Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Grenada Island Tour November 2015

Grenada Island Tour November 2015

With a mixture of history, art and agriculture Cutty’s tour was one of the most interesting we have done.

St Georges from the hilltop

A drive up the hill behind St Georges showed us a beautiful view of the Carenage and port. We were below Forts Matthew and Frederick which the Americans tried to bomb in 1983 but instead bombed the mental hospital! Below was the prison with an extensive farm has been in use since the 1700’s!
Down the hill we passed the cricket stadium built by the Chinese. At the opening ceremony the Police band played the Taiwanese National Anthem. Bet that did not go down very well. It was also severely career limiting for the bandmaster as well! The road was cut into the cliff and we stopped to see ancient petroglyphs right at the roadside. 

A modern 'petroglyph'!

The tradition is still continuing as there were many modern ones as well. We continued through Happy Hill, the birthplace of Lewis Hamiltons grandfather and further on the home villages of Johnson Beharry, VC and the Mighty Sparrow, Calypso King of the World. Most villages had hand painted murals dedicated to celebrities or politicians.

Cutty with a coco pod
Cutty would stop now and then to show us various plants and describe their uses. Oil nut, used in cooking. The inside of prickly pear leaves can be used as a shampoo and body wash – I only knew it as a fruit. Nutmeg is of course the crop synonymous with Grenada which has healing properties as well as culinary. Soursop, a rather ugly knobbly fruit is a newly discovered cancer cure and is taking over as Grenadas biggest crop. It makes a delicious healthy juice as well.
Wherever you looked there were crops. Most farming is mixed where crops are grown in layers with taller trees like coconut providing shade for others. 

Typical mixed farming

Cocoa is a big crop here too. During Hurricane Ivan the cocoa trees lost all their fruit but the trees were undamaged and continued to fruit. Many of the nutmeg trees were damaged and Grenada still has not reached pre-Ivan production levels even though there seem to be nutmeg trees everywhere.
There are citrus trees, star fruit creepers, guavas, bananas, breadfruit, avocado, cassava, pawpaws, turmeric, maize, sweet potato and more. It is incredibly lush. Cutty said no one in Grenada need go to bed hungry, there is always something in season.

Fresh coconuts at the roadside

Leaving the coast we went east to visit the Concord Falls, a dramatic two part waterfall. There is another section higher up but we did not have time to walk up. Even here in the highlands we were surrounded by edible plants as well as the beautiful forest flowers.

Concord falls

Next stop was the Goyave nutmeg processing station. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside. It is really just a huge shed and most of the work is done by hand by women. Above them is a mechanical nut cracker and the nuts come down a central wooden chimney. The women sit all around this and sort the nuts into sacks of whole or broken. They remove any shell remaining and the shells all go in sacks too. They get paid per sack of whole or broken nutmegs. The sacks are hand stitched and stencilled with destinations world wide. Grenada produces the words finest whole nutmeg. 

The view from the exclusive Petty Anse hotel - yes they did let us in!

After a brief stop at the Petit Anse Hotel to see the lovely garden, waves crashing on the beach and a view all the way to Carriacou our next stop was Sauteurs also known as Caribs leap. 

The gardens at Petite Anse

When the French took over the island the last few Caribs leapt off the cliffs to their death rather than surrender to the French. A sad tale, sadly repeated on several other islands.

View towards Carib's leap

We had a delicious lunch at Helenas restaurant just next to the Post Office. Her veranda overhangs the sea just around the corner from Caribs Leap so we had a lovely view and a lovely sea breeze. Chicken, turkey and fish with all the usual island side dishes was served buffet style accompanied by Passion fruit juice – of course, you could buy a beer at the bar – and rounded off with nutmeg ice cream and melon. This was less than £10.00 for the two of us!

Recycled cannon - as a traffic bollard

We headed south to Arthurs Seat (!!) and the Grenada Chocolate Factory which has been a cocoa processing plant since 1774 but only recently began making chocolate. Very small factory but very nice chocolate!  Four little bats jockeyed for position over the door as we entered for our tour! 

Bats by the door!

No one seemed to mind them at all! Cocoa trees grew all around with other crops below like everywhere else including pumpkins, calaloo and lemon grass. The cocoa fruits grow up to about 20cm with many beans inside. Cutty broke one open and we all had a taste. They have a gelatinous coating over each seed which you suck off, slightly tart but very nice, a bit like a Litchee. They only make dark chocolate in a few flavours, nutmeg being one, of course! 

There have been huge amounts of Sargassum weed in the Caribbean this year and piles wash up on the beaches. Here they collect it and mix it with the pods from the cocoa which are slightly acidic. This counteracts the salt in the seaweed and makes very good compost. During the turtle nesting season, cruisers had been helping local wild life rangers to clear the weed off the beaches as the turtles were unable to move the weed to dig their nests.

The old Rivers distillery

Rivers Rum Factory was next, we went there last time we were in Grenada but it was still interesting. They have been producing rum since 1785 and still only make enough for local consumption. 

Pretty old technology - but it still works

The white rum they produce is 150 proof! It is too high an alcohol content to take on an aeroplane, so they make a 130 proof for the tourists! Both are rocket fuel! We had a tasting of course and their latest product is a chocolate rum! 

A walk into the rainforest

Back into the interior we had a little forest walk at Grand Etang through tree ferns, huge trees and colourful heliconias to look for Mona monkeys. We did not see any but when we got to the end of the walk and the bar – naturally – the barman said we had just missed them. They are not indigenous, once again escaped pets but have become naturalised. They are hunted but this area is a reserve so they are quite tame.

Typical country house

We drove back through Grenville, the second biggest town in Grenada and it was certainly very busy. A lot of the businesses here are run by Syrians. Not recent immigrants but descendants of Syrian settlers from the 1800’s. 

Contrast a restored plantation house

As usual every bit of history raises more questions than answers. Back to the yacht club for a last drink before making our weary way back to Galene after a fascinating day.

Did we do all that in a day?

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