George of Survival Anchorage has the cruiser's taxi franchise in southern Grenada. He worked many years for Moorings when they had a base here and has a distinctive yellow van as well as a boat of his own. He knows the waters and the land of Grenada and knows what cruisers want and can cheerfully solve the typical cruisers' problems. We contacted him Saturday night for a Sunday morning tour and he was delighted to add the four of us to his tour already planned for three from Argonauta I at 9:00am. The price per person went down to $20 US/person so they proved to be agreeable to the plan when they dinghied in to "De Big Fish" in the morning and off we went on a "four hour tour".
George is a much saner driver than most Grenadians and quite a good conversationalist. He drove us up and down the steep hills, along knife edge ridges and around hairpin turns with skill and ease and was quite happy to stop just about anywhere for pictures, purchases and plant inspections. We are anchored in Prickly Bay and the tour led us first into the big town of St. George's. We saw a good deal of hurricane destruction (Ivan, Sept. '04, Emily, July '05), but mostly the hardworking and co-operative Grenadians have gotten things back in good order and kept things remarkably orderly while doing so. The most noticeable legacy of Ivan is much of the big trees are stripped off and the whole country looks like it has been beaten about the head and shoulders with sticks. George lost his roof but managed to locate it down the hill and put it back on. Most seem to have had similarly rebuilt with help of neighbors and recycled building materials. Not every board or sheet of roofing has found its way back to its original location, but most roofs and walls are reasonably intact. The infrastructure and properties of the wealthy have been rebuilt and, in some cases, improved with the help of considerable international aid. The American found doling out aid to his local girlfriends has left in disgrace and construction on a huge new stadium, big hotels and enormous private homes seems to be booming.
As we wound through St. George's, which is located in the steep hills wrapped around the main harbor and lagoon, we saw the fort where Bishop of the short lived New Jewel movement was killed and the prison where his assassins enjoy a spectacular view of the harbor. The prison's roof, blown off in "the hurricane time" like 90% of the roofs on the island, has since been replaced. For those of you keeping score, the Catholic churches seem to have suffered more than the Evangelical churches and most of the big cathedrals are still in ruins. Winding past the big city, we got up into the countryside where do-it-yourself reigns. Roads are either very new or missing and many people are still living under plastic tarps. However, the village society seems quite intact and the country villages are incredibly neat and tidy and no-one seems desperate. Unemployment is 27% but no one starves. This is the "Spice Island" and the volcanic land is very fertile. Nutmeg, chocolate, cinnamon accompany the usual sugar cane and banana.
We saw the famous airport with its wrecks of Russian planes and American construction equipment wrecked in "the invasion time". The New Jewel movement is gone and the Americans are here to stay. There is a big lake in a caldera in the mountains of the rainforest and ample fresh water flowing out of it. Trees are down or stripped of vegetation and the nutmeg harvest is down 50% but the rapidly growing ground cover has turned everything green. Ivan made a much bigger impression than the invasion. We watched the monkeys and the tourists do their tango in the national park and we stopped at anyone's whim for shopping, pictures and/or closer plant examinations and vital food and rest stops..
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Viewed with some lenses, it was the tour from hell: 7+ hours of hair-raising roads with no pit stops, lunch stops and we never even saw the famous falls. Such are not the lenses worn by Real Cruisers. No one wants to go the falls if a cruise ship is in town: it will be infested with cruise ship passengers. 7 hours for the price of 4 is a big bargain and we took every impromptu suggestion George (or anyone else) made. It's a great deal like sailing. You can't really control or plan the future but rely on winds to blow you to the nicer places away from those of which you have tired.This method of navigation works well in the Caribbean where plans usually go astray and all are game to enjoy what the wind gods bestow.
Some places we were blown to: River Antoine Estate where they are making rum in the same way they have been making rum since 1785. This is not some kind of "living history" exhibit.For over 200 years they have been living history. They make 4-500 bottles of rum from estate grown sugar cane on the same waterwheel, wood fired still and mixing and settling pots as their forebearers. Enormous iron gears, the sugar crushing press and the miners cart which carries off the stalks for composting all came on ships from England "in slavery time". The ships took salt back to England as ballast. The bottles are hand filled at a large table and the whole process looks affected by advances made in the 19th and 20th centuries only in the spotty use of PVC pipes and valves. I'm sure that the resulting product is equally authentic. It is a combustible, over-proof fire water which tastes slightly of sugar. A pause to mellow between production and consumption would surely make the concoction much more palatable to our foreign tastes.
The same winds of fortune blew us to the Grenada Chocolate Company. It was closed but the bus behind ours contained locals suspected by the Grenada Chocolate Company's founder of being local big wigs. He had broken his arm the day before and was under orders to stay in bed. He is a native New Yorker and any minimal inhibitions he might normally have were clearly washed away by the pain relievers. His unsales technique was matched by his untour. His protestations that he couldn't give a tour were contradicted by his excellent explanation of his solar powered and gayly painted "factory". Complaining in detail all the way, he distributed delicious samples and reluctantly fetched wares for sale to the eager crowd while all the time trying to chase us away. He fonny. Just down the road, we saw the co-operative that provides the chocolate and the huge drying sheds and the chocolate covered feet of the worker who shuffles through the trays turning up the wet beans to dry in the sun. The sheds these trays slide into when it rains look like they were constructed by those with personal memories of Africa.
There is a great deal of history here, most of it sanguine only in the original meaning. At one point in the tour, a Rasta stepped out of the jungle offering Arawak idols he had dug up near by. The Arawak were largely slain by the much fiercer Caribs who sailed up from Venezuela. They, in turn, committed mass suicide by jumping into the sea rather than submit to the French in an event memorialized by the location's name: Carib's Leap. Africans imported to work in slavery rebelled in the late 1700's inspired by the French and suppressed by the British. The rubble from the American bombing, the resister's fires and the plentiful signs of political passions are reminders that not all this conflict lives in the distant past. There have been terrible struggles, natural disasters and great beauty in this land for many years. A polite manner, light humor and passion for kites is this people's response.