Articles and Reviews
TINKER'S PARADISE: CARIBBEAN SPICE, WITH WORLD CUP FLAVOR
(Source: Mountain Biking Magazine) You can almost imagine what must've been going through Tinker Juarez's mind when he got the phone call: "Tinker, we've got some good news for you" the call probably went. "You get to hang out on an island resort in the middle of the Caribbean."
It didn't take much convincing to get Tinker on a fast plane to the beautiful island of St. Lucia. All he had to do was travel to the resort of Anse Chastanet and advise on the construction of a new bike trail that would bear his name.
Mission to St. Lucia
Anse Chastanet, the casually luxurious resort in St. Lucia's scenic southwest that climbs up a green hillside above a silver beach, is noted for many things. Fine cuisine to nourish the body; a spa to soothe and tone it. Original art in guest rooms to feed the soul, as well as walls that drop away to reveal magnificent views, and trees that growing through the ceiling. The sounds of birds to wake you in the morning, and the sight of a thousand reef fish, in offshore dive sites that are ranked with the Caribbean's finest.
Now Anse Chastanet has added two more landmark features for active vacationers: A brand new mountain bike facility, as well as guided hikes in the surrounding rain forest. A fleet of brand-new Team Volvo-Cannondale replica F800 mountain bikes was lined up to take adventurous visitors on amazingly scenic custom-designed private trails.
In a new move to strengthen Bike St. Lucia's claim of offering the most competitive bike trails in the Caribbean, Anse Chastanet invited Team Volvo-Cannondale rider Tinker Juarez to consult on the construction of the resort's newest trail. Michael Allard, who put Bike St. Lucia into effect last year and oversees it, says, "We've had requests from serious riders wanting something even more challenging in the way of trails. To create an appropriate challenge for these riders we thought it best to have a top professional help design the trail."
Ringing Tinker's Bell
Set on the northern side of Anse Mamin, the historic plantation that is part of Anse Chastanet Resort, the trail takes riders to the top of a peak 900-1000 feet high. The ride takes approximately 30 minutes and promises both the opportunity of ringing Tinker's Bell placed at the top of the mountain and the reward of one of St. Lucia's most spectacular vistas: A 270-degree view of the Caribbean.
Tinker was naturally very excited about the trail since it bears his name - "Tinker's Trail." He was also very impressed with the professional standard of the facilities and storage area that provides visiting riders genuine first-class treatment.
Other Anse Chastanet trails - including challenging singletrack loops - wind through the lush Anse Mamin Valley that bisects the 600-acre private estate owned by the resort. The trail system has ben described as "incredible" with lush jungle terrain with innumerable wild orchids and a variety of birds; a huge freshwater reservoir, and a stream with an old-fashioned swimming hole for cooling off; an old church, and ruins of an 18th century French Colonial plantation. Trails are clearly marked for levels of difficulty, and patrolled by Bike St. Lucia staffers.
For those who want to learn or sharpen their skills before heading up the trails, there's a skills area with a trained instructor. Each rider is issued a Bell helmet, a complimentary Cannondale Jungle Bike™ souvenir water bottle, and a trail map. There is a 5000 square-foot covered bike facility and retail center for guest comfort. When Tinker first visited the facility and saw all the blue Cannondale bikes lined up, he commented, "Wow. This looks like the inside of our team truck."
Excerpted from Mountain Biking magazine, Volume 14, Number 7, July 2000, Destinations Feature, p.30ff ©2000 Challenge Publications, Inc.
Pedal Through St. Lucia's Sugary Past
(Source: Caribbean Travel & Life) Sentinel of St. Lucia's Sugary Past "You could call it the sweetest bike ride in the Caribbean-- an 18th-century sugar plantation on St. Lucia that has been transformed into a mecca for mountain bikers. 'Actually, it's more like jungle biking,' says Michael Allard of Bike St. Lucia, which opened in January and offers wild rides on a twisting network of trails through Anse Mamin on the island's southwest coast. 'It's designed along the lines of a thrill-ride theme park with trails for hard-core bikers and beginners alike. But its main inspiration is nature.' In the days of Caribbean colonialism, the 500-acre French-owned plantation produced sugar, molasses, rum and cocoa. Vestiges of its former glory remain-- the ruins of a chapel, the brick skeleton of the main house and the iron vats where cane juice was once boiled down into syrup.
The bike center is headquartered in a restored building that shelters a sleek array of Cannondale F800s and offers various "skill stations" where advanced bikers can sharpen their techniques and newbies can get their first taste of the sport. Part of Anse Chastanet resort, which sits next door, the bike center offers enthusiasts the best of two tropical worlds. 'You can spend hours pedaling through jungle terrain and then zip down to the beach to cool off,' says Allard. Khaki-clad bike 'rangers' patrol the trails to assist visitors, and there are several 'oases' for picnicking and catching your breath. Bikers can follow trails where donkey carts once handled barrels of molasses to ships bound for the American colonies. The aptly named French Wall Trail follows the remains of a stone wall that still shows the handiwork of meticulous artisans. The Aqua Dulce Trail shadows the route of the plantation's aqueduct that once spilled into a three million gallon fresh water reservoir and turned the water wheel that ground the sugar cane. While the reservoir's basin is overgrown with trees and shrubs, its walls are solid and intact. Allard hopes to convert the reservoir into a giant swimming hole stocked with fish that can be served in the restaurant. It will also feature a ramp so thrill-seeking visitors on old worn-out bikes can shoot down into the water. 'It will be so cool,' says Allard. 'Like being a little kid all over again. ' "
From Caribbean Travel & Life magazine's Gazette article, March 2000 issue, page 16
Test Your Pedaling Prowess on a Jungle Biking™ Adventure
(Source: The Tropical Traveller) Do you fancy getting dirty in the Dingly Dells, trying out your pedaling prowess on the Riverside Run, or ending a hard slog climb by ringing Tinker's Bell, then you must experience the Anse Mamin Jungle Biking™ Adventure.
Described by the editor of "Bike" magazine as "a Disneyland for adults", this unique mountain biking experience gives you the chance to test your skills on a series of exclusive trails set in tropical jungle on the grounds of a historical 18th century French colonial plantation.
The Jungle Biking™ Adventure is a first class operation - from the time you are collected from your hotel to the moment you return. The "check-in" and changing facilities at Anse Mamin are as impressive as the top notch equipment, chosen to accommodate both beginners and experienced riders.
Each rider is issued with a Bell ForzaPro 2 helmet and one of Cannodale's new F800 suspension bikes with the latest gearing and Expert wheelset that will allow you to tackle even the toughest of obstacles.
The trails, which are graded to cater for every level of ability, pass the ruins of a centuries old sugar mill and 3000 gallon fresh water reservoir with walls 20 feet deep. There is even an ancient church set among the dense tropical foliage. Fruit trees abound and if you decide to take the trails at a more leisurely pace, you can hunt for wild orchids among the trailside trees, or simply find a secluded and romantic spot to share with your significant other.
And if your exertions in the steamy jungle start to tell, another trail will take you an old fashioned swimming hole filled with cool, volcanic mineral rich water. You can just slip off your trainers and into the refreshing water.
Unlike other mountain biking tours, the Jungle Biking™ Adventure can be as tough or as relaxing as you wish to make it. While less experienced riders can stick to the moderately graded trails, there are also a number of dedicated single track loops designed with experienced riders in mind. In addition, the moderate trails have optional obstacles for those who wish to take in a bit of log jumping or rock dodging. The choice is yours.
As five time World Champion Volvo Cannondale team member, three-time individual US national champion, Pan Am Games gold medallist and US Olympic team member, Tinker Juarez, said: "The trails and environment are absolutely incredible. They're great trails for novices, and as a pro, I had a great time riding here."
In fact, the mountain bike champ was so impressed, he will be assisting the Jungle Bike™ Adventure management team in conjunction with Bike St Lucia, to create a super-challenging trail set to open in October this year.
This advanced trail will loop to the top of a small mountain with a vertical ascent of some 1,000 ft and providing stunning views of the neighbouring Pitons. The reward for those who make it to the top? You get to ring Tinker's Bell!
But the Jungle Bike™ Adventure is not just about great mountain biking. Anse Mamin has one of the most beautiful beaches to be found in St Lucia so when you've finished biking for the day, and feasted on a delicious buffet lunch, you can use complimentary snorkeling equipment to venture out to nearby reefs in the marine park, or just stretch out on the sunlounger and soak in the rays.
Those who don't bike can participate in a guided tour of the historical ruins, spend a lazy day topping up their tan and becoming more familiar with the area's marine life.
This is a great tour which represents good value for money. For just US$89, you will be collected from your hotel be taxi and taken by the Anse Chastanet speed boat (a scenic 35 to 40 minute coast hugging ride) to Anse Mamin, have the use of a Cannondale bike, bike helmet, get a complimentary water bottle, a plantation picnic lunch, and the use of snorkeling equipment when you have finished riding for the day. There are special packages for non-bikers and concessions for children under 12 who are big enough to bike (over 4 feet 10 inches tall).
Apart from representing value for money, the tour also gives you the chance to set your own pace. It is a good idea to start your adventure in the hands of one of the Jungle Biking™ guides, but after that, and once you are armed with a small map of the trails, it's great fun to go it alone. Spend as much time as you like at the swimming hole, or really earn your lunch with a rigorous workout.
Trail patrol staff carry puncture repair equipment and other items on their bikes in case of problems and to ensure you keep on biking.
For maximum enjoyment you should be comfortable on a bike. The wearing of closed toe shoes is mandatory - expert riders can even bring their cycling shoes from home as Jungle Biking™ can provide bikes with special pedal clips catering for most shoe types.
For those who like to cycle, but haven't experienced the thrill of offroad pedaling, and introductory Jungle Biking™ skills course is on offer where you will learn the basic skills for properly enjoying off-road biking. An additional US$10 will give you a full hour with an instructor who will put you through your paces - you will be stump-jumping before you know it.
For more information and bookings, telephone Anse Chastanet Hotel in Soufriere on 459 7000 and ask for the Jungle Biking™ Adventure desk, ask your tour representative or hotel social desk. This full day tour runs Monday to Saturday.