The Reality of Reality TV

For the St. Lucian tourist industry, the world recession seemed to have bypassed the island like the September hurricanes thanks to the reality TV show, The Bachelor. Some of you might recall Jake taking Vienna to the Soufriere Sulphur Springs. The scene of them frolicking in the gray colored mud with a bottle of champagne nested along side Jake’s submerged hip, was indelibly imprinted in the minds of every June bride. They all longed to repeat that exact moment and many did. Like everything produced for television, most of it was only an illusion, or at least an experience you wouldn’t want to repeat.

The Sulphur Springs is exactly what the name implies, a volcanic hot springs flowing through a layer of sulfur. The water temperature is over 100 degrees; the water has a texture of murky grey mud that congeals on your skin. And then of course, there is the smell of sulphur...There is little about the experience that is romantic. To this we can attest.

Last weekend we ventured from our home in Fond St. Jacques along with two other PC volunteers along a back road in search of “the trail” to the springs. Along the way, numerous locals offered to serve as guides. “The trail might have disappeared...” warned one older woman; “It’s over dere (there) but not used much any more” offered another. Confident of our outdoors abilities, we declined and traversed along on old banana farm road. Somewhere after the banana farm we lost the trail but continued our way bush-whacking down an 800 ft hillside, ever mindful of snakes, termites and gnawing ants and constantly “biffing it” as we descended. After stumbling across an abandoned geothermal drilling operation, we entered the Sulphur Springs Drive-in Volcano site from the rear and picnicked in a rainstorm just prior to venturing into the thermal springs. The black water was inviting but our enthusiasm quickly evaporated as traces of black sulphur coagulated on every hair follicle.

Our experience didn’t end at the springs; elements of sulphur were embedded in every crack and orifice. Repeated showers have not eliminated it. Our bathing suits still linger with the smell of it. There are moments when I imagine I am even tasting it. 

Many it’s our age, maybe our approach we took to the springs, or maybe the visual imprint of a good bottle of champagne being chilled in 100+ degree water that cause all of us to question the romance of such an activity. Or maybe it’s just that the reality of reality TV that is a bit unrealistic. As for the hotel owners, there is nothing unrealistic about their summer occupancy rates and increased profits leaving the island.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.