Thursday, May 25, 2017

Other People's Vacation Pics Part I - St. Kitts

Greeting MaiTai
Everybody says they'll come see you when you go off cruising... but in our experience, few ever really make the effort.  But we know one couple who actually DO!  Robert and Kathy are friends from home with whom we've been vacationing for years prior to cruising.  We have very similar tastes and habits and... bonus... they're boat people!
Salt Plage at night
Looking out to the anchorage from Salt Plage
The Marina's Kiosk where we originally thought we would wait...
Having guests aboard... while it sounds so great in the abstract... can be stressful.  Having boat people - people who have boats of their own and know the drill - is much less so.  Still, we prepared for days in advance of their arrival to have everything ready.

We chose St. Kitts and Nevis for the visit because... they haven't ever been here and they could make it happen with less than two weeks notice!!!  Things just all fell together and suddenly we found ourselves waiting at Salt Plage for their taxi to arrive!

After a gruelling day of travel, and a good night's sleep... we were all up early the next morning ready to explore the island of St. Kitts in a rental car.  Our chosen anchorage - Whitehouse Bay - is a short dinghy ride away from the recently opened Christophe Harbour Marina.

The Marina is a ghost town.  One section of slips has been completed with plans for many more.  They have a small coffee shop called the Kiosk and a couple of shops near their temporary office building.  They will accept trash for a fee and have a dinghy/fuel dock that they are gracious enough to allow cruisers free access to use their facility.  They will arrange car rental, which incurs a delivery fee but is very convenient given the alternative of anchoring the boat back in SUPER-rolly Basseterre.  And they will allow parking overnight and a safe place to leave the dinghy while exploring ashore.  And they are VERY nice to us cheapskates!

We drove through the narrow streets of Basseterre and onward past small settlements to turn up a mountain road that appeared (on Google Maps) to lead to the Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor.  I'm not sure where we missed the turn, but we arrived at the back entrance to the site and a very steep road...out.  A local bystander urged us to just go in anyway... so we did.

The grounds are simply stunning.  Manicured to perfection with riots of tropical flowers leading the way, we found ourselves staring up at a 400+ year old tree.  If this tree could talk!!!

Moving on to the reason for our visit... the Batik demonstration... and STORE!  I had prepared Bruce (walking up the entrance walk) for the fact that I might be inclined to make a purchase... He's been warned!!!

Orchids and other plants growing on this old tree.

We watched ladies brushing melted paraffin wax onto coloured fabric as they answered our questions.  It is a fascinating process and relatively simple, but time intensive.  The more complicated fabrics are amazing... and each one is a unique work of art.  I couldn't believe how inexpensive the finished goods were.

By the time we were done we were all starving.  My plan (why am I always in charge of the plan???) was to find a local restaurant in nearby Sandy Point then continue on to the fort...  Unfortunately we found that most of the small neighbourhood restaurants open for breakfast and lunch, closing very early... leaving us desperate for something... anything!  We backtracked looking for a small grocery where we might find some cold cuts and bread... and found King Snack!

What in the world is Florida Water???
If we were looking for a local experience, we found it.  But the food - Chinese - was very good and plentiful leaving us satisfied and ready to move on... with leftovers to take home!

Arriving at the long and winding entrance to the Fort on Brimstone Hill, we were once again amazed at the lack of hoopla!  We were allowed to drive up through the narrow fortification gates and up onto the hill where the central grounds had been made into a makeshift parking lot.

All around us were stunning views, volcano, lower levels of the fort, the town of Basseterre beyond and the Caribbean... calm and beautiful - if somewhat hazy with Saharan Dust - today.  Walk through with me in pictures:

Looking back along the coast toward Basseterre

Descending the old staircase to access another part of the fort grounds

A line of cannons overhead!
This building is away from the main fort area.  We learned that it was where the munitions were kept.  Smart!
Looking back from where we had come

The walls were four feet thick!
The room was very cool even though the day was warm and outside was bright sunlight.

We've missed our friends...
This was the very furthest point in this direction.

Looking back up the hill where we will head next...
There's a food and beverage vendor on site that makes great rum punches!

We had a beverage and enjoyed the garden before we set to the climb to the main fortification.

This wide stair leads up to the hill where the main fortification building is.  The steps are very wide and slanted downward.
I wonder if these cannon were always part of the walls...
Looks like there's a whole other section that we haven't been to yet... probably no time today...

If this cannon could talk...

The guys were drawn to the cannons... of which there were MANY!

Smiling Shadows!


Nobody around to tell us we couldn't ring that bell... so we DID!

The uppermost level
How many feet have scaled these stairs?
Looking down into the courtyard
Inside one of the unfinished rooms.  They had display rooms but didn't allow photos.

Looking down into the other end of the courtyard.
Get back in here!!

Time to go...

Back down the winding switchbacks on the narrow road.
We passed through several of these narrow gates.  It was a squeeze!

Back on the road to our end of the island.  There's a really cool tunnel...

The road curves sharply just outside the tunnel.  This wouldn't work in the US...
We left this huge site incompletely explored as the afternoon passed all too quickly.  We still had a drive and a dinghy ride to make before dark.  We arrived back at the boat just before sundown.

Unused to this level of activity... we were a little sluggish the next morning.  Slacking in my duties as hostess and tour guide, I scrambled to find us a suitable hike over coffee leaving us to a late breakfast and even later departure from the boat.  I was able to produce a website offering several hiking choices for our guests.  We laughed over the use of words like "scramble" and "trail blazing"... opting to forego the crater rim hike for a much less strenuous hike to see a cave and waterfall.

Following somewhat vague instructions... off we went with lots of water and a packed trail lunch on our backs!  Leaving our car parked just off an increasingly treacherous dirt road... we chose what seemed to be the trail, leading us up into the foothills of the rainforest.

Tiny little flowers!

Chicken House!!!

Lots of chickens milling about in the Chicken House!
Bees on the little flowers
Checking our status... are we there yet?
Suddenly the trail became more of a challenge... We whacked our way through tall grasses looking for the trail.

Changing again, becoming more brushy...
It was getting warm but the views kept us going as we continued up into the crook between two hills. Soon we left the "road" and continued on to the "trail blazing" part.  The trail became less worn as we plowed through tall grasses, wishing for a machete...

Once beneath the canopy of the rain forrest it was much cooler going...
All the way we hoped to see the monkeys that supposedly live on this island.  We've yet to see any but as we reached the rainforest canopy we began to see partially eaten mangos littering the forrest floor. We were sure they were hiding in the trees, watching our slow progress as we worked our way deeper into the jungle.

We walked steadily up as the path led us along... now it was cool with the occasional fresh breeze.  The scent of the forrest, thick with dirt and flowers and unknown plants, filled our lungs.  It was wonderful!

We came upon what looked like an old watering station.  All along the path we found parts of an old rusted out water pipe that, we hoped, led to the waterfalls.  This structure might have been an old pump station or maybe it just provided water to livestock, free from the mountain.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, we had already passed the unseen spot where the trail branched off to the cave.

Steep fall just off the path
Soon the trail became more wet, our path being only a narrow beaten ghost leading along the side of a steep hill.  One misstep could lead to an uncomfortable plunge through bruising trees and brush.  My mind turned to thoughts of "what would happen if one of us was injured?  We are in the middle of nowhere and nobody knows where we are!".  I posted our position on Facebook (who would have thought there would be cell coverage HERE???) and felt a bit better about our possible disappearance... So if we WERE lost forever or eaten by monkeys... at least someone would know where to start looking for our bodies...

I stifled worries of myself falling... The heavy pack on my back coupled with my unsteadiness for not having quite found my "land legs"left me a little wobbly.  The worry that Bruce would have one of his syncope episodes also crowded my brain as we hiked along some really faint and treacherous trails... I was glad for having Robert and Kathy here...
Monkeying around...
I think we're losing him... Whose dumb idea was this anyway?

Tiny mushrooms!!!
More tiny mushrooms!
Starting to climb again...
The forrest was so damp, lichen and mushrooms grew everywhere!
Getting tired of trail pictures yet?
Eventually we came upon the dry riverbed I remembered from the hike description.  At this point it seemed that we had been going for a long time and our position on Google Map showed us just about 2/3's of the way there.  Bruce, always the voice of caution and reason, reminded us that we still had to get there AND back.. as well as back to the boat... preferably before sundown.  The weak sunlight filtering down to the dark forrest floor told us that our time was short...

We made temporary camp on a huge rock in the middle of the dry riverbed and spread out our lunch.  Dining on chicken salad, peanut butter and crackers, each of us lost in our own thoughts as we rested and gazed up at the towering trees surrounding us.  We just KNEW that there must be monkey eyes upon us!!!
A feast!

Refreshed but no less short on time, we packed away our lunch gear and made the decision to turn back.  The rest of the way was the much more difficult "scrambling on rocks" part anyway... So what if we didn't see the falls?  It would be just our luck that we pushed onward and they were DRY!!!  We convinced ourselves that the cave would have been unimpressive anyway, and just the experience of a semi-dangerous hike into the rainforest was enough of an adventure for us!

He moves much quicker when we're headed for the barn!

Almost there!

Isn't it funny how the return trip always seems much faster and far less treacherous?  Soon we popped back out into the sunshine were a cow watched our progress... silently munching on sweet mountain grasses.

Coming back down was not as easy as you might think.  We slid on the rubbly rocks, Bruce and I both fell.  Robert surfed!

We made one side trip to see a beach where turtles nest on our way back...  I had to forego the sandy walk as my foot ( injured in a fall on the way to the car ) was beginning to object to further activity.  We made it back to the Marina, turned in our rental car keys and sped back to the boat... all before just sundown!  What a DAY!  We wouldn't have made it had we continued on... sometimes things work out for a reason...

Tomorrow morning we leave for Nevis!  To be continued...

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