LIFE ONBOARDtravel

HOW A SIMPLE DOCTORS APPOINTMENT BECOMES AN ALL DAY EVENT


I often say that this cruising life isn’t all hammocks and pina coladas! Sure, it’s fantastic at times, but not all the time.

We experience highs and lows, just as we did when we lived on land, but I think with this cruising life that the highs are higher and the lows can be lower. Yesterday was a prime example of how difficult it can be to get simple things done at times. Ever wondered how live aboard cruisers get to a doctors appointment?

As we spend so much time in the sun now, Id been wanting to get my skin checked. Now, on land, that was an easy task to achieve. I’d pick up the phone and make a doctors appointment.  I’d drive down to the doctors clinic and maybe wait a short time for my scheduled appointment and then simply get a referral to a skin specialist. I’d then pick up the phone again and make that appointment.

On the day of the appointment I’d drive to the clinic, have my appointment and get the results there and then. 

Job done. Worries over. My skin’s fine and I could carry on in the knowledge that for now at least, my skin was all good.

As a cruising live aboard, this scenario is carried out totally differently to the one I’ve just described!

NOTHING is ever that simple or quick and this story is just one example of that.

We are anchored in Le Saintes which is a small group of islands just off the big island of Guadeloupe. We are here for at least a week as the weather’s holding us up. I really need to get my skin checked so I have no choice but to try and get this done from here.

There are no specialists in Le Saintes, heck there’s only one doctor and he’s basically just on call when he’s needed and finding a specialist that speaks english isn’t easy to do online. SO I head off to the tiny tourist information booth where I found a very helpful woman who only speaks french but in my very broken french but wildly active gestures she manages to understand what I need and she actually makes the appointment for me. Woohoo, Im one step there!

The appointment is for tomorrow. So now I need to organise how to get there as its on the mainland. Theres a ferry at 6.45am! Siennas going to join me and we can make a girls day of it…though she wasn’t that impressed when we had to leave the boat in the dark in time to get the ferry, but she’s a trooper so off we went.

It;s only a 20 minute ride and when we get there we find its a tiny village port. The tourist information lady back in Le Saintes gave me directions and said its walkable. Walkable? It’s ALL uphill a very steep hill. Upon asking the locals they tell me that its too far to walk plus they’ve never heard of this doctor nor the medical practice! What the heck do we do now? Well, all we can do is suck it up and go with the directions I have. 

I suddenly start thinking that maybe we are not at the right ferry port, that we took the wrong ferry? I have the doctors phone number and name of the practice  but still no one recognises these and we don’t have a phone. NOW what do I do?

When I travelled alone when I was younger, it taught me that I can sort out any obstacle that I come across, I just need to stop and think and find a bit of courage to get it done.  So I ask the only other person around at this stage and he doesn’t know either! But he’s really keen to help us so he then takes us to his friends house up the road asks him. While he also doesn’t know, he asks his wife and suddenly we find ourselves in the back of his car and he’s driving us up  that really steep hill, which turns out was so NOT walkable! Anyhow, he takes us to a doctors clinic and even goes in to ask for us and yes, we are finally at the right place.

I’m so grateful to both these guys for helping us out and try to offer them some money but they sternly refuse and wish us a good day! We couldn’t believe we’d come across such helpful people.

So I get the referral to the skin specialist but of course, that specialist is 40km away in Base Terre and the doctor tells me its just too hard to get there without a car. When I ask about getting a bus she just looks at the secretary and they both shake their heads saying it isn’t possible. 

Thank goodness for buses!

Hmmm. I can’t believe that we just cant get somewhere.I believe there’s ALWAYS a way plus I cant just give up without trying. That, and the fact that the ferry home is 6 hrs away…we have time to kill!

So Sienna and I go off approaching people who cant speak a word of english to try to figure out if we can get a bus. Again, after much gesticulating and some really weird version of french that I THINK I’m speaking but clearly Im not, we follow hands and arms and get to a bus stop at which a bus turns up immediately. Woohoo, things are going our way! 

Our next step is to find the specialist in Basse Terre. We have oodles of time so we just enjoy the scenery. I ask the bus driver if he knows the address that i have printed on a scrap of paper and in his best french says “something” which I assume is that he will tell me when we get there. So we sit and enjoy a 40 minute ride along the pretty coast.

Once we arrive, we’re about to get off when a woman who seemed to have appeared from nowhere starts talking to the bus driver. I assume she will point me in the right direction, but no, she actually walks us 15 minutes all the way to the clinic and even comes inside and gets me sorted with the paperwork…again, she refuses any money I try to offer her for helping us and simply smiles and bids me a good day!  

Whats with the people here? Are they all saints? We’ve met some super friendly super helpful people today and they don’t want anything in return for their kindness. That doesn’t happen every day.

Anyhow, the appointment is all good and we head out to buy some local fruit from the market and start our track back home, after all, we know exactly how to get back now.

A well deserved coconut juice at the local market

We get back to the bus stop, catch the bus back to the village, walk down the very steep and very long hill, hop back on the ferry and finally get back home on Pierina and try to explain to Tim and Mac how bizarre our day was. 

We were tired from our adventure but mostly we were just so grateful to a few strangers who showered us with their  time and kindness to make our day so much easier. 

So if you never knew how live aboard cruisers get to a doctors appointment, this is one way! And as much as I’d prefer to have done it the normal way like we used to when we lived on land, I’d still sacrifice that ease to be able to stay on the adventure we’re on, with all its highs and its lows.

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