"La Soufriere? ... Oh ... you'll have to get up early. It's best to start at dawn, because it's always getting cloudy in the afternoon."
Pierre, the 80-year-old father of our landlord, hums knowingly as he pulls on his pipe. I, a great morning grouch, attribute his advice to a senile flight from bed, which happens to some people at this age.
So we get up the next morning in the most beautiful sunshine, have breakfast on our terrace with a view over tropically overgrown, squeaky green mountains down to the sea.
Welcome to the butterfly island
While we drink fresh pineapple juice, not far from us hummingbirds sip the nectar of the colourful flowers that thrive everywhere.
An orange-yellow butterfly joins the birds and makes the picture of Guadeloupe perfect for a brief moment, because the island is also called the Butterfly Island - because of its shape: two individual islands connected only by a narrow land bridge.
The right wing is rather flat. Here there are many sugar cane plantations and also the associated rum distilleries, as well as white beaches lined with palm trees and mangroves.
The left wing is called Basse-Terre and is the mountainous, jungle-covered part of the island. This is also where the active volcano "La Soufrière" rises, the highest mountain in the Lesser Antilles at 1467 metres above sea level.
And that's exactly where we want to go today.
With difficulty we tear ourselves away from our little garden of paradise.
The coastal road winds up and down, past steep cliffs, through several small villages with colourful wooden houses on the beach. We take the road inland to St Claude, an old spa at the foot of the mountain.
From here, the jungle becomes denser and the road narrower.
10,000 mm of rain per year
(this is extremely high: Heidelberg's comparative figure is 745 mm) ensure that the vegetation thrives particularly lushly here.
Our hike starts at the "Bains Jaunes".
- a pool fed by volcanically heated water. The high iron content keeps turning the walls of the pool yellow, although they are cleaned once a week. At the moment we are quite warm after the short climb, so we leave the hot springs to the left for now. From here the well marked and developed hiking trail starts leisurely up the mountain. Despite the approx. 680 metres in altitude that have to be climbed, the hike is easily manageable for everyone and so perfectly equipped outdoor tourists mix with locals in flip-flops.
They all pursue the same goal: to stand on the top of the mountain while it still exists.
The volcano is one of the best-monitored in the world, so worries about an unexpected eruption are unfounded. But seismologists are certain that the volcano will erupt within the next 500 years, most likely destroying large parts of the island. 500 years seems a sufficiently long time to us, and so we walk leisurely up the Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Path) in sharp bends.
A thick, dense green carpet of ferns covers the flanks of the mountain, which grow this high up but not that high any more, so that we can look down to the sea. Already on the ascent we pass some crevices from which sulphur clouds smelling of rotten eggs. To our dismay, we realise that they are not just sulphur clouds, but that in no time at all - as if from nowhere - clouds have actually appeared on the mountain. Shortly before the summit plateau, we can hardly see our hand in front of our eyes.
The highest point is marked with a yellow sign "La Découverte 1467m".
However, there is nothing to découvrieren (discover) here, because all we see is fog. As soon as the sun is gone, it quickly gets cool at this altitude, and so we retreat - somewhat disappointed by our resistance to Pierre's good advice.
This time we don't skip the hot springs at the foot of the mountain, but use them to warm up again.
Réserve Cousteau the only underwater nature park in France
Back on the coast, the sun greets us as if it couldn't dampen a single drop of water. So we decide to rent a kayak in Malendure to paddle to the famous Réserve Cousteau, the only underwater nature park in France.
Parts of the award-winning film "The Silent World" by the famous marine explorer Jaques-Yves Cousteau were filmed here in 1955. Today, a small cluster of restaurants, stalls, dive operators and kayak rentals has formed around the black, volcanic beach of Malendure. We rent goggles, a snorkel and a boat and paddle through turquoise water to the offshore island of Îlets de Pigeon in just half an hour.
In a small bay, the snow-white sand contrasts beautifully with the black rocks and also offers enough space to pull our boat ashore. An iguana is sunning itself on the dark stones and, as I approach it with my camera, stretches its head up to show me its impressive neck fold. It is unclear whether he wants to impress or threaten, so I prefer to retreat to the beach.
We grab the snorkelling gear and dive into the colourful underwater world.
- Warmths of fish nibble at the corals that move leisurely back and forth in the waves. A water turtle passes by completely unimpressed, while we hyperventilate with joy so much that we swallow salt water. As we emerge from the underwater world, a colourful rainbow stretches from the sun-drenched coast to the dark clouds towering over the mountains inland.
In Guadeloupe, mountains/beach and sun/rain are very close to each other.
Back at the beach of Malendure, we have the top spot for a Caribbean dream sunset: it wanders directly between the two hills of the Îlets de Pigeon into the sea. Our car barely rolls into the car park in front of our accommodation when Pierre shuffles out of the house. "And did you see the sunrise on the summit - I looked this morning: It was clear!" Gritting our teeth, we have to admit that we were too late.
But then we tell him about our hike, the kayak trip, the many animals and the fantastic sunset on the beach - so many great experiences in one day, you can miss the sunrise, can't you?
A perfect day in Guadeloupe needs Ti-Punch
Pierre grumbles something like "Pah ... tourists ... Late risers" and grumbles as he lights his pipe again. After a short pause, he grins at us again: "So, you think you've already experienced a lot today ... to make a day in Guadeloupe perfect, we definitely need to drink another Ti-Punch now."
Recipe Ti Punch - The drink par excellence in Guadeloupe.
Ti is an abbreviation of petit (meaning small punch).
The preparation is simple:
Stir all ingredients on cube ice in a guest glass, add lime slice and serve without straw.
http://www.guadeloupe-islands.com gives a good overview, with lots of pictures, of what is worth experiencing on the five different islands. International dialling code: +590
Entry is possible for EU citizens with an identity card. If you want to visit other - non-French - islands during your holiday, you will need a passport.
Although Guadeloupe is tropically warm all year round, there is a dry season (December-May) and a rainy season (June-November). August and September should be avoided, as there are torrential rains as well as one or two hurricanes.
Airfrance offers direct flights from Paris Orly. A Deutsche Bahn Europa-Spezial ticket to the French capital is available from €39. From the station, take the metro and Orlybus to Orly Airport.
Of course, you can also fly into Paris - but you'll have to change airports there.
Where to stay:
The Tainos Cottages are not cheap. But once you've seen the beautiful cottages at the end of Grand Anse beach, you won't want to leave ...
Plage de Grand Anse, 97126 Deshaies, France, tainoscottages.fr, Tel: +590 590 28-4442
Double room from 150€ per night incl. breakfast
Self-catering cottages on the mountain with sea view are available from 540€ per week at Ecolodges Bungalows Arsenault, 442, Allée du Coeur, 97126 Deshaies, Guadeloupe FWI, Tel: 0590284774 Mob: 0690727285
At www.antilles-guadeloupe.fr you will find great villas with swimming pools, mostly directly on the sea.
A wide selection of accommodation is available at https://www.gitesdefrance-guadeloupe.com
Where to eat:
Delicious cocktails and stunning fusion food right above the sea can be had at Paradise Kafe. 83 Boulevard des Poissonniers, Deshaies 97126, Tel +590 690 19-4009