Month Nineteen was all travel, travel, travel – with a bit of work thrown in for good measure.

The month started off just before Christmas in the small town of Deshaies on the island of Basse Terre in Guadeloupe. We spent a week here relaxing at the beautiful Grand Anse beach, walking into the town centre daily to pick up amazing baguette sandwiches and French pastries and generally just chilling as we didn’t have a car and it is not the easiest island to get around without one.

But we did manage to do a couple of day trips by bus – one to Plage Malendure down the coast, a beautfiul black sand beach and the jumping off point for Pigeon Island and the Jacques Cousteau Marine Reserve. We went on a diving/snorkelling tour to the Reserve and although the water was pretty choppy, there were a lot of colourful tropical fish. We even saw a magnificent rainbow stretching over the beach as we were heading out.

Sainte Rose was our other day trip, a town north of Deshaies, but there wasn’t anything too interesting there if you didn’t want to do an overpriced tour to the nearby islands – which we didn’t.

After the relaxing week in Deshaies we managed to make our way down to the very southern tip of Basse Terre by various buses, where we were catching a ferry to Les Saintes, a small archipelago of islands that are part of Guadeloupe.

The four nights we had on the main island of Les Saintes, Terre Haut, were downright magical. Stunning beaches, incredible views, delicious French food, a super fun night out for New Years and  the impossibly cute French town of Le Marigot, where we were staying.

If it wasn’t for the terrible, terrible wifi, we could quite happily have stayed there for a lot longer, but it was time to head back to the mainland.

Out last week on Guadeloupe was in the small resort town of Le Gosier on the south coast of the  Guadeloupe’s busiest island, Grand Terre. The beaches in the area, especially Plage Caravelle, were some of the best we had seen on this trip, so we spent a lot of time exploring the different ones, as well as hiring a car for a couple of days to drive around the island.

I had my heart set on hiking to the top of La Grande Soufriere on Basse Terre so a day was also dedicated to doing that, and hiking to one of the misty Chutes de Cabret waterfalls.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Guadeloupe and although we really enjoyed our time there, we were pretty happy to be going back to the wild nature Island of Dominica – and being able to speak English again.

Staying for five more nights on Dominica, we mostly stuck around the beautiful Roseau Valley where we hiked to a waterfall, soaked in natural hot springs, and I even did an intense 22km return hike to the second largest boiling lake in the world – Toby sat that one out.

We also spent a day snorkelling Champagne Reef, which is named as such because of the long streams of silvery bubbles rising from the reef, and exploring more of the island’s biggest city, Roseau, including the lush Botanic Gardens, where we did a short hike to a viewpoint over the coast and city.

Unfortunately our last night on the island was tainted with food poisoning and a scammy guesthouse, but it couldn’t take away from the overall fondness we felt for this incredible island.

After just over six weeks in the Caribbean, it was time to fly back to the US, if only for one night.

We flew in to Fort Lauderdale, just a week or so after the shooting there, and after a really long wait to get through immigration, we checked into our substandard and ridiculously expensive airport hotel, found a diner full of snow birds for dinner, then left the next day for Mexico.

Our first nine days in Mexico, the last days of month nineteen of travel, were wonderful. After three nights in Cancun that I didn’t hate, reuniting with our friend Johnny who travelled with us for a week, returning to one of my favourite islands in the world, Isla Mujeres, and then down to another one of my favourite spots in Mexico, Tulum, I am so looking forward to another 2.5 weeks in one of my favourite countries in the world.

I may have had more than a few lowlights this month, but overall, I still think it was a pretty damn great one.

Now onto the Stats:

Countries visited: France (Guadeloupe), Dominica, USA, Mexico

Places visited:

  • Guadeloupe: Deshaies, Plage Malendure, Sainte Rose, Le Gosier, Sainte Anne, Port Louis, Les Saintes -Terre Haut
  • Florida: Fort Lauderdale
  • Dominica: Roseau, Wotton Waven, Champagne Beach, Marigot
  • Mexico: Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Akumal

Islands visited: Dominica, Guadeloupe (Basse Terre, Grand Terre, Terre Haut), Isla Mujeres

National Parks and Monuments visited:

  • Guadeloupe National Park – Guadeloupe
  • Morne Trois Pitons National Park – Dominica

Best meal: A couple of meals stood out this month. My Christmas lunch was so delicious – I had a selection of seafood – small whole fried fish, a poke style raw tuna, ceviche, fish pate with crostini, vegetables, mini spring rollls, salad and local cod cakes – oh, and pina coladas. The eggs benedict with a lobster tail that I had at Roosters on Isla Mujeres was awesome, as was the Argentine blue cheese and caramelized onion empanada from El Sudaca in Tulum – the best empanada I have ever had.

Worst meal: Whatever gave me food poisoning – I wish I knew what it was! Nothing stood out as especially disgusting this month.

Best craft beer: No craft beer this month – so sad. I have been drinking a lot of delicious tropical cocktails and fresh fruit juices though so I can’t complain too much

Hikes:

  • La Grande Soufriere 6.5 miles/10km return (approx.)
  • Chutes de Cabret – 2nd Falls 1.5 miles/2km return
  • Middleham Falls, Dominica 4 miles/6km return
  • Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica 14 miles/22km return (approx.)
  • Jack’s walk in Roseau Botanic Gardens 1.25 miles/2km return

Reading: I have been a cheapass this month and have only been buying books that I have seen through Bookbub that are either free or only a couple of dollars. The best was ‘Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony’. I learnt a lot more about the circumstances of the disappearance of the first English colony in America, and events leading up to it, including a general history of 16th century England. The mystery itself will likely never be solved, but the conclusions in the book and the evidence presented is definitely convincing.

Watching: We watched the first season of Timeless during month nineteen and really enjoyed it. The premise is that a secret time machine has been stolen by a ‘bad guy’ who is using it to go back to different important points in history to change the outcome of events. Another time machine is built and a team put together to intercept and stop him. I am a lover of history, so I love that every episode is set during a different historical event in the past. I’m looking forward to season two.

Highlights

Christmas Lunch in Deshaies

Although we missed out on all the Christmas build up in the US (although we did manage to catch the Christmas lights up in Manitou Springs just before we left), we still celebrated on the day with a big seafood lunch and some cocktails (well, beer for Toby) at a busy Restaurant down by the water in Deshaies. The view over the small town beach and marina was spectacular, the sun was shining, and my platter of mixed seafood was delectable, as were the creamy pina coladas. We may have missed being away from our families but we definitely can’t complain about our first Christmas together.

New Years on Les Saintes

We were on the small island chain of Les Saintes for New Years and despite our French being pretty bad, we still had a really fun night out that involved drinks at our cute little apartment, followed by pizza in town, drinks at a beachside bar, a bit of salsa dancing, and fireworks at midnight. It wasn’t the crazy party that last year on Coron in the Philippines was, but fun none the less.

Amazing view from Fort Napolean

One of the most popular destinations on Les Saintes is Fort Napoleon, an old French fort that sits on a hilltop with commanding views over the city and surrounding islands. On our last day on Terre Haut we walked up there, stopping along the way at viewpoints and to pick up super tasty local fruit juice. The Fort now houses a small museum but unfortunately for us, nearly all of the displays were in French, but we loved walking the fort walls and I took millions of pictures of the gorgeous views which definitely made the walk up there worth it.

Visiting tiny Islet Gosier

When I booked a studio apartment in the resort town of Le Gosier, I knew there were meant to be some beautiful beaches around there but I had no idea that there was also a perfectly tiny, white sand island just offshore. I love Islands, something I am sure I have mentioned on this blog on more than one occasion, and so I couldn’t resist catching the boat out there for a few hours. We found some palm trees to string up the hammock, walked the short distance to the lighthouse, and floated in the cool waters. It was an island paradise off another island paradise and a great day trip.

Maxin’ and Relaxin’ on Plage Caravelle

The Guadeloupe islands are home to many, many gorgeous beaches, but my favourite would have to be the perfect stretch of sand outside the Club Med Resort near the pleasant town of Sainte Anne. Luckily you don’t have to be staying at the resort to enjoy Plage Caravelle, and enjoy it we did! It had the whitest sand, the clearest water and loads of palm trees growing out of the beach itself rather than along the outskirts. We loved it.

Climbing Le Grand Soufrière

When researching things to do in Guadeloupe, I saw a photo of Le Grand Soufrière, the highest mountain in Guadeloupe, and the French Antilles, that is also an active volcano. Of course I wanted to climb it. It is notorious for clouding over in the afternoons so we set out relatively early to give ourselves a better chance of good weather.

Unfortunately it was already covered in cloud when we arrived, and for most of the hike, but we still got numerous peeks at the coast for short moments when the clouds cleared, and we could smell the sulphur throughout the hike which was pretty cool. There was a lot of climbing up and over rocks involved and so we were delighted to discover a natural hot pool right by the parking lot on the way down in which to soak our weary bones. A great ending to a challenging and beautiful hike.

Snorkelling Champagne Reef

The first thing we did when we got back to Dominica was visit Champagne beach, a peaceful beach of smooth large rocks. It is not the beach itself that people visit for though, just offshore is Champagne Reef, called as such because of the bubbles that rise up from the reef, volcanic gas escaping from the earth. It was a pretty cool experience, frolicking in the silver bubbles and swimming with the tropical fish that call the reef home, including a school of cuttlefish.

Hiking to a Boiling Lake

Hiking to Boiling Lake, the second largest of its kind in the world, was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing on our return to Dominica. At 22km return, and including steep inclines, uneven terrain, and high temperatures – the hike was tough as hell. But being able to swim in natural hot waterfalls, witness the boiling water and steaming vents of the Valley of Desolation, and finally reaching the lake itself, is something I will remember always. And doing it with mild food poisoning made it even more badass.

Amazing hot springs in Dominica

During our last visit to Dominica we visited a couple of different natural hot springs, something that the island is well known for. This time Toby found a secret one just up the road from our guesthouse that was UNBELIEVABLE. Seriously, the boy did well. These hot springs are set in a drop-dead gorgeous valley that is lush and green with tropical flowers and a cascading waterfall to gaze at while soaking in the pools. Such an incredible place and one of my highlights of Dominica – and we never would have found it if we hadn’t been staying in the valley.

Swimming under Middleham Falls

Hiking to Middleham Falls on Dominica turned out to be a lot more walking than we had envisaged. While the trail to the falls themselves is only 6km return, we ended up walking for about two hours to reach the start of the trail – up a steep and windy mountain road because the bus was nowhere to be seen. Luckily the falls were worth it, imposing in height and grandeur. I especially loved the invigorating dip I took in the icy water, waves lapping against me from the power of the falls.

Reunited with friends

It’s always a good time when you reunite with friends, and we were lucky that our time in the Yucatan coincided with two of mine. We spent a really fun week travelling with our friend Johnny, who I met at the same time I met Toby on New Years 2015, as well as a day catching up with my Vancouver friend Jasmine and her boyfriend Alex in Akumal – she was staying near Playa and we were in Tulum. Good times.

Returning to Isla Mujeres

I LOVED laid-back Isla Mujeres when I visited during my first trip to Mexico in 2012, so I was thrilled that we were heading back there for four days on this trip. Johnny and Toby hadn’t been there before so I loved showing them around, going back to my favourite eatery on the island, Pita Amore, which hadn’t changed one bit, and swimming in the incredible waters off Playa Norte beach. I was a bit disappointed that the beach was so much busier and more developed than my last visit, but it was still undeniably beautiful. I hope it won’t be another four years till I am back again.

Lowlights

Struggling with the language on Guadeloupe

I did French in High School for two years then went to France around ten times when I was living in the UK so I thought I had a reasonable command on the language – well, basic, but enough to get around. Damn, did I have to muster all of it during our time on Guadeloupe. Unlike a lot of non-English speaking countries that receive a lot of tourism, barely anyone spoke English in Guadeloupe, I’m talking not even a word of it. I am not saying I expect them to, I’m just saying it was very hard to communicate. Thank God I knew the basics and can recognise a lot of things on a French menu or we would have been even more screwed (and hungry)! It also made our time in Guadeloupe a bit lonely as it was hard to meet new people anyway as we were staying in Airbnb apartments, but even harder because not many people understood us.

Trouble getting around on Guadeloupe

After being spoilt on Barbados, and to a lesser extent on Dominica, we had a hard time getting around on the two main islands of Guadeloupe. With no bus timetable, sometimes you would be waiting for more than an hour before a bus arrived, and we were stranded halfway back from Plage Malendure when the buses stopped running early, luckily managing to hitch a ride. It was also the Christmas holidays while we were there so buses weren’t running at all for a couple of days. We ended up hiring a car for a couple of days to see more of the islands, and there was no way we could have visited the places that we did if we hadn’t – well, apart from hitching.

Limited wifi on Les Saintes

Now that I have more work, it is all the more important that I have good wifi where we are staying, or at least nearby. We were told there was wifi at our apartment in Terre Haut but during our four days there it wasn’t working. There had been a storm and it was mostly down on the whole island, with only a bit of patchy service at a couple of cafes. This made my time on the island rather stressful and meant I had a lot of work to catch up on once we got back to the main islands.

Bit by something – twice

So we had just got to a stunning beach in Port Louis in Guadeloupe when I felt something moving under my dress, then a sharp prick. I quickly flicked out whatever the bug was and then the pain hit me like a sledgehammer. I have been stung by bees, wasps and hornets a number of times and this was so much worse. Two enflamed sting or bite marks appeared on my rib and I could barely move for the better part of an hour with almost unbearable pain that had me crying. I still have no idea what it was, but I can still see the two marks a month later. In the past week I was bit by something again, not that I noticed this time, but I did notice when a giant infected looking scabby lump appeared on my right leg. Perhaps an infected spider or mosquito bite? Luckily it has finally started healing because I was very close to going to the doctor with that one.

Moving too fast

We started out our Caribbean and Mexico adventure by staying each place for a week, which was a good amount of time to explore the surrounds as well as having chill out time. This past month we have been moving faster, and now that I have picked up a couple of new clients, I have also had more work to do while we are travelling, which has left me feeling pretty exhausted. I still need to work on this whole digital nomad thing, to find out what best works for me, and Toby.

Rip off in Dominica

Unfortunately our last night on Dominica ended up leaving a bad taste in our mouth, when we left our amazing (and cheap) guesthouse, Le Petit Paradis, in Roseau Valley, to move to Marigot to be closer to the airport for our early flight. We stayed at another guesthouse that was more expensive than Le Petit Paradis anyway, but they then added a hefty tax to the room fee and dinner and charged us an exorbitant amount for a taxi to the airport. I really don’t like getting ripped off.

Food poisoning

To top it all off, we were also both suffering from food poisoning on our last night in Dominica. I had been up most of the night a couple of nights earlier with a very upset stomach and after a day when I thought I was better, it hit me again, with Toby also suffering the second time. Unfortunately it stuck around for a few days before we finally got well again. Don’t you hate having to deal with food poisoning when you are travelling!

Spending:

Total: USD$2045.50

Youch, it’s a lot – but as we spent three weeks of the month in the Caribbean, it could be worse. Monthly totals will be dropping right down again from next month.

Accommodation $1034

Ow, this is so. damn. high. It really does show me how much accommodation costs if you are paying for it every night! We still got some great deals on Airbnb apartments in Guadeloupe and in Mexico, and we stayed at low cost guesthouses on Dominica, but most of them were still more expensive than last months.

Food and Drink $580

Around the same as last month. We saved a lot from mainly eating at Bakeries and cooking on Guadeloupe, but with no kitchen during our five days on Dominica it meant that we ate out for most meals, same in Mexico, although the food is a lot cheaper here.

Clothing $18.50

  • $18.50 Bikini top

At least one total is low this month!

Transport $286.50

I don’t include International flight costs in my round-ups

  • Buses on Guadeloupe $28
  • Return ferry to Terre Haut, Les Saintes from Basse Terre, Guadeloupe $33
  • Two day car hire on Guadeloupe $37
  • Gas for rental car on Guadeloupe $18
  • Tip to our Airbnb host for ride to Port in Guadeloupe $11
  • Ferry to Dominica from Guadeloupe $73
  • Taxi to Roseau Valley from ferry port, Dominica $11
  • Buses on Dominica $19
  • Taxi to Airport on Dominica $13
  • Uber from Fort Lauderdale Airport to Hotel $5
  • Uber from Hotel to Fort Lauderdale Airport $5
  • Bus from Airport to Airbnb in Cancun $3.50
  • Cancun taxis and buses $10.50
  • Return ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres $9
  • Bus from Cancun to Tulum $7
  • Collectivo return from Tulum to Akumal $3.50

Bit lower than last month, with hiring a car and the ferry costs on Guadeloupe then back to Dominica pushing the total up by a lot.

Activities $62

  • Snorkelling in Jacques Cousteau Marine Reserve, Guadeloupe $19
  • Fort Napoleon Entry, Les Saintes $5.50
  • Return boat to Islet de Gosier, Guadeloupe $5.50
  • Chutes de Cabret Entry, Guadeloupe $2
  • Entry to Champagne Beach $2
  • Natural Hot Springs in Wotton Waven $20 (two visits)
  • Golf Cart hire for one day on Isla Mujeres (split between five people) $6.50
  • Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Isla Mujeres $1.50

As usual, nothing too crazy with activity costs this month, as we were mostly doing free activities.

Other $64.50

  • Toiletries $28
  • Amazon books for Kindle $6
  • Bank fees $10
  • Dominica Exit Fee $18.50
  • Laundry $2

What’s in store for next month:

The first half of the next month we will still be traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with more time in Tulum, followed by stops in Valladolid, Merida and Isla Holbox as well as visiting a handful of cenotes, a couple of ruins and eating lots more tacos and other delicious Mexican treats.

From Mexico, we will be spending five nights in Florida where we are planning to hire a car and do some car camping in the Keys for a few days.

Then back to Colorado for a chilly couple of days to sort out my things, see Toby’s family and my kitty niece and nephew before I fly to LA to catch my flight back to NZ, where I will be for the last week of month 20.

I am really excited to be going home during summer on this visit and my first week in New Zealand will very likely involve catching up with friends and family, beach time, perhaps a quick trip up to my beloved Matakana, and gorging myself on all the amazing Kiwi food I have been missing: Fish and Chips! Feijoa Smoothie! Choc Bars! Whittakers Chocolate! – I could go on.

I am SO excited for next month!

To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here

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