Over the last 8 months we have taken tours of many of the islands that we have visited - but not all. We have found every tour to be fascinating, and hope to fill in the missing ones when we visit the Caribbean again at the end of our circumnavigation.
On Grenada we hired Cutty, a native Grenadian about our age (i.e. an old guy), to take us for a tour of the island in his new, aircon equipped, van. We went with some friends, the Johnstons, (Fletcher, Kristofer and their daughter Ward) whom we met in Port Louis Marina and their friends, the Quinns (David, Gretta, Shephard and Charlie). The Johnstons are a lovely family from North Carolina and their daughter is one of most delightful young girls we have ever met (see photo below). They are taking a year off and touring the Caribbean aboard their Beneteau 42, “Lovely Cruise.” One of the great joys of cruising is the opportunity to continually meet really interesting people. In the Caribbean, most cruisers follow a similar path, so we often bump into people we already know from other islands. The sad news is that once you leave “the path”, you are likely to never see them again. Once we leave Grenada, we will be off the well-worn path and onto a much less traveled one. Maybe we’ll tour the States one day in an RV and park in in the Johnstons driveway! Just kidding.
What makes Cutty’s tours so special is his tremendous knowledge of the local flora and fauna. We stopped and sampled tons of fruit and spices in the wild – coco beans, mango, breadfruit, avocados, soursop, passion fruit, guava, bananas, nutmeg, cinnamon and more.
Our first adventure was at Annandale Falls, a waterfall where Grenadians jump into a pool at the bottom of the fall (see the video below). The park was teaming with school kids who were on a field trip. Their enthusiasm and excitement was infectious! Benny was even serenaded by a local guitar player.
We then climbed up the steep, winding road to the Grand Etang Rainforest. This is where the Mona Monkeys live. They have green fur and look very cute. Cutty gave a special call and the monkeys showed up to see what was going on. You can see one on my head in a photo below. Guess which one is the monkey and which one is me! Cutty also lined up the Quinns and held a banana as bait for the monkey. The monkey then jumped from head to head to get his prize (see the video below).
Next stop was the Grenada Chocolate Company, which is essentially a house with a lot of very old (from the early 1900’s) chocolate making equipment inside. The GCC pays the local organic coco farmers a 65% premium for their beans as a form of profit-sharing. I had no idea that making chocolate was such a laborious process, but fun to watch, and definitely delicious to sample. I especially like the dark chocolate & sea salt variety.
It was then time for lunch, so off to the River Antoine Rum Distillery. This privately-owned distillery has changed little since the 1800s, and is the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean. Local sugar cane, cut by hand using machetes, is placed into a crusher, where the juice from the cane is extracted. The crusher is powered by a giant water wheel. The juice is heated in a series of large pots to drive off the water and concentrate the sugar. It is then held in vats to ferment for about a week, creating alcohol. From there it is placed in large copper vessels that are heated to vaporize the alcohol, which is then cooled and ready to bottle. Most rum you commonly purchase contains about 40% alcohol. The River Antoine rum is about 80% alcohol! It is so strong that you are prohibited from taking it on an airplane as it is highly flammable. It’s a real favourite of the locals because you get essentially twice as much alcohol for the same price as the regular stuff. Personally, I prefer the regular rum because I find it much more flavourful.
Our last stop was the Pearls Airstrip to see the abandoned, Soviet era planes. When the US invaded Grenada in 1983, they used this airstrip to land their troops (see Background below). Its really quite creepy to see the old planes with vines and vegetation covering many of them.
A few weeks later we were fortunate enough to be given a second tour of Grenada with Dan Flynn & Emile Vogler, both academics from Newport, California. Dan has recently retired from working at St. George’s University (one of the best known medical schools in the Caribbean). They have lived on Grenada on and off for a number of years and know the island intimately. We concentrated our efforts on visiting three of the islands forts: Fort George, Fort Frederick and Fort Matthew. Fort George has a stunning, east-facing view of St. George’s, and Fort Frederick has the opposing, west-facing vista.
Dan & Emile sailed extensively in the Caribbean some years ago when their children were teenagers. They subsequently had a boat, “The Hippocampus”, built for them in Asia that is gorgeously appointed and very seaworthy. As you might imagine, Dan and Em are a pretty sharp couple and Benny and I learned a lot from them in a very short time. Thanks for helping us out guys!
Grenada is a country made up of three islands: Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Grenada’s first European settlers were French in the mid 1600s. The Island was later captured by the British who established Fort George in 1705. Fort George guarded the main town of St. George’s, with its cannons pointing west, out to sea. The French recaptured the island some time later by landing on the east side of the island and attacking the fort from behind. They then built Fort Frederick up the hill from Fort George with its cannons pointing in the opposite direction, so they wouldn’t be susceptible to the same trick they pulled on the British. Like many other islands, it was finally traded back to the British as part of a treaty.
Grenada was granted independence from Britain in 1974. In March 1979, the Marxist–Leninist New Jewel Movement overthrew the government in a coup d'état and established the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG). The new government aligned itself with Cuba, and by extension, the Soviet Union. On October 25, 1983, the United States invaded Grenada and new elections were held in December 1984.
Grenada experiences very few hurricanes. However, after 49 years of being hurricane-free, it was hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that damaged or destroyed 90% of the island's homes. Grenada (affectionately know as the “Isle of Spice” or the “Spice Island”) was one of the world’s largest producers of nutmeg until Ivan destroyed most of its nutmeg trees. They are now coming back and production is ramping up once again.