AND BOATS AND CARRIACOU
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.
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
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
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
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
*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.