The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Deshaies, Guadeloupe:
May 7, 2010
Kiljoy (the lawyer) was here

Narrow hiking paths slippery with mud that skirt the edge of cliffs; rocky chutes that propel us over waterfalls; steep ladders (with rusted rungs) that lead to the top of Napoleonic watch towers; frayed ropes that we trust with our weight as we climb rocky peaks: When Steve and I embark on island adventures, we are always amazed at how seldom we are cautioned about a danger element. Warning signs? Nah. Fenced-off areas? Fuhgeddaboutit. Liability waivers? You must be kidding. Darwin reigns in the Caribbean.

Which is why the exquisite, carefully manicured botanical garden at Deshaies, Guadeloupe, with its gently winding, well-marked paths and seemingly non-existent danger level, came as something of a surprise. I went alone, since Steve (who prefers his flora wild in any case) had a boat chore that demanded attention.

The first sign that the management of the Jardin Botanique either believed that I couldn’t look out for myself or had a lawyer on retainer (or both) came in the parking lot. Nailed to a mango tree was a warning that I needed to watch for falling mangoes – I should be so lucky – and that I shouldn’t park underneath. I had arrived on foot – but that sign was enough to want to send me running to the nearest car rental agency for a convertible. Fill ’er up.

Inside, the warnings continued. At the cactus garden, I was told I needed to watch for spines. Duh. I get the point already. In the fern garden, I was warned that misting of the ferns was computer-controlled, and the potential existed for camera equipment to be misted as well. Another sign warned me of the approaching “tunnel of refreshment,” ruining the cool surprise of an electric-eye-controlled misting of visitors. (In fact, this was one of my favorite parts of the garden, and I walked back and forth through it three or four times to set off the misters and cool myself down.)

There were warnings by the aviaries that housed the parakeets and the macaws. To my surprise, none of them told me to beware of falling droppings.

Two-and-a-half hours later, I emerged mercifully unscathed, with a ripe mango in my backpack, a gift from one of the garden’s maintenance workers, who was using a nifty long-handled device with a bag on the end to harvest gorgeous yellow mangoes from high up in a tree. A safety precaution, no doubt.

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