Saturday, October 20, 2012


We took an island tour with the taxi driver that concentrates on the natural side of Grenada. Accompanying us were four Aussies, one lone woman from Brazil who admirably avoided the attentions of two amorous American single handing sailors, a British/Jamaican, and one sailor from Virginia.

Cutty, our guide, soon showed us that he knows his stuff on the flora and fauna of Grenada but he also showed us things like the view of St Georges from the ridge. We were attracted to his tour by virtue of his 'safe' driving record. (that means no white knuckles, only a bit of occasional indigestion).

Grenada is an island measuring 21 by 7 miles with 103,000 people inhabiting it. We estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-400 yachts sailing here during hurricane season. There are two active volcanoes in the water off the north end of Grenada. Kick'em Jenney and Kick'em Jake have erupted four times in the past 70 years. Imagine being above Kick'em Jenney when there was a huge gas release, seeing the mass of bubbles coming up to the surface as your boat sunk for lack of buoyancy. Yes, we do plan to avoid that! More statistics: the unemployment on Grenada is 50%, and the import tax on a used vehicle is 125%. There have been three revolutions all starting on the same day of the same month and in the same Parish located in the southeastern part of Grenada. Actually, they all started with an action in the same place as well, where six roads come together at a now famous six way junction. Of course, you all remember the American Invasion of Grenada. Did you know the American's bombed a mental hospital thinking it was the rebel headquarters located next door? So our tour guide reported as we rolled by.

We passed a prison where inmates worked raising farm animals, etc. Steal from a tourist and get a sound beating from locals, then a trip to the police for another beating followed by a trial and sentence for another beating followed by prison.

While on the mountain top overlooking St. Georges Harbor Cutty gave us another smattering of information pointing out the Cricket Stadium as well as housing units donated by the Chinese following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, a category 4 hurricane that hit Grenada hard. All the schools lost their roofs and most of the churches. Ivan also destroyed nearly all the nutmeg trees Grenada had relied on for export. Close to the Stadium was the Prime Ministers Residence. Located close by and appearing more forlorn was the British Governor General's Residence that didn't fare as well during or after Ivan and remains a rotting remnant of the British presence.

Our Island Tour next took us to a plantation where Cutty walked us around as he dug or picked various spices. This was not your typical vision of 'plantation' given its overgrown appearance. Cocoa plants growing in the shade of the nutmeg trees, saffron substitute, lemon grass, bay leaf trees , cinnamon trees, cloves and various other spice plants all growing together. Once we all scrambled back down the walkway to the narrow roadway, with other cars and buses speeding by, the proprietor of the typical sales shack opened up and we were invited inside for a further demonstration of the various spices followed, of course, by the opportunity to contribute to the local economy. Probably the most impressive thing we saw was the Brazil nut pod. Never would have imagined it looking like that!

Moving on to our next stopping place at Annandale Falls. Beautiful plantings leading down a walk to the falls where some of our fellow travelers went for a swim. There were two native young men there inviting us to take pictures of them diving from far above the pond at the foot of the falls and then pay them for the 'entertainment' and photo opportunity. Back into the bus and on to the Rain Forrest and a very special introduction to species that was introduced to Grenada in years past, now an accepted part of the local animal life.

Mona monkeys Cutty started sounding his horn as we came up to the Grand Etang visitors center. Knowing a Grenadian driver without a horn is driving half blind I did not see what he was honking at. However all became clear when we stopped by the railing and were soon greeted by a couple of Mona Monkeys. They obviously recognized the sound of his horn and what was waiting for them. Muggins here was the first to fall for the old 'MONKEY ON THE HEAD' trick. These guys will do anything for a bit of banana from Cutty. They were well behaved, did not steal my glasses or poop on my shirt. We played with the monkeys for a while then as it started to rain two buses of school children pulled up with Mennonite teachers to see the monkeys as well.

We had many treats along the way and a good narration of the passing items of interest. However, at the top of everyone's mind was the hunger that was setting in. Where are we going to eat? The next town we came to was Greenville. It was typical with it's narrow streets, swarming people, students in uniforms, street venders, loud music intermittently, and pedestrians sharing the roads with inches to spare. Cutty pulled up to a spot and unloaded us onto the side of the street. From there he lead us back behind the front row of stores and upstairs to Ebony's Restaurant. It looked a bit suspicious! There were no windows, just shutters that overlooked another street, placemats varying from Disney's Beauty and the Beast to Picnic Checks. However, did I say the food was great? John had Jerk Pork and Jan enjoyed her first Roti made with fresh tuna. The little pots of sauce were to be respected with a little dab will do ya lest your mouth burn the rest of the day.

On to more plants. Cutty would typically be driving along and stop long enough to go pick something, bring it back to the passengers, pass it around and then tell us all what it was. There was a plant called Seeds Under Leaf with all sorts of medicinal uses, another that was used in make up (red and very lasting!), and a plant for Caster Oil that also is responsible for ricin a deadly poison.

We turned and headed up the old airport with an increase in speed and more information about the drag races that are now held at the airport. Who would have thought given the import tax on used vehicles?

Cocoa grows well on Grenada as we saw during our visit to the plantation early in our trip. Cutty cut open a cocoa pod and let us taste the ripening cocoa. Then we stopped at a Cooperative where the cocoa nut was processed. It was an old concrete building with very little lighting inside. We entered and were handed over to an official at the plant for our tour. OSHA hadn't been there in a while! One of the Australian's tripped on the bottom step, fortunately not injuring herself. We were led to the fermenting first, then to the area where the beans are dried on large sheets. The traditional way to turn the bean as they dry was demonstrated to us: she stepped onto the drying rack and scuffed her bare feet over the surface, turning the beans as she went first one way then another. Isn't this supposed to be Italy and aren't those beans supposed to be grapes? The invitation was extended to join in so Jan did only to discover that the beans got stuck between toes. Instruction was available for technique as well as how to clear ones toes of beans. Once dried the beans were bagged and shipped.

The next step in the process of making chocolate was just a bit farther down the road. Cutty hustled us along saying that they were closing. We had a very quick tour through a spotless plant with some very interesting machinery. Our guide was someone who actually did the work and was very obviously proud of what he was doing....but could you move on a bit faster now please, it's payday and I've somewhere to go.. Jan did take along some bars of 71% chocolate. We'll see if they make it home. John has introduced a very bad habit of having a small bit of chocolate with morning coffee.

This is getting very lengthy and we haven't talked about the Rum Factory where they make 160% proof (86% alcohol), the use of bamboo for scaffolding, the 100 year old house where the Nutmeg Pain Relieving Spray was sold (also marketed in the US), and the lovely flowers that seem to garland every house. Perhaps the lovely flowers that seemed to be everywhere were the inspiration for the 10 Gold Medals at the Chelsea Flower Show in 13 years. We'll add the pictures and tell some more of the story soon.

We finished the day with Cutty at his favorite 'liming' spot, just hanging out with friends and a little rum.

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