Grenada’s charm has completely overwhelmed our senses. From its irresistible rhythms playing out on car radios, shop stereos, live bands and even church halls it has the rascals and their parents gyrating and swinging to its beats everywhere we go.
Taste buds are constantly treated to a bonanza of flavour as the spices, cocoa, coconuts, rum and many fruits excite and create new favourites. The tropical landscapes, rain forests, white sand beaches, black sand beaches, steep lush mountains and banana filled valleys offer a treat to the eyes and frankly we just love it!
The past week has been full of new adventure and lots has been learnt about the island’s history and the production of cocoa and chocolate, a subject very close to our hearts! Rum production will follow this coming week, another subject close to the bigger rascals’ hearts.
On Friday evening we were treated to our first steel pan band experience. The kids were fascinated and had to have a really good look at the drums to understand how this beautiful sound was being produced from former oil drums. Following this they got a chance to boogie with their ever willing mum to a local band but soon exhaustion set in and off to bed they had to go before Mum and Dad could get a chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor. Many of the other boat kids we have met have now moved on to other islands so the constant demands to be down at the marina or the beach beside it have subsided slightly and allow more island exploration to take place.
On Saturday we had planned a day out but didn’t seem to actually hit the road before 3pm. It was our 13th wedding anniversary (what a wedding that was too…. but thats another hilarious story!) so we had a bit of a sore head from the night before but as we drove north towards Grenville again we felt better and remembered there was a derelict airport we had yet to explore a couple of miles on the other side of the town.
Pearls airport is a fascinating place and looks like a film set. It has ties to the Cold war and is the only place in the Caribbean outside of Cuba with a Soviet link as can be seen by the old Antonov former Aeroflot plane sitting overtaken by vines and goats. Cuba was assisting Grenada to build its new airport, the Maurice Bishop airport, when the US invaded the island in 1983. Pearls airport was used as the landing spot and the Antonov crop duster and Air Cubana plane are said to be casualties of the event and have lain there ever since. The Grenadian modern history is pretty interesting if you want a quick “google” diversion but meanwhile back to the airport… The airport is now used for grazing the local goats and cows which create incredible photo opportunities with the old planes. We found bats roosting in the fuselage of the Air Cubana plane and loved the opportunity of clambering in and on these beautiful old planes. The old runway is also used for drag racing and motor events which look like seriously good fun if you drive like we do! More scenes of those can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KUx77wh0ys
In usual exploratory style Delilah was more interested in meeting the local kids who live on and beside the airfield so she just turned her back on us crazy aeroplane climbers after a while and walked off to join a crowd of about ten kids, playing by one of their timber houses. Within seconds she had befriended them all. I turned up a little later and gave them a loom band ankle bracelet from my leg which was the hit of the evening until Cairo turned up…. They lost interest in my adult presence so I retreated and Delilah wandered back with me to the planes. Cairo then approached on his own with a big bag of sweets as they were reconstructing the loom band and became their best friend instantly… he ran back to the car with the leftovers and locked himself in to finish the packet whilst his siblings were oblivious to the existence of the sweeties….. until later when all hell broke loose in the back of the car when he confessed!
Exploring the planes and clambering over them were also a rather drunken but stunning group of young Americans. Aly got some stunning shots of some gorgeous young perfect and willing women whilst pretending to be interested in taking aircraft photographs!
The sun began to set on this bizarre scene and after we had all been in, on and allover the fascinating aeroplanes we ventured back towards home via Grenville. First we passed through the village of Dunfermline, which if you are used to the Scottish version i guarantee this one has a lot more to offer:
We then stumbled upon a local cricket ground where a crowd was cheering as the handsome batsman walloped the ball across the cricket ground in the twilight. Cricket is the national sport and a very different affair to cricket in the UK. There was a live band playing great tunes at the side of the ground and a very lively crowd having a great time watching their teams on a Saturday evening.
The following day we ventured along the East coast of Grenada again and as we travelled past Grenville we passed the same cricket field to find the same game still being played on Sunday morning, complete with the music and same cheery fans.
The beautiful Belmont Estate was our first stop for the day and filled our brains and bodies with cocoa. Belmont now grows mainly cocoa and increasingly Soursop, Soursop is the latest super fruit which offers prevention for prostate problems, high blood pressure, cancer etc so it is deemed to be the latest cure all. Its an odd looking thing about the size of a papaya:
We began a fantastic tour of the estate’s cocoa production which began with Kelly, our guide, introducing the kids to an abundance of plants, fruits and herbs in the garden. The three rascals left with handfuls of lemon basil, big thyme and lemon grass and rosemary which we were told was the best mixture for a get up and go tea in the morning. We also saw a Noni tree, another fruit which is famed for its amazing health benefits. The rascals were then led to the cocoa trees where they picked and opened a cocoa pod. Looking like a papaya on the outside but orangey when ready they are different from most fruits, they grow straight out of the bark. Each pod contains 30-40 beans. we sucked the pulp from around the beans and an incredible intense taste of mango, golden apple, orange and other flavours was rather unexpectedly present. These trees are grown around the cocoa trees to flavour the cocoa naturally through the pollination process and then this in turn flavours the finished chocolate products. The pollinators are of course the beautiful hummingbirds and bees but mainly also the most annoying and irritating little sandflies. Well I am glad they serve some purpose!
The Belmont Estate was of course founded through slavery, there are slave pens just above the estate’s buildings (we didn’t visit those). This darker side of the island’s history can not be ignored and the children are gradually learning much about it, I will not dwell on it here but it is undeniable that this is a dark part of history and it is remarkable that such kind, genuine, welcoming and honest people have developed from such a brutal past. I have noticed that Grenadians are mainly tall, strong, fit and beautiful which is of course no coincidence and is sadly a result of centuries of natural and human forced selection which takes little explanation unless your knowledge of this part of history needs refreshing. It is hard to teach one’s children about the brutality of humans but as modern slavery is still unbelievably very much a reality in some parts of the world, very close to some of our own doorsteps, I feel it is necessary to teach them about it. Suddenly silence befalls even the angriest and hottest kids when you explain what humans are capable of doing to each other.
Anyway back to the cocoa…. Momen is currently writing up a project on cocoa and I will link this to his project page when he has finished (see we are educating these rascals while we travel too!)
Cocoa becomes cocoa as we know it and cocoa butter, used for chocolate, after a fermentation and drying process… We “walked the cocoa” which involved taking our shoes off and walking in huge long trays of cocoa beans in the hot sun. This process turns the beans and must be done every 30 minutes. The beans we turned will go into The Grenada Chocolate Company’s chocolate so you might want to avoid that for a while as our feet were pretty sweaty and the flavour may be more cheesy than spicy in that particular batch!
Our favourite part of the tour was probably the chocolate tasting part which resulted in us buying rather a lot of chocolate… obviously! Rude not to really.
Whilst exploring the interior of the cocoa production shed we found some bats (our rascals love their creatures!)
We also found the museum pieces which were relevant to the Pearls Airport. When they built the Pearls airport, in rather a hurry, they dug up remains of an original Arawak settlement, the original island inhabitants from over 2000 years ago. In the cocoa shed on display and offered for us to touch and examine were some pottery pieces which were discovered at this time, even the kids thought this was amazing:
They also enjoyed some more recent artefacts: commodes, a manual wooden washing machine, typewriters and voodoo masks (which we kept away from them!):
The other highlight was when we met the monkeys. Mona monkeys were introduced to Grenada in the 18th century and are found in the wild in the mountainous areas of the island. We discovered early on in our time here that some people still hunt and eat the poor blighters so at the Belmont Estate they have a few which are kept in huge interconnected cages to protect them, they assured us. They are fed and befriended by the staff there. They were incredibly happy and so were our kids as we walked up the hill to them picking passionfruit from a vine and oranges from a tree as we went in order to share the fruit with them. They were so gentle and the kids were able to pick passion fruit pulp from their fruits and hand it to the hands of the baby monkeys. The adult male was not so sociable and after we walked away uttered some deep and growly remarks, had i understood i may have retorted “How rude!”po
There were also goats, parrots (that sang and shouted) and tortoises complete with their eggs. We finished our long visit to the estate with a Sunday lunch at their restaurant complete with more bottom wiggling tunes from a local band as we ate delicious chicken stuffed with groundnut, spicy beef curry, local fish and “callaloo” a delicious spinach like accompaniment while the kids played and danced with more kids they found along the way.
As if our senses were not exhausted we got back into the car and headed north to explore more of the island, we took a wrong turn, I love wrong turns! We ended up on a north facing deserted beach and then a mountain road with windy steep roads with random rastafarians who we befriended on our way and chatted to from the car window, ridiculous and seemingly impossible bridges that were half washed away and later steep cliff sides.
We met some pelicans fishing in the seas below one of the steep cliffs, Cairo immediately shouted “Are they dinosaurs?” Admittedly they did look a lot like Pterodactyls, huge they were!
When we stopped to film them a couple of locals appeared with water nut (unripe green coconuts) to refresh the kids and ourselves. They just hack them open with a machete and you sip the entire coconut’s water from within fora small price. Its incredibly good for you and probably the most refreshing drink imaginable. There is nothing like returning home in the evening with a car full of environmentally friendly empty coconuts instead of plastic bottles!
So another week and a whole lot of sensory overload. Its really an amazing place and if you get this far in reading the blog i suggest you save up and book a flight here as soon as you can… I think we might have found paradise before we even began our journey!