You Will Never Starve on Grenada The Spice Isle
The next stop on our tour of the islands of the eastern Caribbean was Grenada. We were booked to do an 8 hour bus tour of Grenada. We wondered if there was really that much to see on Grenada – 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 was able to snag the front seat beside Lewis to try to snap pictures out the window. There were many times when I looked out the front window as we went along narrow country roads, up steep inclines or around hairpin turns that I was very glad that I did not get car sick or have a problem with heights.
Lewis drove us all the way to one end of the island along the Caribbean side, headed back down the Atlantic side and then cut across the middle of the island to get us back to the cruise dock. He was a great font of information about Grenada – from politics to trade to agriculture. Everywhere we drove, we could see the colours of Grenada – red, yellow and green!
It was noted that unemployment was high (approaching 36%) and particularly an issue for the younger generation who no longer wanted to work the land. We stopped many times for Lewis to show us the local produce that was readily available – 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 are cast out into the bay and people congregate to help pull in the nets for a share of the fish!
Being Canadian I only vaguely recall 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 and showed us the spot where the US Seals landed and the abandoned airport being built by the Cubans that sparked the US involvement. One small wall was dedicated to “thanks” to the Americans for their help.
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) were split to reveal 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. We were told that 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
A stop at River Antoine, the island’s only factory still producing rum the same way for 200 years, was interesting. We saw the large piles of sugar cane that had been 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 and would make different grades of rum. 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 and stopped for a panoramic view from Grand Etang where we could look 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 and stopped on the high hills overlooking 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 could walk around the outside of the fort and get a 360 degree view back to the rainforest we had just visited and to St. George where out to the bay our ship was docked. By this time we were all pretty wrung out and we probably did not give the fort or the history lesson the guide provided 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.
We had a great day exploring Grenada and seeing the colours of the island but 8 hours was a long time on a little jitney bus! I had planned to return to town after the tour to wander around but instead crashed for a short nap. We would be 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?