Saint Kitts 2/06

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A touch of uncrowded beauty in the British West Indies...

Brimstone Hill Fortress overlooking Sandy Pt.

In conjunction with a cold and snowy business trip to the northeast, I took the opportunity for another 'sanity vacation' - a chance to get away from work and home for a long weekend to concentrate on filling my heart, focusing my mind and recharging my body. This time I headed to Saint Kitts, one of the Leeward islands in the eastern Caribbean. The weather was ideal, with just one afternoon shower on Friday, daytime highs in the upper 70s and nighttime lows in the low 70s. I took along hiking shoes, a bunch of music, a good book (Wicked, by Gregory Maguire) and very little else in the way of plans.

Saint Kitts is a little-known 68 square mile island, population 35,000, located about 1300 miles southeast of Miami, 150 miles southeast of the US Virgin Islands. Tourism on a large scale is just beginning here, with only one big resort on the island, the Marriott (first picture below viewed from Sir Timothy's Hill dividing the Caribbean and Atlantic Frigate Bay beaches, which are just a half mile apart). The island is rich in history, discovered by Columbus in 1493 and since then passed back and forth between French and British rule. English is the official language and US dollars are accepted everywhere, although there is a native currency, the XCD - eastern Caribbean dollars.

Sunset over the Caribbean at Potatoe Bay

Thursday February 9th

I arrived from Miami around 3PM AST and took the quick taxi ride ($12 US) to the Marriott. All the roads all around the island were in excellent shape and there was no traffic anywhere except in the capital city, Basseterre (pronounced either bass-it-air or bass-tear, depending on whether the person you spoke to was British or French in ancestry). In typical British fashion they drive on the left. After some hassles with the front desk over getting an ocean view room, I headed out for a long afternoon and sunset hike. The walk from the Atlantic to the Caribbean coasts took about ten minutes. From the Caribbean coast I headed up Sir Timothy's Hill to get a good view of St. Kitts and several surrounding islands. The first picture above shows the view looking east toward the Atlantic coast with the Marriott in the background. The flag on the left in that picture is St. Kitts' flag. As the sun began to set, I headed back down on the Caribbean side to Potatoe Bay where I snapped a sunset picture with a sailboat and pelican off to the left (large picture top of page right). On that same beach facing the opposite way, I used a tripod to take the second picture above with St Kitts' sister island Nevis (pronounced knee-vis) in the background. Heading back to the Atlantic side, I grabbed a famous 'garbage' pizza for dinner at PJ's Bar and Grill.

Friday February 10th

I awoke late and started my day by grabbing a taxi to Basseterre to find a place that could sell me a local SIM card for my unlocked GSM cell phone. On the way into town I negotiated a tour of the whole island for $80 with my driver, Debbie (Debbie's Taxi Service - highly recommended 869 465-6625 or cell 869 663-6034). I got the SIM card along with almost an hour of international talk time for $20 at Digicel - a 10X bargain compared to international roaming on a US carrier. Heading west out of town, we started clockwise around the island with the cloudy Olivees and Verchild's Mountains to our right (third picture above). We stopped first at the Wingfield Petroglyphs (fourth picture above), dating from 1693, which depict Carib peoples' fertility. Along the side road to Romney Manor, I had my first close encounter with a green vervet monkee (first picture below), which seem to be everywhere on the island. Romney Manor (second picture below) is in a rain forest type of area next to an abandoned sugar mill. Today it is the home of Caribelle Batik where artisans create hand-printed fabrics by applying a 2500 year old technique of successive dyeing and waxing.

Continuing northwest along the coast, we stopped next at Brimstone Hill Fortress. The Fortress, constructed intermittently between the 1690s and 1790s, is perched on a steep cliff and covers 38 acres. I walked all through the restored citadel (third picture above), officers' quarters (fourth picture above) and bastions. The large picture at the top left of this page is a northwest view from the Citadel overlooking the town of Sandy Point with neighboring islands Saint Eustatius and Saba in the background. Heading north toward the tip of the island we stopped at Dieppe Bay where the Atlantic and Caribbean waves come in at opposing angles to one another (first picture below). Continuing southeast along the coast, we stopped next at Black Rocks (second picture below) where a 400 year old eruption of the now dormant volcano Liamuiga deposited a new lava coastline.

Passing back through Basseterre and Frigate Bay, we continued through mostly farmland areas (third picture above) to Turtle Beach at the southeastern tip of the island, where we enjoyed an authentic Caribbean lunch at the Turtle Beach Bar and Grill (fourth picture above - view from our table toward Nevis). Returning northwest to the hotel over Sir Timothy's Hill, I snapped the first picture below showing a heart-shaped Atlantic Frigate Bay with the Marriott at its top center. I finished the day with a late dinner at Rock Lobster, a rum cake dessert at PJs and then a midnight swim at the pool.

 

Saturday and Sunday February 11th and 12th

I took a taxi into Basseterre late Saturday morning to explore the town. This town is entirely forgettable. It's crowded, run-down and has essentially nothing of interest. There's a large former slave market-turned park called Independence Square (second picture below), a scaled down London-type octagonal 'circus' (third picture below) from which a bunch of streets and courtyards emanate and a bunch of lousy duty-free shops catering to cruise ships at the nearby dock. I saw everything to see in about a half hour and then grabbed an okay lunch at Ballahoo restaurant overlooking the circus. Back at the hotel, I spent the afternoon on a long beach hike (fourth picture below) followed by another sunset hike on South Friar's Beach. After a surprisingly good dinner at the Calypso Restaurant at the Marriott and a quick stop in the casino, I relaxed with a book and music for the remainder of the evening at the beach and pool. On Sunday morning I hung around the beach before heading for the airport and my return trip to LA via Miami, having accomplished my goal of slowing myself down and generally returning to my own vague definition of sanity.

Home Up Aruba 5/14 Aruba 7/13 Aruba 4/09 Aruba 10/04 Cancun 5/07 Costa Rica 4/06 Costa Rica 7/04 Costa Rica 11/12 Curacao 2/05 Grand Cayman 12/00 Jamaica 7/07 Panama 12/13 Puerto Rico coasts 7 & 9/14 Puerto Rico & Vieques 12/08 Puerto Rico & Vieques 9/08 Puerto Rico 12/07 Saint Kitts 2/06 Virgin Islands 12/03

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