Friday, June 11, 2010

Kite Notes from A Broad - 2001

I just found some old articles I wrote for a Kite Magazine, online in cyberspace, and am going to try to move them over here. Haven't figured out how to transfer the pictures yet... so here are the links.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Carriacou and back to Grenada

Caribbean Misadventures #12: Carriacou
I really like Carriacou. I spent the past two days just wandering around town, and checking things out. There’s not a whole lot here, which is probably why I like it.
I like the guest house where I am staying. My room has a double bed, bathroom, safe, tv and air conditioning all for about $30 a night. There is a shared kitchen with a huge fridge and gas stove, but a bit light on cutlery and stuff. When i return (and I will) I will pack some stuff to use. However, it's adequate to my needs right now, as I don’t really cook. I really appreciate having the fridge. There is also a wonderful cooler that provides ice cold drinking water. There’s huge porches in the front and back. Yesterday I met the Prime Minister’s press secretary, who was picking up his underwear that was hanging on the clothesline out my room on the porch. We had a great conversation until he had to leave to take part in the celebrations.

Yesterday they celebrated Independence day, and there was a ‘grand’ parade, with the police marching band that came over on the boat with me from Grenada, the school drum corps, and every school child in Carriacou, marched in their school uniform, into the stadium.

Just about everyone, adults and children, were all dressed in bright red yellow and green outfits, the colours of their flag or were wearing eye blinding plaids in the same colours. There were buntings and flags all over the place, and when I finally got into the stadium, the marchers were all lined up with a show of the military in front of a canopied viewing stand. The prime minister and his minions were seated under a large tent. He had come over on same the boat that I was on, and was supposed to stay at my guest house, but there weren’t enough rooms, because the police band was staying there. So they put him up somewhere else.

The show of military force was, I think, representative of the size of the island. With six army, six navy, and six marines standing at attention throughout the three hour ordeal. Their numbers seemed in proportion to the size of the island. I stayed until the speeches started and then I fled. Political speeches are the same the world over.

The locals speak a patois that is completely unintelligible to me,but they do speak English as well. People at the hotel are friendly, and I have met all sorts of interesting travellers. Jackie is from England, and is married to Yves, who is French. They are down here for several months, spending a few weeks at a time at various islands - Union Island, Petite Martinique, and several other of the Grenadines. They have been a font of information re island hopping. There seems to be a good number of people who come here for several months in the winter. I think I wouldn’t mind being one of them…

Today, I finished a sketch of some of the buildings, and took a bus to Paradise Beach, a lovely beach about five minutes from town. There are beaches all along the front street of the town, but they tend to be a bit dirty, so with dozens of beaches to choose from, why not choose a clean one?? . There was no one there when I arrived. Lovely sand, and beautiful green Caribbean clear water. I had the beach to myself, but was joined by another older German women who has been coming here for 35 years. When she left, I was joined by an American/Granadian, who was visiting his mother. He introduced to me to what initially looked to be just another beach bum, but turned out to be a member of the opposition in Parliament, who been the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the just defeated government.

I had lunch in the little snackette, and grabbed another bus to the next town in Tyrell bay. It'a a yachttie place that is being developed into a port. It was not so nice, with too many boats, and a slightly trashy beach. So I flagged another bus, that took me on a roundabout trip through the countryside, and back to town in time for a snack and a nap. A well spent day.

I have been without internet for a few days . There was some sort of screw up on Carriacou with the provider. I was logged in, but I couldnt connect. My new friends Yves and Jackie tried their best to fix it, but Yves only managed to slightly screw up my mouse pad. No problem, because i prefer to use the real mouse. My last morning in Carriacou, I did a little of everything. After breakfast on the balcony, I went to the top floor front balcony and did a sketch of the main street. Then I headed to the beach, for a swim and another sketch. I headed back to my room to shower, change, and check out. By then it was lunch time, so off to my favorite restaurant for Lambi roti (conch), a couple of beers and another drawing. Too soon it was time to catch the ferry back to St George's

I left Carriacou on the three thirty ferry, grabbed a bus, and was delivered to the gates of the Granada Beach Club Resort... the one I bid on and won on SkyAuction.

I think I am the only customer ever to arrive by bus, on foot, at the gate of this resort. The ancient gate keeper was a bit confused, but walked me up to the posh reception area where I checked in. I was taken to my room by an even more ancient 'bell boy'. I felt guilty that he was dragging my small wheelie, but then I have to remember that I am probably older than he is anyway! The room was amazingly standard North American hotel mode. It was bigger than the whole 'cottage' that I stayed in at the Caribbean Cottages last week. It has two double beds, a huge tv, a bathroom with a tub, and lots of towels and soaps and stuff. I have a balcony, and a noisy, old fashioned air conditioner. There is a DESK and bedside lamps. I have concluded that bedside lamps are the ultimate in total luxury! And the internet works!!!

I heard some thumpa thump music outside, so i checked with the desk and found out that since it is Independence weekend, there is a beach party going on in front of the resort. So off I went to check it out. The resort is 'fenced in from the beach with an unimposing picket fence and 'guarded' by a couple of laid back uniformed men, so first I had to find the gate leading out to the beach. There were tons of people and tents and food stalls and a reggae band belting it out - people eating, dancing etc. As I looked over the fence at the festivities, I was picked up by a former Grenadian women and family who were visiting from their home in the Channel Islands and was invited to join them. They treated me to beer and fish and chips! She is travelling with her son, and two funny old English geezer types who are friends of hers. She was visiting her older son who lived in Grenada.

Hillsborough Carriacou

February 2, 2010
Caribbean Misadventures#11: Moving On...St. John's to Hillsborough

Bright and early this morning, I packed up yet again, threw out a few more clothes and still had trouble closing the bag. I swear that heat and humidity cause clothes to expand, therefore necessitating the abandonment of all but bare essentials by the end of the trip. I did pick up a few little gifts yesterday in the market, but they weren't really that big.

Walked down the steep hill to the main road, and flagged down a bus. The bus dropped me off beside the Osprey, a large catamaran ferry that would take me to my final island - Carriacou. The boat slowly filled up, and then an official looking car arrived with important looking people dressed in suits, and wearing the little Independence day rosettes in their lapels. It turns out the Prime Minister, and his entourage of 'Important People' were on board.

Carriacou celebrates Independence day a day earlier than the rest of Grenada, so tomorrow should be full of parades, and marching bands, and school presentations in the school grounds around the corner from where I am staying. Drums and tubas and other instruments were loaded into the hold and many bright, cheerful young men boarded, and it turned out that they were the police marching band. They quickly started distributing rum and cokes (this was at 9 am) in front of an official looking policeman, who didn't seem to be bothered by it. Smiles all round as we set sail

Leaving my gear inside, I went up top, where I met a most interesting oldie travelling alone. He was from Bermuda, and had been the head of the gov't conservation dept or some such. He was a serious birder, and was heading out to join up a boat/birder expedition that was sailing up the islands looking for endangered birds... very interesting person, with a nephew in Victoria that i have to phone when I get home.

It was a nice, albeit kinda rough trip, and as we landed we were engulfed by a torrential, but brief tropical squall. Soaking wet, I walked the hundred feet or so from the dock to where I was staying - Ades Dream Place. For about $30 a night I have a small room, a/c, TV, bathroom, shared kitchen, WiFi, and the worse decor I have ever experienced. But its nice and clean and central and there is a shared kitchen. Just outside my room is a lovely large balcony, where i can sit and have my breakfast.

Met several other budget travellers who have also fallen in love with island on first sight! Hillsborough, the only town, is small, but not too small with lots of grocery stores. I am in the middle of town, across the street from the beach- albeit not the cleanest, because it is in middle of town, but quite manageable in a pinch. I took a long walk to the end of town on one side and came back down the back lanes. Tomorrow I will go the other way, before the excitement begins with the bands and such. I am now sitting on a lovely quiet balcony, overlooking their excuse for mountains (hills, in my book) at the back of the guest house. There are lots of school kids in uniforms walking home from school.

You can see Union Island from here....hmmmm maybe i will head over there for the day, or over to the Tobago Keys.... hard to decide....

Caribbean Misadventures #10.

Caribbean Misadventures #10: Tala's birthday party

Today was a good day. I headed to St George's and the bus, instead of taking me to the depot, headed up up UP to the top of the town, where the semi ruined churches are. Not only had their roofs been torn off in the tornado, but the stained glass windows, and chunks of stone. I had been wanting to go up there, but it is an incredibly steep climb. I must've taken a different bus, for which i was greatful. I wandered around the top, through the interesting streets, and as I headed down, stopped for an hour or so to do a sketch...

It was outside a day care, and I could hear the little voices chanting their abc's. Then a door opened in a shabby house across from me, and an elderly man with a guitar headed to the day care. He stopped to talk with me when he returned, about an hour later. He goes to sing with the children, and he is also a story teller.

I wandered down through the narrow, shabby streets, past houses that have never recovered from hurricane Ivan, past house/shops selling everything from food to car parts, and eventually found myself in the market this time I felt OK, so I did some shopping for some fresh fruit and veggies. Walking these narrow streets... in fact it flatters them to call them streets... they are narrow, wiggly, twisty lanes that were never built for mini busses and big SUVs, which is what everyone seems to drive... drivers give you a little 'beep', and you have to squeeze yourself against a building or fence or badly parked car so they can get by

I returned for my mid day nap, with thoughts of heading to the nearby beach for an hour or two, but the thought of the climb back up to my little cabin deterred me. My hostess invited me to a birthday party dinner bbq for Tala, the resident artist, gardener, cook, and general handyman who fulfills all the many duties that her rasta boyfriend dosen't. Boyfriend's job seems to be to sit around and look sullen, and occassionally encourage their son to be a wild thing. So I painted up a little card for him -because he is really a sweet man. Then I headed down for dinner...

It was quite a weird party. There were five or six of her italian friends, one with rasta locks and two beige kids, a pair of newly arrived italian women, and some others. There was the birthday boys ex partner who brought his sons, and her recent baby, with someone else. There was a clutch of glowering young Granadian men, sitting sullenly on the porch. The birthday boy was in the kitchen cooking up his Granadian specialty, called an 'oil down'. It was a bloody awful like a stew like mess, with everything but the kitchen sink in it - chicken, beef, conch, fish, veggies, chunks of corn on the cob, bread fruit, dumplings, carrots. and I dunno what else. Huge plates were served up. It was grotesquely unappealing, but had to be tackled. I 'shared' my plate with someone else, and left most of it.

The women had brought about half a dozenn little boy children all around five years old, who were allowed to run maniacally around, screaming yelling, pounding the floor, and that, combined with top volume rasta music and non stop Italian finally drove me to my room, where I am now... they are still at it!!!Those kids were totally wired, I have never seen anything so out of control in my life! I swear they were all on speed! The mothers totally ignored them, and babbled on in Italian.

I leave tomorrow for some quiet time on the smaller island of Carriacou...

Friday, February 12, 2010


January 30, 2010, Saturday.

Caribbean Misadventures # 9 sniffles in paradise

Sometimes life sucks - even in paradise. Can there be anything worse than being stuck inside on a gorgeous sunny day in the Caribbean with a raging headache, a sniffly nose, and lousy tv? As I sit here, I am facing a sort of jungle of glorious green plants from my second story balcony, and in the distance... well not that far ... across the street and a block down.... the ocean (cough cough) filled with lovely boats, as there is a regatta this weekend.

I tried, I really really tried to get out and about early this morning. I took the bus to town, as the weekly market was on. I guess it would have been interesting, but all the smells and noises made me feel much worse. I contemplated climbing the gazillion steps up to the top of this huge hill to see the old fort... and then thought better of it. Everything interesting necessitates a climb, so I just started walking along the sea level waterfront, called the carenage, back towards where I am staying.

Out of a day of lemons, I managed to make a bit of lemonade. I made lots of pleasant stops in the shade and people watched. I could of taken the bus, but it was more interesting to walk. The traffic is horrendous, and non stop. Sidewalks are semi existant, and when they are not there, you walk on the narrow road, dodging cars. While they drive on the left, like the Brits, that dosen't mean there is any consistancy. They will stop suddenly on either side of the road, facing the wrong way if they choose to. Busses honk as they approach you, and if you want them to stop, you just flag them down. To get out of town, you walk through this one way tunnel, that goes under the 'mountain' on which sits the fort. There is no sidewalk in the tunnel, so you hug the wall and hope you don't meet anyone coming the other way. Sometimes the busses stop in the middle of the tunnel to let people off!!

Last night (Friday) was a bit of circus. My rasta hostess (she has meter long blondish dreds) said she would take me in the car to the pharmacy and to the grocery store to get antihistamines and a few other things. So off we went, with rasta boyfriend, and their four year old son who never stops squealing, yelling, talking, jumping. My head wasn't into it. We stopped at the pharmacy, but before we went for groceries (cough cough) they decided they wanted to pick up some bbq chicken for dinner. Now this wasn't a simple matter, because when we stopped at their favorite guy, who was roasting chicken pieces on a spit made out of an old oil drum, it wasn't ready yet. It was friday night and the roads were busy, but we went on an around the island tour looking for another 'good' chicken man. This took nearly two hours of twisty turny roads, traffic jams, and mexican stand offs. I was not feeling my perkiest. Finally we found some Jamaican Jerk chicken that was acceptable, and headed waaaay back to town to the supermarket.

She shopped, I picked up a few things, and (stops to get a tylenol)... and then we head home, with rasta man whining and begging and cajoling for money to go out with the boys or something.. A marital tiff ensues in the front seat. He'd already tried to co opt the change I was due from the chicken had given the money to buy. She finally dropped him off, and told him not to 'smoke' too much (ganja), and we got home. I had earlier made some instant chicken egg drop soup for dinner, so I picked up my book and headed for bed. I slept badly, as a result wasn't really feeling like traipsing around town today, but forced myself to. I have regretfully concluded that I simply have to wait this damn cold out. I have time. However, I am going to try and walk down to the closest beach sometimes this afternoon (if my head ache goes away)

This isn't fair... I shortened this holiday to four weeks, cos I usually get hit with something nasty in week five and this is only week THREE for god's sake. Resident (probably flea bitten ) little cat has taken up residence behind my computer on the table.

sunday...I recieved some good advice from tt friends last night... booze is good for colds. So I cracked open my nice bottle of barbados rum, and finished up my evening with rum and coke. It definitely worked, as I felt better this morning, so I hopped on a bus and headed to the beach. Grand Anse is a huge lovely beach, with fine white sand... but to tell the truth, I think i preferred the beach in Barbados. For one thing, it was closer! I am now brown as I will ever get, without the necessity of doing the rotissery thing on the beach. I just brown so easily.

I found a shady spot and spent the morning chatting with a boatie family from the u.s. They had been living and sailing down here for four years with two kids., 11 and 9. Bright, lovely kids. I went with them to the yacht club where there was a craft show, and then had some lunch.

I saw this lovely little blue restaurant, and decided have a beer, and maybe a bite to eat. I was the only one there, and was served by a good looking, lisping, gay fellow whose accented English I had a hard time understanding. I learned from this experience to ask for a menu in the future. He asked me if I wanted a 'full plate' or buffet. I figured a full plate sounded good, so I ordered it. Well dish after dish after dish of different things appeared. I had ordered the house special!! every dish different. There was no way I could eat it all, and when the bill came, I didn't have enough money with me! I told them what I had, emptied my wallet, and they smiled and said ok, even giving me a 'doggie' box to take the stuff i couldnt eat home... and then when i said I didn't even have money left for the bus, they gave me back five EC dollars!!!!

Barbados and Grenada

January 29, 2010

Caribbean misadventures #7 and #8: Barbados and Grenada

Well, folks, I am thinking my old 'get up and go' has 'got up and went'. I seem to be turning into a slothful, lazy, sun worshipping slug and trying to get over the guilt of not rushing about, planning to do this and that, going for long walks etc etc. I thoroughly enjoyed my five days in Barbados, and wish i had planned for longer. When I left the boat, and took a cab to this small sort of village called St. Laurence Gap. The road from the cruise port, through the city of Bridgetown, and towards the airport on the other side is totally lined on one side bybeaches and resorts and on the other side by shops and more resorts and rental apartments. The streets are mostly inhabitied by aging men and women in shorts and bright floral outfits, shopping or just walking somewhere. The place I was staying seemed to be inhabited by scandanavian kite surfers and McGill Univ. oceonographic students. It was called the Rio Guest House, and was clean, fresh, and only $40 a night.

I met the only other female there at the time, a yound Dominican woman, who was studying medicine in the US. We spent a very interesting afternoon together, going up to Oistin, a nearby fishing village for lunch and a beer. It was fascinating talking about her experiences as a black West Indian going to an all black university in Louisianna. The americans accused her of 'talking white' because she didn't sound like a 'southern black' and they couldnt understand why she didn't refer to herself as Afro American, but as West Indian . Since most West Indians also have Carib ancestors as well, they don't see themself as 'African' anything.

The Gap, as it's called, is a U shaped dip off the main hiway, about a mile or two long, also with lots of resorts beach side, but with little traffic, a lot of inexpensive restaurants, and not much else. My little guesthouse cum hostel was across the street from a posh resort, but all I had to do was to cross the street, walk through, past their restaurant and pool, and I was on this magnificent beach. At this end it wasn't crowded, so I had a few wonderfrul days of painting and beach browsing. I think there is a rule in Barbados that they don't let you off the plane unless you are over fifty, or accompanying your grandchildren! There were very few kids at all. You could rent an umbrella and chair. This was weird for me, because I have never been on a beach like this before. Each hotel had their own coloured towels, so if you claimed an empty chair, and didn't have the right coloured towel, a polite young man would come and see if you were either at the hotel, or wanted to rent the chair. I was so discovered, but the nice young man told me not to bother paying and let me have the lounger.

The water is fantastic, clear and warm, and its fun to 'jump' the breakers. I havent really done that before - that and 'body surfing'.' It was refreshing to see that I wasn't the fattest, oldest, out of shape body on the beach and that the plumper more filled in womens bodies definitely tan and age better than the skinny types, who end up looking like over tanned dried up leather!! Sun worshipping is the thing here, people roast all day, gently turning themselves over as if they were impaled on a rotisserie! I liked going down early in the morning, and watching the 'beach walkers'... people marching resolutely up and down the length of the beach for their morning exercise, before jumping in to cool off.

I did get off the beach for day or so, and went into Bridgegown by bus where i spent time in the old synagogue and museum. The downtown has two definite parts: the non busy shopping streets full of small shops and snackettes, and the Broad street is wall to wall 'duty free' shops selling outrageously expensive jewellery and luxury items... these streets are full of cruise people...ladies in shorts, well coiffed hair, dripping too much jewellery already, and their 'tagalong' hubbies, clutching their wallets.

One of the things I really liked about the beach there, and the place generally, was the constant, comfortable breeze, which made it very pleasant, even tho it was pretty hot. Five days was maybe two days short. I wish I had a few days more. But I had booked my flight to Grenada on a five oclock flight. The plane touched down in Tobago, and then I was at the final stop... Grenada
at last. I had been planning this trip for over thirty years, and I finally made it!

I had arranged for a cab to pick me up and take me to a place I found on line. It is self catering, so we stopped at a giant shopping centre so that i could pick up some food. It's sort of out of town, between the city of St. Georges, and the famous Grand Anse Beach. I booked a one bedroom, self catering small, cottage, but it wasn't vacant yet, so she put me into this HUGE three bedroom bungalow for one night. Free WiFi again. I am lost wandering around, and can never find the right light switches. Right now, i am on the balcony, looking over to the water, where a freighter is anchored, and a number of small sail boats.

The place is owned by a fortiesh Italian rasta lady and her partner and small son. There was a small dinner party going on on the porch with the other guests, and I was invited to join them. An american couple, two german medical students doing internships here, and an italian woamn, who is leaving today, and i will be getting her small cottage. I am always anxious and unsure if i have made the right moverevery time I move on, so i will see if this place works for me. There are lizard thinggies in the trees and skittering over the floor - pleasant little things. There's lots of greenery, but not as big gardens as i was expecting, but relaxing, for sure. Basically I need a quiet place for a few days to recover from this damn cold.

I was much happier when I moved to the smaller cottage, and the next day, I found a small market, picked up some instant chicken soup to feed my cold.

Grenada, Tobago and Barbados

January 21, 2010

Caribbean Misadventures#6: escape to Barbados

Well, I am back living with the proletariat, in St. Laurence Gap in Barbados.... ohhhhh how far, the cossetted, the indulged, over fed, and waited upon, has fallen!!!! From the mighty overstaffed, overfed Windsurf, by taxi out to the edges of the Bridgetown to a small tightly populated beach community of guesthouses and hostels!.... My room in the guesthouse is tiny, with a spartan single bed, no towels of course (I did bring my own) and a shared bathroom shower across the hall. It's bright and white, and there is a little balcony off to the side, and the beach is across the street, through the lobby of the posh hotel. I haven't even checked it out yet. It is sunday, and the city sleeps.

The small self contained 'suite' downstairs, has a little kitchen, and seems to be inhabited by a slew of kite surfer dudes, comes the rather overpowerintgly greasy smell of frying bacon. I couldnt even eat breakfast this morning before leaving the boat. I tend to be uptight and nervous on the day I have to shift from one place to another, so I just wasn't into food. I forced myself to eat a bit of fruit and bread and a touch of their rather lousy coffee. I am glad to be back using my own instant starbuckis..... mmmmmmmmmmmmmm as i sit here, with the door open, there is a lovely crossbreeze. Too bad i can't leave the door open at night. I really was tired of the a/c, and prefer fresh air and a good fan. However, I could do without the frying bacon smell.This is such a luxury to have wifi, and it is quite efficient and fast here, better than in Antigua.

Yesterday, we left Kingstown, in St. Vincent - not really a place I would choose to go back to. Interesting with its cobbled streets, open drains, hodge podge of new and old buildings, rabid traffic and strange back alleys, but not as pleasant or interesting as Rousseau... which has all that, but I definitely like much more. I returned to the boat and watched people gorge on lunch, had a small nibble, changed into my bathing suit and again hit the deck with a book. This could become habit forming. That seems to be what a lot of people do on a cruise. They lay around in various parts of the boat, snoozing, reading, or just being anti social. The boat is very uninspiring when it comes to doing any drawing. there is a bland 'sameness' of uniformed professionally polite staff and a profusion of prone pairs of varying sizes and shapes sunworshipping in regulated rows of matching blue loungers. So decided to join them for the rest of the afternoon, interspersed with a wallow or two in the miniscule pool. While there are two hot tubs, I cannot for the life of me figure out why one would want to sit in a hot tub on a hot day with other hot sweating strangers. Couples seem to love it though, and diligently set up their timer on their cameras so that they can photograph themselves smiling with their arms around each other and the caribbean glistening in the background.

The day ended with another over the top dinner... dinner is about five courses. They lay down a little spoon with a tiny bit of 'something' savory to start with, then you must choose an hors douvre, then a soup, then a salad, then a main and then a dessert. It's just too much in this hot weather. The food is uniformly north american/european fare, and nothing that even vaguely comes from the islands except perhaps the occassional mango or pineapple. They don't even carry the local island beers, which annoys the hell out of me because I like island beers. I tend to go to bed early, because I just cant get into the evening 'club' scene, with the really old fifties and sixties music, bad comedian, and contrived entertainment....

Friday we sailed into St. George's in Genada. We berthed at a very modern, fancy pier. It looks like a very attractive port city, and I signed up for a 'river tubing' experience. The drive through the city and mountains was the best part of the trip. I had a good positive feel about the place. The tubing was ok, but the river wasn't very high, so it was less exciting than it could have been, and I hated being trussed up in a life jacket and helmet. After lunch back on the boat, I went looking for the Lazy Lagoon, a guesthouse I was hoping to stay at when I returned. The town looked interesting as I walked along the harbour, but it looked like it was further away than i thought, so I grabbed a taxi.

It proved to be a true misadventure, and he took me miles out of the way, down, wrong roads, and miles and miles beyond where i knew it out to be. I showed him a map, but I don't think he knew how to read a map. Miles out of town, and heading down an obscure dirt road, I finally made him ask someone, and we had to backtrack to where i thought it was in the first place. And of course it was there. So I made arrangements to stay there when I return to Granada for a week.

Back to the ship for more sun and wallowing.... I no longer know where I fit in in this cruising world. I am definitely NOT a cruiser. I have tried that twice now, and it dosen't fit. No matter how small the boat, cruising appears to be a couple thing. Couples and cocktails and fifth rate cabaret acts. The people I have met have been cordial, friendly and some even mildly interesting. They are surprisingly well travelled, but only in a cruising context. It is interesting how the heirarchy of snobbery runs in the travel world. There are the backpackers who sneer at people who stay in fancy hotels and take tours, and in the cruise world, it is the small cruise ship people who sneer at the monster ships that carry thousands. My experience and style of travel is so far removed from them they can barely conceptualize it.

However, travelling is all pabout having new and interesting experiences, and this has been one of them. It IS nice to be cossetted and pampered at times... but it began to pall after a couple of days, and i really wanted some simple street food, a local beer, and no concerns about what to wear to dinner that night. The women appeared to have a different fancy dress for every meal, the men an unending supply of some sort of Hawaiian shirts. Our last day on the boat was spent in Charlotteville, Tobago, and I really loved this little village. I had signed up for snorkelling, so we got on a mini bus and headed to a lovely beach where we boarded a small boat.

We snorkelled of a reef, and it was ok. I have had better snorkelling experiences, but it was a pleasant outing. I then spent some time wandering in the town, and I really liked it. It is a fishing village, and there was some big cricket match going on on the green, so I sat and watched for a while with an Engish couple who made no effort to try and explain it, as they knew it would be useless. Back to the boat for our final dinner and speeches from the capitan, who was funnier than the british comedian, and then packing and bed, as we have to be up early for customs. I was hoping to connect with Tracy, a young american who was travelling with her parents, as she was interested in staying over in Barbadoes for a few more days if she could arrange the air flight home, but missed her, so after leaving the boat, I taxied off with a Brit couple, and here I am in the Rio Guesthouse in St. Laurence Gap, Barbados. It's a pleasant, clean, white building, owned a run by four cousins from England, whose families were originally from Jamaica. There is a common kitchen with a fridge and stove

A nice breeze, my computer is working and I'm beginning to get a bit hungry. I will have to go out and find my own dinner for a change. Which wasn't difficult. There was a nice restaraunt around the corner, and when I ordered a rum punch, I found that it was two for the price of one... which was nice. I had a nice, simple chicken sandwich for dinner.

St. Vincent and St. Lucia

January 21, 2010

Caribbean misadventures #5: Cruising....

If it's Thursday, I must be in St Vincent... Kingstown to be exact. I find it difficult to separate one day from another. Did we tender in or were we docked at the pier? I think we were docked, so Char and Eileen and I walked into town. It was noisy, dingy, busy little port town, but not particularily architeturally interesting, like Rousseau. There are lots of arcade like stone 'walk throughs' interspersed with shabby modern buildings... There are lots of shops and restaraunts, accessed through dark alleys and between dingy buildings. Many are located on the second floor. We found a small coffee snack shop called The Bounty, run by an expat Canadian on the second floor of such a building. She kindly offered a lot of good information re the town, so we wandered to the market, found my chocolate turds and spices, and then i found an internet cafe, so we split up.

I headed back to The Bounty for lunch... patties and a salad, and then returned to the boat to lounge and wallow in the pool again.

It's sometimes is hard to keep track of where you are. Yesterday it was ST Lucia. and the day before was Dominica. Yesterday I decided to take my first 'off ship' tour, finally getting closer to the water on a catamaran trip to the Pitons. We anchored into a bay near Pigeon Island, and then transferred to the Catamaran. It was a lovely day trip down to the Pitons, two volcanic peaks to the south of Castries the main city. On our return, we disembarked to a small beach that had been 'reserved' for our ship, where the ship had set up a huge over the top barbecue.... but it was good

With all this food in your face all the time - as much as you want, and whatever you want, I am eating less and less. I can't believe how much some people can pack away in this hot weather. But the bbq was a nice end to the day, and I swam off the beach for a bit. I was going to try out the kayaks, but i chickened out. I returned to the ship to freshen up, and make a birthday card for Eileen, whose birthday it was tonight. Eileen is not really a well person, and has a 'manageable' cancer. She retired early, and is using up her savings travelling and doing the things she has always wante to do. I really admire her spirit and her sense of adventure. We had a nice dinner in the 'mediterranean' restaraunt and then I went to bed with a bad mystery.

I'm afraid my missives are a bit boring but nothing much happens when you are on a cruise. I can observe, and read, and sketch a bit but this one island a day is pretty annoying. I am looking forward to five days in barbados, even if I never leave the guest house. I am enviably sun tanned at this point, and hopefully won't peel because i will probably be darker by the time I leave

I am thinking i ought to start promoting myself to cruise lines - lessons in illustrated journals. Even regular cruisers get pretty bored and the afternoons can be long. If I could do this without having to pay for the cruise.... i could get used to it!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dominica and Bequai

January 19, 2010

Caribbean Misadventure #4: The WindSurf Experience.

The biggest misadventure so far today is the excruciatingly slow internet. While it is possible to use the internet on the boat, it is ridiculously expensive, so I had to wait til we were on an island. Monday, Bequai was the first island we stopped at, and I headed straight to a drugstore to pick up something to for the sand flea bites. Then I wandered down to the Frangipani, where I stayed two years ago, through the town, stopped and used the internet to check mail, and back to the boat where i spent the day wallowing in the pool and reading

Tuesday, and we have sailed overnight to Dominica and it is as nice as I remember it. Not everyone would see it as 'nice'. It is cluttered, and noisy and the music is always playing, and the cars are almost wider than the cobblestone streets. It's kinda dingy and dirty, if you are bothered by those things, but the people are really smiley and friendly and wandering the windy streets in the horrendous humidity and heat, I have to smile.

I wandered down to one of my favorite places... the Carnegie Library, down on the beach and sat in the shade of the trees and chatted with a medical stdent from Nigeria. A bucnch of uniformed school girls arrived, and hung over the balcony, flirting with him. Then I wandered down to my favorite cafe...the Cornerstone cafe, and was delighted to find that the waitress remembered 'the painter lady'...

It wasn't the same yesterday in Bequai, a place a really loved. I saw too many changes that didn't settle well with me. Yes, these are small developing countries, and I cannot begrudge them growth and development, but Bequia seems to be going the way of the sleek and fast. Here in Roussea, even the new buildings look old. Some of the shops have changed, and there seems to be a lot more of them. In any case, I wandered around a bit, and went to the bank for MORE money. I do not like dealing in u.s. cash when I travel anywhere but the U.S. It may seem strange, but to me it's kind of disrespectful. And besides, I like the young queen on the EC bills

This whole 'cruising' thing is really weird for me, and i have to admit that is what I am on a CRUISE, something I swore I would never do. I am reasonably sure I am the only single person on the ship. It's all couples or small clumps of women friends. Mostly americans, and quite a few east coast canadians, a smattering of Brits. I am finally finding my way around the boat. The windows in my stateroom have blackout curtains, so I cannot even awake with the sun rising... Tonight I will leave them open. Every night when I return to go to bed, it is laid out, and there are a couple of chocolate mints there for me. There is a stocked bar, a fridge, a fuzzy white bathrobe, always a bucket of ice, tv with cd's in the library as well as books. I am not doing many of the 'land tours', only the ones that include water.

We are ferried to shore by a small boat, and it runs all day, so when it gets too hot, i
I return to the ship, have lunch, change to my bathing suit and have a bit of a wallow in the very small swimming pool. I have talked to a few couples, but typically, they clutch together, and prefer to join up with couples. Today, a woman I have seen before sat down beside me on one of the deck lounges. We got to chatting, and she is travelling with her partner of 35 years (she's gay). we had a nice conversation, and it turned out we were all eating at the seafood deck restaurant that evening, so I joined them there. It was a bit windy, but nice and refeshing to sit and eat outdoors.

Now about the food. People seem to think it is good, but I have to wonder where they usually eat when they are home. The presentation is always wonderful. It LOOKS good, but quite frankly, I find the descriptions tastier than the actual food itself. Its all kinda typical western middle of the road restaraunt fare dressed up to look first class, if you know what I mean. Nothing is made to oreder, so it's all precooked and reheated. The crew appears to be mainly Indonesian, and they are very good, polite, quick to fullfill your every request. It makes me feel like a plantation princess or something. With all the passengers (and I mean ALL) being white, upper middle class couples over 50, and with nearly all the workers of a 'different colour', there is absolutely nothing vaguely carribean on the ship at all. It could be generically anyplace in the world. The only difference between a Windstar boat in Dominica and one in Tahiti would be the land tours. It kinda creeps me out.

After dinner, there is always a show, which tonight was a stand up comedian. He was a British 8th rate, straight out of the fifties, clean as a whistle (except for the occassional poop or fart joke) comedian, balding with a paunch, and a 'comic' wardrobe.(mismatched flourescent socks. He was embarassingly bad, but people seemed to like him.... to bed.

The next morning, I headed to breakfast where I discovered strawberry and cottage cheese crepes - anglo blintzes, I think. There is an overloaded buffet every morning at 6 a. m. and breakfast to order at 7. Buffets always stump me - too many decisions to make that early in the morning. Or at 7 you can order waffles, eggs, pancakes or whatever you want. I will stick with these crepes every day I think. I am trying to get a grip on the experience, but at times i find it all rather frustrating. We only sail at night, so there is no real sailing experience except for the bit in the morning as we pull into yet another port. The summer camp kinda aspect of the activities etc etc reall turns my stomach, and at times I feel very alone, but I am used to that.

Will i ever do anything like this again? I don't think so....Chalk it up to it is a different experience, and - I am resignedly experiencing it...


Caribbean misadventures #3: Under the Volcano...

When it turned out that I couldn't get a refund on my ticket to Montserrat, I decided to make it a day trip instead. Of course they stuck me with another fifty bucks for changing the reservation, but at this point, what the hell - I wont likely be this way again. So I got up bright and early, grabbed a bus to the central depot in town, then waited forty five minutes for the airport bus. I followed some airport workers in, and with trouble located my teeny tiny airport check in. Security was the usual hassle. Altho I do not see the point of asking someone to take off their flip flops so they must stand barefoot on a nasty mat full of unmentionable things. Once through, it was ok. The airline's check in clerk herself came to escort the three passengers to a waiting van that drove up to the six seater plane on the furthest side of the tarmac.

The post pubescent looking, crew cut, blond pilot opened the door, and off we went, towards the smoking island. Customs weren't there when we arrived. They slowly arrived and in minutes I was in Montserrat's empty, echoing airport... The pilot and officials disappears, as did the other two passengers. I spotted a taxi, and tried to negotiate for a tour. U am rotten at negotiating, and inevitably pay too much, but he was the only taxi in sight. He was a lovely older gentleman who wasn't really much into being a tour guide, but definitely did his best to show me Montserrat in two hours.

Its a lovely island, the side that is still inhabited. It is separated from the volcanic two thirds by kind of a mountain range. Once we crossed that range, I could feel myself having trouble with breathing, so I hauled out my 'Darth Vadar' mask and I was alright. It is an amazing sight to see. We could only go so far, as roads are closed down that go into the active volcano area, but people are still living in ash covered houses, surrounded by grey, ash covered trees with grey leaves.

There were beautiful homes and estates, and you can see them in the distance, all abandonded. We stopped by a friend of Joseph's and she gave me a taste of the guava jellies she made for sale. On the way to the airport, he stopped at his home and picked up some mangoes for me! Two hours later, I was back at the airport, and tweny minutes after that, going through immigration, back in Antigua. It was a long hot walk to the bus stop, and two busses later back, I was stripped naked, and eating those mangoes the only way it makes sense to eat them.... naked and right before a shower. Tomorrow i am heading to Barbuda, the sister island to Antigua.


January 13/2010
Caribbean Misadventure#2: busy doing nothing

I spent my first few days just wandering around English Harbour, sketching, visiting a couple of the beaches. As the song goes 'I'm busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do.' That's about it, so far in Antigua. I decided to go to the main and only city of St. John's for the day, to pick up a few things and check it out. I was there about thirty years ago, and remember it as a smallish, bumbling kind of place. Well no more... its now a bustling busy, commerical centre. I did my banking, picked up a few things at the pharmacy and market and headed back to English Harbour.

The buses are easy and affordable, people are friendly, and easy to talk to, however the vision of men, young and old, with the waist of their pants deliberately 'hanging' below their butt crack is amusing and speculative. They seem to have adapted, and as their pants slide to their knees, in imminent danger of tripping them up, the hand reaches out and there is an automatic hoisting up. That and the very casual open zipper crotch adjustment seems to be common here. On the female side I feel right at home as there are ever so many nice, plump O/S women, young AND old.

Despite English Harbour/Falmouth Harbour being the centre for mainly British Boaties, and a key tourist site for the day trippers from the big cruise ships, I like it here - except for the non stop boom box noise from the bar. But there is no escape from that in the Caribbean so you learn to live with it, or put on your own ipod to drown it out. The local beer is good, and i eat mostly at 'snackettes' or pick up street food. However I do enjoy going out for a half decent dinner. It's not cheap, but you can get a decent meal and beer for about 20-25 bucks. I figure my expenses, with the room included are less than 100 bucks a day, which is definitely over what I normally spend, but it is the Caribbean in hi season.

I met a nice English woman, who is waiting for her husband's boat to arrive from Portugal. We get together to do things sometimes, and generally have dinner together. Mornings I head for the beach. Afternoons? Maybe a nap, reading, sketching, then dinner and bed. Definitely hard to take. On friday I will head to Barbuda for a couple of days, and then on to Barbados.

I had planned to spend a few days in Montserrat, but my hostess emailed me to say that the the air was not good, and given that I have asthma, it would not be wise. I found out this morning that the air fare to Montserrat is non refundable, but good for a year...HAH..... not likely I will be this way soon again, but I did come up with a brilliant idea. I will fly there tomorrow morning, for a few hours, grab a taxi for a fast look see, and return on the only return flight at around noon. I have my hi tech asthma mask with me, so I will wear it. Since the ticket is paid for, why not? Of course there is always rebooking fees....sigh.... they getcha coming and going...this is proving to be very very expensive. I am looking forward to a week on the boat where I won't have to spend money (maybe).

Caribbean Misadventures #1: Our Brave New World

Brave New World #1 ;
Net Books
My brave new world started this year when I picked up a little Acer notebook computer, thinking it might come in handy when travelling. Of course it took me nearly a year to fiigure out how to use it, and I am still in the dark about a lot of stuff, but I think I have the basics. It turned out that a lot of places I plan to stay have Wifi (free internet connections) so I decided to pack this little baby on the trip, and see how it went. I was able to download the appropriate LP chapters for the islands I am visiting for a few bucks. My Acer weighs less than the equivalent lp book and isn't much bigger.

Brave New World #2
Last year I joined a number of other travellers and wannabe travellers in posting five photos every day on Photoblog365, with the intention of posting every day for a year. Now it has become an obsession. I have noticed my photography has improved with the daily posts. I also enjoy following friends all over the world through their daily photos. So I am now posting my tavel 'diary' daily on photoblog complete with drawings, when applicable. Sometimes it is easier to post a link to them here in my blog than posting photos.

Brave New World#4:
New Airplane boarding rules
I had the delightful experience of having to go through the increased customs vetting experience in Toronto, and aside from having to arrive three hours early, at three am for a 6 am flight, it went smoothly. The RCMP, who were doing the body searches, did it with humour and grace. The worst thing was not really knowing what you could or could not take on. They said NO BACKPACKS - no day packs even, so at the last minute, in toronto, I had to make packing adjustments that were a pain. Then I arrived at the airport to find that day packs WERE being allowed. I was thoroghly pissed off!!

The irony was, that after all my shopping around for the perfect carryon luggage, in the end, I couldnt even carry on my day pack. The other irony was when I had to change planes in Miami, the Merkins were all hauling the biggest damn carryons I have ever seen, and jamming them into the overhead bins. It turns out that Canada turned on the MOST stringent boarding rules in the world.

Brave New World#5:
computers when you travel
Well it seems like the Acer or Apple netbook (depends on how rich you are) is becoming a staple piece of travel gear. Wifi is widely available, and Internet cafes are not as numerous as they used to be. Here in Antigua, it costs fifty cents a minute and theyh are pretty sterile places. Aside from the money, as a single traveller, I enjoy my connections with home.

Right now, it is about 7 am, I have used my immersion heater to boil up the water for a cup of coffee in my travel thermos (that new Starbucks instant stuff is quite adequate for travel), am sitting in my nightie, listening to the cocks crowing outside and enjoying a quiet moment before the day begins, and I am checking mail online. While I am a friendly person, and enjoy chatting with others, etc., there is lots of alone time when reading a book or washing your undies is not what you want to do, and the computer can be your friend - like right now..

Best Laid plans......

Just before 2009 ended, my travel plans for this winter almost went belly up. I had planned to treat myself to a two week Tall Ship trip, sailing through the Caribbean islands, however the ship went into recievership last month, and the trip fell through. I was lucky, and got my money back. I tried to find another sailing experience - but there was nothing at a price i could afford Even the one day sailing trip to Montserrat from Antigua was not available in the time I had. So with no other sailing options in sight, I scrambled on line to find another boat that was NOT a giant cruise ship.

Air travel for this trip had been framed around the boat thing, with a week to spare at each end, and since the tickets were all air miles, it wouldn't be easy to change or replace them in high season. On top of everything, the new luggage limitations are driving me mad BUT BUT BUT..... through the magic of the internet i found a sort of sailing ship, the WindSurf on sale for an affordable price, for one week. It's sailing half the route, more or less the same as the original plan, but out of Barbados instead of Antigua. It means some adjustments, but I booked it.

So on Tuesday I fly to Toronto, then on to Antigua for a week staying in a guesthouse in Falmouth Harbour...After a few days on Antigua, I am heading to Montserrat (the volcanic island) for three days. Yesterday I discovered a lovely guesthouse, and if I stay three days, I can have one of the deluxe rooms for $45 a night!!! If I am lucky, the ferry to Montserrat will still be running. It seems to come and go and while it operated during xmas, apparently there is no assurance it will continue. It's not really sailing, but what the hell. We know that you gotta go with the flow when you travel!!!

There are three flights a day, on a small plane. for back up in case the ferry isnt in operation. Then back to Antigua for a couple of days. I will then fly to Barbados to board the ship. This is going to be interesting. I have never travelled first class before in my life! I fear I am about to lose my backpacking status on this trip....oh well... at my age i guess i can handle a few small luxuries. I found a really inexpensive room in the Rio GuestHouse, in St Laurence Gap, so when I get off the boat, I plan to spend a week in Barbadoes.

Again there are rumours online of a new ferry boat that should have started operating in October connecting some of these islands. I live in hope that it actually exists, otherwise I will have to fly again, unless something else sea worthy turns up. I will end up in Grenada and neighbouring islands for about a week .... and then home.....A true islo-maniacs idea of heaven!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dominica, 2005 - Goodbye to Dominica

Carnival Day 2
The city is throbbing with the bass boom of the speakers on the giant sound trucks. The floor of the house vibrates, and as the paraders pass by, the trucks exude overlapping sounds. Some restaurants and shops also have big speakers out front, and they compete for sound space. Nothing is clear anymore, except for the heat. You have to shout to be heard in conversation in the house.

Michael, my new Austrian friend and I went for dinner, but just as we finished we heard the bands starting up again, so we headed out to the street. We joined a group behind a giant flatbed truck and the biggest speakers I have ever seen, creeping up the street.

The DJ stood on top and exhorted the crowd. He was surrounded by men who cleared the overhead wires as the truck crept down the streets. Densely packed, gyrating bodies move in unison in front and behind the truck and believe it or not, I am part of it. As the beat consumes our bodies, the dj shouts and everyone raises their hands waving a bright coloured sweat cloth in response.

An hour or so was as much as this 65 year old body could do to keep up with a fit, skinny 32 year old Austrian runner, so I headed home and to bed. Next morning I was stiff as a board, but it was worth it - I guess.

It was the last night of Carnival, and time to pack, and get ready to head to St. Lucia. The next day was spent tidying up and saying goodbye to new friends… and I was off in a very small plane to Castries, St. Lucia.