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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Archives for: December 2014

The fogs of Martinique

I am not very fond of cold temperatures and I have a rather strained relationship with snow, so every Thanksgiving - at the onset of winter - I make a trip to climes sporting much sunnier weather. This year I made a trip to the French island of Martinique.

One of the major attractions of this Caribbean gem is Mount Pelee, an active volcano which scorched the island's capital St Pierre in 1902 and killed nearly all of its 30,000 inhabitants. Its elevation of 1397 meters and plenty of humid and warm air around make for a perfect condensation machine. Indeed, the peak is rarely seen without a shroud of heavy clouds.

As we drove up to the parking lot at Aileron, it was clear that our hike will not be an exception. A thick bank of mist and constantly rolling steamy cavalry were informing us that we could definitely expect a low visibility event. As we were climbing the steep ascent into the mountain, we could barely see 50 feet ahead. Only on rare occasion did we spot the surrounding scenery through gaps in the fog. There was no one on the trail.

At the second hut we came to a branching point and took a narrow path steeply descending into a volcanic cauldron. It felt a bit irritating, because climbing up to that point was a grinding effort and here we were - losing all that precious elevation and not knowing how low it would go. After about 150 meters we reached what seemed to be the bottom of the pit. It felt like a tropical dream. Lush vegetation combined with fatigue and shreds of water vapor created a surreal, almost halucinogenic imagery. Every now and then we could see a vague mountain face looming over us, but mostly we were left to our own imagination.

A hint of reality sometimes creates much stronger impression of reality than reality itself - a fact known to horror movie directors and makers of female apparel. I love those moments when life throws you into a Tim Burton movie set. Those precious places where you can step out of time and space and see the world as a fluid stage. This was one of them.

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