Saturday, February 19, 2011

An update from Matt

Here's an email we just received from Matt.

Hello all,
My apologies for the long delay. It's been a serious whirlwind the last week or so. I'm in the airport heading to Guadeloupe from Dominica. Everything is going very well. I'm extremely pleased with the images I'm getting. Probably the best work I've yet done. DOminica is an amazing island that has one of the largest remaining untouched rain forests on earth. 70% of the island is still untouched. The main highway is a dirt road in many places. A few days ago we visited a waterfall tucked up in the jungle. There were actually 2 falls spilling down a 200 ft. cliff, both separated by thick jungle. The fall on the left was hot (everything is volcanic down here) and the fall on the right was cold. At the base were numerous hot springs - some half hot, half cold - for soaking. It was surreal. After shooting, we soaked in an amazing pool surrounded by thick jungle with sunlight streaming in through the leaves. Tourism is in it's infancy here, so the experience is pretty authentic. The only downside being that the villagers can be pretty aggressive at times with begging. I paid for pictures yesterday for the first time. A fisherman invited us over to where he and his brother were cleaning fish, making gestures with his hands like he was taking pictures. We went to where they were working and started shooting a bit ( I did expect to give him a small tip) and when we were done he asked for 20 Eastern Caribbean dollars, or 10 U.S.! We had a little debate (he was getting pretty angry, actually), and settled for 6. I wasn't too happy about the deal, but oh well. The pictures are pretty nice. 

I took a break from writing this email to fly on over to Guadeloupe where I'm now sitting on the front porch of our guesthouse. It's expensive here - another French island - and the island is huge. Today we'll explore the capital and some of the beaches. Again, the contrast between this island and the last couldn't be bigger. Dominca was completely rural, and not much smaller than Guadeloupe, with vast areas of untouched rainforest and a population of less than 100,000. Guadeloupe has 500,000 people and is almost entirely developed, aside from the mountainous national park, with highways, 2 big cities, totally modern amenities, and resorts everywhere. I must say, I'm glad that places like Dominica still exist. So far it's the one island that I've seen so far that I could imagine returning to. I really hope the developers stay clear away from that one.

Martinique was amazing as well. We climbed an incredible active volcano called Mont Pelee. It erupted in 1902, killing everyone in the then capital of Martinique (32,000) aside from one man, a prisoner trapped in a dungeon safe from the noxious gases and scorching heat. Climbing it is an incredible experience. It's about 10 miles round-trip, with a side hike into the caldera, which is now a quiet garden-like rainforest with very unusual plants. Many of which I'd never seen before. The clouds are constantly swirling around the peak, so the views aren't very good. It was a little disconcerting when the clouds broke while hiking along a knife edge ridge and the ocean shows up 4,000ft. below on one side, and the sheer 400ft. cliffs into the caldera show up on the other. It made for spectacular and frantic moments while we tried to get pictures before the fog closed in just seconds later. What was especially interesting was how, since the clouds always sweep over the mountain from the south, the north slope is in a sort of eddy, and once there you can watch tremendous cloud formations spill off the upper slopes above you and sail thousands of feet down towards the Caribbean just a few hundred feet over your head. The scene was almost disconcerting. I hard a hard time getting my eyes to discern space and sky from the sea. We were exhausted, soaked (just from being in the clouds - no rain), and covered in mud once we got back to the car. 

The next day, once back in the little village of St. Pierre that was destroyed by the volcano, we happened onto an impromptu dance parade by the locals, which we followed around for about an hour in the sunset light. The pictures are awesome, with traditional dress, good light, and lots of color. The drum beats were both mesmerizing and moving.

Once I get some stuff edited, I send it out. I've been up since 3:30am, so getting pretty tired. It was a long, long drive through the jungle to get to the little airstrip for our 7:30 flight, and our driver showed up early. Being completely dependent on him to catch our flight we had to run out the door in the darkness so as not to miss him. To say I need some coffee is an understatement. "No rest for the weary" has become our motto down here in the Carib!!!

Love to all,

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