Kevin Haley
























By Kevin Haley

Dawn's great symphony commences. Darkness is first erased by the sounds of a child. Then island lambs, as if on key, join in, bawling their relentless demands. Soon vagabond goats join the harmony. Now my other eye is open. Cool melodies drift through the soon-to-be steaming jungle and up the hill. The Caribbean sun is a fine director, a tropical alarm clock in the sand.

Not to be outdone, human voices now applaud life, the greetings of neighbors take center stage, escorted through the soft daylight by the lovely laughter of West Indians. Simultaneously the barkings of dogs, the heralding of roosters and the brays of a lone donkey chime in, completing the choral.

Caressing Carriacou, the sparkling Caribbean gives way to a ramshackle pier humming with people. Noon in Hillsborough is the closest we will get to any hustle and bustle. It's one of the few occasions when the island casts a flirtatious eye at the new visitors, shows a little ankle and adjusts her best parasol, feigning oblivious sighs. Quickly the catamaran unloads its cargo, reloads and sets its sights for the tiny island of Petit Martinique and the staggering views of the Grenadines to the north.
Earlier that morning while slipping quietly up the west coast of the island of Grenada past Halifax Harbor and St. Mark's Bay we remember the noisy ragga buses of St. Georges, the rain forests and Mona Monkeys of Grand Etang National Park, and the heat of Sauteurs and exquisite Bathway Beach. While Grenada is a bit of a glad-hander, all dressed up for the tourist dollar, Carriacou greets you in old clothes. It's the real deal, a spice island holding a wealth of treasures along almost deserted beaches, charming towns and shaded pathways into elfin woodlands and the green, hilly jungle.

But the greatest prize to be found here are the residents. People on Carriacou see the visitor as having had the good taste to have found the place. "All right then." Despite the sleepy scene there are plenty of good restaurants and some comfortable lodging choices to be found.

One can rub elbows with a barbarous barracuda while snorkeling off Sandy Island during the day and dine on his brother at Paradise Beach that evening.

Perhaps it is the callaloo soup (a delicious concoction made from callaloo greens, garlic and coconut milk) or the high octane jack iron rum, (affectionately called unda-de-counta*), but its tough to keep from drifting off the ground. Working up an appetite is a labor of love here. Try a roti at the Sea Wave, a Creole dish at the Callaloo Restaurant or take in the Jack-a-Dan gossip at Grandma's Bakery. No hurry... No worry.

One rainy afternoon in Hillsborough, while trolling down a backstreet we heard the distinct slaps and slams of dominoes hitting a wooden table at Harrison's rum shop, run by the island's kind-eyed, bearded schoolteacher. Walking up the rickety clapboard steps we were greeted with nothing but smiles. A fisherman's heaven, the breezy bar presented us with a friendly respite from the rain. Peppered with bottles of cold Carib, an outstanding beer brewed on Grenada, the afternoon simmered on stilts. A graduate school in the sport of dominoes was now being conducted by about a dozen West Indian masters, all shouting life and death advice to the visiting novices, precariously clutching their handful of dominoes while attempting to digest the windward lectures.

Later we were invited to the next day's Thanksgiving Day Feast commemorating the 1983 U.S. invasion, which ran the tropical Marxists (murderers of popular leader Maurice Bishop and about 50 of his supporters) out of business. Imagine alfresco dining on a conch (lambi), lobster and vegetable gumbo, the main ingredients pulled from the sea that morning by free divers named Small Man, Ricardo and Prince Michael.

But we couldn't spend the entire visit at Harrison's. There was an entire island to explore. The next morning after coffee we hopped a bus for the village of L'Esterre, a whole new kettle of fish from downtown Hillsborough.

On Paradise Beach, while salt water snoozing in the shadows of flamboyant trees, serenaded by the cries of pelicans we are suddenly surrounded by a troop of school children in white shirts and plaid uniforms. They see the camera and want me to use it. They pose. They goof. They chatter away. We all have juice. We write down names and addresses where the photos will later be sent. Then they go back to their driftwood classroom for the afternoon and we are again alone, monitoring the cast away waves along this stretch of bliss.

There's even a guest house named Hope's Inn ($50 per night for a double) hanging off the cliff up some steep steps to the south. It gazes out to idyllic Sandy Island, with white sands and coral reefs.

Joseph Edmonds, who along with his wife Joy operate the Hardwood Bar and Restaurant, will be happy to take you out to Sandy Island in his fishing boat for a few Eastern Caribbean dollars. That slip of sand is another world, looking back at Paradise Beach over the blue-green waters of L'Esterre Bay.

After about a week lingering with sovereign sunsets, fresh fish and more (even better) callaloo soup we found ourselves adopted again and as a finale invited to the All Saint's Day celebration at the nearby cemetery. That evening's festivities presented a delightful combo of French patois, a myriad of candle-lit graves and plenty more of that ghostly rum. Of course there's music and food and the hot Caribbean night accompanying revelers as they pay their respects to the dead while visiting each family's headstones for refreshment. It's an mind boggling scene and an opportunity to participate in a mix of West African and Creole culture where funerals are more fervently celebrated than births or weddings.

On Carriacou it's even a pleasure to get lost which we did looking for Anse LaRoche (beach) and ending up in the enchanting town of Windward to the north. Fortunately we were rescued by a van full of church ladies and made it home before the afternoon shower. The very next night we got close up and personal with frogs, mongoose, cows and mosquitoes while taking a short-cut through some swampland with Small Man (the finest free diver on the island) as our local guide. "Follow me!" he bellowed courageously, and we did, arriving back in Hillsborough after dark, hot and muddy with broken flip-flops, but soon to be chased by a delightful cold shower.

150-proof rum distilled in Trinidad and shipped to Carriacou. When it arrives it is bottled with a vast assortment of herbs and spices and alleged aphrodisiacs. It's sure to get your motor running.


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