Arriving in St Vincent is quite spectacular - the twin prop plane sails low in the sky heading towards the setting sun and then sharply banks to the right. We pass over the roofs of some beautiful villas, and then skim the rocky shore, hugging the shoreline with the waves crashing against the rocks literally a few metres below us. Just as it seems we're destined to either clip the rocks with the wings, or land in the water, the ground flattens, a runway appears, and within a couple of seconds we've bounced onto it. The air stewardess says, Welcome to St Vincent and the Grenadines, my home and the jewel of the Caribbean!
Although it's early evening and the sun is rapidly going down, it's still very warm and sticky. Ancelma and Romo from the Windward Islands National Farmers Association are here to meet me, and we climb into a taxi van to go down to the Sky Blue Apartments where I'll be staying. There are no really big chain hotels in St Vincent. The government is now building a new airport, with a runway suitable for jets. At present you have to fly to Barbados or St Lucia to get to St Vincent and the Grenadines, but the Vincentians hope the new runway will boost tourism and exports though direct flights. This will be good news for the exporter I met at Barbados airport who runs a specialist food company in Coventry UK, importing dasheen, yams, mangoes from St Vincent, who currently has to ship produce to Barbados, truck it from the port to the airport, and then airfreight it in the holds of Virgin and BA flights.
Ancelma breaks the bad news that they've just heard that the WIBDECO (banana exporting) ship is now not going to arrive on Sunday at all, which means there will be no harvesting of bananas that day, and the farmers will go to church or just take the day off instead. In the past when this happened, they would still harvest bananas, and just take them down to the shipping port the next day, but this is now not allowed for quality reasons. The farmers aren't too happy as Monday is a bank holiday and now they are forced to harvest on that day. Ancelma says they're used to it though - they've even had to harvest on Christmas Day when the boat schedules have changed. She suggests I just take a pleasure boat trip to the Grenadines on Sunday instead. Tempting as this is, I'm sure there must be something more constructive I can find, so that my colleagues arriving on Saturday evening can make the most of their very short stay. I'll have to see who might be around and what options I can find tomorrow.
We arrive at the Sky Blue Apartments, by the sea. It is a huddle of two story buildings set around a lovely garden, painted blue and white. Ancelma heads back home, whilst I sit in the garden to eat supper of fried fish. With the texture of swordfish, it's fried in a herby coating, and of course comes with a hot pepper sauce on the side. The trees all around are lush and green, and I spy a wild looking bunch of green bananas hanging from one of the palms. They definitely wouldn't pass any supermarket quality code...
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