One month in Grenada, the Spice Island. Stein has been away on a two weeks trip to USA again, but the rest of start to feel at home here! Like so many times before, the attraction to a place we visit becomes stronger and stronger the longer we stay. We have "done" many of the things we have read about in the tourist guides: Fed the monkeys at Grand Etang, hiked in the rainforest and visited some waterfalls. We have visited the famous beach Grand Anse, we have been to the Sunday Barbecue at Roger's bar on Hog Island, we have visited Fort George and the National Museum and we have taken the bus ride up to former plantation, now chocolate factory at Belmont Estate. Then we have met a lot of people, sailors we knew from Brazil or Trinidad, and some we have met for the first time. Not least Rhythm from Canada! A big, fancy catamaran with teenagers on board! Another family like ours that has sold their house and set out to circumnavigate the world. Joey and Olivia are 17 and 14, just like Ingeborg and Thorstein, and for two weeks there was so much fun "hanging out" with the new friends! Our Argentinian friends on Ypake came up from Trinidad, too, and on the afternoon we were all anchored in Prickly Bay, and they were 7 kids between 9 and 18 in the party! Lots of laughter!
The Rhythm family is very sporty, and with them and some other "yachtees" we have been hiking in the rainforest a few times. We first met Olivia, Joey, Peggy and David at a "hash"
. We all liked the muddy meeting with the Grenadian rainforest, in a spectacular route that brought us up and down hillsides, crossing waistdeep rivers and beautiful landscapes. It was rounded off with serving of oil-down, the national dish. Not quite popular with all our party, but I've later read the recipe and found that the suspicious looking pieces floating in the coconut sauce was not chunks of octopus and fish heads, but rather dumplings and chicken meat! Strange how imagination adds to the flavour of unfamiliar tastes! Later we went with the Rhythm folks (and some others) on hikes to Mount QuaQua, the Seven Sisters Waterfalls and to Tuftonhall Waterfalls. All great experiences! On top of Mount QuaQua we met the rainy clouds that are flowing across the Island and found ourselves in the middle of them. Even though the rain got us all wet we didn't get cold, of course. But the tracks got very muddy! By the time we reached the main road and the tourist buses we were hardly presentable. Good thing we had fed the monkeys with bananas and candy before setting out on the track.. then we didn't have to mingle with all the cruise ship passengers that had arrived by then! Also a good thing the next stop was going to be the Seven Sisters Waterfalls where we could dive into the pond below it and get all cleaned up again. Very nice!
Later we were invited to go to the Tuftonhall Waterfalls with a local guide, Wello! Even though the young men in our families needed a day off due to a late party the night before, the rest of us had a great day! Wello was equipped with a big machete and a coil of rope, and secured our steps all the way. The track went along the river/creek running down from the tallest waterfall on the island. It turned out to be a quite challenging track where we had to climb with ropes to get past some of the cliffs. Wello knew how to use his machete, and made walking sticks from bamboo to all of us. It really was a good help! He also picked all the fruit we wanted from the trees around, so we had all the cocoa seeds we wanted for snacks and picked nutmeg and oranges that we could bring home. The area had been part of a plantation earlier, and many of the trees were planted at that time, but Wello told us how sad it is that very few find it interesting to harvest these fruits anymore. Nowadays Grenada imports bananas! Only nutmeg seems to be an interesting crop, and is grown and processed for export. Besides tourism this is Grenadas most important industry!
There have been many Norwegian boats around also, but we have only met some of them, briefly. However, Sølvi and Ole Petter on Fortia have been good company these last days. We last met them on Ibiza in 2009, when we lay dismasted and miserable, waiting for the new mast in the marina in Eivissa. Like us they are on their way around the world, and here our routes met up again! We celebrated the Independence Day together with Sølvi, Ole Petter and a lot of Grenadians at the National Stadium on the 7th this month.
However, the celebrations started already one month earlier when houses and roadsides started to be dressed up in red, yellow and green. Flags and banners all over. The last week-end before the 7th people themselves were asked to dress up in the national colours, and they did! Beautiful dresses, hats, T-shirts, bags, jewellery. We have learned that the colours are chosen to memorate the African heritage of most Grenadians. The main celebration was a very lively and friendly ceremony at the stadium. It started with a parade made up of different groups representing the society. We didn't recognise all of them, but there were different dance groups in fancy costumes, farmers parading with their tools, ladies from the spice market and then the "military" section made up of police groups, cadets, boy and girl scouts, the red cross and a visiting Venezuelan parachuting troop. (They don't have real military troops in this country!) Someone had made a choreography of the parade, but not everyone had got all the messages... The poor director in his white uniform had to run around and turn people back, make the drummers be silent by quite illustrating gestures.. but in the end it all went quite well I think. The military section also had to stand there through the speeches from the different dignitaries, and one after the other they collapsed in the heat and had to be carried out. These uniforms aren't made for parading in the Carribean! Anyway, they rounded off the show by demonstrating their efficient fighting techniques, and people applauded, shouted and had a good time as the police band "fled" the arena as "attackers" started to shoot. Quite entertaining!
This is the island on which the indian tribes withstood attacks from the Europeans for more than 100 years after Columbus discovered it and named it Concepcion in 1498. And they never surrended: The last 45 Carib indians commited suicide by leaping from a cliff on the northern cape of the island (today named Carib's Leap or Leapers Hill) to avoid being overtaken by the French around 1651.Today it is a young nation celebrating 37 years of independence from the British rule. The country has had an interesting history these 37 years, too, with a period of socialist/communist rule from 1979 to 1983 and the US invasion in 1984 as highlights! Even though the communists were defeated in the end, the prime minister from those years, Maurice Bishop, seems to have been a very popular figure and he is still a living memory. They renamed the International airport after him a few years ago, so today it is named Maurice Bishop International Airport. Internal rivalry in the party, however, led to his arrest in 1983 and he and some others were killed shortly after. And that was more or less the end of that era.
During our stay we have not seen or heard of much crime here, and we hear from other sailors too that this is one of the friendliest islands to visit. We have, however, vitnessed a dinghy theft episode up close. Our friends at Rhythm got their dinghy stolen outside the dinghy dock here in Prickly Bay! The dinghy thieves were, however, caught by the Coast Guard. Our friends aboard the Coast Guard got to experience a real cat and mouse chase which ended as the dinghy tried to cut in front of the Coast Guard, but was hit and submerged! As it floated up again the engine was gone and the poor guy was unconcious.. Even though everybody was glad the Rhythm people have their dinghy back, I think many cruisers felt that the dinghy thief had been sufficiently punished. He was hospitalised with back injuries for quite some time and we all hope he will get well, soon! One voice on the VHF, however, declared "I love it, I love it and hope he get 30 years in prison". For Grenadians working in the yachting industry it is of course important to see that the Coast Guard protect the cruisers efficiently. The reputation as a safe destination is crucial for their business.
I will end this report by telling you about our charity involvement during our stay: There is an iniative made to improve the reading skills among the young Grenadians, Mount Airy Grenada Young Readers Programme. Every Saturday morning we are asked to join as tutors. Ingeborg, Thorstein and I have been there twice, and it is quite interesting to go there and meet with the kids who really want to improve their skills! Most of them have basic reading skills and only need practice, practice..The literacy rate is quite high here referring to our Times almanac for 2011 so I guess that means they are encouraged to study by their environment. Too bad the Programme only has one big room where the teaching goes on. It's hard to concentrate with all the noise, but it is an opportunity to get a 1-1 setting with a tutor. The kids are between 7 and 18 years old, and the skills are quite varied. But they seem to show each other due respect and seems to like it there. I heard that some have been coming more or less every Saturday for 4 years! Learning this we are glad if our small effort could be of some help!
Our stay on Grenada is coming to an end. We are heading north in a few days, and we'll see where the next stop will be. Carriacou, St. Lucia, Bequia.. We'll see! But for Easter it is Bahamas, that is for sure. Marit will be coming for a visit, and we really look forward to it!