Dec 21, 2008

IGWA Race Report

IGWA a 6 day stage ecologically focused adventure race which took place from Nov 22 to 29 2008. Guadeloupe is a part of France and not it's own stand alone country. This is but one of the many fabulous facts I learned throughout the event. Guadeloupe consists of 5 islands Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre are the two largest. These happen to be the 2 islands in which we got to explore through a variety of means such as surfing, sailing, trekking, running, kayaking and many more. 18 international teams were chosen to participate in the event. Team Yogaslackers was lucky enough to be one of those teams. The Yogaslackers consisting of Lina Augaitis and Daniel Staudigel represented both CAN and USA. I will now share some of our experiences from the event and the islands of Guadeloupe.

The format of the race was new to most of us. It was a point based event with each separate activity worth a certain amount of points. Some events were scored against ourselves, others against some teams and yet others against the entire group. The day would be broken up into city cultural events, city sport events, land or water ecological events and land/water sporting events. The idea was for us (the racers) to learn more about the ecology and culture of the various areas we were racing through.

Our Story

After some missed connections and an unplanned stay in San Juan arriving into Guadeloupe (Pointe a Pitre) Daniel and I were greeted by a nice young native Guadeloupean. She and the driver dropped us off in St Anne, hotel "Pierre and Vacances". Everyday we were woken at either 4 or 5am to jump on a bus that would take us to the start line. At first this was a difficult thing to do with the time difference and great amount of travelling beforehand but we soon found a rhythm and 4 am felt like 8 (well not really but close enough). Each evening we had dinner as a group at a local restaurant followed by award ceremonies for the day before heading back to our hotel around 11pm to 1am.

Day 1 St Francois (Individual competition)

Events: Underwater IGWA hunt with snorkels and flippers; golf at international golf de St Francois; Surf; windsurf; city cultural questionnaire; night time IGWA hunt on foot at the golf course.

We were split into 5 groups and rotated between events. Daniel and I rocked the surfing but our lack of windsurfing experienced was demonstrated with our poor score. Our golfing skills varied between hits so each try proved to be a surprise. The first day the cultural events proved to be a little more adventurous for the non-fluent french speakers but we managed and fared well. The day finished in the heart of the St Francois market and creole festival situated right beside the beautiful beach. What a different yet beautiful place.

Day 2 St Francois (competing within our groups)

Events: Coasteering Olive Ay to Pointe des Chateaux; underwater ecology event/questionnaire; IGWA hunt by foot; cultural workshop at Place Eglise; Paddle surf sailing; kayak and golf.

Our first running event was a gorgeous coasterring race. A group start ending at Pointe des Chateaux. Albeit some mistakes Daniel and managed to be the 2nd team in. We ran on rocks, sand, trails, bush and more sand beaches. The heat was killer but the stunning backdrop made every bead of sweat worth it. We also had to run with our snorkel gear as again we had an hour to look at the mass of variety of coral and fish in the area. The afternoon we were again put into groups and experienced a variety of local sports accessible in St Francois. We were also tested on our native drumming skills as well as our ability to taste and identify native foods. We were lucky enough to go around with local Guadeloupean teams to further explain all the native cultures, and sports.

Day 3 Le Moule (group events)

Events: Coasterring Porte d'Enfer d'Anse-Bertrand to Croix Anse; swimming in a natural pool; underwater IGWA hunt; coasterring Anse de l'Autre Bord- Porte d'Enfer du Moule; cultural event in the cit of Moule.

Another great coasteering run high up on the cliffs looking down on crystal blue ocean, with the waves smashing into the rocks creating swirls of whitewater. Despite some navigational errors this was a beautiful run. Swimming in a natural pool in the ocean was a first for us. Natural ropes sectioned off the area and created lanes. Another coasteering event hopping from reef rock to reef rock down by the water to high on cliff tops was another highlight of the day.

Day 4 Basse-Terre Baillante

Events: Rapelling; kayak; snorkeling underwater ecology; cultural city of Bouillante event and a night time IGWA hunt by foot.

We began the day by rapelling down a beautiful waterfall (70m). I was nervous at first but quickly found my confidence and knew that I had a grin from cheek to cheek on my face. This was our day. We won every kayak leg (3) and enjoyed every minute of it despite the great wind. Pigeon island is a very popular diving spot for locals and the international divers who come to Guadeloupe to explore the land below the ocean. Just snorkeling we saw fish of every color, a huge variety of coral, turtles etc.

Day 5 St Claude

Events: Mountain run trial Montagne des Bains Jaunes to La Citerne to la Soufriere back to Les Bains Jaunes; cultural event in St Claude; archery and cultural workshop (identifying local spices).

The volcano Soufriere is covered by clouds 345 days of the year. The top rarely sees sun. We were fortunate to experience both sun and the view of the top of the volcano. The run is normally done as a hike but running is much more fun and a lot quicker. The trail consisted of thick mud, rocks, roots, trees, sand, steep climbs and descents, basically it had it all. The finish line was beside a natural pool of water. A great way to clean off and relax. I also found out this day that I do not hold a natural talent for the sport of archery. I am right handed but can only blink with right eye. Unfortunately for the sport of archery this is not a good combination. Does effort count for points? Matching local spices was easy for those culinary experts. Lucky for us Daniel loves to cook!

Day 6 Deshaies

Events: Coasteering Plage de Cluncy to Plage Graned Anse; obstacle course on the beach; coasteering Trial Plage de Grande-Anse to Deshaies; Ecological event at the Botanical Gardens; Archery; cultural event in Deshaies.

Lots of running in soft sand on beautiful beaches. It's one of those love/hate events. A very neat obstacle course was constructed involving coconuts, balancing, partner control, accuracy and running. The Botanical Gardens gave us one last look at the great variety of flora found on these islands. Archery proved to be much more successful on this day. A different creative strategy was in order. A banquet with Ti punch ( the alcoholic drink famous in Guadeloupe) good traditional food and awards ceremony ended our IGWA adventures. Team Yogaslackers finished a respectable 4th. Below I have included a list of my recommendations and thoughts about the island of Guadeloupe but I do recommend heading their to experience its beauty for yourselves.

The islands of Guadeloupe are french speaking. At times English is hard to come by but most of the time one can get by with pointing, hand movements and facial expressions.

If you are a fish or seafood lover this is an island made for you. Fresh fish/seafood is caught daily and cooked that same afternoon/evening. Being vegetarian at times was difficult as the locals didn't quite understand why I wouldn't eat their fish. Rice, lettuce, tomatoes, and beets are popular side dishes to ones main course. Lunch is their most popular meal.

There is plenty of water activities from snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, kitesurfing and diving. Water sports are the most popular but the rainforest will not disappoint either.

Getting there:
If you can avoid flying through San Juan, Peurto Rico I highly recommend it. Otherwise there are plenty of flights from various hubs. Air France and American Airlines are popular airlines that fly into Pointe A Pitre.