Touring the Island:
The arrival of guests always provides the catalyst to be a tourist in our own home. When a university friend, Michael King, came to visit we arranged to take a tour of the island and it was a fascinating trip exploring the fruit, fauna, and spices of Grenada. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the local horticulture and we would stop every few minutes so he could pick the latest specimen for us to inspect.
Grenada is by far the most agriculturally diverse country that we have visited in the Caribbean. There is literally fruit growing on every corner and the markets are overflowing with fresh produce. After the barren northern islands, this is a wonderful change for us and we have a steady supply of mangoes, bananas, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, not to mention an excellent bakery right at the marina. Occasionally we send you into town in the RIB to get fresh pain au chocolat first thing in the morning.
Mangoes seem to be the most plentiful of the local fruit and we often see locals wandering around with mango pits held between their teeth. We have been told that there are over 200 different varieties on the island and we are getting to recognize the ones we like and the ones we don’t. There are also pineapples, cocoa plants, soursop fruit, cashews, cherries, mint, avocados and, of course, nutmeg.
One of the most interesting plants we encountered was the annatto fruit which is a bright pink pod full of little seeds. When the seeds are touched they bleed a very rich ruby colour which was historically used by the locals for dye, lipstick and nail polish.
Nutmeg was, and continues to be, a large export of Grenada. We visited the main nutmeg processing factory in Guoyave where they sort, dry and process nutmeg in the same fashion that they did 100 years ago. Europe was initially the principal market although now they ship burlap bags of dried nutmeg all over the world.
The Grenada Chocolate Company:
Due to the abundance of cocoa trees on the island, several years ago a local group started up the Grenada Chocolate Company — a small business operating out of a house producing chocolate for sale domestically and abroad. We toured the small factory and noted that all the bars are still hand wrapped. The bars range from 70% to 100% cocoa (which sucks your cheeks in). This was the highlight of the tour for you since there was free taste tasting afterward!
During the early settlement of Grenada by Europeans, one of the local tribes living on Grenada were the Caribs; a warlike group who actively resisted both the French and British settlement. In the mid-17th century, France established a colony in Grenada and hostilities between the French and Caribs intensified, culminating in a final confrontation on the North end of the island. Instead of surrendering to the French, the remaining 40 Carib warriors threw themselves off the cliff into the ocean.
In their memory, the French named the spot “le morne de Sauteurs,” or Leaper’s Hill:
River’s Rum distillery:
No tour of Grenada would be complete without a tour of a rum distillery. Rivers Rum distillery dates back to 1785 and they have not changed the way they manufacture rum in the intervening 230 years. The final product is “take your breath away” strong and suitable for local palates only. Of note, it is so strong that it is illegal to take it aboard departing airlines!
A water wheel powers a sugar cane press where bundles of cane are crushed and the juice extracted, with the remaining husks dried and returned to the fields as fertilizer. The juice from the cane is roughly filtered by scooping up the ‘bits’ and letting them drain through a wicker mat.
The juice flows into the main building, where it is ‘ladled’ through a succession of big metal basins (coppers) until it’s brought to the boiling point in the last one. The fire that heats the cane juice uses the dry crushed cane as fuel. Once the right sugar concentration has been reached, the hot juice is spooned into cooling tanks where the fermentation process occurs.
The fermented juice is then pumped into concrete tanks where it bubbles for eight days emitting an odour which rivals any holding tank. After this, it is ready for distillation and the still is wood-fired which, while authentic, is labour intensive and messy.
The distillery produces two different strengths of rum: 69% alcohol and 75% alcohol. It is hard to describe the taste of this stuff and it is not for the faint of heart.
Previously thought to be “immune” from hurricanes, “Ivan” in 2004 caused widespread destruction to large parts of the island. Previous to Hurricane Ivan, Grenada had escaped a direct hit since 1955, when “Janet” caused similar damage. In the aftermath of that storm, Venezuela sent the island hundreds (thousands?) of prefab “Janet” houses which dot the landscape to this day.
After living in a saltwater environment, the chance to swim in fresh water, especially if bordered by a spectacular waterfall, is a special treat. We ended the day with a swim and the usual horseplay, in the Annandale Falls.
Michael King’s visit:
Michael spent a week with us and while I thought a peer was coming to visit, I didn’t anticipate him being your peer. I don’t think the maturity index broke 13 all week, and you were both sad to see him go. For his part, he was able to leave all the responsibility and stress of normal life in Canada, and just hang out, playing volleyball, swimming, drinking rum and hunting the ever elusive Lion Fish which he said was under the boat. Editors note: no one else saw the fish….
Michael “discovered” a Lion Fish near our anchor and these nasty, but beautiful, spiny fish have become so invasive and harmful to marine life, that sailors are encouraged to destroy them when possible. He was determined to do his part to protect our marine ecosystem.
We have been told that long-range cruising translates into boat maintenance in exotic locations. A rainy day and free labour meant that it was time to scrub the bottom of the boat. Mike earned his tot of rum that afternoon.