Saturday July 6 – Another unnecessarily early start to the day, but a relaxing one. I packed my stuff, had a yogurt for breakfast, talked to Jeroen and watched several episodes of NCIS New Orleans. Man, it’s been a rough year for King.
At 11:15 I headed out for the last time. I quite liked this little studio. It has every I needed, except a spaghetti strainer. I left the key in the lockbox and said good-bye to Ken, the security guard and my only friend on the island. I took the two buses to the airport and had an easy time finding a spot towards the front, even with both backpacks, which can be awkward.
Today I’m heading to St Kitts and Nevis, a two-island nation. I fly into St. Kitts, but will stay in Nevis for three nights before heading back to St. Kitts for two. I think I was the first to check in for my flight, but I had to wait for the woman working to be available, as she was working on something else. I spent forever trying to decide whether or not I should get more USD from an ATM to be safe
for later, or if I should wait until St. Kitts for East Caribbean dollars (ECD), which are used on several of the other islands I’m going to. Almost all of them accept USD as well, so I wasn’t sure. I finally decided to just go ahead and get more USD but the fee for the ATM seemed too high, so in the end I waited. I’m a terrible decider. While I waited, I used the free wifi and did a little planning.
I was waiting at the gate for my flight at 1:10pm, as it said on my ticket, but the gate agent did not show up until 1:40pm, 30 minutes before take-off, just as you would expect. The whole process was smooth, and we got on a bus that took us to our small 12-row plane. I had a seat at a window, above the wing, as always, and took a video or take-off and landing. The flight itself was less than 30 minutes, so I barely got any planning done in that time.
The passport line in St Kitts went quickly, and I was out and in my prearranged taxi quite fast. My taxi driver was
named Elvis, and he drove me to the ferry terminal and gave me a mini-tour along the way. We arrived at 3:15pm, and he let me use his cell phone to call Myron, my airbnb host who offered to pick me up when I arrived in Nevis. The ferry left at 4pm. I had originally been skeptical that I could land at 2:40pm and be on that ferry, but I was actually 45 minutes early. I bought my ticket as soon as the window opened, and then went for a little wander. Basseterre is the capital of St Kitts and it is still quite small. One of the bus stations is right at the ferry terminal, and all of the buses have crazy names. There was also music playing, like Toto’s Africa, which was kind of fun. I saw a bank, so I made a decision (finally!) to grab some ECD before the ferry. I got a few pictures and headed back and still had time to use the bathroom and relax. A whole children’s cricket team was also waiting. I guess they came over the day to play.
The ferry ride was really smooth. I wish I hadn’t
taken a seasickness pill. Would have been better to have waited on that for a real ride. I think it took about 45 minutes to reach Nevis, and we landed in Charlestown, the island capital, which is even smaller than Basseterre. From the boat I could spot Myron, my airbnb host, in his promised white cap. Him and his friend Irene picked me up. I think it is his girlfriend and they’re both probably in their 70s or 80s, and already taking care of me. They pointed out some landmarks along the way and we stopped somewhere I could get a take-away dinner. I think it was called a fry-up. It was rice with herbs and chicken. Not my favorite herb combination, but not bad. I ate my dinner out on the back porch, the best part about this house, according to my host. The house is old, but my room has an A/C and a tv that I will never turn on. The room is very pink. The wifi does not work great inside, but it’s ok if you’re in the right position. Starting to come up with a plan for my days here.
Sunday July 7 -
Remember when I said I was going to try to get to know some of the people on the islands? Today was one of those days. Myron came home from two hours of church, lord have mercy, and made breakfast. As you know, I’m always worried about the price of everything, but I decided it would be worth it today. We chatted while we ate and then went outside to look at a troop of monkeys that was raiding the mango tree. So, two things here. The mangoes are everywhere and it is the season. They have so many they are even feeding them to their sheep. Also, I learned that there are large numbers of green vervet monkeys on the island, as well as on St Kitts and Barbados. They come from Africa and were brought as pets, initially. It was fun to watch them. After the monkeys we got ready to head out. The plan was that he would drop me off at the botanic gardens and pick me up with Inez when I called and then we would all go the beach. But when we got to the botanic garden, it was closed. No explanation, just closed.
So, we went to Inez’s house and hung out while she cleaned up and got ready. In the meantime, we watched an episode and a half of Paternity Court, another court tv show from the states, it seems. Very dramatic. He wasn’t the father!
Instead of just going to the beach, it turned out to be a day trip around the island, which is about 20 miles around. The first stop was the Hot Springs, a spot where water naturally flows hot, and they have built a little pool that you can soak in for health purposes. It’s free, and they recommend no more than 15 minutes due to the high temps. It’s next to what used to be a famous hotel where people would come to take the waters, but that is no longer operational.
Our next stop was Pinney’s beach, which is supposed to be the best on the island, though this was not our destination. He wanted me to see it, but thought Oualie beach is a better spot for swimming because it is so shallow. So I got some pics and then we left. Next up was St Thomas Anglican Church, the oldest church
in the Caribbean. It’s about 375 years old now, and we saw one grave from 1679.
Oualie beach was next, and just off the beach they were having Mangofest. Something about all you can eat food, presumably with mangoes, but the cost was almost $40 US! Crazy. We just went to the beach. It rained when we first got on the beach - my first Caribbean rain of the summer. But it passed quite quickly, and the water was well needed. The islands are currently in a drought. Once the rain passed and we were on the beach, I had a piece of watermelon that Myron brought and then went swimming. Some others were snorkeling and saw a stingray, so I decided to get over the fact that my hair was clean now and finally go snorkeling. Man, I love looking around underwater but hate seawater. Marine biology was never going to be for me, no matter what I thought in college. There was no coral, but I saw fish, starfish and a stingray. Even a few urchins. It was cool. I spent all my time in the water, and we left around 4pm.
We stopped next at
the nearby ruins of Cottle Church, a slave built church for both whites and blacks, not common in those days. Apparently the plantation owner was not the worst of slave owners and worshipped with his slaves after they built the church. Progress? Then we saw St James church, but there was a service going on, so we just saw it from the road. People here take church very seriously, dressing up in suits and dresses. I’ve also seen a lot of God talk on buildings, buses, you name it. Let go and let God was at the ferry terminal.
New River sugar plantation was our last touristy stop for the day. It is an old sugar processing plant on the grounds of the old plantation. They do not grow sugar cane here anymore, but it was big business. In fact, this island is very rural and there are donkeys everywhere. Apparently, they were used in the sugar industry but were let go when the industry closed, and now there are just donkeys roaming everywhere, and no one owns them. There are also a lot of goats and some chickens too.
We tried to stop and get me some
takeaway food, but the place we tried was closed. We also stopped at a grocery store and I was surprised to see so much American food there. But Myron just said he would cook us something. I agreed, hoping it would not be too expensive. We drove Inez home, stopped there for some water and some mangoes for the sheep, and then headed out to bring in the sheep for the night. They have 10 sheep, which I would have called goats. Myron got them into their pen for the night, to protect them from dogs, fed them, and then we drove back to his place.
He prepared dinner while I showered the saltwater off, and we had a nice supper. Chicken, rice, steamed veggies and some salad. He even brought me a little piece of cake with ice cream while I talked to my mom later. During dinner we talked a lot, including a long talk about his life and religion. Reasonably uncomfortable for me, since I am not a believer, but I let him talk until it seemed like a good time to suggest cleaning up. I talked to my mom. Bought my ferry ticket for a
day trip to Montserrat next week, and watched some tv.
Overall, a very good day.
Monday July 8 - It’s just so hot every day. My face has little tiny blisters, maybe a heat rash?, presumably from the heat and humidity. I woke up around 4am when it started to rain and had trouble getting back to sleep. I think I slept off and on until 7:30am or so. I heard Myron putting away dishes around 6:30. Eventually I got up and started the day. I need to go to sleep earlier and stop binge watching tv shows from last season. Or do I?
Myron made me some porridge for breakfast. I think he would have gone full English breakfast again, but I stopped him at porridge. It was plenty. I had originally planned to do a hike today that leaves from the Golden Rock Inn, but with the rain this morning, it didn’t seem like a great idea. So instead Myron said he would take me to the beach nearby so I could see it, and then he would drop me off at the Botanic Gardens that were closed yesterday. It turns out they are closed
on Sunday during the low season, but they hadn’t updated their website.
We took Myron’s old 1988 Jeep down to the beach, because the roads are poor, mostly dirt and sand. We stopped first at the place where the fishing boats come in, and we looked around a bit. Then we drove a little further along, passed an old race track, and showed up at White Beach. It was covered with seaweed, no longer so white. Myron said it used to be different when he was a kid. On both beaches there was also a noticeable amount of plastic. We walked up on the rocks nearby and I saw the bones of a goat that had died. There were also plenty of goats and donkeys around, just like everywhere else on the island.
After the beach, Myron dropped me off at the Botanic Garden. It was a little pricey ($13 US) but it had good reviews. It’s supposed to take 2-2.5 hours to see it all. I managed to walk it, taking pictures, in an hour. They have a little building with two parrots that I spent some time talking to and whistling with. It was pretty, but
I didn’t feel it was nearly as nice as other gardens I’ve seen. Instead of leaving right away, I decided to sit in a big swing in the shade and read for a while. It was a hot day but it was cool in the shade with a bit of a breeze. I had just decided it was time to go when Myron called on a little phone he gave me to call him when needed. He asked when I wanted to leave and if I wanted I ride. He said he could be there in 30 minutes, which was at least how long it would have taken me to walk to Inez’s house, so I pulled my book back out and read some more. I’m finishing A LOT of books on this trip. Eventually I should probably reread the one that I have assigned to my students for the summer.
Myron and I went to Inez’s house, but we did not stay long. Myron wanted to visit the Golden Rock Inn to find out more about the hike I wanted to do. It was too late for me to start it, but he wanted to ask about it
for his future guests. We said goodbye to Inez and tried to drive to the Golden Rock, but the road was blocked by trucks doing work on the road. So we drove to a cultural site nearby that has samples of houses through the ages on the island. The woman working there called the Golden Rock and found a different way for us to get there. She also told me about the types of houses on their property, from thatched huts to the old room houses freed slaves lived in with their families, to the houses of today. She told me she would normally charge me, but since some of the houses were closed she wouldn’t today. Ok? I never asked for any of it, but it was informative anyway. I took a few pics of the houses before we left.
At the Golden Rock, we picked up a free map of the hiking trail and then walked around the property a bit. It used to be a sugar plantation back in the day, and it’s now a fancy hotel. It’s quite pretty. Afterwards we stopped at the Best Buy, a grocery store near the house. I bought some
pasta for dinner tonight and then decided to walk home. I wanted to look around the cemetery and take some pictures of some of the run-down houses in the area. There are some nice houses, and then some just plain falling down. Very photogenic though.
When I wasn’t looking, Myron cooked dinner for both of us, making fish and chips. Soon we’ll have to figure out how much money I owe him, and I’m nervous. I didn’t know he was cooking for me tonight. Later he brought me a little piece of cake and some tea. We ate early - around 4:30pm, but I think he was missing his lunch today. He suggested I could still make my pasta tonight when I get hungry but that is not going to happen. It’s hot and I’m never actually hungry.
I spent the evening feeding my tv addiction, writing the blog and doing some research for the trip. As always.
Tuesday July 9 - I woke up at 6:00 and decided to start the day. I started to pack up, and heard Myron leave at 6:45 to let his sheep out for the day. When he came back, he
prepared a big breakfast for us - porridge and then an egg, bacon, tomato and toast. Last night I asked him how much I owed him, and he said $20 would be good. From my guess, this might just cover his gas, not the food he had cooked me for dinner two nights and breakfast for three days. I gave him 100 EC, or about $37. He was very appreciative. After breakfast he drove me to the ferry, and we were there in time for me to take the 9:00 ferry. I said goodbye to Myron, really glad I had had a chance to meet him. He has quite a nice personality and is still really active at 77 years old. He told me it was nice to have me visit with him, and that I should let him know next month when I make it back to Switzerland.
(see St Kitts blog)
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