Wednesday, Sep 18th

LATEST:
You are here: Supplements Weekender Ready - Set - Sail in the Caribbean Part 2

Best_of_2015_587x57_Results

Ready - Set - Sail in the Caribbean Part 2

Pic_1._Jantis_conch_island_bar~ Swimming with turtles & climbing a 4,000 feet volcano ~

 

By Laura Bijnsdorp

 

We had had a great few days exploring the spice and rum plantations in Grenada, and it was about time to clear out and head over to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But first we had to pick up our good friend Pepijn Brandenburg at the airport. Once he was settled on our Corina IV sailboat, we had a few last drinks at a local bar, where a congregation of sailors of all ages was playing funky folk music. The next morning bright and early, we headed off towards the Grenadines, a Caribbean island chain of over 600 islands. Our first stop: Union Island.

 

We anchored in Clifton Bay. It was quite a sight to behold. The water was bright blue, the town Clifton behind us and in front of us a tiny island, which seemed to be made of conch shells. As soon as we got the chance, we took our dinghy over to take a closer look. We were right; the island was made of conch shells.

 

We met the owner Janti, who told us that 10 years ago, he volunteered to remove conch (or lambi, as they’re known in the Grenadines) from the Union Island beaches. I guess the people of the Grenadines LOVE their conch. On top of the island, he has now built a bar – an oasis for rum lovers with a proclivity to limin’. It seemed the perfect use of a conch shell island, in our opinion, as we sipped on our rum-cokes.

 

The next morning, Pepijn, Dani and I decided to do some more exploring on land. I had seen on the map that the island had a salt pond not far from our bay, so that became our first destination. We passed through Clifton, which was a mixture of newly built small tourist gift shops, restaurants and small houses.

 

After climbing a few hills and seeing a lot of goats, I saw through a few bushes that we had arrived at the Salt Pond. Not knowing where the entrance exactly might be, we scrambled through the prickly branches until we were standing on the mostly dried up pond. About 50 metres further, I could see a bit of water. Curious, and wanting to collect some to make own salt, we made our way over the pond.

 

The salt pond was still used locally, and every few years, inhabitants collect buckets full of the “white gold.” It was nice to see what a salt pond looked like without pollution and over-development. As we neared the water, the ground also got softer, and all of a sudden, I heard a yell behind me: Pepijn’s shoe had gone deep into the clayish soil. Soon Dani and I were in the same boat, sinking deeper and deeper with every step. We decided it might be time to find a way out. After lots of laughs, a broken shoe-strap and lots of mud, we finally found our way across and headed to the nearest beach to wash off.

 

Finding our own salt was a failure, but our luck would soon change. Our next stop was the town of Ashton. Dehydrated, we walked into the nearest bar to buy some water. The bartender was very welcoming and after we told him about our misadventure, he walked to the back of his shop and came out with a big bag of Union Island reaped salt! He gave us each a small portion, and we left with a smile.

 

It was nearing 4:00pm, so we decided to start heading back to the boat. Salt wasn’t the only gift we would receive that day. A few roads before we were back in Clifton, a group of ladies asked us if we were going to attend "the Maroon" – a sort of rain celebration. These are meant to entice the gods to bring on the rains and are held every year.

 

“The Maroon” was very important, as besides needing rain to grow crops, rain is the only water source the island has. Union Island hills are not high enough to produce the rainfall that transforms Grenada's northern coastal areas into rainforest. During the dry season, December through June, the only source of water on the island is the water stored during the rainy season.

 

We promised we would come watch. Smiling, they sent us in the direction of what looked like a large cookout, where we got plates of free stewed conch, chicken, provisions and rice, also part of the celebration. It really touched us how friendly the people were in Union Island.

 

That evening, the whole crew gathered and walked to the main street, where the dance would begin. It started small, with just 10 men and women, dancing and singing to the beats of about four djembe drums. But soon, more men, women and a lot of children joined in forming a large circle. Occasionally, they would throw grain on the floor, which I was told was a gift to the heavens.

 

It was great to see this small community – old and young – coming together to uphold this tradition, although we were also told that it was becoming increasingly difficult to put focus on traditions while modernization and tourism take over – something we know a lot about in St. Maarten.

 

Our next stop in the Grenadines was the Tobago Cays. If you have not made the effort to go there yet; you should! A protected marine park, the Tobago Cays has managed to stay pretty much untouched, especially compared to the rest of the Caribbean. It houses a series of globally significant habitats including coral reefs, sea turtle nesting sites and feeding areas, and small systems of mangroves.

 

The days there, we snorkelled our butts off, knowing we’d see turtles and other amazing animals every time we jumped in the water. The most astounding animal I saw must’ve been the Flying Gurnard. At first, it looked like an unattractive fish, brown and weirdly shaped; I swam closer to take a better look when it literally opened its wings revealing bright blue colouration.

 

Our last night in the Tobago Cays, and by chance also Pepijn’s birthday, we spent on the Petite Tabac, a filming location for the film Pirates of the Caribbean. Petit Tabac was the deserted isle where Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) were abandoned by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). With rum in hand, we embodied pirates ourselves that evening.

 

Next stop was St. Vincent – an 18-mile-long and 11-mile-wide island – located 100 miles west of Barbados. The 4,048-foot-high active volcano, called La Soufriere, which erupted violently in 1812 and 1902, with over 1,500 casualties, dominates the landscape. The most recent eruption was on April 13, 1979, which occurred on Good Friday. La Soufriere Volcano was the main reason we were stopping at St. Vincent, and all of us were determined to get to the top.

 

We took a bus to the beginning of the trail and then, equipped with our hiking shoes, lots of water and a picnic for the summit, started the climb. The trail took us right into the rainforest at first, large plants and root systems flanking us on both sides. “This is not too bad,” I thought to myself right before a series of steep steps started taking us up and got me sweating.

 

On our way, we met a man carrying a huge bag on top of his shoulders. Curious I asked him where he was going. He said his house was further than the crater, and quite a few people live secluded around its slopes. He looked after his weed plantation there (possibly growing the famous Vinnie, rumoured to be the strongest marijuana in the Caribbean). Once a month, he would venture down to sell his product and pick up supplies, having to walk over eight gruelling hours back up – not a chance that we could complain about having to walk three hours now!

 

After we had walked about an hour and a half, the rainforest started thinning out and the vegetation got drier and sparser. Taking a break on the surface of some large boulders, we could see the top of the crater, only appearing seconds through passing clouds. It looked like it would be an even steeper climb up, so we got to it. Walking up a dusty path, we started seeing large cracks that the lava had flowed through.

 

The path was less and less clear and we just had to navigate our own way through the various rocks and boulders to the top. My legs were killing me! Finally, I saw the top clearly. With renewed energy, I clambered over the ridge, and the view in front of me made the previous hours of hiking completely worth it.

 

A huge crater loomed in front of us, filling my entire field of vision. We could also see the active lava dome located at its centre, with smoke trailing out. Big gusts of wind made you feel like you would fall in if you stood too close to its edge. It was a thrilling experience. We munched on our crackers, cheese, canned beef and bananas, then headed back after we had taken in enough of our breath-taking surroundings.

 

Before we sailed onto our next destination, we had one more spot to visit in St. Vincent: Wallilabou Anchorage. The opening scenes of the first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, were filmed there. It is a picturesque anchorage for sailors and it's also the port where Captain Jack Sparrow infamously set foot on the jetty just as his small boat sank beneath the waves. The three dead pirates he sees hanging as he approaches land were hanging at the natural rock arch at the entrance to the bay. The dead pirates have since been removed.

 

The set was built around the original hotel and restaurant that stood there, and they have tried to preserve it since. Though, honestly, the set was not what it used to be; it was still fun to take a look around the old town, where we found various artefacts still belonging to the movie set. Our best find was a case of old costumes that the owner of the restaurant said we could try on. Very tethered and obviously mixed in with some other costume props, we still managed to put together a range of pirate costumes we could prance around in pretending to be real pirates of the Caribbean.

 

Next stop: St. Lucia.

Image
St. Maarten midday Weather Forecast for Saturday
Saturday, 17 October 2015
DATE ISSUED: Saturday, October 17, 2015 @ 12:00 LST (16:00 UTC) VALID UNTIL: Sunday midday (12:00... Read more...
Image
SHTA poll: Businesses want anti-ship-jumping legislation
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Click here for SHTA graph pdf PHILIPSBURG--The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association... Read more...
Image
Dominica’s tourism sector ready to welcome visitors after TS Erika
Friday, 16 October 2015
ROSEAU, Dominica--“Dominica is open for business and ready to welcome visitors to its shores.”... Read more...
Image
Reparations Committee: Withdraw Queens’ names from Suriname’s highest mountains
Thursday, 15 October 2015
PARAMARIBO--Suriname’s National Reparations Committee NRCS has filed a request with President... Read more...
Image
Ex-US House Speaker Hastert to plead guilty in hush-money case
Friday, 16 October 2015
CHICAGO--Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to plead guilty in a hush-money case... Read more...
Image
Hillary Clinton to 'look hard' at Julian Castro as possible VP pick
Friday, 16 October 2015
WASHINGTON--Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton won the backing of Housing and Urban... Read more...
Image
Half a million Yemen children face severe malnutrition
Friday, 16 October 2015
GENEVA--More than half a million children in Yemen face life-threatening malnutrition as a risk of... Read more...
Image
Modi to open 70-year-old files in challenge to Gandhi dynasty
Friday, 16 October 2015
NEW DELHI--Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will seek to unravel one of India's most enduring... Read more...
Image
Cuba in cash crunch due to low commodity prices, Venezuela woes
Friday, 16 October 2015
HAVANA--Low commodity prices, a drought at home and Venezuela's economic crisis have created a cash... Read more...
Image
Apple's newest courtroom foe is patent-savvy university
Friday, 16 October 2015
NEW YORK--As a veteran of the global smart phone wars, Apple is used to courtroom battles with... Read more...
Image
Focus needs to be on fighting crime & helping unemployed
Friday, 16 October 2015
Dear Editor, With all of the political situation on the island, we can't lose focus on some of the... Read more...
Image
Had enough
Friday, 16 October 2015
Dear Queenie, My brother died years ago but his widow stayed close to our family. Eventually she... Read more...
Image
RBC St. Maarten Little League School Tournament
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Sister Marie Laurence defeated Leonald Conner in the RBC St. Maarten Little League School... Read more...
Image
Nadal trounces Wawrinka, Djokovic tames Tomic
Friday, 16 October 2015
CHINA-- Former world number one Rafa Nadal displayed more signs of a return to top form with a... Read more...
Image
Junk shop photo spurs quest to confirm Billy the Kid image
Friday, 16 October 2015
DENVER--For the $2 he spent to buy three old photographs, Randy Guijarro may have hit the mother... Read more...
Image
Few signs of improvement for NBA star Odom after collapse
Friday, 16 October 2015
LAS VEGAS--Pro basketball and reality TV star Lamar Odom spent a third day hospitalized on... Read more...
Image
Bruney cruises into retirement
Friday, 16 October 2015
~ After three decade in cruise industry ~   By Alita Singh   Frank Bruney has seen tiny... Read more...
Image
ALL HANDS ON DECK, WE MADE IT!
Friday, 16 October 2015
~ Fair Transport Sailing Vessel Nordlys is launched ~   St. Maarten has been graced by the... Read more...
Editorial - Anybody’s guess
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Governor Eugene Holiday has decided to seek legal clarity on the current constitutional impasse.... Read more...
Editorial - Time is up
Friday, 16 October 2015
With so much ongoing constitutional turmoil, the fact that more than 100 people attended the... Read more...
Image
Saturday Oct. 17, 2015
Friday, 16 October 2015
Image
Friday Oct. 16, 2015
Friday, 16 October 2015
Notices October 16
Friday, 16 October 2015
General Meeting St. Maarten Professional Softball Association (SMPSA) general meeting for the... Read more...
Notices October 15
Thursday, 15 October 2015
General Meeting S.M.P.S.A. general meeting for the softball season 2016 will be held at Sundial... Read more...