Bequia – Dreamy No Longer

Puddle jumper from Union to Bequia

Bequia looks lovely from the air

Bequia's harbor

Our pretty room is protected by rebar reinforcements

on the doors and windows.

The waterfront boardwalk into town.

Lots of shops and eateries line the footpath.

The Gingerbread House

Ice cream shop.

Open seating for everyone along the harborfront.

Vegetable market next to the town docks.

Cruise ships of all types arrive daily.

Tourists get guided island tours.

The dive shop.

Boutique shop in Port Elizabeth, Bequia's town

"Island Style" shop

Bequia's Government Building

A "locals" bar on the far side of the island.

The other side of the island has fewer tourists and

wilder nature.

Bequia's harbor

Bequia (St. Vincent & The Grenadines)

Late December, 2009 - We had such a great time on Union Island that we

were reluctant to leave.  The Christmas spirit was alive everywhere, and the

wide happy smiles we saw on everyone's faces were contagious.  Maybe it

was the holidays or maybe it was the warm tropical air... whatever it was, this

island seemed genuinely contented.  Years ago I had sailed through the

Grenadines on a charter boat, and the guidebooks in those days dismissed

Union Island as a bit run

down and dangerous, so

we had bypassed it.  How

satisfying, after all these

years, to discover its delights.  In those bygone days Bequia was the favored

island, and it was the highlight of my long ago visit.  To avoid a holiday booking

nightmare, I had made advanced room reservations on Bequia which required

taking a 15 minute flight on a 10-seat airplane rather than waiting a few days

for the next mail/ferry boat came through again.

Bequia (pronounced Bekway) looked lovely from the air.  Seven square miles

with 4,300 inhabitants, it is smaller than Carriacou but larger than Union

Island.  Having been in the islands for almost three weeks at this point, away

from all hustle and bustle for almost 10 days, we emerged from the plane into

the sultry air as mellow as could be.

So it took me a while to catch on when the customs agent began to

hustle us.  We were the only passengers to get off the plane in

Bequia (and it was one of just two planes to arrive that day), but

when we asked him where to go to catch a bus to town he refused to

tell us.  He insisted we get a taxi ride with his brother instead.  We

explained that we wanted to take the bus, as it was about 1/5 the

price of a taxi, but he physically blocked our way and whipped out his

cell phone to make a call to his brother.  When another uniformed

airport official approached us to

give us directions to the bus

stop, the customs agent scolded

her, told her not to help us and

waved her away.  Meanwhile a

crowd of twenty or so locals watched all this unfold before them while they sat on the

pavement in the shade of the terminal building.  They stared at us with blank expressions,

heads turning in unison to watch our every move.  They seemed to have been glued to the

pavement all morning and gave no indications they might do something different in the


Disgusted, we shouldered our big packs and started walking away from the air strip, figuring

there had to be a bus stop somewhere along the road to town.  A young boy suddenly ran

after us from the crowd, yelling, "Those people are mean back there.  I'll help you," and he

proceeded to walk with us towards town until we came to a bus stand.  Suddenly a taxi drove

up and stopped in the middle of the road right in front of us.  The customs agent was hanging

out of the passenger's seat yelling at us.  The driver -- his brother -- shouted too, and the two

of them screamed and waved their arms in fury, telling us we were cheap rotten tourists and

that we'd spend more on lunch once we got to town than a taxi would have cost.  Luckily

nothing more than insults were hurled, and eventually they drove off.

As we stood waiting for the bus, the young boy suddenly turned to me

and asked if Mark was going to tip him for having shown us the bus stop.

Taken aback by his boldness, I wondered if I could have been as brazen

when I was 10. Eventually a bus arrived, we tipped the boy, and were off.

After the mellow, sweet air and smiling people of Union Island, Carriacou

and Grenada, this miserable encounter was a real shock to the system.  I

hadn't been angry at anyone or anything in ages.  We arrived at our

apartment still reeling from the encounter.  We set our bags down and

immediately the host and hostess launched into a long lecture about

safety on the island.  The windows were barred and the door had three

dead-bolt locks on it.  We were to leave the windows closed and locked if

we stepped out during the day and we were to keep all valuables far from

the open windows at all other times, as thieves would reach in and grab

stuff.  At night we were advised to lock all doors and windows, but would have to pay a surcharge of $1/hour if we chose to run the

air conditioning.  We weren't to take anything of value to the beach, and

we should watch our wallets carefully if we chose to go into town.

We told our hosts about our experience at the airport.  They weren't

happy to hear the story, but even though they knew who the customs

agent was, they explained to us that reporting the incident would be

pointless, as the local authorities wouldn't do anything about it.

Our host and hostess left, and we looked around our very pretty room

and felt like we were in jail.  There wasn't a breath of air, the sun baked

the room all afternoon, and the cool water and ocean breezes were

barely visible in the far distance.

Discouraged but still hopeful, we took a walk along the shore-side

boardwalk into Port Elizabeth, the main town, to see if we could find a

trace of Bequia's former loveliness that still haunted my memory.

The harbor was filled with boats of all shapes and sizes, stretching on

into town and out to the edge of the bay as far as you could see.

We passed the ornate Gingerbread

House, and stopped in at an ice

cream shop.  $7 for a single scoop of

ice cream was too much for us, but

we watched an extended family of at

least a dozen European tourists get

double scoops all around and slowly

began to understand Bequia's charm.

If you arrive on a yacht and are on a

brief vacation with lots of money to spend, Bequia has much to offer.

Groups of chairs and

tables line portions of

the boardwalks,

and it is a beautiful

place to while away

the day, first with

ice creams and

later with cocktails

before an elegant dinner at one

of the fine restaurants in town.

As we sat there soaking up this

tourist ambiance, we watched and

conversed with many well-heeled

folks around us who were doing just


The ARC Rally from Europe (the

trans-Atlantic Rally for Cruisers from

the Canary Islands off of Spain to St. Lucia in the

Caribbean) had arrived just a week or so earlier,

and almost every boat in the harbor flew a

European flag (mostly Norwegian).

Exquisite, beautifully appointed

yachts disgorged equally exquisite

and beautifully appointed people.

There wasn't a skin tone darker than

sunburned pink to be seen anywhere

along the boardwalk.  Behind the

counters of the shops, boutiques and

eateries. however, black sullen eyes

stared out of dark, drawn, unhappy faces.

Further towards town under some trees,

in an area that tourist brochures colorfully

describe as a haven for local artisans,

throngs of unemployed men in Rasta

garb hung out in varying degrees of

drug-induced stupors.

We had wanted to find the heart of the Caribbean soul on the other islands, and up until

this point we often felt we did.  But here in Bequia there was no soul.  Stopping at the

vegetable market, a flash from my camera elicited the command, "Hey, you gotta buy

someting to pay for that picture."  We filled our bags but didn't enjoy the process, as every

vendor in the market aggressively hassled us to buy this or that.

Bequia and its harborfront are tiny, but

mammoth cruise ships that dwarf the island

arrive daily, sometimes in twos and threes.

In a round-robin cycle these cruise ships

deliver waves of tourists to and from the

island in tenders.

These tourists are then piled into the

canopied backs of pickup trucks and taken

on guided tours of the island.  As we walked along the roads we

would cling to the edges when these cabs came careening

around the corners at top speed.

After a while we made our peace with the commercial

nature of Bequia, gravitating towards the boardwalk along

the harbor front.  As tourists ourselves, this was where we fit

in best.  The beaches around the island were pretty, but not

stunning, and where the locals did not want to interact with

us, we found that other tourists did.  We enjoyed

conversations with Germans, Spaniards and

Norwegians, and we discovered people who were

visiting Bequia in elegant villas, on bareboat charter

boats, on personal ocean-going yachts and in more

modest accommodations like ourselves.

We had originally planned to stay on Bequia for a month, but we

were ready to leave after a few days.  Besides finding that either

the island or I (or both) had changed dramatically in 20 years, a

new chapter in our traveling lifestyle had started to take shape in

the background.  With the arrival of New Year's Eve, our lives took

a dramatic new turn as we came face-to-face with our new

conveyance to adventure, "Groovy."