Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back on Grenada - Let's Take an Island Tour

We returned to Mt. Hartman Bay from Carriacou and took up our same position in the anchorage just as before, and just as before the social whirl of activities encircles us.  Today we'll be getting on with putting together the plan for our new hard bimini and some other projects but before that we put in some fun on the weekend and included an all-around-the island tour yesterday with a small group of fellow cruisers.

Cutty was our driver in his brand new air-conditioned (OMG - haven't been this non-sweaty since our visit to Canada in June) taxi van, so we started off the morning with a plan of what we would cover.

Cutty reviews the itinerary.
For the first part of the drive we made our way high up above St. George's where we saw the prison and some old forts, and beautiful views of the Caranage down below.

Old Fort George on the hill with the Carenage fronting the harbour below.
As we made our way through numerous little villages perched on the steep hillsides, everyone has a way of expressing their national pride and taking part in the annual community beautification projects to win the coveted prize.

Just a small glimpse of the display in front of one house as we zipped by.

Ancient and new petroglyph carvings in the cliff face - If Cutty hadn't pointed these out we would never have seen them here on the road side.

Our first organized stop was at Concord Falls.  If you remember we did the hike from Grand Etang a couple of weeks ago and ended up at the falls in a torrential downpour.

Three weeks ago the river was swollen with rainfall and we couldn't get near the falls.

Today, after a few dry days, the falls are much more hospitable.

We even watched some local guys test their (our) nerves with some dives.

Ready to take the plunge?
Moving on up the west coast to Gouyave (pronounced Guave) we entered a much more rural area where tourism takes a back seat to fishing and farming.  Grenada's nutmeg crop is returning after the devastation of hurricane Ivan in 2004, and they now produce one third of the world's supply (2nd after Indonesia), all of it passing through this little production facility with a total of 80 workers.  It operates as a farmer's co-operative and the majority of its employees are women.  The pictures capture the sights but what you cannot begin to imagine is the heady aroma of nutmeg that saturates the air.

To fulfill her daily wage Manasee must sort and grade 170 lbs of nutmeg each day.

All the ladies' hands flew through the cracked shells and kernels.  All parts of the nutmeg are used but the largest, most dense kernels fetch the highest price.

Our guide Cristine showed us the huge drying racks full of nutmegs.

I wish you could smell the heady nutmeg scent filling the air.  The only automated machinery in the factory is the nutmeg cracker from which the workers (I believe all ladies) sort the results.

Sorted, graded, bagged nutmegs, ready for labelling and shipping.

Labelling is done with a dye akin to shoe polish and hand-cut stencils.

Where is that next bag headed?
Can you believe that ONE THIRD of the world's nutmegs come from this little factory???

On to our next stop at the Diamond Chocolate factory.  Unfortunately because cocoa is in low season at the moment, no production was actually going on but we got to see the machinery and had an explanation of the process.  Of course we couldn't leave without sampling the wares and purchasing a few bars to enjoy later.  Perhaps further on in the season we'll make our way to the larger Grenada Chocolate Company factory and see a bit more of this process.

Just one of the many thousands of blooms along the way - Grenada always seems to be in flower.
 Finally, just before we passed out from hunger we stopped for lunch at the north eastern end of the island at the River Antoine rum factory.  This rum factory has been in production since the early 1700s and is one of the few remaining where they still grow their own sugar cane (most now use molasses as the starting point).  We sat for lunch overlooking the cane-field, watching the seaside palm trees waving in the distance.

A delicious lunch and a cooling breeze complimented the wonderful view.

This is the oldest functioning waterwheel in the western hemisphere - still pressing the watery syrup from the sugar cane.  There is no operating manual for this mill - all working knowledge is orally passed down from father to son.

Cut cane awaiting the mill.

The actual press was build 235 years ago and is still in full operation!

The bagasse (remains of the cane after pressing) is used for fuel or compost.

Pulling the bagasse from the mill.  Bet he's wearing regulation flip-flops for this job!

By the first furnace we chuckled - they burn bagasse, and boxes from the competition.

They recently had to replace one of these ancient copper boiling pots.  They can only be acquired from collectors or the remains of other rum distilleries, to the tune of about $6,000 USD.  Got any lying around??

The final product is knows as Rivers Rum.

Two large stills where the wood burning furnaces are fed 24/7 by hand.

And finally, the tasting.
Rivers Rum comes in two white varieties:  75% alc/vol for the local market and 69% alc/vol "tourist rum" so that those with airplane tickets can fly with the less flammable version.  Whichever you buy is likely to strip paint if not careful.  They also produce two "ladies' drinks" at about 19% - passionfruit punch and guava punch.

We finished up the remainder of our tour with a drive down the old airport strip (replaced in 1994 to be closer to St. George's after the U.S. "intervention")

Driving down the old airport runway, which now gets used for drag racing.

Would you buy a "Swiss" watch from this guy?  Actually, it's the old duty-free shop at the airport.

The Prime Minister's plane (one of the ones left at the end of the runway) landed here the day before the Intervention.
The final leg of our drive was over the middle of the island and past Grand Etang lake that we had been unable to see in the mist three weeks ago.  The trail we took that day rises above the lake up the central ridge.

Another one to look at carefully - this is a  Rainbow Eucalyptus with bark of brilliant colours.  Sorry for the photo quality but we were zipping by on the road.
What a day - we arrived back at Secret Harbour at 5pm, happy, exhausted and full of local knowledge.  Cutty was a wonderful guide with an abundance of local knowledge both of the island and also of the botanical environment as well.

We concluded our day with dinner and drinks at the marina to the soulful sounds of Gary on the sax and another great couple of cruiser singers whose names escape me at the moment.

We're all definitely ready for bed!
And lastly, you know I always like to get to the stats:  we traveled 60 winding, hilly miles around this little 21 x 12 mile island, crossed the central mountains at an elevation of about 1900' (580m), pretty much missed the south-western parish of St. David's and made 6 great new friends from Tempo, Shameless and Moody Mistress!