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By Colleen Friesen
For Travel Writers' Tales

I am not a zip-lining kind of gal. I'd rather take photos.

However, I'm also one of those people who feel compelled to collect experiences much like saner people collect stamps...

Until my recent trip to St. Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda I had only a vague idea where these places were. I'd heard of weddings on St. Lucia, so I assumed it to be a postcard kind of place…but I'd never heard of Antigua and Barbuda.

But I knew they were somewhere in the tropical Caribbean, so when the opportunity to visit came up, I jumped at the chance.

After all, I live in British Columbia. It's dark and it's usually raining.

I looked at my world map and saw islands curving down from Cuba like a chain of turquoise and emerald jewels all the way to South America. Near the lower third of those Blue Lagoon beauties, I found the two-island country of Antigua and Barbuda.

If flying, you'd only have to go just a little further south until you saw an island with the world's only drive-up bubbling volcano. Voila! St. Lucia.

But back to that zipline…I'd finished my dreamy break on St. Lucia with one regret. I wished I'd tried the volcano's hot black mud bath.

My remorse reminded me of Mark Twain's quote, "…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do…"

Even so, I'm having serious second thoughts about the Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tour, especially with the guide's explanation," There are a series of nine continuous ziplines criss-crossing this ravine which eventually bring you back here."

"Nine??" Sweat drips down my face. I'm sure not all of it is caused from the tropical humidity. I'm holding up my hand like a cartoon cop.

"I thought this was a zipline, as in, I zip across once and then I go back to the beach." I can hear the beginning of a whine in my voice. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

"Oh, no. The nine lines are all connected and get increasingly longer and higher." He is saying this like it's a good thing.

"What's the least amount I can do to get back here?" He tells me I can quit at five, though, he says, I should realize that the fifth one across the ravine is the highest and longest.

I inform him that five ziplines will be fine. Other willing victims arrive from a cruise ship bus. I see a variety of ages eagerly stepping into their safety harnesses.

I repeat my Twain-inspired resolution.

And then I'm off. Suddenly I'm back to being ten-years old, swinging on the Tarzan rope in my backyard. And then I'm remembering the teenage rush of the roller coaster.

Something shifts…

I am the Queen of the Zipline.

I want it all now. By the time I've finished the ninth crossing, my heart is pumping hard, my shirt is pretty damp and my grin permanent.

My smile is about to get bigger.

I'm enroute to meet Rosie McMaster of Susie's Hot Sauce, and Rosie, it turns out, makes a roller coaster ride look tame.

She opens her bungalow door, smiling. Rosie, like her house, is a veritable explosion of colour. The dining room has yellow pepper-coloured walls, chili red jars, glittery paper poinsettias, silver garland in a basket, her open suitcase from her last chili contest trip and all her hot sauces lined up on the dining room table.

Rosie talks like other people breathe… I learn that Susie was her dearly departed mother who started Susie's Hot Sauce. Rosie took over, expanding the now-fifty year old company from her mother's original recipe, to include a full range of new flavours. She has won awards at the Texas Fiery Food Show and travels to contests from Toronto to Germany. In between trips, she's cooking up drums of peppers.

I love hot sauce but I've found some are so hot, there's no real taste. But Rosie has done her mama proud: these sauces have depth with a heat that doesn't block the flavour. In between divine forkfuls of rum cake with mango hot sauce, I listen…Rosie has ideas for sauces, cakes, label designs, marketing plans, recipes, trips, a new factory and suddenly I get it.

I know why these sauces taste so good.

Like Rosie and these islands, they're filled with heat, tons of colourful exuberance and buckets of love.

I bet Rosie would jump on that zipline in a second.


More information:

Photos by Colleen Friesen

1. View from Body Holiday Resort, St. Lucia
2. Pitons in St. Lucia
3. Rosie McMaster of Susie's Hot Sauce
4. Zip lining in Antigua
5. House in Antigua
6.Lunch at Buba's Hideout in Antigua

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