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."





























































































Union Island – Christmas Day Fun!

Cargo boat from St. Martin

Cargo boat from St. Martin

Our ferry boat to Union Island, SVG

Our ferry boat to Union Island

Inside the ferry boat to Union Island

Inside the ferry boat

Mark enjoys the ride.

Mark enjoys the ride.

Land Ho! Our captain prepares to dock.

Land Ho! Our captain prepares to dock.

Welcome to Union Island, SVG Excited Union islanders on Christmas Eve

Excited islanders on Christmas Eve

Clifton Harbor Hotel bar, Union Island, SVG

Clifton Harbor Hotel bar

Shops in Clifton town square, Union Island, Grenadines

Shops in town square

Mulzac Square Union Island, Grenadines

Mulzac Square (Clifton Harbor town square)

MV Barracuda (mail boat and ferry) arrives from St. Vincent

MV Barracuda (SVG mail boat / ferry) arrives.

Anchorage Yacht Club Resort

Anchorage Yacht Club Resort

Anchorage Yacht Club Resort Union Island, SVG Anchorage Yacht Club Resort Union Island Grenadines Locals greet Christmas Morning

Locals greet Christmas Morning

Fish resting in a pool, Anchorage Yacht Club

Fish resting in a pool

Cruisers gather here to send mail and Skype friends

Cruisers gather here to send

mail and Skype friends

A cannon from the olden days

A cannon from the olden days

Little shops in Clifton Harbor town square Union Island SVG Grenadines

Little shops in Clifton Harbor town square

I am gifted with fruit and Merry Christmas greetings

I am gifted with fruit and Merry Christmas greetings

Star fruit

Star fruit

Nativity creche in the town square

Nativity creche in the town square

Home of future national park Union Island St. Vincent & The Grenadines

Home of future national park

Conch shells piled high Union Island SVG

Conch shells piled high

Union Island (St. Vincent & The Grenadines)

Christmas, 2009 - We could have stayed on Carriacou for weeks, but we

wanted to keep exploring other islands in the Grenadines chain.  These

islands are all within just a few miles of each other, lined up like pearls on

a necklace, with each one nearly touching the next.  However, because

they are owned by different countries, there is no easy ferry system to get

between them.  Both Grenada and St. Vincent & The Grenadines (SVG)

have ferries for their own islands, but the link between Grenada and SVG

is -- well -- quaint.  Oddly, Carriacou Island (in Grenada) and Union Island

(in SVG) are practically within yelling distance of each other, but the "ferry"

goes just twice a week and is an informal, rickety affair.

The ferry was

to leave

sometime in the

morning, but we were advised to get to the docks in Hillsborough early

so we could tell the captain our intentions.  When we arrived, there was a

cargo boat at the dock that had just come in from St. Martin.  Among

other cargo, this boat was transporting a car which was strapped down

on deck.  The boat had experienced some bad weather en route, and

the captain and his mates were shaking their heads about what a wild

ride it had been.

Our ferry was

on the opposite

side of the

dock.  We

clamored aboard but soon realized it wasn't going to be leaving until all

the goods it was transporting to Union had been loaded on board.  A truck

rolled up and unloaded a bunch of boxes into the hold of the boat.

Thinking we'd be leaving soon, we got back on the boat only to find out

the truck had to make another trip to get more goods.  We got off and

walked around town, waiting.  Finally, some three hours later, near 2:00

p.m., the truck returned and the remaining goods were loaded onto our

boat.  All this for a half-hour trip between two neighboring islands!

We climbed back aboard and found a seat on the bench inside.  There

were a handful of locals on the ferry and five of us foreigners, a Finnish

couple, a Brit and ourselves.  The diesel fumes in the cabin were

intense, so several folks climbed out to sit on the foredeck.  It was a little

crowded up there, so Mark and I hung out the side door and watched

the waves go by.

We got talking with an enterprising young fellow on board from the island

of St. Vincent.  He made brooms out of bamboo and took advantage of

the slightly varying economies on each island for his business.  He would

circle the islands, ferry-hopping, so he could do his shopping on

Carriacou, where goods are cheapest, and sell his brooms on Bequia, where chic tourists drive prices the highest.  After doing a

loop of the islands he would come home to the island of St. Vincent with full

shopping bags and cash in his pocket to boot.  After telling us about his broom

business he had a few questions for us about President Obama, whom he greatly

admired, wanting to know how much money he made as president and whether he

was guaranteed a second term in office.

As we approached Union Island, the captain stood on deck, anchor in hand,

preparing for our docking.  The Carriacou ferry doesn't go to the main town docks

on Union Island, and tiny Ashton harbor, where we pulled in, didn't have a soul in

sight.  Once docked, the captain huddled us foreigners together and took all our

passports.  We exchanged nervous glances when a taxi van showed up and we

were instructed to get in.  After a brief, bumpy ride we were delivered to customs

and immigration and were eventually reunited with our passports.  Whew.

We had heard

various rumors about

Union Island, ranging from "it's dangerous" to "the people are

wonderful," so we had no idea what to expect.  Despite repeated

emails to various tourist outfits and small hotels on the island, I had

also not been able to get any solid information about where to stay or

what it might cost.  However, one look at the Clifton Hotel smack in

the center of the main harbor town convinced us to stay there.  The

hotel was clean and tidy, and it was right in the middle of all the

action.  Perfect!

As an added bonus, the woman who had originally built the

hotel (as an extension of her home) back in the 1960's had just

died, and her entire extended family was visiting Union Island

to mourn her passing and celebrate Christmas.  The family

spanned three generations, several continents and many

countries, so 64 little cousins from the UK, US, Canada and

many Caribbean islands were all running around the hotel in

their Sunday finest, getting to know each other.  The new

family matriarch (and proprietor of the hotel) was as warm and

friendly as could be, and we settled right in.

The town of Clifton is just a block or two of walking streets along the harbor.  The town

square (or triangle) is lined with brightly painted open air store shacks.  Being

Christmas Eve, the whole area was hopping.

Soon the big ferry boat (and mail boat) "MV

Barracuda" arrived on its twice weekly jaunt

from St. Vincent and unloaded a wave of

passengers.  Most were friends and family

arriving to celebrate Christmas with loved ones on Union Island, and the reunions

were loud and excited.  The streets were filled with laughter, and as darkness

came the parties started.  We discovered that being smack in the middle of the

action meant just that: a band started up right outside our window, and soon

everything in our room was rattling to a driving Caribbean beat.

Eventually, near dawn,

the party ended.  Yikes,

and Merry Christmas!

We snuck out to get a

look at the town in the

morning light.  The

harbor was packed with

sailboats tugging at

their anchors in a brisk morning

breeze, but there weren't too many

signs of life out there.  Walking

along a little path that lines the

waterfront we came to the

Anchorage Yacht Club.  This

beautiful resort was also snoozing

on Christmas morning.

As we walked, we came across two

locals who were just finishing off

their night of revelry.  Down in a

saltwater pool we saw some fish

taking a break on the sand.

This resort is very popular among

sailboat cruisers, and we soon found

ourselves lined up on the picnic table

benches setting up our laptop to take

advantage of the free wi-fi, right

alongside all the sailors.  Some were

using Skype to call home with

Christmas greetings, and

others were emailing photos of

their adventures home to loved

ones.  The phone calls were a

sing-song of many different

languages, as most of the

cruisers were European.  We

made our Christmas calls too,

gazing out at the boats bobbing

in the harbor and enjoying the

warm Caribbean breeze on our

cheeks as we talked.

When we returned to the little

town square we were surprised that the shops were opening

up.  Most families here enjoy their Christmas celebrations

later in the day, so the shops were open for a few hours in

the morning.

I wandered into one, looking for a nice banana for breakfast.

The shopkeeper suddenly reached up and plucked a banana

from a bunch, picked out some golden

apples and star fruit and handed them all

to me.  I reached around for my wallet but

she waved me off.  "Merry Christmas" she

said warmly.

We were enchanted by the entire island.

Walking up and over the hill to the

beaches on the other side, we got a little

confused at one point and asked a guy

walking the other way for directions.  He

turned around and walked with us for a quarter mile until we got ourselves back

onto the right road, making absolutely sure we were headed the right way.  How

much more friendly and hospitable could people be?

A resort on the other side of the island glistened in

the sun, the quintessential Caribbean holiday spot.  A

local fellow came by and started chatting with us,

explaining that the developer had torn out the native

mangroves to "improve" the white sandy perfection of

his piece of beach.  But that had caused terrible

erosion on the other mile

or so of beach in the

other direction, and 100

feet of sugary white sand

beach had been sucked into the sea

for that entire expanse, leaving a thin

strip of white crushed coral where the

sand had been.  We could hear the

tinkle of the coral and rock as each

wave drew back from the eroded

beach.  What had once been a prime

public swimming beach was now

unusable for that purpose.

Nearby was a sign pointing out

the location of a future national

park, and not far from that was

a pile of conch shells (an

endangered species)

whose contents were

long gone.  Enjoying

these islands without

destroying them, loving

them without loving them

to death, is a delicate

and tricky business for

tourists, developers and

the tourism industry alike.

On a lighter note, we found the Caribbean

whimsy alive and well on a sign in a shop:

"Is there life after death? Truspass and you

will find out."

In a search of a snorkeling spot we

took a path through some palms and

found a delightful place to cool off and

check out the underwater world.  Up

on a hill someone had painted holiday

greetings in front of their house.

Back at the hotel two champagne flutes were waiting for us.

Our stay at the hotel had put us over our budget, so the

glasses became our dishes for a cool dinner of canned

baked beans.  It was a classy presentation for the simplest

Christmas dinner I can remember.  But what an awesome

Christmas it was.  Next morning we got up bright and early

to journey on to, Bequia Island in the country of St. Vincent & The Grenadines.































































































Carriacou – A stroll around a beautiful Caribbean island

View from Adam's Eve Apartments, Carriacou Grenada

View from our balcony.

Adam's Eve Apartments, Paradise Beach

Adam's Eve Apartments, Paradise Beach

Adam's Eve Apartments Carriacou Grenada

What a spot to relax.

Balcony table, Adam's Eve Apartments Carriacou Grenada

Your table is waiting...

Balcony view, Adam's Eve Apartments Carriacou Grenada

Balcony view.

Hardwood Cafe Carriacou Grenada

The bar below our bedroom played Parang on the radio.

Mosquito nets Carriacou Grenada

When your room has

mosquito nets, use them!

Walkways to Paradise Beach

Pretty walkways to the beach.

Paradise Beach.

Paradise Beach.

Paradise Beach. Beach bar Carriacou Grenada

Nearby beach bar.

Paradise Beach Carriacou Grenada Filleting angel fish Carriacou Grenada

Carving up huge angel fish.

Paradise Beach Carriacou Grenada Road signs Carriacou Grenada Goats

Goats rule.


Bananas ripening, out of reach of

goats and cows.

Water truck, Carriacou Grenada

Water truck "I'm Forever Greatful" delivers

water next door.

Water truck, Carriacou Grenada

Pumping water into the rooftop


The local grocery store.

The local grocery store.

Mural advertising goods at the local department store.

A mural advertises the local department store.

Hillsborough Carriacou Grenada town streets.

Hillsborough town streets.

Hillsborough Carriacou Grenada town streets.

Buildings in Hillsborough.

Hillsborough Carriacou Grenada town streets.

Downtown taxi stand by the ferry dock.

Grenada became independent of Britain February 7, 1974

Grenada became independent from Britain

February 7, 1974

Caribbean dreaming, Carriacou Grenada, Grenadines

Caribbean dreaming.

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Carriacou Island in Grenada (2)

Late December, 2009 - Our days in Carriacou were divine.

Paradise Beach is a magical spot, and our little apartment on the

beach at Adam's Eve was lovely.  One happy day dreamily melted

into the next.

The nights were another story, however.  Christmas was fast

approaching, and Parang, the local three-day Christmas music festival,

was in full swing.  Each evening, as the sun began to set, the noise from the stadium nearby where Parang takes place began to

rise.  Parang is a music festival that features both professional Caribbean bands and local garage bands.  One of the highlights of

Parang is the local band competition.  One after another, local bands starring kids and teens came to the microphone and sang

"Angels We Have Heard On High" while fans and judges decided whose rendition was the best.  The repeated wailing of "Glooooria

gloooria glooooria" by each of these bands, not always sung in tune, wore us down after a while.

To top it off, the concert came to us in delayed stereo.  We could hear the live music, the screams

and cheers of fans and the raucous shouting of the announcers directly from the stadium, but at

the same time the bar below our bedroom decided to play the radio broadcast of the show at top

volume too.  There was a one second delay between the live show and the radio broadcast, and

the resulting cacophony was painful to listen to.  Hardly a brief celebration, we discovered that

Parang goes on well into the wee hours of the morning.

The bitter icing on this noisy nighttime

cake was the mosquitos.  Few buildings

on the island have screens, but you

absolutely have to keep the windows

open or you will suffocate in the intense

heat and humidity at night.  We learned

the hard way that the beds are

decorated with mosquito nets for a very

good reason.  It is pure folly not to use

them.  Not hearing any mosquitos when we turned out the lights (Parang

was too loud!), I slept without a top sheet and kept my nose towards the

window in hopes of a breeze.  A few hours later I had so many mosquito

bites that I looked like I had chicken pox.

Fortunately, the days were exquisite, making the hot, loud, itchy,

sleepless nights worthwhile.  We could never get enough of the

beautiful beaches and scenery around us.  Besides, no one ever said

that paradise was free.

Strolling the beach one afternoon, we came across a man carving up

angel fish fillets.  He worked steadily, chopping the heads and tails off

with a cleaver and expertly separating the meat from the skeleton.

As we walked all over the island we ran into lots

and lots of goats.  Most had a leash that

dragged on the ground behind them, and all of

them ran free.  Our hostess at our apartment explained that when

she was a little girl in the 1950's and 60's, most islanders had a

vegetable garden and kept goats for milk and meat.  But because

of the change of culture and ideals that has swept this island since

then, goats are now kept more as pets, not for milk or meat, and

they are allowed to run free all over the island.  Their incessant

munching makes it impossible for anyone to maintain a vegetable

garden without spending a fortune on fencing.  Oddly, islanders

instead pay a premium for imported produce and meat.

Wandering cows are another challenge.  Our hostess had done

some lovely landscaping beneath her balcony, but a group of cows

came in off the beach one morning, got in her gate and ate all the

fresh yummy tops off of every plant.  Her pretty yard was still in

recovery.  Her bananas were just about to ripen, however, and we carefully closed the gate behind us each time we

came and went from the beach.  Unfortunately, the bananas were still two weeks from

ripening and we weren't able to try them.

Being a desert island, Carriacou is

suffering a terrible drought these days.

Water is collected in cisterns on the

rooftops, but there has not been enough

rain to keep the cisterns full.  A water truck

delivered water to the house next door

one day, and we watched in fascination as

water was pumped from the truck into the


Away from the main town of Hillsborough,

shops and stores look a little different.

Searching for groceries, we were pointed

to a building that gave

no outward

indication that it

housed a little

food store.

Inside we found

all kinds of

staples and a

very friendly


Hillsborough itself has a

main street and a few

side streets.  We got a

few shots of town early

Sunday morning when

most folks were still

sleeping off Parang.

The most scenic spots are

out of town, however, and we

enjoyed one stunning walk

after another.  This aspect of

the Caribbean is what

tropical dreams are made of.

To our happy surprise, when we

journeyed on to Union Island, the

neighboring Grenadine island in the

country of St. Vincent & The

Grenadines, we continued our

travels in dreamland.

































































































Carriacou – Paradise Found

This driveway is so steep the owner

put a staircase in the middle.

Hard Wood Bar sports an intriguing logo.

The Lord Reigns

"Mind your Business"

A beautiful spot for breakfast.

Nutmeg Syrup - like maple syrup?

A fruit and vegetable stand in Hillsborough, Carriacou.

A basket of breadfruit.

Bananas ripen on the vine.

Steps up the tree to the coconuts.

The view across from the now-defunct Coconut Beach Bar.

Driftwood on the beach.

Traipsing through the thick brush.

The Coconut Beach Bar, once a little slice of heaven.

Banana Joe's Bamboo Brunch Club is a local hangout.

A great spot to share an afternoon.

Open for business, this shipping container is transformed

into a t-shirt shop.

Ladies' dress shop.

Lambi Queen's murals.

All over Grenada and Carriacou, solid concrete homes

are painted bright glossy colors.

Conch shells encircle a palm tree.

An iguana suns himself on the wall nearby.

Is it called "Privacy" ??

Carriacou Island, Grenada (1)

Late December, 2009 - Unlike our more urban setting on Grenada, on the island of

Carriacou (pop. 5,000, 13 sq. miles), we stayed right on Paradise Beach, the prettiest beach

on the island.  We fell out of bed into the water everyday and had a hard time pulling

ourselves off the beach to go sightseeing.  For such an exquisite beach, dotted with beach

bars and simple accommodations for travelers, there was hardly anyone there.  At any given

time there were at most 10 or 12 people on the whole mile-long beach, mostly locals.

Finally reaching our fill of beach time, we took a few long walks around the south end of the

island.  Like all of the Grenadines, Carriacou is very hilly.  One driveway was so steep that

the owners built a staircase in the middle of it.

We walked into the town of Hillsborough to get

groceries and change some money at the

bank.  The sounds of goats bleating and

roosters crowing accompanied us all the way to

town.  Thick bunches of pink flowers drew

equally thick bunches of hummingbirds to their

nectar.  The birds were very dark and had

small crests.  We got a big kick out of the many

signs on the storefronts.  The Hard Wood Bar

and Snacket had a most unusual logo, which

must have stood for "hard wood."

Another "bar and snacket" was licensed to sell

"spiritious" liquor.  Other bars proudly displayed

their licenses to sell liquor and spirits as well.  One

was licensed to sell "spiritual" liquor, and another

to sell "intoxicated" liquor.  Whew!

There were wonderful murals and

signs with elaborate paintings as

well.  One industrious soul had

painted an enormous building's

wall with images of everything sold

inside, ranging from TV's to power

drills to computers to hammers

and more.

The buses and many cars

were given names, and often

offered something of a

statement of the driver's

philosophy of life.

The island is so small we saw many of these

minibuses over and over in just a few hours of

walking.  We recognized "The Lord Reigns" as the

bus that had taken us to our apartment when we first

got off the ferry.  Inside it was festooned with images

of Barack Obama.

Even the boats are named, many operating as water taxis.

We hadn't planned

our grocery shopping

very well, so we had

awoken to bare

cupboards.  By the

time we got to town

we were starving.

Our breakfast at an

outdoor cafe

overlooking the

Hillsborough bay and

jetty was so good!  A

little group of

Caribbean Grackles

watched us eating, their beady little yellow eyes following the

food from plate to mouth, waiting patiently for scraps.

Out in the harbor a schooner floated on the horizon.

Once we got to the store we took our time checking out all the

items that are unique to this area.  Grenada is the number two

nutmeg producer in the world, and they have found many uses

for it besides a powdered spice.  We were amazed to see

"Nutmeg Syrup" alongside the honey.

The ferry had just arrived when we got to town, and boxes of produce

were being unloaded.  Several makeshift fruit stands were immediately

set up near the ferry dock.  They sold the familiar imported apples from

northern states, but they also sold a lot of things I didn't recognize.  A bin

of red fruits the size of strawberries turned out to be "Sorrel," the hips of

hibiscus, which are ground and then steeped in boiling water with sugar,

cinnamon and other spices to make a refreshing drink.

I haven't had a glass of sorrel juice yet, but I did have a

delicious glass of green golden apple juice.  Golden

apples are the shape of a kiwi, but hard like an apple,

with a soft skin you peel off and a pit in the center.

Green ones are unripe but make a great juice drink.  A bin of breadfruit

looked intriguing and made me want to learn more about how of all these

exotic fruits are prepared and eaten.

Walking back, we passed thick bunches of bananas in all stages of

ripeness.  When I sampled one I could not believe the richness of the

flavor.  I have never tasted a banana like that -- something gets lost in the

transcontinental journey.

A little further on we passed a

palm tree with wooden ladder

steps nailed into it.  This makes it

much easier to reach the

coconuts!  Even though

Carriacou is a desert island,

unlike neighboring Grenada, and

has been experiencing a severe

drought in recent months, it

seemed to us a very lush tropical land.

On our walk to town we ended up taking the

"long route" by accident, coming up on a

junction called Six Roads and having to ask

another walker which road would take us to

town.  When we checked the island map it

was clear we had walked way out of our way

and covered a lot more ground than

necessary.  A better route lay along the shore.

So we took that route back.

The road had absolutely no cars on it, and the only sound was

the wind in the palms and the waves on the sand.  It was a

stunning strip of oceanfront land.  This bit of ocean faces the

Caribbean Sea and it is unprotected open water, so there was

beautiful driftwood strewn along the shore.

Suddenly the road turned away from the sea, and we passed a

sign saying, "You are now leaving Carriacou."  Huh?  Then the

road dead-ended at a tiny airstrip.  We poked our heads inside

the terminal office and three very official looking clerks stared at

us.  They were dressed in pleated shirts and striped pants and

were carefully guarding the international border doorway and

customs inspection area that stood between us and them.  We were in

shorts with sandy feet in thong sandals, our cameras slung around our

necks, and arms loaded with groceries.  No planes were in sight and

none appeared to be due any time soon.  "Does the road get around the

airport somehow, or can we walk across the airstrip?"  We asked,

pointing to the map that showed the road crossing the runway.  "Not any

more.  You have to go back the way you came or go around the point."

Arrrgh.  We tromped back to the shore and looked out at

the point.  The waves came up to the trunks of the trees

all around it, pulling back just long enough to expose a

thin line of wet sand.  It was either brave the sand and

water or take a long walk back towards town to the correct

road, so we went for it, dodging in and out of the trees

and running as each wave revealed a little sand.

Suddenly an opening appeared in the trees, and we found

something of a path.  Crouching under some tree limbs

and clamoring over others, we made a circuitous route

through the thick vegetation and finally came out at the far

end of Paradise Beach, our beach.  It had been a direct route on the map, but it sure made for a

crazy hike home.

Just before our jungle excursion we had seen a sign: "Coconut Beach Bar."  Passing it, we saw it

must have been a terrific place at one time, complete with thatch roofed ramadas and benches

and a little homestead for the owner.  The view from the beach bar was stunning.  Union Island

sat on the horizon with a wide turquoise bay filling the entire mid-ground while a white sand

beach with swaying palms spread wide across the foreground.

Mark was all set to buy the place and set up shop.  Wouldn't that be fun.  But Coconut Beach

Bar had probably succombed when the road along the water no longer traversed the air strip to

the other side of the island.  Once the road dead-ended at the airfield there was little reason for

anyone to come this way unless they were catching a plane.

The beach bars on Paradise Beach were thriving, however.  A few catered to the visiting

yachts and were always filled with white, ex-hippies who live on sailboats in the Caribbean.

Another was definitely a local hangout:  Banana Joe's Bamboo Brunch Bar.  There was

always a crowd at this place, and they always seemed very mellow.

Another beach bar sold "the best pizza in the

Caribbean," according to one couple.  The little

chairs under the thatched cabanas looked so


The entrepreneurial sprit is alive and well on

Carriacou.  We never saw any beach vendors on

Paradise Beach, but there were many tiny shops

set up here and there.  One woman sold

souvenir t-shirts out of a shipping container.

When we first saw it all locked up we didn't think

anything of it.  It was painted pale blue and

somehow blended in.  But when she threw the

doors wide, suddenly she was the proprietor of a

gift shop.

Another home looked very orinary with its doors

closed in the early morning, but a few hours later,

once the merchandise was hung all over the

outside, the house transformed into a ladies' dress


Lots of people were very creative

painting the outsides of their buildings.

There seemed to be great pride taken

in having a fresh coat of paint on your

home or shop.  We saw at least 10 or

12 fellows


sprucing up the

exteriors of their

homes and shops

with a bright glossy

paint during our

visit.  There is

artistic talent

too, and many

buildings sport


murals on their


We loved every minute of our

walks around Carriacou, and we

had several planned that never

materialized simply because our

home-base was so spectacular.

The beach drew us to its lapping

waves and warm waters every

day, and wouldn't let us out of its


Our balcony was an ideal spot

to unwind.  Gazing around

ourselves in that half-stupor

that seems to wash over

visitors to this dreamy isle, we

suddenly noticed there were

two iguanas sunning

themselves on the wall next to

us.  I'm not an iguana expert,

but they did not look at all alike.

They both had impossibly long toes, but one was much

bigger than the other and didn't have the long dangling chin

of its companion.

Once those guys slithered away, our attention turned back

to the water where a huge mega-yacht had taken up

residence for the evening.  This mammoth black-hulled

beauty sat quietly on the horizon while it summoned water

taxis to its side.  From around the point water taxis would

fly across the sea and then hang out at the back of the

mega-yacht for a few moments, handing things up to the

service staff on the yacht.  Then the water taxis would

disappear back to their homes.  We figured the guys on the mega-

yacht had called for more of cases of beer, or for pizza from Curtis's

on the beach.  What a life.  With Tiger Woods dominating the news,

we wondered if he might have slipped away on his yacht to an island

paradise like Carriacou.









































































































Grenada – Caribbean Delights

Hibiscus flower

Hibiscus in front of our Grenada apartment.

Grand Anse Beach

Perfect beach for strolling.

Catamaran rental on Grand Anse Beach


Coyaba Resort Grand Anse Grenada

Idyllic resort villas line the beach.

Path near Eco Dive hotel

A path through thick vegetation

begged to be taken.

Grand Anse Beach

Looking back at Grand Anse beach.

Quarantine Point Grenada

Quarantine Point's picnic benches are kicked back.

View of Magazine Beach Aquarium Resort Grenada

Looking towards Magazine and Pink Sand beaches.

Quarantine Point Grenada Morne Rouge Bay BBC Beach Grenada

Morne Rouge Bay (BBC Beach).

Traffic circle near St. George's University

Traffic Circle near True Blue Bay and St. George's


Carib Beer billboard at Grenada Breweries

So this is where Carib beer comes from!

School Crossing sign

School Crossing....

Yield sign

Both Brits and North

Americans are


Oleander flowers on fencepost Mangroves

Exotic plants and trees are


Sailing Yacht Serengeti

Serengeti, 70-year-old wooden yacht that hosted

Frank Sinatra and other celebrities.

Rice Honeywell invites us aboard

Rice Honeywell aboard Serengeti.

Seawind Catamaran with a car parked under it.

A catamaran out of the water makes a great car port.

Cruisers paint the bottom of their sailboat

Cruisers painting the bottom of their boat.

The buses have names.

Caribbean home in Gouyave Grenada

Decked out for Christmas.

Decorated front wall of home in Gouyave Grenada Gouyave Grenada prepares for Fish Friday

Gouyave town streets.

Osprey Ferry Lines boat in St. George's harbor Grenada

Osprey Ferry will take us to Carriacou.

The Carenage Grenada

Views from the ferry: The Carenage.

The Carenage Grenada

St. George's homes.

Government buildings on the harbor Grenada

Government buildings in St. George's.

Hillsborough Carriacou

First glimpse of Hillsborough on Carriacou island.

View of the Grenadines from Paradise Beach on Carriacou in Grenada

Holy smokes, this is the view from our balcony!

View of the Grenadines from Paradise Beach on Carriacou in Grenada

We are literally ON the beach!!

The Islands of Grenada & Carriacou

Late December, 2009 - The flowers and plant life are very lush on

Grenada.  The island has a volcanic origin, so it has a mountainous,

rain forest interior.  Outside our apartment there were hibiscus flowers

that were the most luscious and subtle shade of light burgundy.

We took a walk down to Grand Anse beach one day and decided to

keep on going.  The beach is two miles long and is lined with shrubs,

palm trees and low lying resort villas.  The north end of the beach is

busier while the south end of the beach (closer to where we were

staying) is very quiet.

Occasional vendors strolling the beach offer goods ranging from sarongs and

fragrant spice necklaces "to hang in de kitchen" that are made of ginger,

saffron and nutmeg, to birds and baskets made of cleverly woven palm fronds.

One fellow even offered us a coconut he had picked, "The milk is good for your

heart and lungs and liver."  Local families gather under the trees while the kids

play in the waves.

Keeping an eye on everything, security

people in crisp white shirts and

pressed pants, all employed by the

resorts, make a quiet presence in the

background.  At first we were nervous

leaving the camera and cash in our

bag when we went swimming, but we

soon realized it was safe enough.

Tourism is the biggest source of foreign revenue for

this small nation, and I get the sense that all citizens

consider themselves participants in this industry.

From the homeless-looking fellow who eagerly gave

us detailed directions to the hurried professional

who stopped mid-stride to offer guidance, we found

that politeness and genuine friendliness were the

norm.  The only hard part is understanding their

thick Caribbean accent.  They hear the American

accent all the time on TV, but we never get a

chance to tune our ears to theirs.

We waltzed down the beach

admiring the beachfront resorts,

deciding which of the many

hundred dollar per night joints

would be our preference if we

had to choose.  Passing a very

busy dive hotel at the far south

end of the beach we discovered a

narrow path up the hill through

thick jungly

brush.  When

we emerged on

the road at the

top of the hill

we looked back at Grand Anse.  What a view.

Descending the other side of the hill we came across Quarantine Point, a

local park on a picture perfect bluff.  Picnic tables strewn across the wide

lawn epitomize the relaxed atmosphere in Grenada: even the benches

were kicked back.

Cliffs stretched

into the

distance along

one side of the bluff.  St. George's twinkled on the other side, as the bluff

dropped off to pounding surf on a beach below.

We strolled a

little further

down the road

and found

Morne Rouge



BBC Beach after a beach bar that used to be there.

A cruise ship

excursion boat,

"Rhum Runner"

was tied off at

the beach.  The

boat's loudspeakers were pumping out the jams with that intoxicating

Caribbean beat.  The water was rippling with Italian tourists, the men in

impossibly small speedo bathing suits and the women in even smaller

bikinis.  All were over 50.  A tour host had a tray of drinks in his hand

and he waded through the water offering them to his guests.  Not able to

sell the final few, he started doing tricks with his tray, delighting everyone

as he ducked under the water, tray held aloft, and then resurfaced.  In

one corner a husband videoed his wife as she played in the water.

Struggling to understand the Caribbean accented English of the hosts,

and not having any hope of understanding the Italians, we laughed along with

the crowd, swept up in their happy spirit.  It was a great day in a great place.

Climbing the very steep hill behind our apartment one morning, we saw

sailboat masts in the distance.  That was enough of a lure to get us to walk

along the busy road to Prickly Bay in the neighborhood called True Blue.  We

carefully picked our way along the sidewalk of the main thoroughfare as cars

flew by us and pedestrians hustled along.

Off the beach, Grenada is a very busy


Having enjoyed a few locally made beers,

we were pleasantly surprised as we

passed the Grenada Breweries.  They

brew not only Carib but Heineken and

Guinness among others as well.  We

popped our heads in and found out

they give tours and decided that

might be a good thing for a rainy


We got a kick out of the street

signs as we walked.

Turning down the road to the bay

we passed some wonderful

houses.  One in particular had a

beautiful white fence loaded with

pink and white oleander flowers.  On the plane coming to Grenada we

happened to meet the owner of the True Blue Bay Resort.  We

wandered through his pretty property, but he wasn't in at the time.

Down on the docks we found more unusual plant-life and many bobbing charter sailboats.

At the end of the dock was a huge wooden sailboat.  Pausing to take a photo, we suddenly

heard a voice calling out from the deck.  "Come on aboard and have a look!"  Wow.  He didn't

have to ask us twice.  This boat, named Serengeti, turned out to be a very special 75 foot yacht.

Used over the years by celebrities ranging from Frank Sinatra to Vivienne Leigh to Alan Alda,

the current owner was in the process of taking it westward to the Panama Canal and then up to Vancouver.

The deck was enormous, the wheelhouse even bigger,

and the accommodations below sprawled out in

comfort.  Our host, Rice Honeywell, was a very happy

Canadian who was helping the owner move the boat.

He was thrilled at his good fortune of landing this

crewing gig and being able to get away from work long

enough to take advantage of the opportunity.  We

chatted at length about sailing in the islands and making

ocean passages on this spacious 100 ton yacht.  We

later checked out the yacht's website:

Walking back we discovered one of the main boat

storage facilities in Grenada.  Sailboats of every

description were waiting for their owners to come down

to Grenada for a little wintertime fun.  I'd never thought

of it, but catamarans make perfect carports, and

several cats had cars under them (probably the rental

cars of their

owners while

they worked on

the boats to get

them ready to


A hard working

crew was busy

painting the

bottom of

another boat.  As they rolled the paint on with very long-handled rollers we

joked with them, "So this is what the cruising life is all about!"

For bad economic times, there was a lot of house construction activity in the

area.  Walking back, we passed a group of guys painting houses.  One guy's

black pants and shirt were covered in paint splatters just like a Jackson Pollack

painting.   He must have been doing house painting as a side-job to running a

bus, or vice versa, and he appropriately named his bus "Wet Paint."  All of the

buses have names, some funny and some that make you scratch your head.

"Rookie," "Irish Hour," "First Class," and "Spit it Out" caught our eyes.

Fish Friday is a big

event held every

Friday night in the

community of


(pronounced "Guave"

to rhyme with

"suave") halfway up

the west coast of the

island.  Hopping on a bus into St. George's, we squeezed in.  As we

approached town, the guy I was squashed up against suddenly said,

"You're the lady from the beach."  I turned and recognized his face.  He

had actually approached us on two different days, selling spice necklaces

that were, of course, better than anyone else's.  What a small place

Grenada is.  Here I found myself pressed up against this beach vendor in a sardine-can

minibus, thigh to thigh and arm to arm.  He introduced himself as John, and we shook

hands, but the bus was at the terminal so we didn't get a chance to talk any further.

The second bus, up to Gouyave, was a 45 minute roller coaster ride up and down and

around impossibly steep, narrow and twisting roads at breakneck speed with 18 adults

and two lap-sitting children packed on board.  Little pockets of homes tucked into richly

forested coves and hillsides greeted us at every turn.  Considering Hurricane Ivan took

out most of these homes just five years ago, I was amazed at how little evidence

remained of that maelstrom.  Just a rare home here or there had been abandoned,

roofless, windowless, and sometimes wallless too.  We learned later that when the

corrugated metal roof of your house wound up in a tree down the block after the storm,

you just went down there and

got it and nailed it back on.

Grenadians banded together to


Gouyave is a fishing town, and the

homes were packed together,

separated by skinny streets.  Stalls

were set up everywhere to sell fish

tacos, fried fish, baked fish, fish

stew and soup as well as other

goodies to make a great meal.  The

cooking was well underway when

we got there and the whole town

had a yummy aroma.  This town of

9,000 people, a little less than 10% of the country's total population, sits on the shore backed

up to a tropical jungle.  The thick palm trees, banana trees and other lush vegetation covered the hillsides all around town.  A cop

greeted us as we got off the bus, the lone white people in town.  He showed us the police station and assured us that the event

would be well patrolled.  He wasn't the only one watching us, though.  When a slightly deranged fellow came up and started talking

gibberish to us, several locals made gestures to us and lured the man away.  Fish Friday is an event that Grenada wants to share

with tourists, and I got the distinct feeling quite a few people in town had an eye on us to make sure we enjoyed ourselves.

The real festivities don't get underway until well after dark, and not

being night owls and being nervous about catching late buses back to

our apartment, we didn't stay into the heart of the evening.  However,

we met a couple of Minnesotans on Grand Anse beach the next day

who had stayed quite late and enjoyed themselves very much.

We did catch an early bus to the ferry a few days later, however.

Osprey Ferry Lines runs between Grenada's three main islands, and

we were headed to Carriacou to the north.

Leaving St. George's we had a great view of the Carenage, where

the homes run up the hillsides almost to the top.

Catching a bus at 7 a.m. Sunday morning we had another example of

the efforts Grenadians make to accommodate tourists.  As we walked

down the driveway a bus driver noticed us and stopped.  He was

headed the wrong way, however, so I waved and yelled to him and

we walked over towards another bus that was headed in the right

direction on the other side of the street.  As we approached that bus,

however, we saw it had the word "taxi" on the back, which meant

we'd pay about eight times as much for the ride.  We stopped in our tracks, but the taxi driver got out to encourage us into his van.

When we said "No, we want a bus," he suddenly waved to the bus that was still parked headed in the wrong direction.  "Ferry

Terminal" he yelled out to the bus driver, leading us over to the bus.  The bus did a u-turn in the street and picked us up.  When we

got to the ferry terminal, the taxi that had helped us was right behind us, assisting passengers out of the van.

The ferry ride to

Carriacou was a

pleasant hour and

a half cruise

along Grenada's

west coast.  Most

of the passengers

were up on deck,

a group of locals imbibing their first Carib beers of the

day.  Carriacou's big Christmas music festival, Parang,

was on its third and last day, and undoubtedly some of

these fellows were going to enjoy a long night of

partying.  Hillsborough, the main town on Carriacou,

looked utterly inviting and charming as we pulled in.

This tiny island is just a few miles long and is very laid back compared to bustling Grenada.  I had struggled back in Arizona to find

a cheap place to book for us, but when we arrived at our apartment we were stunned.  It was right on the beach, with a brochure-

quality view and gentle waves lapping the shore.  In no time we were in our bathing suits and checking out the glorious setting.

For me, this was exactly what comes to mind when someone says "tropical island:"  clear, calm, inviting water, lush green thick-

leaved vegetation, virgin sand, peace and tranquility with the occasional exotic bird call from a tree.  And there it all was, right off

our deck.  Simple, no-frills accommodations, to be sure, but what a place Carriacou proved to be.














































































































Grenada – Escape to the Tropics

Elf Owl

An Elf Owl peeks out of a saguaro cactus.

Map of Caribbean

Map of the Eastern Caribbean.

St. Vincent & The Grenadines is highlighted.

South Florida is in the upper left, Venezuela is along the bottom.

Map of Grenadines

St. Vincent, The Grenadines and Grenada.

Arizona seen from the air

Leaving the arid hills of the

southwest behind.

St. George's Grenada

First glimpse of St. George's harbor on Grenada.


A goat was making all that noise...

Grand Anse Beach

Grand Anse Beach.

Mark with St. George's Grenada behind him.

Happy Beach Bum.

Coyaba Resort Grenada

Resort living.

Coyaba Resort Grenada

Manicured path through a posh

beachside resort.

Coyaba Resort Grenada Coyaba Resort Grenada

Lush flowers line the resort paths.

Hibiscus flower

Hibiscus flower.

Emily with Grand Anse Beach behind her

Gateway to the beach.

Mark at Grand Anse Beach

Tropical man.

Grand Anse Beach

Sunbathing in paradise.

Beach vendor, Grenada

Merry Christmas from Grenada.

Guy in truck

Young men love to stand in the

backs of pickups.

Traffic jam, Grenada

A cop squeezes through a traffic jam.

Ocean views Grenada property

Beautiful ocean views between the hillside homes.

Cruise ship Grenada

A cruise ship anchored off the town.

Macaws at the marina

Two blue and gold macaws say "hello."

Classic Caribbean building

Classic Caribbean.

St George's Carenage

View of St. George's from across the harbor.

Street vendor selling conch shells to cruise ships

A vendor hawks conch shells to

the cruise ship tourists

Christ of the Deep statue

Christ of the Deep Statue

Grenada library

Grenada library.

Sendall tunnel Grenada

Sendall Tunnel - shared by

pedestrians & cars, no sidewalk!

Government buildings Grenada

Government buildings with St. George's homes behind.

Grenada & the town of St. George's

Mid-December, 2009 - [From the Phoenix Parks] -- Living full-time in an

RV poses the considerable challenge of figuring out what to do in the

wintertime.  While most RV snowbirds come down from the northern states

and provinces to spend the winter in southern California, Arizona, Texas

and Florida, we find those places are all too cold.  And we aren't alone.

The smallest owl species, the Elf Owl, feels the same way.  Arizona is the

elf owl's summer home, and these adorable little guys show up around late

February each year, hanging out in the cool saguaro cactus interiors when

the summertime heat really starts to sizzle.  They leave in the fall for

warmer climes in Mexico where their favorite insects and scorpions are still

active and buzzing and available for dinner over Christmas and New


There is nowhere consistently warm in the US between December and

February, except possibly southern Florida, which is not big-rig friendly.  We have shivered our way through the past two winters.

and felt very cooped up in our rig.  We would happily take the buggy down the Baja peninsula or down to Puerto Vallarta (or

beyond) in Mexico each winter, but the Dodge truck has one of the new "Blue Tech" engines that requires the new non-polluting #2

diesel fuel (All diesel trucks in the US with a model year of mid-2007 or later have these engines).  Although our truck was built in

Mexico, it is not sold in Mexico.  Mexican diesel trucks conform to less stringent pollution standards and #2 diesel is not readily

available in Mexico except in the border towns.

So this year we put a lot of thought into coming up with a different plan.  We entered a few contests to win a sailing charter in the

Caribbean, we agreed to help some friends sail their boat down the Mexican coast to Central America and through the Panama

Canal, we tried to get into the Baja Ha-Ha sailing rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, aboard the mothership

catamaran Profligate, and we toyed with the idea of getting an RV site in a park somewhere relatively warm.

But none of these ideas worked out.  So we finally

cobbled together some frequent flier miles that were left

over from our corporate working days and got tickets to

Grenada in the southeastern Caribbean, with the idea

of visiting both Grenada and nearby St. Vincent and the

Grenadines.  We found two furnished apartments on

different islands that we could rent cheaply for a month

apiece, and we came up with a loose plan to spend two

months based in apartments and two weeks wandering

through the Grenadine Islands.  The buggy will stay at a

friend's RV storage facility until we return at the end of


The Grenadine islands sit about 100 miles off the South

American (Venezuelan) coast, north of Trinidad, at the

bottom of the chain of eastern Caribbean islands.  The

island of St. Vincent caps the north end, and together

with most of the Grenadine islands makes up the

country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  The island

of Grenada lies to the south, and together with the

southernmost Grenadine islands makes up the country

of Grenada.

Under British rule until 1974, Grenada is an independent country that made US headline news in 1983 when the US military

invaded to overthrow a volatile regime that had seized power.  St. George's University's medical school trains many future US

physicians, and these medical school students had to be evacuated during the invasion.  Grenada hit the headlines once again in

2004 when Hurricane Ivan proved that Grenada doesn't really sit south of the hurricane belt as many had thought.  The

devastation was extreme: ninety percent of the island's homes were damaged by the storm.

Grenada has personal meaning to me because it was the final

destination of a sailing charter I did in 1992.  After sashaying through the

glittering islands that start with St. Lucia,100 miles further up the chain, I

fell in love with the people and sights of Grenada, also known as the

Spice Island.  This was one of those technicolor times in my life that

remains near and dear to my heart and stands out in my memory as ten

of the best days I've ever had.  I vividly remember sailing those

crystalline turquoise waters and seeing starfish on the sand 50 feet

below the boat.  Mark has similar memories of Barbados, which lies 50

miles east of St. Vincent.  He visited in the mid-1970's, dashing about

the island on a scooter with his girlfriend, watching horses pull open

wagonloads of hay from the inland farms and buying fresh fish from

fishermen on the beach.  Those brilliant memories bring warmth to his

soul.  He was lucky to get to Barbados when every building on the island

was just one story high.

Leaving Phoenix, we watched the

beautifully contoured mountains of

eastern Arizona and western New

Mexico slip away under the wing

of our plane, and said "goodbye"

to the arid, angular desert for a few months.  Twelve hours of flying and a layover in Miami

got us to Grenada by 9:00 that night, and we emerged from customs and immigration into

the sultry humid air of this lush land.  Christmas lights and beeping car horns greeted us, and

we jumped into a taxi -- on the wrong side at first, as we forgot they drive like the Brits -- and

straight into a gridlocked traffic jam.  "I've been driving taxis here since 1985, and it's always

like this," our driver said, laughing.  "We have a terrible infrastructure here."  The horns

continued, high-pitched but friendly, and the drivers hung out of their van windows, arms

waving madly, as they joked with each other and tried to wriggle their vans free of the mess.

Our apartment was clean but

spartan, a bit like Motel 6 prior

to renovations, with air

conditioning, wifi and cable TV.

Outside our windows a

cacophony of tree frogs chirped rhythmically in the dark, like a bunch

of squeaky swing sets at a playground.  Too excited to sleep, we

settled in to watch Oprah's White House Christmas special on the 9"

screen.  It wasn't until our second night that we found local Caribbean

stations sprinkled between the standard American cable fare.  German

and French stations rounded out the offerings.

We awoke

the next

morning to bright sunshine flooding

our room.  Through bleary, blinking

eyes we saw the town of St.

George's and its welcoming harbor

sparkling in the distance beyond

our veranda.

We had barely slept a wink in the

tiny bed, surrounded by strange

tropical noises, and we'd lost three

hours to time-zone changes, but in

a flash we grabbed our masks, snorkels and fins and dashed down to the

beach.  On the way, we stopped to check out the source of a pitiful wailing

we had been hearing all morning.  It turned out to be a mama goat across

the street, and she had an awful lot to say for herself.

Grand Anse beach is the most popular

beach in Grenada, situated just a little

southwest of the main town of St.

George's.  It was a quick walk for us,

and our grins preceded us all the way

down the hill.  The little cars -- all late

model and shiny -- zoomed past us, their

horns happily beeping.  Toyotas, Isuzus,

and other familiar car makes filled the

road, but the models were new to our

eyes.  Passersby greeted us, and we

waved when the cars honked, learning

too late that taxis stop when you wave.

Suddenly a van did a u-turn right next

to us, backing up into someone's front yard, while its driver

hung out the window, gesturing at us to get in.  Oops.  It

also took a few near nips for us to remember to look right

before crossing the street or risk getting run over.

Down by the beach the thick scents of exotic plants filled

the air.  Unfamiliar birds called out from deep in the bushes.

The sun warmed our bodies, then baked us, and we

hurriedly added more and more layers of sunscreen.

Several gorgeous resorts line the south end of Grand Anse

beach, and we wandered through their manicured grounds.

Flowers of all kinds and colors bloomed everywhere.

There is a building ordinance that prohibits buildings taller than

tree-level on the beach, and this keeps the beachfront intimate

and accessible.  We cut through a city park to the beach and

squished our toes in the sand.  It was impossible to believe

that just yesterday we'd been drinking hot tea to stay warm.

Being winter, the ocean water was just shy of bath water, but

once we got in we sure didn't want to come out.

A few family groups frolicked in the waves nearby, while a

young couple worked on their tans.  Here we were in

Paradise.  How amazing.

One of Santa's elves made a brief appearance.  He strolled

down the beach wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

The next day we walked to the town of St.

George's.  It's a crazy scene on the road,

with guys standing in the backs of pickup

trucks and bumper to bumper cars beeping

their way down the road.  When a police car

snaked its way through a traffic jam, lights

swirling, cars drove up on the sidewalks like it

was an oridinary thing.

Meanwhile the views opened up

alongside us, offering palm tree

silhouettes against turquoise

backdrops.  Grenada is a

popular cruise ship

destination, and there

is always one or more

docked in town or

anchored in the bay.

Lots of smaller

cruising sailboats

anchor in the bay as well.

We wandered through the

marina where I met some

avian friends and got a quick parrot

fix.  We stopped to talk to a French

couple who had sailed here from

home, across the Atlantic, two years

ago on their 42' German-built boat.

The world seemed to open its arms to


The town of St. George's sprawls up a

hillside, making a beautiful view from

across the harbor as you approach.

We arrived just as two cruise ships

were unloading, and found ourselves caught up in the

frenzy of local vendors selling spices, crafts, fruit and

seashells to the tourists.

We made a quick stop in the library, housed in a

beautiful old stone building, and walked through the

Sendall Tunnel where pedestrians and cars share an

impossibly skinny road.  The government buildings

and foreign consulates line the pretty waterfront.

Crisply dressed professionals walk the sidewalks

alongside sunburned tourists, eager vendors and

casual locals "liming" (relaxing) in the shade of the


We wanted to catch a bus back to our apartment but

needed to learn something about the bus system first.

Buses here are essentially 10-passenger mini-vans,

and each one displays a number on the windshield

indicating its route.  There are no schedules, but they

are very frequent.  We walked over to the bus

terminal, the hub of the nine or so bus lines that

operate in Grenada, hoping to get a map of the bus

lines or at least a list of which buses

go where.  No such luck.  We spoke

with three different bus terminal

officials, each sporting a uniform and

clipboard, but none of them knew of

such a thing.  Instead, the way you

work the bus system here is simply to

go to the bus terminal and ask which

bus to take.  Perhaps by the end of

our stay we will know all the bus lines

and can make up our own master list!

Joining the slightly controlled chaos

at the bus terminal, we climbed into

one of the buses marked "1" after

two drivers of different #1 buses both

tried to persuade us onto their bus.  The first driver had only one seat available, which

seemed odd.  It was only after we'd sat in the second bus that we discovered they load

these buses to the gills, and the first driver had probably assumed I would sit in Mark's

lap.  Seventeen people were squeezed onto our bus, with a skinny mom and her skinnier

daughter sharing a jumper seat that was pulled out of nowhere.  With every stop the folks

near the door all had to pile out to let the other riders off, and then they piled back on

again.  These cramped quarters could explain the nickname the "chicken bus," but by the

time we got off we decided the nickname was more likely because the drivers all play the

game of chicken with each other.  I have never careened around so many blind turns at

such a speed, and when our bus went over the double yellow line and risked a head-on

with another bus, our driver honked at the other guy!  All the while everyone was

laughing and jostling and in great spirits.  We have been on the Spice Isle for just a few

days, but what an experience so far.