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Airbnb, thank you!

I had two experiences recently that made me all the happier that Airbnb exists.

1. A vision of paradise

When my Airbnb host in Guadeloupe, Thierry, offered to take me to see a sight only locals know about, I jumped at the opportunity.

I’ve used Airbnb to book accommodations before, but usually it’s been a place where the owner isn’t present: a full apartment or home that we had to ourselves. On my trip to Guadeloupe and Martinique, however, I was traveling solo, so I booked Airbnb accommodations where I’d be staying in someone’s spare bedroom.

Thierry and his girlfriend, Clarisse, were my hosts in Guadeloupe, and Thierry is a perfect example of the kind of experience that simply won’t happen if you stay in a hotel or even a hostel. By staying with a local, you get the local point of view, and, if you’re lucky, you might find out about the things they keep hidden from the tourists.

This sight that Thierry offered to show me was a waterfall. He told me “It’s beautiful and not far away.” Sensing from his eagerness to show it to me that it must be something special, I agreed, even though I’d just been to see a waterfall a couple of days before. “This one,” he said, “is not signposted at all. It’s where the locals go.” Count me in!

He told me to wear a swimsuit and wear walking shoes that could get wet. We would walk “in a river,” he said.

a view showing the river my Airbnb host and I walked down

This gives you an idea of what the walk was like.

Given Thierry’s limited English, combined with my limited French, communication wasn’t always clear between us. I interpreted walking “in a river” as meaning we would have to wade across the river.

Well, I was partly right. We did need to wade across the river, but we also needed to wade in the river to get to the waterfall. The river, in effect, was the route to the waterfall. Sometimes we could walk on the bank, but mostly the bank was much too steep and overgrown.

It was the kind of stream trout fishermen love: shallow, fast-running, and strewn with rocks and pebbles. The problem for me was keeping my footing on the uneven stream bottom, especially at the moments when the sun was hitting the water so I couldn’t see what was underneath.

I fell on my butt in the water pretty soon after we first plunged in; I didn’t hurt myself, but after that I paid much closer attention, planning my path several steps ahead all the time so that I wouldn’t fall again. (My camera got wet and stopped working, so the photos that accompany this story are from my phone, which was in a higher pocket and didn’t get doused. Fortunately, my camera worked again by the next day when it dried out.)

Thierry, meanwhile, was incredibly patient, waiting for me at every turn of the river, enjoying the quiet and beauty of the place we were passing through. It was an impressive stretch of rainforest, with particularly tall trees laced with vines and epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants but don’t take their nourishment from them). But that walk certainly put me through my paces.

a view of the rainforest undergrowth on the walk with my Airbnb host

A view of the rainforest undergrowth

It was worth it, though. As we rounded the last bend in the river, we emerged into what I can only describe as a vision of paradise. I got the sense that Thierry had brought me there just for the enjoyment of seeing my reaction. A high, fast-moving waterfall tumbled down into a large, green pool. The steep slopes on each side were covered with huge trees and other tropical plants, fish darted in the stiller parts of the pool, a bird chirped on a branch overhanging the pool. Vines worthy of Tarzan reached down nearly to the water. And when the sun came out, it was even more glorious.

View of the waterfall and pool, with Thierry, my Airbnb host, sitting at an upper pool in the distance.

The waterfall and pool. That’s Thierry up at the upper pool.

We had a swim and a quiet sit, Thierry up on the rocks next to the waterfall, me below in the pool.

The waterfall is called Bras du Fort, by the way, and it’s near Goyave. The locals all know about it, and, sure enough, a group of people showed up as we were packing up to leave again.

On the way back we took a different path. This one, after a short stretch of the river, involved climbing up and then down a hill. Besides the effort of climbing, this route was complicated by the very slippery mud on the path, so we had to grab trees and branches to stop ourselves from wiping out. Nevertheless, I think I preferred this way.

2. A bit of local music

A few days later, Thierry told me about the local music, and played me a recording of a local band. Heavy on the drums, it’s the kind of music that just demands that you dance. With my complete ignorance of music, it sounded to me much like some of the drumming I heard a lot of in Malawi, which was not what I expected. I thought Guadaloupean music would be more or less the same as reggae. Thierry explained to me that this particular type of drum music is unique to Guadeloupe and a point of pride for Guadeloupeans. There’s even a statue in the capital of the island’s most famous tambour player, Sonjé Vélo.

The statue showing a man playing a large drum

the drum statue

He told me that every Saturday there’s a performance in the capital, Point-à-Pitre, and, if I’d like, he could take me. Of course, I agreed. Unfortunately, he had to work that morning, so we only got there in time for the very last song. Nevertheless, it gave me that taste that I never would have known about otherwise.

The group is named Akiyo, and you can visit their Facebook page here.

So thank you, Thierry, and thank you, Airbnb, for connecting me with Thierry. Getting that “only the locals know” information is what it’s all about!

If you’d like to use Airbnb, you can get a 23 euro credit by using this link, and I’ll also get a credit for my next Airbnb stay.

Now, to add another self-serving plug here, I’d like to point out that you might also get these kinds of insider tips through using VizEat. They do a similar thing to Airbnb, except with meals, so you could book a meal in someone’s house and ask them for suggestions. Full disclosure: if you click on the link, I will get a small portion of the profits from any meals you pay for or host.

Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb rental? How did it work out for you?

If you’re interested in reading more about Guadeloupe, here is a list of all my posts from there:

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