June in Grenada

Port Louis MarinaIt’s coming to the end of our first month in Grenada and we’ve managed to do some sight seeing to get our bearings and also catch a few buses to see what they’re like.  All in all, it’s a nice friendly place and the locals are very hospitable. We got the bikes out and have cycled into town a few times, that takes nerves of steel as the roads are quite busy and the lorries here don’t take any prisoners. There was a bit too much interest in our bikes in St.George so we did a u-turn and headed back to the marina rather than trust leaving them in sight even though they’re alarmed.

We have some nice neighbours on our pontoon, fellow Oyster owners, so bound to be nice!

We’ve discovered some nice places to eat other than the marina restaurant, which is pretty good. There’s a great Sushi bar that does home deliveries (dangerous) and there’s a good food mall at an out of town shopping centre. True to form, we like to eat where the locals eat and have sampled some recommended local haunts. There’s a restaurant opposite the entrance to the marina and it’s like going to someone’s house. There’s no menu to choose from and they just bring dish after dish after dish after dish until you’re fit to explode. Then they bring pudding! 

We did a taxi tour covering the south of the island and first stop was a rum factory, home territory for me. We had our own guide who took us around the old part of the factory where they’d kept the original machinery that had been used to break down sugar cane in the days before they imported the molasses. It was really interesting to see the old machinery and learn about the process used to create the rum. We had the obligatory rum tasting at the end of the tour and as usual I ended up on the other side of the bar for a photo. We bought 5 bottles of various strengths to add to my expanding, almost impressive collection. Rum tasting Grenada  Next stop was a herb and spice garden where we were invited to smell a large selection of leaves and twigs that were snapped off and handed to us. My nose was on overtime. The guide was extremely knowledgeable about all the plants but I was a bit dubious as she rattled off all the ailments that some of them ‘allegedly’ cured. It’s a wonder that anyone gets ill over here!   We were shown the humble cashew nut which is a rather odd looking thing. The nut, which is the seed, grows on the outside of the fruit and it seems a lot of effort for one little nut.  When I think of the handfuls that I devour in one sitting I think I’ll treat a packet of cashews with more respect in future.

There’s a lovely beach just around the corner from the marina that’s a short dinghy ride away and we’ve been there a few times, stopping at the Coconut bar for a drink.  The dinghy dock provides the perfect place for local kids to run along before jumping into the water and also a good place to be forcibly launched from.  A few of the lads asked us for a lift out to one of the navigation buoys as we were leaving and they clambered aboard, giggling away to each other and then as we approached the buoy they all dived in and raced back to the dock. It’s no wonder they’re as thin as rakes.

I bought a paddle board thinking that any exercise has to be good for me.  I go running at 6am in the morning but any later and it’s just too hot, so the paddle board is good fun and quite a challenge to stay upright.

Yesterday we went on another taxi tour with our neighbours and went up the north east of the island.  We went around a cocoa plantation and learnt all about cocoa pods and beans. We wandered with our guide in search of a suitable pod that he cracked open to let us taste the beans inside. The flesh around the bean tasted of citrus, very nice in fact. We were shown where they were fermented and then dried before being shipped off to make chocolate.  We drove up the road to the Grenadian Chocolate Factory. (Someone else’s front room!) This was more like it!  Beans to chocolate after passing through several different rooms and machines.  The highlight of the tour was a back room where they hand wrapped each bar of chocolate. Grenada Chocolate FactoryOne guy pouring chocolate into moulds, two girls patiently folding foil over each bar, another girl hand writing something on each paper wrapper (the date maybe) and then a final girl putting the wrapper on. Unbelievable! Loved it!   We were treated to a tasting. 60% cocoa (nice) up to 100% (vile). 71% being my favourite.

We then went to another rum distillery but it left a lot to be desired. The guide obviously didn't want to be there and the buildings were a bit stinky. To be fair to them, they were still using exactly the same processes and equipment that they’d been using for the last few hundred years but it didn’t entice the taste buds. They actually made their own molasses and there was a mountain of left over sugar cane pulp and a working water wheel.  Vaguely interesting!

We didn’t buy any rum!

There’s plenty to see and do on this island so I don’t think we’re going to be bored between now and November.  We have weekly conference calls via Skype with Carina and Steph to catch up on all the news. Carina is moving house next month and Steph is busy with her wedding plans so there’s plenty to catch up on!

The cats are fine and have their own routine.  They never cease to amaze me, they’re so adaptable and so goddam cute!

 

 

Carriacou

Can I have a go on your bike? Ok then...We had a quiet sail down to Carriacou, an island that is part of Grenada, so we had to check in with Customs and Immigration.  The guy was extremely laid back and not interested in the cats. We had to email our details to the Veterinary Service on Grenada and they emailed back an Import Permit without even seeing the cats! No wonder there’s rabies on the island.

We anchored in Tyrrel Bay for a couple of weeks and soon adjusted our pace to an even slower way of doing things. There was a bar called Lambi Queen by our dinghy dock and it was very quiet apart from Friday nights when there was a barbecue and live band, then it was manic until the early hours. We could hear drums on the shore at about 2am which was quite eerie, and annoying.  On one side of the bar there was a tree with a sloped trunk that usually had a man asleep on it and the owner had put up a tin roof next to the tree to provide shelter for the men to play dominoes.  This was always a heated event with dominos being slammed down, shouting, arm waving, cursing and a lot of laughing. We could hear the dominoes being slammed down as we were tying our boat up at the dinghy dock. They were a friendly lot and we enjoyed just sitting there watching all the goings on. Occasionally someone would come in with the catch of the day and the men would stand around the barrel of fish and argue over price. We struggled to understand what they said as they spoke patois so quickly.

On the other side of the bar was a woman with a fruit stall and one day she was sat on an oil drum having her hair braided.  She probably had half a dozen customers on a good day.

Roadside wild life The main road was made of concrete and seemed safe enough so we got the bikes onshore and arranged to store them in a locked shed at Lambi’s.  We alternated cycling into Hillsborough, the main town on the other side of the island, and getting the local bus. Video of our ride to town here

The buses weren't as busy as on the other islands and were more of a social service. The route would depend on who was on the bus as the driver would take people up to their door, which gave us an island tour for free. We managed to get on a bus one day that stopped at a nursery school and a group of very small children got on, said “Good afternoon” to us and sat still until they were one by one dropped off at their homes. They were so well behaved. They all had little back packs and the girls had ribbons in their hair that matched their uniform. So cute!

Cycling was an adventure as there were goats roaming around everywhere and although they were used to traffic they didn’t know what to do about bikes, and we didn’t know what to do about goats, not a good combination. There were some large iguanas at the road side which was quite distracting so all in all, cycling was fun.

The main town was very small, a few supermarkets and bars and that was about it.  Our bikes attracted a lot of attention and people would shout that they liked or wanted our bikes.  Everyone was so friendly and said hello, everyone.

We had to tear ourselves away as June crept up on us as we needed to be in Grenada itself for hurricane season, for insurance purposes.

So here we are now. We arrived yesterday 3rd June and this will be our home for the next 6 months. We’re in a 5 star marina which has a swimming pool, spa, restaurant, bar and all that you’d expect from a top marina.  We had steak in the restaurant last night to celebrate our arrival and plan to do a bit of exploring today. The marina has lovely gardens so the boys are going to be happy chappies when we take them for walks.  I think we’re going to enjoy ourselves here!

 

Back to Blue Lagoon

Walking the Volcano SVG

We were welcomed back at Blue Lagoon like old friends. Razmike met us in his dinghy, came aboard and steered us through the reef. Desmond took our lines and then Raymond came over for a chat. We took the boys to the garden for their walk and to check on the lizards.

We’d planned to stay for a day or two and this turned into a week.  It’s hard to uproot yourself when you’re having fun. 

We arranged to export the cats from here and even managed to persuade the vet to come and inspect them onboard again. We were supposed to take the boys by taxi into Kingstown as there was a charge involved but they kindly let us take the paperwork there, make the payment and then do the inspection separately.

We hired a car for a couple of days to go exploring the island and we did the left side (leeward) on the first day.  The road North was awful and full of potholes and we went through some very tiny towns before finally reaching Dark View Falls. Another stunning, unspoilt location with some magnificent waterfalls and absolutely no sign of health and safety as we walked up the steep steps to the top water falls. We were the only people there and bizarrely there was a girl in a reception hut who hand wrote us our entrance ticket when we arrived.

On the drive back we stopped at Wallilabou for lunch. This was one of the locations used during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean. Some of it was recognisable but mostly the buildings were tired and run down and most of the wooden pontoon had fallen away. Another tourist opportunity missed as we were the only people there as well!

On the second day with the hire car we were going hiking up the volcano with Raymond and so had an early start. We picked him up from his house just after 7am and headed up the right side (windward) of the island.  We’d read that it was a 2 hour climb so were prepared for some exercise but we weren’t prepared for how steep it was. We managed to do the climb in 1 hour 30 minutes but it was quite a slog. The narrow track crossed 2 river beds and meandered before turning into uneven steps made from bamboo. We walked between massive bamboo trees, up above palm trees and then into the cloud where the ground became volcanic rock and stone. Some young lads ran down the track passed us in their bare feet and Raymond said that they’d probably be carrying drugs from one side of the island to the other. At the top we had to crouch to see into the crater as it was windy and a long way down. Between the gusts of cloud we could see the centre of the crater that had a hill smoking with sulphur on one side.

On the way down we passed several groups of people making their way up and asking how long they had left to the top.  Some of them looked on their last legs so when we told them they had another 45 minutes to go they were distraught. We felt very smug that we’d got up early and were on the way back down!

We drove up the coast until the road literally ran out. It came to an abrupt end with a goat grazing on the side. We turned around and headed back down through the town.

We went to Owia Salt Water pond, a collection of pools filled by the Atlantic crashing either side of some steep rocks that provided natural protection. Beautiful.

Village Cricket St Vincent

Raymond then took us to see Blackwood Tunnel. This is a large manmade tunnel cutting through a hillside, created by a sugar trader to save having to transport all his sugar cane around the hill for loading onto ships.

We then had the excitement of actually driving onto the runway of Argyle International Airport that is under construction. There were huge machines flattening the track in preparation for the tarmac so Clive and Raymond just had to stand right in the centre of the runway for pictures.  

The day ended with a cricket match in Raymond’s village, Stubbs. I have no idea what cricket is about but it was the most hilarious experience. It seemed that everyone from the village had descended there and there was so much heckling and banter, all done in good humour.  They weren’t very good so the game was over fairly quickly.  One of the bowlers was the local policeman and if he managed to throw a good ball the place erupted with cheering and an old drunken man, beer in hand, ran over to shake his hand.  He was probably one of the locals best know to the police.  There was plenty of arm waving and cursing on the field and everyone watching was having the time of their lives. This was a memorable way to end a very energetic and enjoyable day.

Journey South

Last Bar! Salt Whistle Bay

We left Blue Lagoon once again and headed over to Bequia.  On the way there I spotted a dinghy flying towards us, actually taking off at one point. The guy was standing up and when he was close enough he produced a huge camera, started blowing a whistle and taking pictures. Then without saying anything he shot off in the opposite direction!

We were met by Phat Shag (topless!) and taken to the mooring we’d had last time we visited. It’s nice to return to somewhere that you already know and where the locals recognise you. We saw Budzy our taxi driver who waved and stopped for a chat.  

We stayed there for 2 nights before heading over to Mayreau which is the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines. This was our first visit to the island and Salt Whistle Bay is just a stunning, idyllic setting. White sand, clear water and a decent beach bar aptly called The Last Bar Before The Jungle.  The snorkelling was some of the best so far (apart from the turtles) and we saw some amazing fish. We had a couple of beach barbecues there and did some walking to see the town. There’s a road that goes up the hill from Salt Whistle Bay and then down the other side to Saline Beach and the town is somewhere in between, with goats strolling about everywhere. There were a few bars in town and we thought it would be rude not to stop. One problem. No diet coke!  I can’t stand the taste of full fat coke with rum so I got into the habit of carrying a couple of cold cans around with me from the boat.  Disaster averted!  

We got adventurous on our second walk and went off along a track that cut up into the hill and then walked around the deserted windward beach back to the boat. Not a sole in sight, just white sand, palm trees and turquoise water.

Our next stop was Tobago Cays for a couple of nights and more swimming with my favourite turtles. We got more video of them and this time I spotted a stingray hoovering along on the bottom. At one point I had a slight panic as Clive was busy watching the turtles and the stingray took off in his direction. I wasn’t sure if they were dangerous and just watched in horror but fortunately it swam about 2 feet underneath him before diving again and  Clive was blissfully unaware.

Turtle Tobago Cays

We’re now moored off Union Island and have had a couple of days so far trying out the bars and food outlets. Clive surprised me on my birthday and booked us into a hotel on the front for a night of luxury, what a treat. I stood under the shower for as long as I could forgetting about how much water I was using up. We had a fabulous meal sat next to a pool that had a sign. ‘Danger sharks! No swimming’. When we first saw it we thought it was a joke and that they were pretend sharks, until we saw a tail twitch!! 

There are some lovely little shops here and a whole area that’s like Alice in Wonderland. A weaving alley way with a couple of bars and fabulously hand painted t-shirts hanging out.

We asked our mooring man, Tony, to get us a tuna for tea last night and he arrived at 6pm on his boat, showed us the fish and then filleted it for us. We had a sumptuous tea and Clive vacuum packed and froze enough for another 2 meals.

We’re here for a couple more days and have yet to visit the bar on the reef that’s built on a pile of conch shells, so we’ll do that tomorrow. After that we’ll move on to the next place, wherever the wind will take us.

That’s it for me for now and I’ll update when we get to Grenada.

Mayreau Town

Myreau Windward Beach
Mayreau Windward Beach

Easter Regatta Bequia

Easter Regatta Bequia

We hired one of the taxi drivers, Budzy, to take us on a tour of the island, covering every single road on Bequia within about 2 hours. He took us to the turtle sanctuary where we saw all sizes of an endangered species and I even go to hold a cute little one. The eggs are collected from the nearby islands and then when hatched and old enough to survive the turtles are taken back to the same spot for release. So cute!

We went to a boat building workshop where the craftsmen make detailed model replicas of yachts. In the Whale Museum there is one of the original open boats that they used to go out to sea in and a range of the harpoons and equipment used to catch and kill the whales. Bequia is one of the few islands left that is allowed to catch up to 4 whales every year but there hasn’t been a catch so far this year and whaling season is nearly over. 

 

Luckily for us we were there for the Bequai Easter Regatta and managed to watch some of the races from either a hilltop viewpoint or from the shore.  The little wooden double ended boats that they raced were launched from the beach and this was great fun to watch.

Just to enter into the spirit of the regatta we put all the dress flags up on Sephina and this was a reminder for us of the ARC preparations in Las Palmas.

Raymond (from Blue Lagoon) was over with his wife Nicky and 2 gorgeous little girls, Shakira and Shriah. They came over to see us (well, more likely the cats) and we went off to watch a race together followed by lunch.

Turtle Farm Bequia

There was a carnival atmosphere in the town and the small car park became a dance floor surrounded by Mount Gay Rum and Hairoun (the local beer) stands. They certainly know how to have a good time and even though there was an abundance of alcohol and familiar smell of drugs, there was no unpleasantness or aggravation. Needless to say, the following day the place was like a ghost town as everyone was recovering.

 

We had to go to the Immigration Office to have our passports extended. We had initially been granted 1 month stay but needed to extend this until 1st June when we were booked in at Grenada. This process involved plenty of form filling and the purchase of revenue stamps to go in our passports.

 

We spent a few more relaxing days before deciding we’d like to head back to Blue Lagoon and see everyone there again before the journey south to Grenada.