You Will Never Starve on Grenada The Spice Isle
The next stop on our tour of the islands of the eastern Caribbean with Oceania Cruises was Grenada. We were booked to do an 8 hour bus tour of Grenada. We wondered if there was really that much to see – even for a country known as a “Grenada the Spice Isle”!
Boarding the little bus as Lewis put on his headset, we were not sure what we had gotten ourselves into. I snagged the front seat beside Lewis to try to snap pictures out the window. I looked out the front window as we went along narrow country roads, up steep inclines or around hairpin turns. And I was very glad that I did not get car sick or have a problem with heights.
A Ride In The Countryside
Lewis drove us all the way to one end of the island along the Caribbean side and then he headed back down the Atlantic side. At the end, he cut across the middle of the island to get us back to the cruise dock. He was a great font of information about Grenada. We chatted about politics, trade and agriculture. Everywhere we drove, we saw the colours of Grenada – red, yellow and green!
It was noted that unemployment was high (approaching 36%). And particularly was an issue for the younger generation who no longer wanted to work the land. We stopped many times and Lewis showed us the local produce that was readily available. There were bananas, mangoes and soursop. Most families had their own little plot and some had enough excess to sell. In some places the produce was left in open fields and available for anyone who wanted it. While unemployment was high, Lewis was adamant than nobody should ever starve in Grenada!
If it was not fresh produce it was “free” fish. Large nets were cast out into the bay. People congregated to help pull in the nets for a share of the fish!
Being Canadian I only vaguely recalled that there was some kind of US involvement in Grenada. Lewis gave us more information about his local view of the “intervention” of the US in 1984. He showed us the spot where the US Seals landed and the abandoned airport built by the Cubans that sparked the US involvement. One small wall was dedicated to “thanks” to the Americans for their help.
Spice Production In Grenada
When visiting Grenada the Spice Isle, one of your stops must be a spice producing plantation. The Dougaldston Estate spice factory and the whole spice industry was much smaller than it had historically been due to a number of devastating hurricanes that hit the Island (Janet then Emily then Ivan).
We were shown how the cocoa pods (red, black or green) when split showed the white seeds inside that were dried and processed. We also saw the nutmeg pod that grew on trees until it split and was harvested. Grenada was the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world. We learned that cinnamon was actually harvested from a tree branch that was dried on large drying trays. You could smell the cinnamon even when the bark was stripped. It was an interesting view into the origin and processing of many common spices we use ever day.
Grenada Rum – Made the Old Fashioned Way
We stopped at River Antoine. This was the island’s only factory still producing rum the same way for 200 years. We saw the large piles of sugar cane that were harvested by hand and tied into bundles. The sugar cane bundles went into a press to squeeze out the sugar juice and were sometimes passed through several times until the last juice was extracted.
The press was driven by a massive water wheel and the sugar cane waste was kept to be used as fuel.
The sugar juice then went into a series of boiling vats to remove the water and finally ended up in an open settling vat.
From here the thickened juice went to boilers to distill out the vapour. Different grades of rum were made. The end product was either 69% or 75% Royal Grenadian rum or made into a rum punch (16%). Most of the rum was sold on the island. We were not sure we could get past the open settling tank image and actually buy this rum.
A long stop at Belmont Estates for lunch gave us a respite from the bouncing bus. We tried hot banana soup that tasted mostly of a combination of spices and not bananas. The buffet included nutmeg paste as a condiment. And some people even tried the nutmeg ice cream for dessert. Having seen cacao processing earlier in the day only whetted David’s appetite to find some Grenada chocolate to take home.
Looking Down From the Heights Of Grenada
Heading higher from there we passed the highest point in the region at 1910 feet. Lewis stopped and gave us a panoramic view from Grand Etang. We looked out over the rainforest and the inland lake. We watched for the monkeys but never saw any.
The next stop was at the small waterfall at Annandale Falls. Fighting our way through the vendors we arrived to see a small waterfall coming out into a deeper pool. For a “generous” donation, you could see someone scale the cliff and jump into the pool under the waterfall.
We headed back to the central part of Grenada through the rainforest. Lewis stopped on the high hills that overlooked the town of St. George’s. There were several forts up on the hill. But we kept going to the top for a stop at Fort Frederick.
We walked around the outside of the fort and got a 360 degree view back to the rainforest we just visited. Down below was St. George’s and the bay where our ship was docked. By this time we were all pretty wrung out. So we probably did not give the fort or the history lesson we got as much attention as it deserved.
All shaken up and exhausted from being crammed into the small bus (4.5 hours on bus, 3.5 off bus), we departed the fort. The quick trip back to the ship through St. George gave us only a quick glimpse of this port town.
An Interesting Day As We Explored Grenada the Spice Isle
We had a great day as we explored Grenada and saw the colours of the island. But 8 hours was a long time on a little jitney bus! We planned to return to town after the tour to wander around. But instead crashed for a short nap. We were in Barbados the next day for another bus tour. Too bad it was too late to just lie on the beach!
Have you been to Grenada the Spice Isle? What was your highlight?