Puddle jumper from Union to Bequia
Bequia looks lovely from the air
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
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
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
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."
Cargo boat from St. Martin
Our ferry boat to Union Island
Inside the ferry boat
Mark enjoys the ride.
Land Ho! Our captain prepares to dock.
Excited islanders on Christmas Eve
Clifton Harbor Hotel bar
Shops in town square
Mulzac Square (Clifton Harbor town square)
MV Barracuda (SVG mail boat / ferry) arrives.
Anchorage Yacht Club Resort
Locals greet Christmas Morning
Fish resting in a pool
Cruisers gather here to send
mail and Skype friends
A cannon from the olden days
Little shops in Clifton Harbor town square
I am gifted with fruit and Merry Christmas greetings
Nativity creche in the town square
Home of future national park
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
View from our balcony.
Adam's Eve Apartments, Paradise Beach
What a spot to relax.
Your table is waiting...
The bar below our bedroom played Parang on the radio.
When your room has
mosquito nets, use them!
Pretty walkways to the beach.
Nearby beach bar.
Carving up huge angel fish.
Bananas ripening, out of reach of
goats and cows.
Water truck "I'm Forever Greatful" delivers
water next door.
Pumping water into the rooftop
The local grocery store.
A mural advertises the local department store.
Hillsborough town streets.
Buildings in Hillsborough.
Downtown taxi stand by the ferry dock.
Grenada became independent from Britain
February 7, 1974
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
indication that it
housed a little
Inside we found
all kinds of
staples and a
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.
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
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
Hillsborough bay and
jetty was so good! A
little group of
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
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
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
sprucing up the
exteriors of their
homes and shops
with a bright glossy
paint during our
visit. There is
too, and many
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.
Hibiscus in front of our Grenada apartment.
Perfect beach for strolling.
Idyllic resort villas line the beach.
A path through thick vegetation
begged to be taken.
Looking back at Grand Anse beach.
Quarantine Point's picnic benches are kicked back.
Looking towards Magazine and Pink Sand beaches.
Morne Rouge Bay (BBC Beach).
Traffic Circle near True Blue Bay and St. George's
So this is where Carib beer comes from!
Both Brits and North
Exotic plants and trees are
Serengeti, 70-year-old wooden yacht that hosted
Frank Sinatra and other celebrities.
Rice Honeywell aboard Serengeti.
A catamaran out of the water makes a great car port.
Cruisers painting the bottom of their boat.
The buses have names.
Decked out for Christmas.
Gouyave town streets.
Osprey Ferry will take us to Carriacou.
Views from the ferry: The Carenage.
St. George's homes.
Government buildings in St. George's.
First glimpse of Hillsborough on Carriacou island.
Holy smokes, this is the view from our balcony!
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
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.
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
down the road
BBC Beach after a beach bar that used to be there.
A cruise ship
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
they worked on
the boats to get
them ready to
A hard working
crew was busy
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
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
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.
An Elf Owl peeks out of a saguaro cactus.
Map of the Eastern Caribbean.
St. Vincent & The Grenadines is highlighted.
South Florida is in the upper left, Venezuela is along the bottom.
St. Vincent, The Grenadines and Grenada.
Leaving the arid hills of the
First glimpse of St. George's harbor on Grenada.
A goat was making all that noise...
Grand Anse Beach.
Happy Beach Bum.
Manicured path through a posh
Lush flowers line the resort paths.
Gateway to the beach.
Sunbathing in paradise.
Merry Christmas from Grenada.
Young men love to stand in the
backs of pickups.
A cop squeezes through a traffic jam.
Beautiful ocean views between the hillside homes.
A cruise ship anchored off the town.
Two blue and gold macaws say "hello."
View of St. George's from across the harbor.
A vendor hawks conch shells to
the cruise ship tourists
Christ of the Deep Statue
Sendall Tunnel - shared by
pedestrians & cars, no sidewalk!
Government buildings with St. George's homes behind.
Grenada & the town of St. George's
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
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.
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
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
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.