Monday, May 18, 2009

Honeymoon, Day 4 (Thursday)

Thursday was pretty awesome. We started by heading back up into the mountains in the center of Grenada to visit Grand Etang Lake. Grand Etang is a lake formed in the crater of a volcano, some 1,700 feet about sea level. The drive up there was harrowing, more by the narrowness of the roads and speed of the local than by being on a mountain. But when we arrived, we found that we were the only ones there! Well, there was briefly one other tourist couple and their taxi driver, but they weren't around for long. Before they left, we spoke to them some. I mentioned to the driver that I had read that the lake was rumored to be bottomless (even though it was really only 18 feet at the deepest part). He confirmed that such was the tale, saying that if you drown in Grand Etang your body ends up at St. Vincent, another island miles away. "But that's all myth," he told us.

We tried to take the path that looped around the lake, but found it to be pretty muddy; we weren't properly prepared for that. There was another hiking trail that was much more strenuous, taking you to the top of the mountain, but we weren't up for that, either. So we just took some nice pictures of the lake and enjoyed the view.

There were a visitor center and museum almost right around the corner. It really was quite surprising to see that area swamped with tourists when no one was actually going to visit the lake. There were lots of taxis and tour buses which, we assume, had picked up guests from the cruise ships. But none of them went the few hundred extra yards to see the actual lake! (We made it a point to avoid the tourists in our pictures. You'll have to trust me when I say it was packed.)

Next, we traveled to Belmont Estate, a functioning plantation. We had a delicious lunch, including sorrel juice for 2nd, and ginger beer for me. For dessert, we had soursop ice cream. One of the main things they grow at Belmont Estate is cocoa. We got a tour of the estate from a guide named Ward, particularly seeing how they process the cocoa. We got to suck cocoa beans straight from the pod (the white goo is sweet, but don't bite the bean -- it's very bitter), see how they ferment the beans for several days, and see how they dry the beans evenly in the sun. Then we got to taste a dried cocoa bean -- the dark chocolate taste was very strong! We bought a few bars of dark chocolate (the estate only processes the beans, but the Grenada Chocolate Company still makes the dark chocolate on the island). I'm not sure of the reasons why, but Ward told us that the pure dark chocolate won't melt. In fact, we left the bars in our jeep all the rest of the day and they are all still fine!

Next we headed to a couple beaches to the north, on the east shore -- Bathway Beach and Levera Bay. Some of the roads were pretty rough, making us grateful again for having a jeep. Bathway Beach had a decent crowd (i.e., a few dozen people), but Levera Bay was nearly deserted. Finally, we headed to Sauteurs to see Carib's Leap, the cliff from which the natives lept to their deaths after being defeated by the French. We got there before 5, if I recall, but Carib's Leap was already closed. But we still had a great view of the bay and the town.

After all of that traveling, we headed back to our hotel. It had been another long day, so we settled in and relaxed for the evening.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Honeymoon, Day 3 (Wednesday)

On Wednesday, we took a ferry to Carriacou. (The map doesn't show the distance between Grenada and Carriacou.) The county of Grenada is made up of the islands of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique. Carriacou is smaller and about a tenth as populated as Grenada.

2nd didn't take the motion of the waves too well. When we made it to Carriacou, we bought her some motion sickness medication at the drugstore. Apparently they see this pretty often, because they sold us just a couple pills from the package for only a few cents each! Next, we hired a local taxi/tour driver to give us a tour of the island. (I haven't mentioned yet that taxis/personal tour vans are very common on Grenada. Many hang around the docks where they can pick up tourists debarking for just one day from a cruise ship.) Thomas, our guide, took us all over the island and showed us all the sites.

Thomas told us about the ownership of the island changing from the French to the British. The French used L'Esterre Bay as a harbor, but the British wanted to be different, so they set up their harbor in Hillsborough Bay, where it remains. He showed us the hospital sitting in the hills looking over the town, built away from the town to isolate the diseased. The hospital had a Flamboyant Tree, which we realized at that point was the inspiration for the name of our hotel. Unfortunately, it wasn't in bloom.

Thomas dropped us off at Paradise Beach, in L'Esterre Bay, for lunch and some relaxation. While there, we met a few British tourists. The older couple had vacationed there before, and told us that the ocean was usually much calmer. It seems we caught a bad week for that. Still, we waded in the ocean and had a great time. Time went too quickly, and before we knew it, the time had come to head back to Grenada.

We got back, and it had been a tiring day of traveling, so we stayed in for the night and enjoyed our evening.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Honeymoon, Day 2 (Tuesday)

We started off Tuesday earlier. We got on the road and headed to the south-east shore of the island. The map above is the most detailed map we were able to obtain, and the roads weren't marked. So I'm not too embarrassed to say that we got temporarily lost. But with some help from friendly locals, we got ourselves oriented in the right direction before long!

We went to the nature center/restaurant at La Saggesse Bay. The beach there was incredible! Calm water, soft sand, and few people. After hanging around the beach for a bit, we went for a short nature walk. We quickly came to a tidal marsh and saw blue herons and egrets. A little further and we passed a local farm -- growing, among other things, bananas. As we neared a larger road, we happened upon a nicely kept cricket field. (I failed to mention that we saw the national cricket stadium in St. George's on Monday.) Apparently cricket is a big sport in the Carribean.

After our walk, we headed back to the center for lunch. We had delicious passion fruit juice as we looked out over the bay. Although I'm not a big fish-eater, I really enjoyed the salmon salad. And 2nd liked her fish wrap with plantain chips. And we had a small anole lizard join us! He seemed to enjoy the view, too.

After lunch, we headed up the eastern (Atlantic) coast. The water was rougher on that side, but the views were still great. We headed towards the area of Grenville in search of a hot spring I had heard about through word of mouth. It took some searching and quite a few stops to ask for directions, but again, the locals were very helpful. When we were getting close, one guy even rode with us to help us make the last few difficult-to-find turns. We really wouldn't have found it without him! We had to drive on a very rough and uneven dirt road for some distance. (The one picture we have really doesn't do it justice. There were some difficult stretches of road.) Thank goodness we had a jeep instead of a car!

We headed back to our hotel to clean up. We took the shorter path, which happened to take us through the mountains and rain forest in the center of the island. We would go back on Thursday, so we didn't stop this day. In fact, it was getting close to our dinner reservation time. We went to a nice, fancy place closer to the airport -- the Beach House. I can't remember whether our reservation was for 6 or 6:30, but when we got there we were the only guests yet to arrive. We had this fancy restaurant all to ourselves! We watched the sunset over the beach from our table. I can't overstate how great it was! Eventually, sometime after 7, two other parties arrived. Maybe they just eat later down there, or it was just slow because it was a weekday and not in the main city. But I really expected it to be a busier place, given how great it was. Oh well, I'm not complaining!