white line leads down the road on the left."
Many times each one of us are confronted with forks in the road and many times the decision has to be made quickly. Flip a coin. There’s an even chance that you’ll be right. A simple clue will better your odds. The white line, the man said that the road to Soufriere has a white line. We can’t go wrong; take the left fork.
I doubt if anyone reading this really thinks that the left fork was the road to Soufriere. Luck doesn’t change from bad to good so quickly. It took a few minutes but soon the white line disappeared and once again we were asking for directions. When Jeanie returned from inside the service station she said, "Okay this is what we do. Continue on this road until we get to a T-intersection, turn left and go to the next intersection and turn right. Then we’ll be on the road to Soufriere."
At the first intersection we discovered that we’d circled around on ourselves and I had serious doubts about turning right at the second intersection. "This road leads north back to the airport," I said.
"No, the lady assured me that this is the road to Soufriere," insisted Jeanie. I shut up. So far I was batting zero so my advice was certainly suspect.
Soon, however Linda confirmed that, for once, I was right about something She said "I hate to say this but the water to our left is the Caribbean Sea which is to the west of St. Lucia making it a sure thing that we’re going north."
"Should we turn around?" I asked.
"NO!" said Dan in a manner that let the rest of us know that he was not to be trifled with. "We’re going back to the airport and turning this thing in. We’ll hire a cab to take us to Soufriere."
So that’s what we did. After almost two hours of wandering around the countryside of St. Lucia we turned in the Samurai (Kamikaze) and hired a cab. It costs us $70 plus a little extra for the beer but Julian, our cab driver, took us down the road all the way to Soufriere. Yes, the right fork leads to both Marigot and Soufriere and no, the road doesn’t always have a white line. What the road does have is some of the most spectacular scenery in the Eastern Caribbean.