Today Eric’s arm was looking less swollen, so we didn’t bother going to the doctor. Phew! We went back to Basse Terre. This time we took the road that bisects the middle of the island. When we first got on the road, there was a lot of sugar cane fields and a few pockets of housing, but within a few minutes of driving, the land suddenly appeared untouched and we knew we had entered the national park that encompasses a large amount of the center of Basse Terre.
As we were driving along, we saw a sign for a wheel chair accessible waterfall. A super easy hike to a pretty viewpoint was irresistible, so we pulled over into the small, muddy parking lot, where there was only two other cars. It was indeed a pretty short walk on a paved path through lush rainforest to the waterfall. It is a pretty viewpoint, but nothing phenomenally spectacular.
Across the street was a “pique nique” area (not handicap accessible), so we went across the street to check it out. It is a nice grassy clearing in between a split in the river with quite a few covered picnic tables. One of the two streams also has a pretty little waterfall. There was a hiking trail that led from the clearing into the forest. We followed the trail. The trail was quite muddy, which is no surprise given how much rain we got today and yesterday. But it was the kind of sticky mud that grabs your shoes and won’t let go, and it takes serious effort to pick your foot up off the ground to make another step. So, despite the fact that it was flat ground, it wasn’t exactly an easy walk. It turned out to be a short path that takes you to where the two streams join back together and become a bigger river again. There was a group of people taking a dip in the water here. We put our toes in and decided it was way too cold for us.
We went back to the car. The parking lot was jam packed and we were completely blocked in. Great. Suddenly, we were glad we had the 4 wheel drive jeep because in order to get out of the lot, we had to drive over a muddy embankment. We’re not sure a little car could have done it.
We passed several more signs for hiking trails as we drove, but we decided to hit those on the way back. We arrived at our destination, Parc de Mammelles, a few minutes later. When we bought our tickets we were surprised to find out that it isn’t just mammals, it is an exhibit of all the wildlife that is found on the island, including flora, fauna, bugs and everything else living. The lady at the counter advised us that all the signs are in French, but they had English audio guides, so we got the audio guides.
The mammal park is nice. You follow a one way walking trail that winds throughout the park, passing assorted creatures along the way. Some of the animals are caged, some roam free. The ones that roam free usually congregate around their feeding stations, but several species were off doing other things when we passed by. We saw raccoons, mongoose, lots of species of birds, including several varieties of gorgeous parrots, termites, assorted varieties of iguanas, assorted crabs, assorted lizards, assorted turtles, a couple of species of monkeys, bats, beavers, and shrimp. There is a living butterfly exhibit in a specially made butterfly house. There are a lot of species of butterfly on this island and most are quite colorful. There is also a small insect exhibit featuring live critters. Some of the bugs here are heinous, such as the horrible gigantic beetles that we mentioned yesterday that have fangs that look like nutcrackers. We have to stop going to these insect exhibits!
The park is beautifully landscaped, and the variety of flora is impressive. Things definitely like to grow in Guadeloupe. We are glad we got the audio guide. It told you the name of each species and whether it was indigenous or introduced. If introduced, it explained where it came from and the impact it has had on the local environment. Then it would give all kinds of interesting information about the species. Without the audio guides, we would have gotten zero out of the exhibit besides seeing a few animals. Most of our photos didn’t come out, but we did get a couple good shots. The first is called a Sucrier a Poitrine Ianna in French and we can’t remember what it is called in English. We think the second one is called Gris de Gabon in French. The third are Antillean Iguanas and the fourth one is of raccoons. The last one is a super cool tropical flower called Reine de Malaisie in French. We’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
They have a snack bar in the middle of the park, and we stopped there for lunch. We chose a table with 4 chairs. A bird sat on one of the empty chairs next to us and watched us intently as we ate. It was clear he was used to being fed and was patiently waiting to be served, so we gave it the last bite from one of our sandwiches. It didn’t seem like a huge piece to us when we handed it over, but the bird was obviously having a hard time eating something so big. He would nervously lunge at it, get a mouthful of food, then run back to the chair to chew and swallow. Then he would repeat. Eventually, he got a little more comfortable with us and threw his manners out the door. Rather than sitting in the chair to chew and swallow, he stayed on the table and pecked at the food more eagerly. He was really cute and it was fun to watch.
The lady at reception had told us at the end we would “walk up high”. We weren’t totally sure what that meant and were delighted when we found out it was an adventure activity of some sort. We walked up the staircase and were handed harnesses. There was a suspension bridge of sorts leading to a platform ahead, and we couldn’t really tell what was beyond. The suspension bridge looked incredibly rickety, just a few planks of wood screwed together length wise with a cross section for reinforcement every few feet. Two steel cables paralleled the walkway, one at about waist height that was to be used as a handhold, the other at shoulder height to be used as a lifeline. In English we were told the harness has two carabineers, and both are to be clipped to the cable at all times. Then we were on our way.
We ever so carefully waded out onto the wobbly bridge one at a time. We were roughly 30 feet up and it looked like a long, long way down. With each step, the bridge shook and swayed like crazy. While the wooden planks didn’t feel very stable, the cables were taught and we knew the carabineers would hold us if worst came to worst. As we progressed towards the middle, the bridge sagged unhappily under our weight. Oh boy. We slowly and carefully progressed to the small platform. The platform was secured to a big tree and felt stable. We carefully unhooked the carabineers from the bridge we were on and hooked it to the bridge we were about to get on. This time we were feeling more comfortable and continued forward more confidently. Then it started to rain lightly, so we were a little more cautious about footing to ensure we didn’t slip, and we made it through with no problems. There were four bridges total that made a square and we ended up back where we started. This is the first time either of us has done something quite like this and we both thought it was fun!
We thought we were done, but the staff directed us up another flight of stairs. There was another set of bridges up there. Now we were roughly 60 feet up, above many of the trees. We did another square pattern, but this time with much longer distances between platforms. The amount of moving, swaying and shaking we experienced with each step was exponentially higher. The movement was so severe that at a couple points in time, Christi thought the person behind her was shaking the bridge on purpose to scare her, but when she turned around, he was patiently waiting on the platform, nowhere near the bridge. The walkway seriously sagged in the middle and looked like it would collapse at any second under our weight. The combination of sagging and swaying really made it much scarier, and the height didn’t help. We loved the thrill of it! We found it to be more fun than the set of bridges below. Shortly after we started the walk on the higher platform, the light rain turned to a heavy downpour, so we were really wet and Christi was freezing cold. As we walked up there, we passed over a few animal exhibits. It was neat to see the animals from a completely new perspective.
There is an adventure park right across the road from the mammal park that we were planning to go to, as well. But it was raining pretty hard, windy and cool. Christi was in shorts and a tank top and freezing. We decided to skip the adventure park and the hiking trails and instead go explore Grande Terre. We figured since it is a flat island, it will probably be warmer and drier. On the drive back towards Grande Terre we both became overwhelmingly sleepy, so we decided to make a stop back at Kosmos for a short nap. It wound up being a long nap, and by the time we got up, it was too late in the day for any more sightseeing.