Our trip to St Vincent was AMAZING! St Vincent is the largest island of an island nation known as St Vincent and the Grenadines. We flew into St Vincent on Tuesday afternoon and were met by Michael, the owner of the guest house we stayed in. He’s an incredibly nice man and set us up with all the sightseeing we did on our trip. The guesthouse (a place known as Rich View Apartments) was awesome, built on a cliff with an amazing view of the Caribbean Sea and the island of Bequia (pronounced `Beck-way) nine miles distant. After arriving at the guest house, we settled in and took a bus over to Indian Bay, a beautiful black-sand beach. Just a one-minute swim away was a tiny island with a huge cross on it. We later learned that a man (I don’t remember his name) had himself buried in it; that is, his body is literally inside the cross.
While swimming/wading over to this island, I was unfortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a sea urchin, who generously left me with two spines in the sole of my left foot. Not one to be disheartened by such inhospitality, I continued my exploration of this small land mass. Just adjacent to the island-with-a-cross-grave was another small island. Of course, I just had to take a look! Walking along the rocks was fun, until I look down to see the KFC Colonel staring me in the face. Yes, he was printed on a soda cup and lodged down between two large rocks of volcanic origin. No matter where I go, I can’t seem to escape the world of fast-food and consumerism. I stared in horror as the Colonel laughed at my misfortune and declared “It’s finger-lickin’ good!” in a most obnoxious manner.
After thoroughly exploring the small islands and spending quite some time sitting on the beach attempting to remove urchin spines from the anterior portion of my foot, we traveled to nearby Kingstown (St Vincent’s capitol), where we withdrew some cash from an ATM and (sadly) ate our first meal in St Vincent at a fast food restaurant. I don’t know what time it was, but none of the other little shops and restaurants were open, so we were fairly limited in our choice of cuisine.
Day two (Wednesday) began with breakfast on the deck, overlooking the Caribbean. This spot, with its incredible vista, came to be my favorite relaxing post while at Rich View. If nothing else was going on, I could be found sitting here with a book or a snack, just enjoying myself and laughing at all the people back home dealing with the coming of winter. After breakfast we loaded up Michael’s van and headed off for a day of adventure. We first stopped at Fort Charlotte, a fort started by the French in 1786 and finished by the British in 1806. Named after King George III’s wife, it overlooks the west coast. It has cannons pointing both toward the water as well as inland—for fear of attack by the French and the island natives. The fort is now used as a women’s prison.
After leaving Fort Charlotte, we explored the Botanic Gardens, reputedly the oldest botanic gardens in the Western Hemisphere. It was founded in 1765 and is absolutely beautiful. It’s here (in an aviary) that we saw the endangered Vincentian Parrot. After leaving the gardens, we went to take a look at millennia-old petroglyphs. A large rock had a large ornamental face carved in it and was made by the Arawak people, an old Amerindian tribe that used to live on the island.
Our next stop was Wallilabou Bay, where portions of Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed. A look around provided some familiar sites, such as the arched rock where Jack Sparrow seed three hanging pirates in the beginning of The Curse of the Black Pearl. There’s a neat restaurant and bar there, so we ordered lunch and ate outside overlooking the sea. They even had the mast that Johnny Depp stood on in the beginning of the movie!
Our drive took us up the west coast, along what’s known as the Leeward Highway. We reached Dark View Falls, a two-waterfall system with some pools built at the base of the lower fall. We swam and splashed around a bit at the lower fall, then took a short hike up the hill to see the upper fall. En route we picked some guava from a tree and had a little snack. Both falls were absolutely magnificent; the thick foliage surrounding us made it seem as if we were in an entirely different world.
After spending quite some time goggling at the falls and splashing around, we returned to Kingstown where we took a quick look through the cemetery. And while Girl Shane was buying a toothbrush, I rushed over to the docks to see the sun set. It was amazing; nothing more need be said.
After breakfast Thursday morning, I walked down to the beach from Rich View. I took a treck onto a rocky point that juts out to the southwest, facing Bequia, the island we were to travel to that day. Once everybody was organized and ready to go, we headed into Kingstown to catch the 11:30 ferry to Port Elizabeth in Bequia. The ride took an hour and was quite fun, with choppy waters making a few of our crew a bit sea sick.
Once we arrived in Port Elizabeth, we caught a bus to Lower Bay. The water here was calm, clear, and warm. Three of us walked over to a small beach bar and restaurant, where I had my first shark burger. Soon afterward, I had my second shark burger. Once we exhausted ourselves with relaxing, we headed back to Port Elizabeth and had a look around. There are many small hotels, restaurants, and bars along the coast just east of Port Elizabeth. I really enjoyed seeing the Whale Boner Bar, a nice little bar with an archway made with two whale ribs. The highlight of my day was finding a nice little ice cream shop that serves homemade ice cream. I had a scoop of guava and a scoop of rum raisin and walked back to meet up with the rest of our group. Once I told Guy Shane about the ice cream, we made a return trek, where I miraculously acquired a scoop of coconut ice cream. Full and satisfied, we walked back to the dock and boarded our 4:30 ferry back to Kingstown. The moment we pulled into port, the sun was setting. Naturally, I had to stay on board to watch it while everybody disembarked. While observing the result of our rotating planet and anticipating the impending arrival of dusk, the ferry once again pulled out to sea. Panicking, I jumped from the deck into the water, and swam back to shore. Just kidding; I walked off the ferry, the last one to do so, and we headed back to Rich View. When we returned I was happy to see that the “other group” had arrived. You see, the six of us who came to St Vincent on Tuesday weren’t the only ones clever enough to take such an amazing vacation. Nine others had the same idea, but were only able to come a couple days after we did. So, with a guest house full of foreign students, we relaxed and enjoyed the evening together.
Friday was the day everybody had been anticipating, for this was the day we were to hike up La Soufriere, the volcano. The bus ride there took a long time; we had to travel to the east side of the island, and then to the north end. On the way we made a few stops, most notably at a wooden deck overlooking the Mesopotamia Valley. This valley is where the majority of St Vincent’s food crop is grown. The view from the deck was spectacular, with a cloud-enshrouded Grand Bonhomme (one of St Vincent’s largest peaks) to the northwest and the Atlantic Ocean to the eaSt Traveling up the Windward Highway, we eventually reached the La Soufriere trail head. What an amazing hike that was! Traveling through the rainforest is quite an experience. Because it was warm and humid, every man on the trail ended up taking his shirt off. Once we reached the transition from tropical montane rainforest to elfin woodland (a point where all the plants and shrubs are short and dwarf-like due to high winds and harsh environment), we were hiking within the clouds that seemed to be ever-present atop the mountains of St Vincent. The new chill provided by the wind and mist was a welcome change. Upon reaching the summit, we were rewarded with a crater enshrouded in mist; nothing could be seen. We celebrated our achievement with trail mix and some oranges, and took a lot of pictures. Soon, however, the fog let up, and a whole new world was opened before our eyes. The crater we looked down upon went from being a foggy hole to a magnificent valley, filled with lush greenery and even a lake. Smoke could be seen spewing from a point on the central dome within the crater. What I was not expecting was the view of the ocean! Looking out beyond the crater and the opposite rim of the volcano, we could see the clear blue of the Atlantic; this was a truly amazing sight. Once we had taken in the sights and were sufficiently chilled by the wind and mist, we began our descent. They say rainforests get a lot of rain. They are right. Nearly the entire hike down, we were gifted with a deluge, providing us with plenty of mud and the occasional slip-and-fall. And I don’t think anybody regretted a second of it.
Once we reached the bus, the rain stopped. We packed ourselves in like warm, steamy sardines and began the long trip back to Rich View. On the way we stopped at a small local restaurant and feasted on fish, chicken, or pork (your choice) and rice. We stopped at Black Point Tunnel, an amazing tunnel cut by slaves through the rock and sandstone in order to attain better access to a nearby beach. This point was used for faster and more efficient transport of goods.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and Saturday ushered in our last moments in beautiful St Vincent. The morning was glorious and seduced me into taking another walk down to the rocky point at the nearby beach. The sky was filled with clouds, and the sun lit them up like molten gold. After exploring the streets and fine houses nearby, I returned for breakfast at Rich View and began planning the day. I decided to hike the Vermont Nature Trail (just outside of a village called Vermont), where the Vincentian Parrot could be found in the wild. The others opted out, so I had the day to myself. Once again, I found myself trekking through tropical montane rainforest. I did see a couple parrots flying by high in the foliage, but I cannot be sure that these were the Vincentian Parrots or some other bird. I did, however, hear the Vincentian Parrots squawking. My highlight of this hike was my observation of a lizard upon a bird-of-paradise (a type of plant, Heliconia sp.), licking the colorful covering that protects the flower inside. This little lizard did not notice me staring at him until half a minute later. Once he did spot me, however, he wouldn’t take his eye off me, and so I left.
While I was walking up a small road to the nature trail, I noticed several cocoa trees presenting their bright yellow fruit pods. So, on the way back, I picked several and even sat down to enjoy one on the road. I caught a bus to Kingstown and purchased a papaya from a street vendor, and then caught another bus back to Rich View, where I sat down on the deck to enjoy a lunch of cocoa and papaya. It was very, very tasty, but so much fruit does give one a stomach ache…
We soon found ourselves at the airport, waiting for our flight. Alex, Guy Shane, and I went upstairs to the bar and restaurant and enjoyed our last meal in St Vincent, and soon we were on our way. I am satisfied with our five days in paradise. They were filled with fun and adventure; not a moment was wasted. This is definitely a trip I will look back on fondly, and will never forget.