The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Paradise found

On the 1st Feb I woke Nick up (if I didn't do this every morning we would probably still be in France) and he turned to me and said, “You know what Hol, I think the beginning of Feb is going to be a turning point”. And it was. Not in life changing ways, before parents have a near heart attack... but things just started to work out a bit better. That day we headed out into the yacht marina for another begging for a lift South session and hit jackpot. Three English folk were heading down to Bequia in the Grenadines the next day and were happy for us to join them. All we had to do was bring along a bottle of gin and some chicken. Suddenly the whole getting around the Caribbean without flying seemed remarkably simple.

So the next couple of days were spent with Larry, Fiona and Peter, who strangely enough went to school with Nick's Dad, cruising down the coast of St Lucia into The Grenadines. It turns out that the 31 days on the Atlantic hasn't put us off sailing. That said, this was a very different experience to Lista. Weighing about half what Lista does and built for speed and comfort rather than transporting fish around the North Sea, Tiger Frightener quickly reached 9 knots before any of us had moved from our polished seats. From Bequia we caught a ferry down to Union Island, where we merrily explored beaches, eat chicken and befriended locals for three very relaxed days. From there we then made it to Carriacou on a boat more suited to a child's toy box than the open seas, and then a high speed catamaran dropped us in Grenada. Now we are simply waiting to speak to Captain Russell about a lift to Trinidad. The whole trapped in paradise crisis seems to be drawing to a close. Looking back however, the further south we got the more content we became getting fat and brown.

It’s not just been transport that's turned our Caribbean fortunes around. Hopping down The Grenadines has been a picture postcard experience and so we're feeling pretty privileged to have just accidentally ended up here. Genuine and small islands with lots of empty palm fringed beaches, underwater wonderlands, street BBQs, a handful of friendly locals and little shacks selling everything and anything whilst also housing five goats. Unfortunately the one thing they don't have here is a party on Friday nights, despite my best efforts to find one by asking every single local in town 'where's the party at?' after drinking a little too much rum. I think about half an hour later Nick was carrying me to bed.

Relaxing here has given us some time to look back on the last couple of weeks in the Caribbean and we've concluded its all about the people. Yes the Caribbean has beaches, sun, rum, rainforest and all that, but what makes it really unique is the bizarre mix of people that hang out here. In our constant quest for the best deals around and transport South we must have had conversations with well over 100 people. Everyone we've met has been up for a chat from church going locals, wannabe gangsters, Rastafarians, street vendors, local mayors and officials, fishermen, rich Americans on cruise ships, chavy Americans on cruise ships, excitable holidayers, ecologists, charter boat goers, rugged sailors, posh sailors, wrinkled old hippies, toothless grannies, other lost looking backpackers and road workers. The list could go on.

Conversations vary hugely. Locals often want to chat about England and are excited to learn that Nick used to work near Wembley, where lots of West Indians have family or have once lived. Others just want to know what we're up to and why there are 'white folk' walking around their neighborhood. Some share political views or life stories but more often just want a chilled chat and to make a new friend. The most passionate discussions will usually involve a big mama swinging around her power by dissing the men folk of the world or trying to sell you some fruit or chicken. And then there is the kaleidoscope of foreigners thrown into the mix. Less chilled out this lot often want to complain about something: the ecologist despises the cruise ships, the politicians and the wasteful locals, the seasonal sailor looks on with disdain at the charter yachts, rich Americans are frustrated with the service, backpackers (not excluding ourselves!) are in disbelief about how expensive everything is and most white folk seem to be struggling in the heat. That said not all tourists are complaining all of the time. I have never seen such an excited Scottsman as we did in the rainforest soaked hills of Dominica as he threw natural spring water all over himself, a huge smile across his face, expressing how incredible this land was. And he's right, it is an incredible land full of life be it hummingbirds, dolphins, rum punch, steel drums or people, there's never a dull moment.

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