Le Monnerot is the type of road that you would normally just drive past without a second thought. Unpaved and bumpy, with construction signs that almost beg for you to turn around, this road seemed ominous, to say the least. As the proud new owner of a not-so-new 1999 Renault Twingo, the thought going through my mind was not so much whether I would manage to make it down these hills, but would I ever manage to make it back up?
The only things pushing me forward were the hand-painted signs that read “KAYAK” in large white letters. And every time I was about to give up, head back, listen to the relentless feeling that I had made a very wrong turn somewhere, one of these signs would appear, and my little lime-green Twingo and I would trudge forward through the dust and the dirt.
I finally arrived at the place where the road met the Atlantic Ocean. A small shack with kayaks all around looked out on the Bay of Francois. The service was friendly, if a bit ruffled that we had added five extra people to our two previous reservations for eight and five people. Shortly after 1:00 PM, we were kayaking off to the ilets that rise out of the turquoise waters on the coast of Francois.
The route that the company had told us to take included views of three islands: Ilet Thierry, Ilet étrente, and Ilet Oscar. We stopped at the edge of the first island, the Ilet Thierry. The water was shallow and the water was white. We had reached the Fonds Blancs of Francois, where the water never rises above your waste. This was the Ilet Thierry, which became protected by the French government 2007. On Thierry, there are cliffs in the north, and the south and the west parts of the island are bordered by coves. It is also home to many animals, like the yellow warbler, the Caribbean Elaenia, the tropical mockingbird, the Antillean Crested Hummingbird, and much more. Of course, we didn’t see any of those—but then we were too preoccupied with the beach to pay attention to bird watching.
Next up was the famous Baignoire de Josephine, where Napoleon’s wife reputedly swam. She grew up in Martinique. At the Baignoire de Josephine, those of us with goggles examined the coral and waited for the boat to arrive with libations. The man who gave us the kayaks brought rum that had been mixed with sugar cane syrup, lime rind and cinnamon sticks. It was very strong and sweet, so we mixed it with some guava juice. He also brought a basket full of Accras. For those of you who have not tried Accras, they are essentially the hush-puppy of Martinique. The ones our guide made were fried bits of dough with carrot and pumpkin, but the most famous kind of Accras are Accras de Morue—Accras with little bits of fish.
Because we obviously hadn’t seen enough beaches for one day, we stopped at one last beach. And this one was at least as beautiful as the rest. By the time we left, the sun was beginning to set behind the mountains that decorate the island of Martinique. It was a long half-day, and very exhausting, but it was a lot of fun and we saw some beautiful sights. And though the road was bumpy—and very dark—my little Twingo and I made it all the way back up the main road.