My flight arrived uneventfully in Castries at 2:15, which was when it was supposed to, despite our leaving San Juan late. From the Castries airport the only option is to take a taxi. So EC$40 later I was at Nelson's Apartment in Gros Islet. First thing was to continue trying to find a bike to rent. For some reason St. Lucia is the hardest island to rent bikes on! I made a call to Maureen Devaux, who with her husband Bryan, runs Island Bike Hikes. While she would not rent, liability issues, she had said she would try to find someone that would. And I was to call her when I arrived. I left a message on her answering machine. Then another message for a friend of a friend. Then having only a little EC$ left (I save my extra from year to year) I headed off for Reduit Beach. I knew the Rex St. Lucian would exchange US$ for EC$2.65. Not as good as a bank, but close. I was looking for some place that had a happy hour. I saw a sign for the Eagle Inn Restaurant, at the end of the road, overlooking the islet between Reduit Beach and Gros Islet Village. I wandered down and bought some rums. I chatted with a couple fellows there. I asked about a place I could eat near where I was staying. They recommended two restaurants side-by-side down the road from me, where I was picking up the bus to Reduit Beach. I then stopped by the hotel that the Mortar and Pestle is part of, to see if they had their buffet also on another night than Tuesday. On my prior trip I very much liked their buffet. They also have it on Saturday night. Too bad. I'm leaving St. Lucia on Saturday morning. I asked about a bike. We looked in the phone book. There was a place for bike rentals listed, but a fax answered at the number. I looked up Island Bike Hikes. I knew they were in the Rodney Bay area. The address was 39 Rodney Bay. Where was that? They didn't know, but thought across the highway. Then a fellow out front said he knew of a house around there that at times had bikes out front. So off we went looking for it. We circled around and didn't see any bikes. Then a friend of his passed in a car and we asked him. He said right there at that house with the boat on a trailer. We approached. A woman came out and I asked. She said they ran tours, but didn't rent bikes. I said I was Don Wiss. She let me in the gate. I had found Maureen Devaux! But bad news. The fellow she know with the two bikes went to where they were kept and found them stolen. He was now out of business. To make up she offered me a substantial discount to join her ride. The driver could pick me up at one of the restaurants down the road from me. I said I'd call later and let her know. I went to the two restaurants to check them out. I walked into one. No dinner yet, but a discussion made it appear that the food would be okay. I decided to get a drink. I had a nice chat with a fellow at the bar. He was Captain Theo, a dual citizen of St. Vincent and St. Lucia. He moves boats around for people. When talking about getting between the Grenadines he said to use his name [I never did]. Everybody would know him. Back at the room to wash up I called Maureen and said I'd do their tour. Pick up was to be at 8:40 AM at the Marine House Restaurant. Back to the Marine House for dinner. I explained I wanted all local ingredients. Out comes the food. There was a pile of spaghetti on it! I questioned it. She said it was a local product bought from a fellow. She showed me the package. No label, but clearly spaghetti. I ate a little around it and took a bus to Reduit Beach. At The Triangle, a place everybody recommends, I asked about the food. This is a steam table operation. Yes, two of their choices were pasta. But for EC$12 I was able to get a heaping plate of the other choices. I now recommend the place too! A drink there and back to my room.
Friday, March 9th, 2001
Since my pickup was in front of the Marine House Restaurant I decided to eat breakfast there, despite the problem the evening before. I had finished breakfast by 8:40. Of course I was still asking everybody about renting a bike to explore the area. At about the time the pickup was to be I was offered a bike from the back door neighbor. It was his son's. I made a quick decision to continue with the tour, and since I was to be back by 3:30 I'd have until 6:15 to bike around. (Before I left home I checked and learned that sunset would be around 6:15 when I was there.) Fortunately the pickup was late, so this was all agreed upon before the taxi came. Now we're off to pick up the guests from other hotels. There were supposed to be 12 others, but two dropped out. The tour takes place in Denning. Having been to St. Lucia before I was able to tell the others about the sights. As we're heading out of Castries to the south I tell them that in a few minutes we'd have a lovely view back over town. But alas, we went straight through the mountain instead. The road clearly was new. I learned about the Millennium Highway.
We had a lovely scenic drive across the island. Then to a place where we got helmets and a bike. Then we pedalled off on dirt roads to where we would walk into the woods to the Prospect Falls. Bathing in the pool for some, then a lunch that Maureen prepared. It was the fixings for sandwiches, but since they weren't made I had no problem eating. I was getting antsy. I wanted to get back to my waiting bike. Finally we head back. I tried to get them to stop at a photo opportunity that was on the map. The tour leader was supposed to get the driver to stop. For some reason we didn't. Later I asked Maureen and her husband to make a stop there a planned part of their tour. Anyway, they dropped me off at the Marine House Restaurant at 3 PM. Plenty of time to explore. I get the bike. They want US$10 for 3 hours! It was to have been $20 for the day. I had not negotiated a price ahead of time, and they knew I was desperate. So off I went. The bike was out of tune and the rear wheel warped. Oh well. I headed off to Cas en Bas towards the Atlantic. The map has the road ending at the Atlantic. But it was close to the roads in Point Hardy. I found a fellow and asked if they went through. Yes, they were now connected. Excellent, as this saved me having to go back to the highway, only to heads towards the Atlantic again. The roads were rough, but it was a mountain bike. I got lost a few times in Point Hardy, but asking I finally made my way out. Next stop was to be Le Sport. They said I could enter and look at the beach. I left the bike at the guard house. I walked to the beach and back to the guard house. Next stop was to be the infamous Club St. Lucia. Coming up the hill from Le Sport I asked someone whether I could go straight. No, they said. I had to follow the main road. I got to the entrance of Club St. Lucia. A little strange. Groups of painted figures lined the drive in. Eventually I reached the guard house. Could I bike around? Yes, but only around... I didn't understand. He explained that there were different villages with different themes. I didn't see that many people around. One of the complaints on the Net is it is crowded. I guess the people were all around the pool. All I saw were the villages. As I biked I was told by some cleaning women that I shouldn't be there and the way out was that way. I said I was told I could bike around. I biked on a ways and then biked out. At the guard house he said they had hassled him for letting me in. He also said had I gone straight at Le Sport I would have entered their other entrance and I could have biked through. I left and headed towards Pigeon Island. (No longer an island, the in between has been filled in.) I looked for the fellow that I had bought my coconut palm hat from two years before. I was told he wasn't there today. I wanted to tell him I still had the hat. I bought a bottle of water. At the park the fellow said I couldn't come in with my bike. I had no lock. They were closing in five minutes anyway. I went to the new Hyatt. No problem the guard said. Come right in. At the main entrance the fellow said just park the bike there alongside. He explained there were three types of rooms. Swim up ones, a large pool was between those buildings. And over there you could get ocean or bay view. And then there were rooms with none of the above. A nice lobby and views from it. As I was leaving I chat some more. They wanted me to keep looking around! One difference is Club St. Lucia is an all-inclusive, the Hyatt isn't. But still how would Club St. Lucia know I wasn't a prospective customer? And all Club St. Lucia guests must wear a telltale arm band. After the Hyatt I biked to the beach alongside it. I asked if I biked along the beach would I be able to get into Gros Islet. Yes I was told. I then chatted with an American missionary, there with his wife and a carful of small kids. They were from VA and TX. They planned to be on St. Lucia forever.
I biked around Gros Islet waiting for sunset to return the bike. I returned it and walked up to my room and showered. Being happy with my prior night's meal at The Triangle I hopped a bus and ate there again. I still needed to pay for the group ride, but they weren't at home. Then knowing that Diamond Steel would be playing at the Rex St. Lucian I listened for a while. Drink prices were much higher than two years previous. Different night? Different entertainment? Outdoors versus indoors? Anyway, I had one drink and checked to see if they had gotten home. They drove in just as I got there. We chatted. I suggested that the photo opportunity be made a permanent part of they tour. They agreed. Her husband said when he leads the tour he has the driver stop. I told them about being able to find a bike. Because renting was my reason for being there, and not their tour, she gave me a substantial discount and asked that we stay in touch.
Now off to the Jump Up. I get there around 9 PM. Things were a little slow, but not quiet! Big speakers were in the street with a DJ keeping them pumping. There were less food and drink vendors then at the Antigua Sailing Week parties. After 9:30 things started to pick up. The difference here is tourists were dancing in the street, often making fools of themselves. A few of the local guys joined in to work up the crowd. In contrast at most of the Sailing Week parties there is no music, or just some in one place, and not so loud. I walked home and went to bed.
Saturday, March 10th, 2001
My flight to St. Vincent leaves at 10:00. This allows time for a leisurely breakfast and bus ride to the airport. I packed up and checked out. I carried my bags down the hill to the main road. The Marine House wasn't open yet. The cook was there but had just arrived. He suggested I eat next door at The Crab Pot. So I did. I ordered breakfast. Gave my usual warnings that wheat was toxic to me. I mentioned it had to be a clean pan, but did not make a big deal of it. While waiting I chatted with a Canadian couple that seemed to be running the place. We talked about cash machines. I told her I needed more EC$. They said there was a bank across the street that was open on Saturday and opened at 8:00. It was around 8:30. So I went over, as the food had not yet arrived. But it was not open until 9:00 on Saturday. So I went back and ate breakfast. Now it was almost 9:00. I went back to the bank. There were now more than a dozen people waiting for the door to be opened. At 9:00 they open them. Three tellers. Things move slowly. I'm getting antsy. Finally at 9:15 I ask the four people in front of me if I can cut in front. They agreed. A run back to the restaurant for my bags and then in front for a bus. The first one agreed to drive me into the airport. As we approach the airport the driver says something about bringing me back after drops the others off. I said I have a 10:00 flight. he drives in. I give him EC$10 for an EC$2 ride. (A bargain compared to the EC$40 the cab cost to get out of the airport.) A wonderful flight to St. Vincents.
Sunday, March 11th, 2001
Breakfast was supposed to be at 9:00 on Sunday at the Bella Vista, but the woman that was to cook it got ill from something she ate at the political rally. So 9:15 I pushed off for my long ride to Georgetown. The guide book mentioned Chaims for breakfast. But I found it closed. A chat with a cop suggested that more places would be open in the Villa area. Being on the way that would be no problem. So off I went. At Villa Beach itself only the Lime Pub was open. As I approach it by bike a fellow drove in after me and quickly jumped out of his car to tell me I couldn't bring my bike inside. His floor was just mopped, which I knew. I said I was going to carry the bike into the courtyard. No way. I had to leave the bike outside the restaurant. This was a restaurant, not a place for bikes. I said I was planning to eat breakfast. He stated he didn't care about one lousy breakfast. I showed amazement and he continued to hurl invectives at me while I biked away. He was the nastiest restaurant proprietor I have ever met! [I later learn he has this reputation and is even nasty to his employees.] I biked further down the road and ate breakfast at the Mariners. Very nice and very expensive. Spent the time chatting with the owner/manager. Talked about how the American Eagle not flying in was hurting the tourism business. Despite being mid-March no one was full. I then headed up the windward side of the island. Spectacular ocean views. Stopped along the way for beverages. Unsweetened orange juice is not an option here, except in large supermarkets. Bottled water in not an option either. But everyone gives away cold tap water. I would tip them EC$1, which they only reluctantly would take it. I took some side trips along the way to get better views, stopping to take pictures.
Reaching Georgetown I only found one restaurant open. Fortunately it was the best one. I had a very nice EC$16 lunch at Ferdie's Footsteps. Highly recommended. Then checking my watch I saw there was no time to go further. I headed back. Less stops on the way back. I got back at 5:55. 20 minutes before sunset. Good timing. To have gone past Georgetown I would have had to start earlier, or get someone to drive me up with my bike all the way to the end, and just biked it one way. But you would miss things. The view was different seeing it from both directions. Back for a shower. then off by bus to Slick's again. I had a leisurely dinner and then a bus back to town. I checked out the Attic, a sport bar, but being Sunday night it was empty. So back for an early night in. Breakfast on Monday at the guest house is scheduled for 8 AM. I'll be ready by then.
Monday, March 12th, 2001
I was ready and packed by 8 AM. But alas, the woman to cook it didn't show up again. So off I headed for Chaims. They were open, but not really. No fruit. Maybe I scared them with my dietary restrictions? They suggested I eat at Cobblestone. So I biked around the corner and carried my bike up to the second floor. I left it by the receptionist and climbed another floor. I had a very nice breakfast, with fruit. The associated hotel looked attractive. They said breakfast starts at 7:30, even on Sunday. Had I known I could have gotten an earlier start on both days. Oh well. Now to bike to Fort Charlotte. At 636 feet above sea level I walked the bike part of the way. I took some pictures. Then back to town to return the bike. On my way to the bus station I exchanged some cash and looked into the fish market. Then a bus to Mespo. Short for Mesopotamia, a very fertile valley. I went to the end of the line at Richmond Park(?). I walked a ways up the hill towards the Montreal Gardens, but people said it was a ways. I reached a peak, took some pictures, and headed back to where the buses stop. Then back to the bus station. Then the bus to Layou. People on the bus said I could eat in Layou. Well, not really. Fried chicken and fried shrimp were the choices. No hard boiled eggs. Not on this island. I picked up some unsweetened orange juice at a supermarket and some plain corn chips from a street vendor. Then I hopped a bus that took me all the way to Chateaubelair. Stunning views all along the way. At Chateaubelair the bus ended at the Beach Front Restaurant & Bar. I had a nice curried beef. While waiting for the a bus a fellow asked if I'd been to the falls. I hadn't. I told him there was just so much I could do in a few days. He offered to take me by fast skiff for EC$150. I said too much and offered him EC$100. He said okay and said he expected a tip. I agreed. (I gave him a US$10 tip.) We (a friend of his was to come along) and a couple of others pushed the boat in. Then we fooled around getting enough gas. Then we sped off. The wind was blowing on to the leeward side, so we bounced along. Along the way he pointed out Richmond Beach, where at times they have big parties. He pointed out the fellow along the shore with a bag over his shoulder: a marijuana farmer. He pointed out some plants along the ridge. They were so far away how could he tell they were pot? At one place there were a bunch of small boats in a cove. Marijuana farmers again. We got to Baleine Falls. A quick run it and a few pictures were snapped. Then back to Chateaubelair. He told me his name is Mr. Fitz, or Fitzgerald Carter. A short wait and there was a bus back. Never did I have to wait long for a bus. I got the front seat this time. It helped that I was the first one in. A lovely ride back. In town he took a detour, road construction, and I was able to get off just down the street from my room. I picked up my bags and waited a few minutes for a bus. Then a schlepp to the ferry dock. For some reason the ferry and buses aren't next to each other. About eight taxi drivers along the way tried to solicit me. The last as I approached the ferry dock. It was 5:30, and I had a half hour wait for the ferry, but it came in after a few minutes, and I was able to get on and spend my waiting time writing up my trip notes.
Off for drinks. The Bequia tourism authority publishes a weekly schedule of special events. It wasn't hard to find the Monday night special. It was Frangipani, which had live music. There was a crowd. A predominately white one. The first time this trip I saw so many white faces! Bequia is the leading port for people sailing the Grenadines. Most of the patrons came in from the sailboats anchored out in the harbor. The first woman I met thought I was too hyper. I gave her a "headache." But she convinced me to consider changing my room if I wasn't happy. She went off to smoke her cigarettes. I then met three, two women and one guy. They were 3/4 of a crew for a charter that was a crewed boat (the captain was still on board). They didn't know where they would be next. It was up to the people chartering the boat. Along the way I did check about the rooms at the Frangipani. She stated L'Auberge wasn't doing well. This would have been a reference to their restaurant business. I could see it. L'Auberge had no restaurant patrons. It's prices were too high. Back to the room. Time to write trip notes. The mosquitoes were out in force (no screens), despite the fans. Worse then the Belle Vista, where the guide book stated to bring mosquito repellant. Now was this place quiet? Most places in the Caribbean have roosters. Not here. The ones here were far away. But there were dogs that barked on occasion. Sleeping was terrible. I couldn't get the fan to blow on my face. I had to sleep with only my nose sticking out from under the sheets.
Tuesday, March 13th, 2001
I woke to a forehead, nose, and upper lip covered with mosquito bites. Time to consider a room switch. The book says Julie's Guest House has mosquito nets. That will be my first stop after breakfast.
At 8:00 I passed by The Port Hole. Not open yet. So I wandered further. I passed Handy Andys. This was the only place listed as having bikes. He wasn't open yet, but the store manager was outside in a Minimoke. He stated that bikes were US$20 a day [I later learned for a full suspension Mongoose]. I commented that this was the highest in the world. He said he wasn't the owner and didn't set the price. With this price I decided I would just rent for 24 hours. I had noticed that Dive Bequia was giving a free SCUBA lesson at 10. It would last until lunch. I would do that and then rent for 24 hours.
I passed crowds of tourists being stuffed into buses and taxis. The cruise ships were in! I made it back for breakfast. After eating I mentioned the high rental prices for Handy Andy's bikes. A fellow there said he had bikes for rent for US$10 a day. Just around the corner. I checked them out. New mountain bikes.
I tried to find Julie's. I didn't, but in passing the Whaleboner Inn I saw a sign saying they had an apartment. I checked it out. It would be US$25. Cross ventilation, screens on the windows, and private bath. I took it. Off to check out of L'Auberge. She wrote up the bill in EC$. I paid her. I asked for a receipt. She wrote down one night @ US$50! I had correspondence saying US$40. A premium for one night? She said US$50 was the rate. I was happy to be out of there. Dumped my stuff in my new room. Off to the SCUBA lesson. A video and then some practice in the bay out front. Very nice. One of the instructors was the absolute cutest. I noticed some new things that didn't exist 38 years ago when I took SCUBA at camp.
Lunch at The Port Hole. Once I go through the hassles of explaining my dietary restrictions it's easiest to keep eating at the same place. Then I picked up the bike and agreed to 1 1/2 days for US$15 total. I headed off for Fort Charlotte. A small fort with nice views over the harbor. A couple of women were selling handicrafts. They said only one taxi had been there so far. The cruise ship people are taken to Pleasant Hill. I continued on. The map, a little folding one purchased at the tourism place, showed a road curving through Cinnamon Garden. In finding my way out of town I asked a woman in a car about it. She had never driven on it and didn't know. I headed off that way. The road eventually turned to dirt. I asked a woman walking with her kids if it went through. Yes, she said. You come out by the yellow house over there. I headed off. The road got worse and worse. But hey, it was a mountain bike! One of the pedals started making a clicking noise. The road ran along a ridge going straight down along the left. Eventually I reached the house. The road changed to new concrete! The brakes on the bike were terrible. I squeeze as hard as possible to control the bike on the downhills. I went straight down and at the bottom the road turned and ended. Horrors. Would I have to go out the way I came in? But the people in the yellow house couldn't be using that dirt road as their access. Then a motorbike appears at the top of the hill. I waved my arms. It came down and stopped. They had also taken the same dirt road. His girl friend, on the back, said she knew the way out. Okay. They would lead. By the time the pedal was wobbling. He had some tools but it was more than just coming loose. I followed them halfway up the concrete road, and there was a road off to the side. I followed them down. The roads in the area I'd been were part of Spring Estate. An area to be developed. I stopped at Spring Bay for the views. I then stopped at the Old Sugar Mill, where there was a pottery. I mentioned to the woman there about my pedal and that I wasn't sure if I could make it back. She said she was going into town shortly and I could put the bike in the back of her Minimoke. Off we went. I took the bike back to swap for another. The other comparable bikes were too small. But he had a fancy one with full suspension frame. But it would be US$15 a day. Fair. We fixed a few things and off we went. I headed south this time. It was getting late, so I couldn't go far. I met another cyclist as I left town and we biked together. At the top of the hill we parted and he suggested biking to Lower Bay then, and doing the longer routes tomorrow. Off to Lower Bay. I saw Ann, the woman that drove me back to town, on the beach. I yelled and showed her my new bike. I biked a little south of Lower Bay and then headed back. I was walking up the hill to get out of there and I started chatting with a fellow. He showed me his acre of land that he was clearing and planting. In his younger days he walked all over the island. He told me of a circle of stones and lime out towards Park. He thinks it was part of a Carib Indian dance ceremony. He told me his name was Alfred McDowell. I gave him my card. At 10 minutes before sunset we parted and I got back to town just before dark. I washed up. A steel drummer was at Frangipani. A small crowd. I had a drink. I walked to see what was at the Plantation House. They were listed as having entertainment. Too early. So back to The Port Hole for dinner. Then back to Frangipani. The small crowd was gone. I chatted with a fellow asking him to compare the Plantation House with Coco's, also listed as having live music. Coco's was in Lower Bay, which I now knew how to get to. I had brought along with me bike lights, so I could get out there. But first to check out the Plantation House. There was a couple leaving Frangipani's wondering where the action was. I told them it was at the Plantation House, which was a walk to the far end. They were a young German couple that were sailing around the world. They had started eight months ago in the Baltic. Then to Portugal, to the Canary Islands, to Africa, then across to Barbados, and now here. They hoped to be sailing for 3-5 years. We exchanged addresses. Another drink at a local place, after the Plantation House closed. We agreed to meet at 7 PM the next day at the NY Bar. I was off to bed.
Wednesday, March 14th, 2001
The sleep was divine. One mosquito came in the door with me. She got me twice and I killed her. Nice cross ventilation. No roosters in the middle of the night! Breakfast at The Port Hole again. Laundry day. The per load price is the same no matter the size. So EC$20 seemed high. I headed off to bike to Mount Pleasant. At the top there were a crowd of tourists and three taxi drivers off to the side. On the map it showed a foot path between there and Friendship Bay. I asked the taxi drivers if I could get through by bike. All said no. I take off. I found a dirt road that looked like it was the start. I started down it. Very rough and rocky. A ways down I pass a jeep coming up. I asked him. He said I could do it. I make it down to the water. I crossed over the culvert. A mountain was in front of me. I walked along the edge until I found a sign pointed the way to Friendship Bay. It was straight up. I pushed and carried the bike. The path was one person wide. So I had to brush the bushes to get the bike on the path. Eventually I got to the top of the hill. And there was the concrete road. I was told I would find one. I biked towards the left to St. Hillaire Point, and came upon a building in ruins. It had been a pretty nice place. Swimming pool and all. Asking later I learned it was to be a hotel. Some Canadians were building it. The architect drank most of the time. Eventually money ran out and construction stopped. Then people went in and stole the toilets, took the walls down, leaving only a wreck. I biked back a ways and down to Dive Paradise. I was thirsty, but it was closed. I saw another place a little further down. Instead of biking up the hill, and down again, I walked the bike, and rode, along the beach. The place was The Friendship Hotel. I spoke with the cook. She had blackened fish that she said was wheat-free. It came with a salad. I asked about the French Fries. She said they were cooked in a separate fryer. Okay. I ordered them. Out comes the fish on a salad with croutons on it. I pointed them out and said they were wheat. No, she said. They weren't wheat. They were white bread. I had them make me a completely new one. It was fine and tasty, though expensive and not much food. Now to head to the airport and Moon Hole. Along the way I passed the whaling museum. It is privately owned. One room and you get a personal guided tour for US$2. I didn't take it. I moved on. By the airport there was a field full of kids. A sports competition. I biked out to the end. I then found some concrete roads on the hills. No houses yet, but getting ready for development. Now to get back into town to pick up my laundry. Then to the room to relax. I hadn't eaten at the place I was staying at yet. The small pieces of fish for lunch and salad and fries weren't very filling. So I ordered a roti without the casing. Waiting for it gave me a chance to write these notes. The roti finally came. Tasty, but mostly potatoes with little beef. Now to see if the local cash machine is on the Cirrus system. Cash is getting low, so time to use a machine, instead of exchanging US$ for EC$. Success. The local machine is a Cirrus (in addition to being a The Plus). Seems Cirrus system coverage is a lot better than what the web site lists. I then picked up an ordinance map of Bequia. Very large and unwieldy. And decades old, so many roads missing. But it shows the terrain like a US Geological Survey map. Now off to Industry. I wasn't able to go out that way yesterday, due to the breaking pedal. I easily made it to Industry and on to the Turtle Sanctuary. I chatted with the Mr King, the proprietor. Then I kept on going and made it to a peak where there is a quarry and some construction equipment stored. Spectacular views all around. Then back to return the bike and take a cold shower. I learned why there is no hot water. The catchment water is precious. If there was hot water, people, especially women she says, will take longer showers and use up the water supply. Anyway. I get out from the shower at 6:15. Just at sunset. A little too late for a sequence of pictures. I just got one. Off to the NY Bar to meet the German couple from the night before. They didn't show up. I waited until 7:30. Then back to The Port Hole for dinner. Conch this time. Every meal has been different. First fish, then beef for lunch, then chicken, and ending with conch. Live music on Wednesday nights is mostly out-of-town. For some reason the boat people didn't come in. The dingy count at the docks was way down. I stopped by Whaleboner Inn on my way to check out the live music at L'Auberge. I met an American couple that were part of a group of four couples (American and Norwegian) that had chartered a 50' boat. At that size one gets four staterooms, all with private heads. We continued on to L'Auberge to get the others. Then back to Frangipani for a round of Pina Coladas. Then we all piled into a taxi to get to Taunti Pearle's, one of the out-of-town places with music. I would have walked, but the others wouldn't have done it. The two minute cab ride was US$10. The place was small and full of locals. We may have been the only tourists there. I had a drink and walked down the hill.
Thursday, March 15th, 2001
I awoke early. In hindsight I wish I had taken the 7:30 ferry to St. Vincent, but the travel agent had mentioned taking the 6:30 one to get the 10 AM flight. That was too early! But 7:30 would have been doable. Anyway, maybe the flight would be stopping. I'll check after breakfast. I was waiting at The Port Hole for them to open at 8. After breakfast I did check about the flight. Nope. Not planning to stop. I thought the ferry was 10:45, so I had time to kill. I walked along the beach past the Plantation House, up a hill and saw Princess Margaret Beach. Then I checked out and headed to the ferry dock. Hanging out there I learned the ferry was 11:45! More time to kill. I also met a couple of women waiting. One had a brother that wanted to fly to Carriacou today. But being a single they wouldn't pick him up either. Now if only we had gotten together!
The plastic buckle on my attaché broke. I had weighted it down with books to balance the weight on my shoulders. Leaving my bags at the tourism place I headed to the sandal maker. He sewed it right up. The strap is no longer adjustable in length. So what. I wandered around. Said goodbye again at the Whaleboner Inn, then to Port Hole. Might as well have an early lunch. I don't know what food the Barracuda (the ferry's name) night sell. More just hanging around and looking in shops. I waited some more. We learned that the schedule is just an approximate guide. I waited some more. 35 minutes late it arrives. 25 minutes late it leaves. On the way I chat with people. I ask about getting from Union Island to Carriacou. One fellow, Wendall, remembered me from Bequia. He has a speed boat. He offered to take me. I asked how much. He said we could talk about it later. I knew the airfare was EC$85 plus a departure tax of EC$20. (I later learned this has been increased to EC$30.) I approached him again. How much? He said EC$100. A deal was struck. I could leave whenever I wanted! I said 3 PM.
I stopped at the hotel bar for a couple drinks, and a chat with the bartender. Business was down, due to American Eagle not flying in. He told me Wendall had stopped by looking for me. I ordered dinner, then went up for a shower. When I came down dinner was ready. A chat with a fellow that was there for a day on business. Then to Lambis. The place was huge. I was expecting a small place. A steel drum band was playing. A few groups of tourists. A few locals at one of the bars. I go to that bar for a drink. I chat. Politics of course. The upcoming election is on everyone's mind. Wendall shows up. A tenacious fellow. Many young men have speedboats want to make the trip. I buy Wendall a drink, and off to bed early.
Friday, March 16th, 2001
I get up and make it down for breakfast at 7:05. I've given Wendall the time I want to leave of 1-3 PM. We'll see how long it takes to bike the island. The fellow from last night's dinner shows up. He has an 8:30 flight. We chat. He buys some fruit from out on the street and gives me a couple bananas. He tells me the island has a serious water problem. Not enough rain to catch. In the dry season diarrhea and other disorders go way up. A real heath hazard. The hotel offers to get him a taxi. He says he'll walk to the airport. I finish breakfast and head off. Well, not really. The front tire was flat. I walked it back to the shop. The fellow there said they didn't open until 9, 45 minutes away. I tried to switch front tires. I couldn't get the other off. Then the woman comes and gave me another bike. I headed off to Ashton. I kept on going when the concrete ended. I found a catch basin with a traditional Indian twig and thatched hut. I biked back to Ashton, then to the back side of the island. I biked to the end of Richmond Beach. I found the quarry with people by hand breaking the stones into smaller ones. Then behind the Salt Pond.
Then back at the hotel I got my passport and got it stamped. I picked up a much better map. The woman that sold me tha map suggests I get up to the top of Fort Hill. First I tried the cash machine. Broken. Apparently it often is. I took the bike back to get the front gear into first. Then up Fort Hill. I walked most of the way. Spectacular views. Back at the bank to convert some US$. A short line, but still a 16 minute wait. I returned the bike. No Wendall around. His boat was gone. Did he take another job? I ordered lunch. The hotel learned of my dilemma. They had a fellow right there willing to take me. I ate my lunch. The two guys with the speedboat were waiting. I needed to firm up the price first. Captain Seymour said usual fare was US$120. I said no way. EC$115 total or I wait for Wendall. He said Wendall went to deliver lobsters. I said I'd wait. He agreed to my price. Off we sped. It was a bit choppy and we got sprayed a few times.
I get back to my guest house in time to watch and photograph the sunset. Not the greatest. I showered and then back to Sea Blast. There were four there that had come in from their boats. We chat. They leave and then I leave. The places closes. It's still early so I see what else is happening at the Silver Beach Hotel. That's back north of town. At the bar was a priest, visiting his brother with wife. We chat. They were waiting for a couple. The couple shows up. I quietly leave. Still early, but back to bed.
Saturday, March 17th, 2001
I get up and out looking for breakfast by 7:15. The only place in town that has breakfast can't get the stove started. I decide to get the bike to go to Silver Beach. I find the rear tire flat. I take it to the bike rental, but no one can find Cuthbert, the owner. I leave it and walk to the Silver Beach, hoping I could find him afterwards. At the Silver Beach service is slow. The one waitress has to handle and deliver all the room service, in addition to the tables. Once I finally order, the food comes quickly. I ask for the bill. It's EC$56.75!! At the cashier I complain. We discuss what I ate. She writes up a new one for EC$14.75. I go back and check on the bike. Not fixed and no Cuthbert around. I ask his house to find him. Maybe on his boat on a charter? I pay for my room. I look for Cuthbert. I decide to put air in the tire and see if it lasts for a few hours. I try the Shell station (the only gas station on the island). Pump broken. A fellow suggest the tire repair place. Closed. I take the bike back. The woman at Peace Haven suggests a bus to Windward. I had been thinking about that. Off I go. I get out in Windward and wander around. I take the next bus back. I wander around town, then as it is approaching the noon check out, I move my bags to the woman's apartment. Lunch at Sandisland. Back at 1:00 and the bike is ready. He apologizes and says he owes me some back. He will be there at 3:00. I head off for Six Roads. Then the old factory at Dunfries. I check it out and check out the beach. I see I have enough time to bike to Belmont, though Harvey Vale, and back the dusty road from Tyrrel Bay. I'm in a rush and get back at 2:35. No Cuthbert in sight. I go have a fruit plate at Sandisland. Back at 3:10 to look for Cuthbert. Not around. I feel cheated. His daily price was already on the high side, and for less than 1/2 day of use it was much too high. I pick up my bags and say goodbye to the guest house woman. Since at 2:25 a kid says Cuthbert went into town I look around for him. The Osprey ferry pulls in. Confusion reigns at the dock. Not just having to deal with the unloading of cargo ships, there is a big jam at the place where they take tickets and board passengers. Cash paying passengers have to wait. I did buy my ticket ahead of time, and being observant and positioning myself, I was able to be one of the first to board. I'm writing this as I watch the others board. Finally they let the last ones on and we wait a while. Finally some packages arrive in an Osprey station wagon. The cargo is put on. At 3:48 we pull away. 18 minutes late. I go outside and watch as we pass along the coast.
Sunday, March 18th, 2001
I'm up early. She said she'd have breakfast for me at 7:45. At least for my US$30 I get a breakfast included. I get out at 7:50. Another couple is finishing up. "Mama" prepares a lovely breakfast. She says I should photograph it. But I had already dug in. Tomorrow. I head out at 8:30. Looking at the map I start going the shortest route to Grand Etange. Halfway up a hill I talk with a couple men overseeing some road work. They suggest going back down, around the town, and start by the stadium. Less hills. I do that. The ride up to Grand Etange is almost entirely uphill. That's efficient, but the peak is 1910 feet! Not so good. I walk the bike up much of the way. I reached it at 11 AM. (My suggestion to anyone trying to follow my trip is to get someone to drive you and your bike up to this point, and bike on.) I made two walks into the rain forest. The first was to see the Beauséjour Bay view. The second to the Grand Etange Lake. Later I see I could have biked into the lake. Oh well. At the rain forest center I stop and talk with the food concession fellow. He saw me on his way there, when I was talking with the Baptist minister. All he has is burgers cooked on a shared griddle. I pass. It's 11:30. For all the energy expended I need food. We look at the map. He says it is very hilly on the road to Gouyave. He suggest Grenville, then Sauters, then down the west coast. He, and others, said it was pretty level along the west coast. He suggest not turning at Birch Grove, but going straight to Grenville. He also suggests at Upper Pearls turning and going closer to the ocean. Less hills. I head off for Grenville. I reach it and bike around. I ask about food. Only one place open: Ebony Restaurant. I carry my bike up to the second floor. I'm the only one there. We decided on stewed lambi (conch to Americans). Later a group of 14 come in, brought by two taxi drivers. The drivers sit at the bar with me. They say the main road just west of Sauters is better than the one that goes along the coast. A very nice meal. She gives me rice and a variety of steamed vegetables. She makes me a couple of glasses of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.
I head off. I ask along the way how to get to the coastal road. Locals don't know how to read maps. There is a diversion, which I am able to not take. I can bike across the little bridge across the cut. I get to a petrol station. I ask how to get to the coastal road. He sends me back across what I had just traveled. A hilly section. I get to what seems like a logical turn and a couple kids tell me that the road ends at a beach. I bike back to the petrol station. Another fellow says the turn is just past the station. Okay. I take it. Clearly this is a road that gets me there, but it comes to the coast further than where I had wanted to start. When I reach the coast there is a dirt road off to the right. I ask someone. It does go through, but is broken up in places. I continue on. I get a nice picture of High Cliff Point, with three close islands and Carriacou in the background. I stop in and check out Lake Antoine. I bike on to Sauteurs. I don't stop. I have a long ways to go still. Leaving Sauteurs is a long hill that takes me 40 minutes to get to the top. I bike on. The west coast is not all level like people said it was. I have to walk up many steep hills. I stop along the way and fill up my water bottle from the road side taps. Not everybody has running water. People carry it to their homes. Often in plastic buckets on the top of their heads. In Victoria I try to find food. Being Sunday all places are closed. In Gouyave I stop for some nourishment at a road side place. I get a hard boiled egg. This is the first place I have seen them on this trip. I can't get corn chips. All are flavored. Plain corn ships are exceedingly rare in this part of the Caribbean. If I ask people how much longer to St. Georges all give me an overly optimistic estimate of the time. The sun is setting in my eyes. I'm headed southwest and the water is reflecting the sun up on me. Not a recommended direction in late afternoon. My preference is also to bike clockwise, not counter like I'm doing. Clockwise on a British island puts you alongside the water's edge. A much better view.
The sun sets. Good thing I brought my lights! I did have a bunch of kids that laughed continuously after they saw me with a headlight and a flashing red light on my rear belt. I pass the stadium just as a game is starting. There were mobs of people. Even biking back through St. George entails more hills. The one way streets the other way are level. But not in this direction of getting to the Lagoon area, where I'm staying. I get back at 7:25. Eleven hours of bicycling and pushing my bike, less a few short rest stops, and the lunch. I shower and ask "Mama" where I should eat. She suggests Tropicana Inn, a short walk towards town. She warns me they use a lot of soy sauce (it has wheat in it). Getting there I see that half the menu is Chinese, but there are local dishes with no soy sauce. But they like to use butter. The callaloo soup has butter. The others wheat. The stewed chicken has butter. The vegetables already have butter and can't be gotten any other way. I skip the steamed fish. A fatless meal wouldn't be filling. I order grilled pork chops and French fries. She's going to bring a salad to replace the veggies. The meal comes. A piece of cold fried plantain was an extra surprise. One pork shop was thin and over cooked. The tomatoes were partially green.
As I'm putting my money into the billfold a taxi driver appears, asking me if I needed a taxi. He must have been watching me from next door all along! I complain about him to the manager and waitress. They should be kept off the premises. I walk back. I chat with Mama, telling her about the meal. She loves to watch TV. The programming is all American. It's now 10:00, so I'm off to bed.
Monday, March 19th, 2001
I'm up and ready to go before 7. A little after 7 the lobby door opens. We chat about the chickens, roosters, and six chicks that are hanging around out back. She expects the mongoose will get some of the chicks soon. Breakfast is at 7:15. I'm off for Grand Anse area at 7:30. I bike out to True Blue Bay Point. The nicest houses I've seen on the island are out there. I look at the med school. I bike past the airport to La Source. I did not bike into this or any of the resorts. I biked out Lance aux Epines to Prickly Point. Lots of cacti around. Nice views of the ocean, but bland, as there are no islands in the view. I stop at a marina and find cold liters of unsweetened orange juice. Really too much to drink, but I drink it all anyway. The roads out there are under reconstruction. But here they were wetting them down. So I skipped a trip out to Secret Harbour. On to Grand Anse Bay. Nice views looking back to St. Georges. On the way back to St. Georges I decide to stop for lunch at the place overlooking the traffic on Lagoon Road. It's a little before 11, and they aren't ready yet. I hang around for a half hour. A basic Caribbean lunch of curried lambi, with rice, salad, provisions, and pumpkin.
Now to town. First stop is Fort George. Lovely views. I check out the museum. I walk around. Then I bike around and visit the market. Not really much to do in town. I did find the new bike store I heard about in the radio. Chatted with one of the fellows and wished them luck. I couldn't find anything else to do, so I biked back to my room, having another Caribbean lunch at Sea Port on the way. Back in the room I find a walking tour flyer. It lists some things I hadn't seen. So I'm off again. I quickly learn that the flyer is ancient. Half the restaurants listed are gone! Even two of the sites of historical interest, the canons and cobblestones, and the fellow directing traffic, are gone. I ask someone about one of the restaurants. Gone for four years. I bike up St. John Street. A picture looking down it is one of the popular ones. But it is now 5 PM, and the sun is reflecting on the sea in the background. A picture would not come out. I find all the churches, but can't find the listed balconies. Now gone? I then find the Marryshow House.
I decide I want to try to find some night life. I hadn't tried very hard on the other days. First I'd wanted to be in shape for my long ride, and then I was tired afterwards. I looked through my various tourism materials. Few places had live entertainment on Monday night. One that did was in Secret Harbor, but no buses there, and a poor bike ride over the road under reconstruction. I find that the Flamboyant Hotel [now closed] has a buffet and crab races. And I can take a bus and walk in the Morne Rouge stretch. If I get there early, free rum punches at the weekly Manager's Party. The staff is very friendly. The cook himself will be serving the buffet. I meet a fellow from Toronto, Disk (Howland?), who is a consultant on international sports. He'll be there for a week. We eat dinner together. I return for many helpings of food. Mostly the meats and fish. Then the crab races. I have never seen them before, so I was looking forward to something new. There were three races. The crabs are hermit crabs. They live in shells of others, and when they need a bigger one they upgrade. People could bet on them: 1 to 1000 EC$. The fellow running them then calculated the odds. Before betting you can see them in a bowl. Some are bigger and more active. Each of the six was named for a country. There is nationalism and people didn't necessarily select the most active one. Then they turn the bowl upside down for a while, in the center of a circle drawn on the floor. When covered each of the crabs goes to one of the sides. When the bowl is lifted they take off. The biggest and most active one wins and pays 5:1. There are inefficiencies here that could be exploited. The next race, with another set of six crabs, is the slowest wins. The third one is all or nothing. People get to select which crabs they want. Winner gets 75% of the pot. The house keeps the rest, supposedly to buy the crabs. From Germany he said? The races are over and everybody leaves. It is still early. I ask if any place might be open. A couple suggestions along the stretch weren't of interest when I passed them. Then Casablanca back on the main road is my last possibility. I go in. Basically empty. I chat with the doorman. Monday is a slow night. While chatting a group of about eight East Indians walk up. The doorman says they are from the med school. I ask them where's Bashem(sp?). They go huh? I ask where's Iyengar. They reply he's back studying. Now I can report to his father that his son was studying on that night. I get a bus back to my room.
Tuesday, March 20th, 2001
I'm up early. I've asked for a 7:15 breakfast and Sheree will pick me and the bike up at 7:30. I watch the chickens. All six chicks are still alive, possibly as at times they all huddle under a hen for protection. Even from me, as I'm watching. The breakfast, like the others is beautifully presented. I take a picture, as Mama asked. I take a before and after one. The SUV arrives. I say goodbye to Mama. We got along well. This, and the breakfast, made up for the roosters. They were the worst and I wouldn't come back. On the ride to the airport I quickly recount to Sheree what I've done with the bike. I tell her how the Deveaux's on St. Lucia run their tours. She's familiar with them. I give her more details. She does know that the St. Lucia one is an easy ride. Her rides are really off road. Require a four wheel drive to get to. And they bike in places where no vehicles can go. I thank her and I head to check in. The usual. I did get some pictures after take off. I could have had a couple more had I had the camera out and waiting for the signal we could use electronic devices. The flight home was uneventful.