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St Vincent & The Grenadines (SVG) May 22 - 30, 2005   6 slideshows
Overview: St Vincent is a tall volcanic island, while many of the Grenadines are much flatter.

Map is from Turquoise Net
Click here for SVG road maps from Skyviews
(note the links in the lower left corner of that page for more detailed maps).
Arrival: The immigration line was moving very slowly, and I was the last one in it (from my small plane). I was hassled over not having a printout of my onward ticket, so I turned on my laptop to show him (and a second immigration officer) my Expedia flight confirmation out of Grenada, as well as my list of hotel reservations through SVG and into Grenada. In this way we determined what day I was planning to leave SVG, instead of just giving me 2 weeks carte blanche.
The taxi ride into town was only 10 minutes.
St Vincent: My hotel, The Cobblestone Inn was located downtown across the street from the harbour. It has lovely restored 19th Century Georgian architecture. And my room had air conditioning, for the first time this trip!
On the street around the corner from the hotel was a thumping Sunday night "jump up" (I'm not sure if they actually call it that on this island). I bought tasty BBQ chicken leg from one vendor and a local Hairoun beer from some woman with a cooler, who, shockingly, propositioned me after some small talk (yes, I declined).
I was almost the only Caucasian there -- there were some white girls with local boyfriends and a handful of tourists just before I left -- but I felt comfortable being there. The people were smiling, the music was loud, and a few guys were dancing, including an older bearded guy in a wizard hat, cloak and staff. Not to mention the guy dancing with a barrel!
A nice breakfast was served on the covered rooftop patio. I walked 5 min south to the ferry dock to check out the Barracuda ferry situation; a guard said it would leave at 11:00. I browsed my way through the shops in the "alley" a block behind the hotel, finding a new pair of sunglasses. I peeked in the Alliance Française house out of curiousity; they mostly had courses and some music but no discussion nights.
I walked through the food market; to the black cathedral (literally, black stone) with uniformed school kids; and to another church. Back along the water, I bought too much delicious fruit at the market.
I showered before checking out -- ha! That refreshing feeling lasted long in the humidity! -- and returning to the ferry dock only to find out from the onboard ticket seller that this ferry no longer stops at my next destination, Bequia. Luckily there was another ferry at 30 min later -- enough time for a cold Hairoun beer from some guy with a cooler.
One downside of the ferry change was that I would have to backtrack from Bequia to St Vincent in order to continue south to Mayreau.
Bequia: Pronounced Beck-way, its cute capital town of Port Elizabeth sits on a nice bay with beaches. Its harbour is full of sailboats and busy with ferry and cargo ship traffic.
My little hotel, the Frangipani, sat just down the beach on the Belmont Walkway, about a 10 min walk from the ferry dock. My room, next to a shared balcony, faced the water, and had a fan, good (and necessary!) mosquito nets and mosquito coils. The shared cold-water bathroom was down the hall.
I walked about the village to seek cheaper laundry options (two places, both charging EC$20 for wash & dry, or EC$25 to have them do it) and a barbershop.
It was very hot in SVG; even the locals were complaining about the heat, comparing it to a typical mid-summer August. I ate some fruit and had rum drinks in my room and at the hotel bar, watched sailing folk coming and going, found wireless Internet, even worked on my laptop (part of the deal for my extended absence, made easier by the fact that Susan had gone home after St Lucia).
One night I ate dinner at Andy's multi-purpose place (Internet cafe, Maria's cafe/restaurant, jeep rental, boat trips, laundry) where the fresh fish was excellent and I first heard about Skype free Internet computer-to-computer calls (and cheap computer-to-phone calls).
A few restaurants were closed for 3-6 weeks, including the neighbouring Gingerbread Hotel's resto, and l'Auberge, a French resto with a (empty at the time) live lobster tank.
For lunch one day, I hiked up the hill overlooking the village to Tantie Pearl's restaurant, which had nice views (see the panoramic photo in the slideshow). I was drenched in sweat from the mid-day heat and humidity, arriving at 13:55 just before closing time! Although there were no other patrons, they did fix me a wonderful meal. And the owner had cute puppies!
I think this is where I tried Banana ketchup, which is not significantly different than regular tomato ketchup.
On Wednesday I went scuba diving with Dive Bequia just down the boardwalk. The dive boat picked up a sailing couple plus 5 people from the Windjammer Yankee Clipper, one of whom was an America West pilot based in Phoenix! The morning dive was great but my air went quickly, as it was the first time I had been in 5 years since that great night manta ray dive in Hawaii. Sadly the second dive was unexciting, as was a snorkel I had done in front of my hotel. For lunch I went to Ray's Pizza, to which sailors come from Mustique just for a meal. The pizza was indeed excellent.
Sailing: It was at the Frangipani in Bequia that I met David and Susanne of the Cheshire catamaran one evening as they rowed their dinghy ashore to my hotel's little dock, where I happened to be standing in my pareo (sarong) taking photos of the hotel and view. They are both from the Puget Sound area near Seattle. After purchasing this 70s catamaran in England and doing some repairs in Portugal, they crossed the Atlantic in 20 days via the Canaries to St Lucia -- at the Fish Fry and Jump Up the same night I was there with Susan!
As it happens they were heading down through the Grenadines on the way to Grenada (and Trinidad & Tobago for a multi-month maintenance stop) around the same time I was moving on from Bequia (Thursday), so we discussed the possibility of my hitching a ride between islands and staying at my pre-booked hotels on shore, which would work out well for them with limited cabin space.
Late Wednesday afternoon I swam out to their catamaran to confirm their willingness to take me onboard and to finalize plans for the next day's departure. I also treated them to the use of a (cold) shower at my hotel that evening.
Thursday morning David and I went to the immigration office in Bequia to add me as a crew member to their already bulky immigration paperwork. This went smoothly and quickly, which was a relief since I had already missed all the morning ferries to St Vincent and would not have made it much further on my own. After shopping for provisions (food/drink) and filling up three 5L water bottles in my shower (the bottles were too big to fit under the sink tap), David rowed me out to the Cheshire and we got under way.
I sailed with them from Bequia to Mayreau (passing private Mustique in the distance, and Canouan), for a day trip to the Tobago Cays, and from Union Island to Carriacou (in the country of Grenada). The catamaran would go 5 knots with just a genoa (front sail)!
Mayreau: Pronounced My-row, this little island (pop. 300; 7 cars) lies near the southern end of the Grenadines, between Union Island and the Tobago Cays. To the south, you can also see Petit Martinique, the northernmost island of Grenada.
We arrived at a large beach in Saline Bay on the southwest shore, near the ferry dock just below the village on the hill. It was 17:00 but the sun was still scorching hot! I left my main backpack on board and was rowed ashore by Susanne with just my large day knapsack. I was soaked in sweat again by the time I climbed halfway up the hill to Dennis' Hideaway, so I had a cold Hairoun beer with the affable Dennis himself before checking in. My fully tiled upstairs room was clean with both A/C and fan, and a nice view towards Union Island. In order to get shower water pressure, I had to press a switch at the foot of the stairs.
I was the lone diner at the hotel resto, where the motto is "order & tell us when you want it ready!" My fresh snapper with veggies, rice and potatoes was excellent. And washed down with a beer and water. Passing on coffee, I fell asleep at 21:00. I upgraded to a "Caribbean breakfast" the next morning, which included excellent pan-fried boneless snapper (even better than at dinner!) with scrambled eggs, toast, pot of coffee and juice. Dennis himself cooked it the first morning.
At the top of the hill above the village is a cute RC stone church with stunning 360° views, including counter-clockwise from the northeast: Canouan, Union Island, Tobago Cays, Palm Island, and Petit Martinique and Carricacou of Grenada. I also watched a fabulous sunset from the village's basketball court (which was half-covered in goat poop and only had one basketball net at the non-goat-poop end), declining an invitation to play in my Tevas (sandals).
Towards the northern end of the island, a 15 minute walk from the village, is a very pretty palm tree lined isthmus with a hidden-behind-the-palm-trees fancy hotel at one end and many sailboats anchored in the Saltwhistle Bay. I saw many fireflies on an evening walk between this beach and the village.
I ate one dinner at the mouthfully named Robert Righteous & De Youths, which had a sign proclaiming the best rum punch, where Robert R. himself, and a former pro bass fisherman guest named Stoney Stone, invited me to join their table. Oddly enough, I guessed that Stoney was a pro fisherman, probably from having been subjected to watching a few The Bachelor episodes with Byron, the pro bass fisherman. Stoney said that Byron is a "weirdo" from California.
My conch creole was delicious; the rum punch was merely ok, but the piña colada was great!
Tobago Cays: On Friday morning I rejoined the Cheshire for a day trip to the beautiful Tobago Cays. After aborting our SE around Mayreau course due to a genoa unfurling problem with the drum, we sailed NE around Mayreau as the charts recommended. We anchored in the "lagoon" surrounded by 4 of the 5 uninhabited islands. The multi-hued blue water colour was gorgeous due to the large sand bars, with a surrounding reef to keep the water calm. This was the kind of flat "tropical" islands I had expected in the BVI (which only exists at the more remote BVI island of Anegada, to which we didn't make it due to not being there a full week. But I digress.).
A storm blew in briefly from the east, bringing wind and showers for a few minutes while I was snorkeling. While snorkeling in 2-3 feet of water most of the way up to the reef (in varying states of recovery, but mostly dead) I saw a few lobster and some large boxy fish (cowfish?). Then the mother lode: two dozen lobsters under one group of rocks/coral (this is a protected site). Too bad I didn't have an underwater camera! And for the first time ever, I saw a live conch (actually, two of them) with their eyes on stalks and their pseudo-claw. Also, lots of sea grapes, yellow and red "centipedes," and fish that quickly burrowed into the sand when threatened. A very fun 90 minute snorkel, followed by a 30 minute swim back to the catamaran for lunch.
Leaving Mayreau: On my last morning in Mayreau I went for a swim at the northern beach/bay and chatted with David and Susanne, then returned to my hotel to checkout where I chatted with Dennis about staff woes (at breakfast that day, I didn't receive my fish or eggs because the cook simply went home; so he bought me a beer). Dennis, whose wife is in England, is a wise man: he complained that locals don't appreciate that "rich" tourists work hard to be able to come to paradise, whereas the locals get to live in paradise every day! Dennis gave me a ride in his fishing boat over to Union Island (my next stop), saving me a ferry ride. He was going to fly to St Vincent to support a local Mayreau girl in the Miss SVG pageant!
Union Island: I walked into "town," and found Erika's Internet Cafe while I waited for my hotel ride -- Erika had called them for me; the hotel had expected me on the Barracuda ferry later in the day.
The Bigsand Hotel on the northeast point of Union Island had a view of the Mayreau village across the water. They gave me a welcome rum punch and the honeymoon suite (!?) which was very nice with a glass-enclosed A/C bedroom, and a TV (ack!). The beach was decent but had a lot of seaweed at this time of year. Unfortunately the windsurfers were quite beat up, and the masts didn't seem to fit the boards! They had slow DSL Internet access at the hotel (unplugging one of their lesser office computers in the hot room), but I opted for the 20 minute walk back to the village to use Erika's Internet access.
In the village I bought a Venezuelan Polar beer can for EC$3 in a store, plus 2 mangoes and 5 tomatoes (EC$12 total) on the street, with an extra ripe mango thrown in for free, which probably means I overpaid :-) Plus 5 bananas for EC$2.
Dinner at the hotel's beachfront resto was a barefoot and unbuttoned collared shirt affair. I had the special consisting of samosas, salad and stuffed crab -- just the right amount of tasty food. They played good reggae music at just the right volume. Feel the drum beat!
There were no mosquitoes until the middle of the night, before the 5:00 rain downpour (and, in fact, it rained most of the next day).
Departure: After breakfast and checkout, the hotel gave me a ride back to the village. I met David & Susanne at the airport customs/immigration for our departure from SVG, which took about 45 minutes (no fee). Back in town, I hit the Internet while they shopped for provisions. After picking up some lambi (local-speak for conch) rotis (EC$8 each) for Susanne, we met at noon for lunch in the harbour before sailing to Carriacou. While Carriacou and Petit Martinique are geographically part of the Grenadines, they belong to the country of Grenada.
Next stop: Grenada.

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