I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Thursday, October 24, 2013


This is going to be a rather long post.  I thought about splitting it into two posts but I've tried that before and because I give my posts the date they occurred (rather than the day I am writing them) that means there will be two posts for the same date and that messes things up as they either get posted backwards or people don't realize there are two posts for the one day and miss one.  So grab a coffee or tea and enjoy.

When I walked into the living area of my suite this morning, I got a nasty shock:

Big cockroach on my living room curtains this morning!
I kept a wary eye on it while getting ready and when I was down at 
reception told them about it and they promised to spray down my room
while I am gone all day.

Today is my booked tour of the island, called the Tutti Frutti tour with Sunsation Tours, and I am down at the hotel entrance by 8:30 - the time I am to be picked up.  When the van arrives, it is full all but for the passenger seat in front which I am really happy to be in all day. I introduce myself to the 6 younger people in the back and find out that the three girls attend the medical school here and that the three young men are boyfriends from the states here to visit their gals who are on a reading break. I apologize for crashing their tour but they blow it off and tell me they're happy I am along. I am really glad to hear it and to see that this is a nice new van with air conditioning - no rusty bits hanging from the ceiling to jab me in the forehead!

We set off; it is a gorgeous day and I am very excited to see what this island has to offer. There are several planned stops at various points of interest and I am definitely interested in all of them!

Our first official stop is Concord Falls but before then we stop for a photo op on a hill looking down at the Carenage. It is a great view.  (CLICK ON PICTURES FOR LARGER VIEW - and if there was ever a blog post that was worth doing that with, it's this one!)

The Carenage from up high

Glen, our tour guide, also stops at many trees to show us the bounty of the island. One thing I learn, among many things today, is that banana trees die once they have produced. I was shocked to hear this. They grow new shoots at the bottom that become next year's producing tree. Kind of like raspberry vines. At one such stop he gets out and pulls a piece of fruit off of a tree and it looks very much like an apricot only green and a bit larger. He asks us what we think it is and none of us guess correctly. It is a nutmeg! The outer flesh is boiled to make nutmeg jelly, then there is a red lace over the nutmeg that is mace, and then the shell with the nutmeg inside. He breaks it open and shows us the layers.

Banana tree

Blurry pic of the nutmeg Glen picked, this is the very center of the fruit, the nut

The road to Concord Falls narrows to just enough for one vehicle and I worry about an oncoming car but we don't see any on our way up.  We do encounter one on the way down, a big van like ours, and we have to back up quite a bit until we get to a driveway that we can pull onto to let him by.  We are way up in the jungle here and yet there are still a fair number of small homes. It's a long way from anywhere up this far.

Narrow road!

A beautiful lake on our way to Concord Falls

We are told we can swim at the falls if we like but no one has brought a bathing suit.  There are a few little shops at the roadside before climbing down the stairs to the falls and the people there are very eager for you to purchase something from them. I end up buying a couple of small things and giving two very cute little boys $1 each.

Concord Falls

Just growing in the wild!

Our next stop is in Gouyave at the nutmeg processing warehouse. I am so eager to see this and also am interested to see the small town of Gouyave as it is where the Fish Friday is held and I want to know what the place looks like. It turns out to be a very busy little town with vehicles and people cramming the narrow streets. Unlike St.Georges, the 7 of us visitors in this van seem to be the only white people here and we get a lot of interested looks as our van slowly makes its way along, which is puzzling to me as this is a major stop for people travelling to Grenada so I am sure a van full of white people is not a novelty.

On the way we pull over to the side of the road to see a spot named Leapers Point because the Caribs that remained after the French arrived and slaughtered most all of them leapt off of this point into the sea rather than live under tyranny.  Apparently there is a monument there which I would like to see but Glen feels is not worth the drive over so we see it from a great distance.  

Leapers Point

Typical Caribbean graveyard. The bodies are 6 feet 
underground and these are monuments on top, which is somewhat
of a relief as I thought they housed the coffin above ground.

Arriving in busy Gouyave

The nutmeg processing warehouse is up ahead on the left, 
the pretty building in the fg left is the police station

We approach a stretch of pretty buildings on either side of a rather narrow street and squeeze into a parking spot at the side of the road. When we step out of the van, the air is heavy with the fabulous scent of nutmeg. We head inside the large warehouse and are greeted by a tour guide who is expecting us. He takes us through the area where the nutmeg is being graded by women sitting at small benches surrounded by large baskets full of nuts still in the shell. On one side of the massive room is a couple of men sewing up the burlap sacks for shipping and another man labels them using a big stencil and a roller of black ink.  There is also a huge area with bags and bags of the nutmeg ready for shipping and, taking a closer look at some of the bags, I can see they are destined for Amsterdam.

We are told at the start of the tour that no pictures are allowed. I am visibly dismayed and so our tour guide says I can take a few but I am not allowed to take any of people working, which is really too bad because there are some glorious photos to be had here.

Sorting the nutmeg
Photo courtesy of Sunsation Tours

Ready for shipping

We follow the guide up a flight of stairs (you can see them in the background of the above picture) to where the nutmegs are dried on huge wooden beds for a few weeks. It is really hot up here so I can see how it would be perfect for this. There are women raking the nuts over with long wooden rakes, and they balance themselves, straddling the isle, on the sides of the wooden beds to reach the beds that are higher up. It is hard work and not made any easier by the temperature up here. I can't imagine doing this all day.

Layers of beds where the nuts dry, the women straddle these isles
 with feet on either side, climbing as far as the third plank
 to reach the topmost bed

Beds of nutmeg with the date they were laid there 
chalked on the end board

Once our tour is over, we exit through a tiny gift shop where we can purchase nutmeg products if we wish. I take a small jar of nutmeg jelly to the till and ask the lady if they sell whole nutmeg as I don't see any. She says they do and summons our tour guide who asks me if I would like half a pound or a whole pound. I want a whole pound and it takes him 15 minutes, much to the impatience of Glen, to return with a small bag full of nutmeg for $6 EC dollars - a steal!!!  As I am waiting, many of the workers come to the lady at the till and hand her a few EC dollars, some $10 some as much as $50. She makes a careful note of each one and as she does, a dim memory from my childhood comes back to me. I ask her if the donations are some sort of savings and she says that indeed they are, today is payday and some like to set a bit aside each payday for Christmas. I thought as much. I recall my family doing the same thing when I was a child in England. I love it that the old ways still exist somewhere in the world!

We pile back in the van and set off to our next stop, St. Andrew's and the River Antoine Rum Distillery, established in 1785.

Beauty along the way

Beauty along the way

Oh to live in that little beach house!

An old plantation home with fabulous woodwork detail - 
click on the picture to enlarge and see it

And another old plantation home

We know we are getting close when I notice fields on the left that are full of something I don't recognize and when I ask, Glen tells us it is organic sugar cane growing for the distillery.

Fields of cane

We pull into the long driveway of the distillery and park next to an old building covered in hot pink bougainvillea.  It is breathtakingly gorgeous.


We are met by our tour guide for this location and he leads us over to the building where it all happens. It is like taking a 250 year step back in time as nothing has changed in how the rum is made in all of the years of operation. Rickety wooden carts are pushed along ancient tracks to transport the cane, the mechanics for pressing the cane is moved with the original water wheel fed by the River Antoine. It is the oldest distillery still run by a water wheel in existence - rum was being produced within the walls of this place while Mozart was writing operas!!

The River Antoine that feeds the wheel

The viaduct for the water and the wheel to the right

The cane is dumped by hand onto the conveyer

The press, with the great wheel behind our guide, where the
cane is pressed twice

Mountain of crushed cane stalks (called 'bagasse')
 - this was about 20 - 30 feet high off the ground

Fire fueled by the discarded cane (bagasse) after it has been pressed 
to heat up the copper bowls where the cane syrup is 
boiled and filtered by hand

The copper bowls where the cane syrup is brought to the boil
over the period of a few days

Same bowls, higher view, where the cane is spooned from one bowl to the
next till it reaches the boiling point

Retired tools of the trade

The rum is then transferred to cooling tanks, spooning it by hand,
 where it sits for two more days and is invaded by yeast
floating about in the air naturally then is transferred to
these fermentation tanks for 8 days 

The numbered tanks where, after 8 days, the rum is sent 
to the distillery

The original copper distillery

The fire that fuels the distillery has to burn much hotter
than the fire to boil the cane, so proper firewood is used

The only change in all of the years is they no longer age the rum
in these oak barrels

Stairs everywhere

The rum, when ready, is pumped by hand (!!) from
the holding tanks underground into bottles

Eager to taste the rum

The finished product - rum punch on the left which I tried and
'cough cough' it was STRONG, 71 proof in the middle, and 98 proof
on the right - the middle one is made only for taking home on the
plane as the other is too flammable and not permitted

Once everyone has had their taste of the rum and bought some to take home (I didn't buy any) we climb back into the van and head off for lunch at Belmont Estates, also where cocoa is grown and chocolate is made!

Entrance to Belmont Estates

Lunch stop - fabulous food

Beautiful grounds

Overgrown derelict outbuildings at Belmont Estates

Ancient copper bowls used for washing the chocolate beans
repurposed as planters

Drying sheds for the cocoa beans - when it isn't rainy season 
(as I have discovered it is right now) the beans are laid out
on wood pallets across the concrete beams in front of the
shed to dry outdoors in the hot sunshine

Drying cocoa beans in the shed

Our tour guide for chocolate!

This bell once called the plantation workers to dinner

I spent quite a bit of money here :-)

Our next stop is not on the itinerary. One of the fellows on the tour had been at the grocery store while a local spice factory, Baron, was there with a display of their various products. He got to chatting with the fellow at the table, who turned out to be the manager of the plant, and was invited to drop by for a tour if he was in the area. He didn't plan to be in the area as it is about an hour out of St. Georges but as we are driving by it he suddenly sees the sign and he asks if we can pull in to get a tour and Glen readily agrees.

Unfortunately, they have just finished their day and are cleaning up and about to close. However the manager takes us around to explain how they process the organic, all locally-grown spices and vegetables to turn them into dried spices and delicious sauces. He is obviously very proud of their standards and I am impressed.

I am thrilled at this this unexpected stop and to be able to purchase a lot of jerk seasoning, which I had bought in the BVI and loved, and one bottle of hot-wing sauce. I would dearly love to buy more of their selections but am starting to get seriously concerned about fitting everything I have bought on this trip into my luggage.

Spice milling equipment

The finished product ready to ship out

Our next stop is Pearls Airport, the old airport that was used before the revolution in the 80's. There are no commercial planes landing here these days, it is more a grazing ground for goats and cows and used on the weekends for drag racing.  Remember when the US Military invaded Grenada back in 1983? One of the major motivators for the invasion was the construction of Grenada's current airport, Maurice Bishop International, which was being undertaken with aid provided by Cuba and the Soviet Union. Supplies and personnel from Cuba were flown into Grenada at Pearls, making this place a primary target for the invading US forces. 

Pearls Airport, or what is left of it

It is at this location that we come to, what I believe to be, Glen's favourite part of the tour. After giving us the history of the place, he puts the pedal to the metal and we race along the tarmac at (yes I looked) well over 120 kilometers an hour.  

After that adrenalin rush, we head back up the mountains to the Great Etang National Park and Forest Reserve.

Back up the mountains!

The remains of an ancient sugar mill

climbing higher

and higher

The road narrows as we are almost there

Apparently monkeys will come out here if called for but our 
driver didn't call for them so we didn't see any

We are at the very top of the island here, in the mountains that I look at 
from Grand Anse Beach each day; the view is spectacular and
 you can see Grand Anse in that second bay

Volcano crater, now a lake

Up to the observation hill

The rest of the group on the tour with me

Beauty on the way back to St. Georges

Love the colour of this house

Back to civilization

A monument by the people thanking the US for
saving them from the coup

We get back into St. Georges an hour later than scheduled and I am exhausted but exhilarated. This has been, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life - definitely in the top ten of all time.  I love road trips, I love leaving no stone unturned.  We saw every parish, each named after a saint.  We drove through every little town and village. We saw beautiful deserted beaches.  We saw the bounty of the island and how it is turned into an income for its workers. We met some lovely local people. We ate fabulous food. The people in the group I was with were awesome...  I LOVED THIS DAY!!!!
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.

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