Carriacou & Grenada
  
  "Okay," she said, "You were never here." 

"We weren't?"

"No." 
 
Dec 2
 
Roseman Adams, from Union Island Tourism arranged for Kojak (aka Simon Alexander) to take us in his water taxi from Union Island to Carriacou.  Kojak was also using the opportunity to take his girlfriend and another girl shopping on Petite Martinique after they dropped us off.  We informed Kojak that we were staying near Windward on the northeast part of the island; he said there was a dock at Windward so that's where we headed.

We questioned Kojak, at least three times, as to how we were to check in with customs authorities since we had now left the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines and entered the tri-island nation of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.  Kojack was very laid back about the subject saying we didn't have to worry about it.   We thought it strange but he had been recommended and his services arranged by Roseman; between the two of them they should know better than we.  

Kojak pulled up to a long, narrow wooden dock jutting out into Bay L'Eau.  The cost of the trip was $300 EC (approx $115 US) ... about 1/3 more than Roseman suggested it might be.

 

 
 
Several people watched as we came ashore, paid, waved goodbye and strapped on our backpacks.  They seemed curious about our arrival but only responded to our 'hello's with a couple of quiet 'hello's. 

We found a little cafe/store and asked a young woman where we might find the Bayaleau Point Cottages.   She pointed south down the road and told us of some landmarks to watch for and turns we would have to take.  

We followed her directions:  south down the road, passed rusted hulls of shipwrecks, along a stretch of beach front ... watched by a pelican and meandering sheep ... turned left at the school intersection, gave way to rush hour (sheep) traffic, around the pond and up the driveway to the gate.
Inside the gate at Bayaleau Point Cottages a signpost pointed to the four cottages, each painted a different pastel colour and named after its colour.

We met Dave.  Once a commodity trader in Manhattan, Dave found his way to the Caribbean and sailed the islands for three years before settling on Carriacou.   "There were lean years in the beginning," he tells those who ask.  Today he, and his Danish wife, Ulla, share their piece of paradise with vacationers who are only able to catch snippets of this tropical lifestyle.

Dave showed us to the 'Green Cottage'.  We don't suppose Dave or Ulla ever tire of hearing new guests express their delight upon entering one of their four cottages ... each expressing a decor of whimsical Caribbean funk with a touch of artistic class (Ulla is the artist). 

The cottage was sparkling clean and a cool ocean breeze cooled our hot brows.  Once we had settled in, Terry backtracked to a little store we had passed and picked up some bread,  cheese, a little fruit and drinks.

The front page of a most entertaining room book said, "Some rare souls ... believe that a vacation should be comprised of hour after hour of dawdling in comfortable and interesting surroundings.  Carriacou offers an excellent destination for these nonconformists".  We were only spending the one night on Carriacou.  We liked our accommodations, the view was idyllic, the cooling breeze made temperatures comfortable ... so we settled in to do some serious 'limin'. 

Dec 3
It was easy to wake up in the morning if for no other reason than to shuffle out onto the porch, flop into the hammock and drink in the view. 

In the cool beginning of day there was someone already painting the Blue Cottage.  A walk through the groomed gardens led us to Popo, the painter ... a most pleasant gentleman with a smile as bright as the morning's sun. 

While we were saying goodbye to Dave, we talked about our boat ride over yesterday.  "I wouldn't have gone out yesterday, waves were too high."  Yikes!

We walked back up around the pond to the school intersection and waited for a bus.  It didn't take long.  The distance to Carriacou's capital, Hillsborough, is roughly 4.5 km ... as the crow flies.  The bus took about twenty minutes to wiggle across the island's hilly spine; the driver constantly on the lookout for free-ranging livestock.

There was a bustle in Hillsborough (population less than 1,000) ... a cruise ship arrival was eminent.   We purchased our ferry tickets to Grenada and the lady in the office allowed us to leave our backpacks in her care. 

We had a slow ... very slow ...  drink on the waterside veranda of a cafe just down the main street from the wharf.  We watch sandpipers, frigate birds and talked with Bryan;  a water taxi driver. 
 
We took the opportunity to ask, "Why is it that when we see a baseball cap with a team symbol on it, most times it is the New York Yankees logo?"

"Oh," he laughed touching the beak of his own 'NY' baseball cap.  "When people leave here to go to the US they usually go to New York City so naturally we are Yankees fans."

We walked south along main street until we came to a metal arch over the road that read 'Welcome to Hillsborough'.
 

We must have looked like we were waiting for a bus because one stopped.   We looked at each other and said, "Sure," and got in.   "Are you going to Paradise Beach?" we asked the driver once we were on our way.   A pleasant older lady answered for him, "Yes.  I'm going to Tyrrel Bay a little beyond that."

Tyrrel Bay is popular with the yachting set and holds a number of regattas during the year.  "It going to get even busier," a fellow passenger told us, "with the marina expansion". 

That was as far as the driver was going, so he turned the bus around and we headed back to Paradise Beach.  He let us off in front of the 'Hardwood Bar and Snacket' ... a place recommended by Dave at Bayaleau Point Cottages.

A number of chairs and tables were sheltered by a covered patio.
 
   
 
They seemed to be doing a good business with many take-out orders eaten on the beach or while sitting on a horizontal tree trunk just outside the patio.  The azure blue water was calm and accented by flat, white Sandy Island about 2 km off shore.  It was a very good place to do some 'limin'.  In fact all of Carriacou seemed designed for this 'non-activity'.  

We bussed back into Hillsborough ... a different bus, different driver, a different route ... a fun way to see the island. 

The 'buzz' was still in town and a calypso band had been set up at the end of the wharf.  They broke into music each time a shuttle launch arrived with a new wave of tourists from the cruise ship anchored off shore.
   
We were in time to see Santa Claus come to town ... in the back of a silver pickup ... throwing candy while 'snowy' Christmas music blared from loud speakers and a small sign taped to the door invited people to attend the annual Christmas Show.

We picked up our backpacks and boarded the Osprey Express catamaran, pulled away from Carriacou and headed for Grenada. 
 

 

Sherrie and catamarans are not a good combination.  'Keep your eye on the horizon,' she kept thinking to herself but it is somewhat difficult when the horizon disappears into the foamy waves.
Once off the western coastline of Grenada, the waters calmed and the ride became more pleasant as we tried to identify towns in the fading light.
 
The last rays of sunset gave us a magnificent sight ... the stunningly beautiful RMS Queen Mary 2, a true heir to the timeless elegance and legacy of the great Cunard liners of legend.   She is 43 metres longer than the original Queen Mary and still carries the RMS designation. 

In 1839, Queen Victoria awarded Samuel Cunard the first ever licence to deliver mail across the Atlantic, proudly granting his steamship the title RMS (Royal Mail Steamer).  In 2004 RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Queen Mary 2 was awarded this privileged title in a continuation of her heritage.

We entered St George's, the capital of Grenada.   The harbour has a shape similar to mouse ears, one ear called the 'inner harbour' and the other 'the lagoon'.  We hiked around 'the lagoon' to the Lazy Lagoon where we had reservations.
 
It was dark when we made our way to the bar and checked in with the manager.  He had a girl take us up to our room.  It was difficult traversing the trail up to six adjoining cottages in the dim light.  She took us to the far door and showed us in.  She told us some things about the room as she moved around collecting bags, packages, mop, broom, pail and her purse. 

"Are we kicking you out of your room?" we asked a little uncomfortably.

"Oh, no," she answered, "I don't stay here." After she left, we still had a feeling of discomfort but decided to settle in and make the best of it.
 
First order of business was to go to the bathroom and then light some mosquito coils.  First things first.  We couldn't bring ourselves to use the painted wooden toilet seat ... it was filthy.  Sherrie tried to wipe it down with some disinfectant ... the exercise only emphasised how really filthy it was.   The mosquito coils were of the cheapest kind and broke with a mere touch, even before being lit.  Our eyes were adjusting to the dim light and the more we saw the less we wanted to stay ... we have been to many countries, stayed in hundreds of different accommodations, many of which struggle with limited resources to keep guestrooms clean ... but there didn't seem to be any logical excuse for the lack of cleanliness here.  The question to each other at this late hour was, 'could we put up with it for the night and change accommodations tomorrow?'.   The answer lay in the bed ... if it was clean we would stay.  We pulled back the covers.  At first glance it looked okay ... then we saw the black spot jump on the sheet  ... and another and another ... we counted seven without pulling the covers back any farther and quickly covered them up.  That was it ... we're out of here!   We doused the fragments of mosquito coil in water and turned off the light.  We tried to turn on a porch light to see our way down the dark stairs but the light was burnt out.  We dug out our own lights and made our way back to the manager at the bar. 

We asked if we could speak with him privately so as not to embarrass him in front of bar customers.  He was reluctant to do so.  We explained in detail our findings and his response back was, "We have a new housekeeper.  She's been with us two weeks and we haven't had any complaints."  

"Would you like to come back with us to the room so that we might show you?" we asked.
"No, that's fine.  I'll look at it another time."  With that we handed him the key and left not knowing quite where we were going.  We walked around the lagoon, went into the Tropicana Inn and asked if we might see a room.  

It wasn't much to write about ... not terribly good ... not terribly bad ... but far superior to what we had left.  We put the towel rack, which fell off the wall when we brush up against it, on the floor, changed and went out to find a place to have dinner. 
 We walked back to where the ferry had docked and continued around the inner harbour to an upstairs restaurant called the Nutmeg.  The staff outnumbered the customers ... just we two ... and the quality of food and service might give them an indication why; although we did appreciate the harbour view from our table.   
 
After dinner, we took a taxi back to the Tropicana Inn.  The driver's name was Patrick James and his vehicle named 'The Green Hornet' could be used as a taxi, a bus or for charter and tours.  We took his business card and told him we would call him in the morning.   

Dec 4 
In the light of day the Green Hornet showed that it was a hard working van-bus, but Patrick was friendly and well spoken with a Canadian connection.  He had lived in Toronto for a number of years and still has family there. 

Patrick had his 'spotter/conductor' with him; a valuable asset when driving bus, but an unnecessary addition for a two person tour ... however, it did give her a paying job for the day.

We drove once again around the inner harbour and then through a tunnel which connects the inner harbour with the new cruise and waterfront facilities, tourist area and the Esplanade Mall.  The well used 104 metre long  Sendall Tunnel (named for the governor of the island at the time of its construction) was finished in 1894 ... an engineering feat in its time.   It is 3.6 metres tall ... that's to the top of the dome ceiling.  Gouges and paint marks attest to the trial ... and error ... of taking trucks which are higher than 2.1 metres through. 

The steep hill ridge which runs down to the sea and divides the city, which was the reason the tunnel was built, still provides the city with steep narrow streets.  At the top end of one such street stands St George's Cathedral with it's gothic bell tower and no roof.  The cathedral was built in 1818 and the strongest test of it's physical strength came during hurricane Ivan in 2004 when howling winds ravaged the city.  The cathedral's roof was ripped from its supports and finally came to rest on the shattered pews and organ.  Crippled, it still stands as St George's prime landmark. 
 
 
 
Cricket is enjoyed throughout the island whether it is on a street, football field or beach.  At the northern edge of St George's is the Grenada National Stadium .. a new multi-use state-of-the-art facility.  The stadium, which holds 9,000 fans was host to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007. 

We drove north along the coastline road and asked Patrick about all the painting we saw ... stripes of red (sometimes faded to pink), green and yellow ... the colours of Grenada's flag. 

"It's in celebration of our independence as of February 7, 1974; symbols of our patriotic pride.  The government provides the paint and the people do the painting." 
   
And paint they do ... long staircases, telephone poles, garden tires, retaining walls, sea walls, houses and more.

 
     
Halifax Harbour with it's half sunken ship was originally named Petit Harve [small harbour] and is similar in shape to St George's harbour. 

It is believed to be the remains of a volcanic crater which erupted 15,000 years ago. 

This little harbour, which gives safe anchorage during storms and has good fishing, was well used by the Amerindians and early European settlers who grew coffee on the hills.  Halifax Harbour was also a preferred locale for smugglers and holds a good deal of island history and lore. 
Concord Falls is actually a series of three waterfalls.  We drove to the first; the others are only accessible on foot with the third cascading over a 65 foot cliff into a crystal clear pool in which visitors may swim.  The walk, we were told, is worth the time and effort, but because of time restraints, such a hike for us would have to wait for a return visit to Grenada.    

Patrick made stops to show and tell us about plants, trees and fruit; like a  cashew nut tree (put curser over photo to identify), banana and callaloo (a spinach-like plant)from which they make their traditional soup.    
   
Cashew Nut Tree Banana Callaloo 
The breadfruit tree gained literary and movie fame in 'Mutiny on the Bounty' and 'Bounty' which tells the story of Captain Bligh who sailed to Tahiti in 1787 and potted over 1,000 breadfruit shoots to transfer to the Caribbean.  The British suspected that it was breadfruit which was responsible for the super strength of Tahitians and wanted them to feed the many African slaves in the British West-Indies.  What Bligh didn't know was that breadfruit plants need plenty of water.  When the plants soaked up all the water, which had been placed on board the Bounty for their survival, the captain rationed the crew's water.  They didn't like that and their anger escalated with their thirst.  When Bligh refused to change his order his crew put him and his loyalists adrift in a small boat and flung the breadfruit plants into the sea.  Unexpectedly the captain and his followers survived the ordeal and Captain Bligh made another, this time successful, trip transplanting breadfruit into the Caribbean.  Even with his success the experiment failed because African slaves refused to eat it.  It was only after abolition that they adopted the fruit into their diet.  The fruit (a starchy food) is eaten, the wood of the tree used for canoe parts, drums, house building and furniture and the leaves and buds have been used for medicine.    Breadfruit tree
Patrick pointed out a mango tree and even stopped in front of a fellow's house and asked him if we could have a star-fruit off his tree.  The friendly fellow picked one ready to eat.  We have used them for garnish before but had never just picked one and eaten it ... sweet.
Mango Star-fruit Star-fruit 
We had never seen a cocoa tree before.  They are fairly low trees and the fruit, referred to as a 'pod' grows from the limbs of the tree rather than, as many fruits do,  from fresh leafy branches.  The yellow pods were not yet ripe; they will turn reddish-brown, at which time they will be cut from the tree and left on the ground to mellow.  The pods are then broken open, beans are taken out and left to dry in the sun for about a week before they are put into barrels to ferment.  The colour of the beans turn from purple to brown and then they are ready to be processed.  Fifty percent of the beans content is a yellowish cocoa butter.
Cocao Cocoa  Egg Plant ??
We laughed when Patrick stopped to show us the 'eggplant'.   Someone had the cleaver idea of decorating the sharp ends of a succulent's leaves with egg shells.  

As we approached the town of Gouyave we stopped to watch men seine fishing.  Gouyave is known as 'the Fishing Capital of Grenada' as most fish exported from Grenada comes from this town.  On an average year "over nine million dollars are made from fishing" and "over three thousand [people] directly or indirectly are involved in the [fishing] industry".   In seine fishing a large flat net, like a fence, with floats on the top and weights on the bottom, is taken  out by a boat which encircles schools of fish.  It is manpower from shore, in this case, which hauls the net in.  The big catch here is jack-fish and other near shore species.    We happened by as the nets were being mended and prepared for another catch.
  
 
 
 
 
 
Patrick stopped in front of the nutmeg factory whose rich aromas were doing their best to entice us in. 

Dubbed 'the spice island' Grenada has been one of the world's leading producers of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace and nutmeg.  Mace and nutmeg come from the same plant ... nutmeg is the rich brown seed in the middle and mace is the red 'lace' which entraps it.  The fruit itself is used for making jam.  Grenada was the world's second largest producer of nutmeg (after Indonesia) but hurricane Ivan destroyed a great deal of the producing trees.  So important is the crop to Grenada that a stylized nutmeg is featured on the nation's flag. 

Since we had  a limited number of hours to see Grenada, we chose not to tour the nutmeg factory and continued our drive.  

Through town we passed groups of school kids and a lady hanging out her laundry of clothes, silk flowers and stuffed toys (was it her laundry or her roadside market?).
 
 
Grenada is divided into six parishes.  St Mark's is the smallest of these and the home of Victoria, another small fishing/farming village.  Hurricane Ivan's destruction caused the loss of 250 jobs in the nutmeg industry and these losses have created hardship for many of the 4,000 citizens of St Mark's Parish.   The people of St Mark's, however, are a resilient lot and they are working together to increase tourism awareness of their ecological assets.  As well, in response to needs after Ivan, Victoria, under direction of the St Mark's Development Committee, hosts a monthly 'Sunset City Food Fest'; similar to the 'jump-ups' and 'Friday Fish Frys' we have seen on other Caribbean Islands.

In Victoria we bought sandwiches from a bakery where, like so many places in the Caribbean, they displayed a poster in support of Barack Obama for US President.
 
We bought a bag of popcorn from an officer at the police station where they have a popcorn machine set up just inside the front doors of the whitewashed building.  Good popcorn! 
Meantime a man sold chicken pieces from the back of his truck and another offered hog pods (a plum-like fruit) from a bucket.    
 
 
 
 
Like most teens around the world, the girls of Victoria walk to and from school in groups of conversation while there is always a boy or two who will make a camera shot interesting.  
 
 
 
In 1651, the Caribs, realising they had made a mistake by allowing the French to remain on their island, became hostile.  They killed many Frenchmen who in turn retaliated and with their superior weapons decided to wipe out the Caribs. 

The last stand of the Caribs was on a precipice on the northern tip of the island where they were completely defeated.  Rather than surrender they jumped off the cliff to their deaths on the sea swept rocks below. 

In following years, the town which grew up beside this historic site was named Morne des Sauteurs (Leaper's Hill) in memory of those who perished. 
 
 
 
The undisputable drink of the Caribbean ... offered in many ways from straight-up in a shot glass to being mixed with pineapple juice and coconut cream in a pina colada ... is rum. 

No other rum distillery in the entire Caribbean has been in operation as long as River Antoine Rum Distillery in northern Grenada ... and very few have so carefully maintained traditional methods of rum preparation.  Privately owned River's Rum, dating back to 1785, is in operation throughout the year. 

At one time the sugar cane needed to keep the distillery running came from Grenada's sugar cane fields.  Today much of the sugar cane juice is imported.   When they do have local sugar cane the waterwheel driven crusher presses the juice out of the cane.  The spent stocks, now called 'bagasse' will be used to fertilize cane fields and as fuel for fires under the coppers basins. 

The juice is roughly filtered and then ladled through a series of big metal boiling basins, call 'coppers', until the sugar in the juice is the right concentration.  The juice is then put through cooling tanks where natural yeasts begins the fermentation process.  The juice bubbles and foams in a series of fermentation tanks for about eight days. 

The next step is to put the fermenting juice into a boiler which is heated by wood (bagasse doesn't burn hot enough).  The alcohol steam rises  and then is cooled through coils where condensation gives way to what is now rum. 

Although it cannot be exported, River's produces one rum that is a fire-hazard-139%-proof.  The distillery does not officially export their rum and any taken off island is by tourists.

Airlines will not allow anything over 69% proof to be transported because of it being too combustible.
 
 
 
   
Patrick told us that most of the people of Grenada were hoping the US would invade in 1983.  If so, they got their wish, when on October 25, 1983, President Regan ordered some 6,000 troops to oust the six day old Marxist government which had come to power in a bloody coup.  Regan's excuse was that  US troops were there to protect hundreds of US medical students studying on Grenada. 

Today, on the north-east side of the island, a few Soviet and Cuban planes lie quietly decaying while sheep nibble at grass around them.  The old airport is getting a new lease on life as it is being presently used as a special operations and military training ground.
   
Situated high in the lush tropical rainforest and filling a crater of one of Grenada's extinct volcanoes is Grand Etang Lake.  A national park and forest reserve around the lake hold a rich diversity of unique floral and fauna including giant gommier trees, colourful birds, orchids, frogs, lizards, armadillos and the Mona Monkey.  
The Mona Monkey is not native to Grenada.  They are found in western Africa. The species was introduced to Grenada in the late 1600s most likely transported by a slave ship. 

The lake area is popular for hiking with trails that range from a 15 minutes jaunt to treks of several hours.  There is a fee to enter and guides, both human and written, are available.  Regretfully we did not have more time.            


The sun was beginning to set on another day and cast its glow on a baobab tree (we hadn't seen one since Africa) and tall stately palms.  We made a quick stop at another waterfall and then headed back into St George's taking a round-about way via the 18th century Fort George. 
 
It had been a good day and we were pleased with how Patrick had shown us his homeland.  We made arrangements with him to pick us up in the morning and take us to the airport.   If you want to make your own arrangements with Patrick James, his telephone number is (473) 420-5639. 
 
Dec 5

On the way to the airport Patrick made a side trip through the southern end of the island, home to some of the more upscale homes and St George's University, "because we ran out of time yesterday".

Everything was going well at the airport ... we had checked in our backpacks and gone through security ... we had even cleared customs ... until ... until Sherrie asked for a stamp in her passport. 
The customs officer made a little sigh and took the passport back.  His expression changed when he thumbed through the pages and could not find an entry stamp.   He looked through Terry's ... no stamp.  "Where were you before Grenada?" he asked.
"Carriacou."

"How did you enter Carriacou?"

"By boat.  By water taxi from Union Island."

"What ship were you on?"

"We weren't on a ship ... we were in a water taxi."  He called for help.

"Step over here," the customs woman directed us. 

"How did you come to Grenada?"

"On the Osprey Express from Carriacou."

"What cruise ship were you on in Carriacou?"

"We weren't on a cruise ship, we arrived on Carriacou by water taxi."

"But what ship?" she seemed to be getting frustrated by our answers. 

"Just a little water taxi.  The fellow's name was Simon Alexander and the ride was arranged by Roseman Adams who told us he was the President of Union Island Tourism." 

"Follow me."  She took us through some doors into the airport's arrival area.  "Please take a seat," she said indicating a bank of seats against the back wall after which she disappeared into a side office.  We joked about what might happen ... we were very relaxed and interested.  Perhaps they might have us enter the country here in arrivals so that we could then leave.  Sounded feasible.

It was some time before she reappeared.  "Okay," she said, "You were never here." 

"We weren't?"

"No." 

"But," Sherrie said, "we are."  'Put a sock in it, Sherrie,' flashed through Terry's mind.

"We have no record of you entering the country, therefore there can be no record of you leaving the country."

"I guess this means we don't get a stamp in our passports."

'Put a sock in it, Sherrie,' Terry thought again.

The officer got a quizzical look on her face.  "Just one minute." She left us and walked over to one of the customs officers in his little cubicle and we watched with interest. 
 
There was some rummaging around in drawers and then 'bang bang' on a stamp pad and then 'BAM' on the passport.  'Bang, bang, BAM' it repeated.  

She walked back over to us, "Follow me."   She took us through a new set of doors which opened directly to the preloading area.  She turned to us and handed back our passports, "Have a good flight," she said with a pleasant smile.  We checked our passports.  A 'souvenir' stamp from Grenada.  Excellent !
   
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