(Apologies if you’ve read this before, I’m moving some important things over from my Posterous blog, before I close it down..)
Over the new year, I spent some time island hopping around the Caribbean with Mamma Jewkes. Here are some things that I learnt.
1. It takes approximately 9 1/2 distracted hours on a plane to draw out and cross-stitch a mustache.
2. In September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept the Caribbean taking 80 per cent of Grenada’s infrastructure with it and devastating the spice and tourist industries. The world responded generously to the calamity, which killed 39 of the tiny nation’s 103,000 people and left 90 per cent of the nation’s 28,000 houses in shambles, but there is still evidence all around the island of Ivan’s impact.
3. The people of Grenada, however, are unfailingly friendly and the locals are so willing to point out the island’s great views (and the spices on sale are amazing).
4. Hemmingways, on the main street in Antigua, serves the best lobster you will ever eat. ever.
5. Fruit and Veg can be made into the most remarkable things.
6. The same goes for beach towels
7. We spent two days in La Romana, and took the time to visit a family who showed us how they grew their own spices and food in their garden. The grandfather also showed us how he rolled his own flavoured cigars. He let me take home the ones I rolled- I don’t think they were done very well..
8. We also visited a school, and learnt a little about the education system in La Romana. The kids were great, although they’re in dire need of books, pens and supplies. If anyone is interested in helping out- I’m going to be organising for a shipment to be sent over to them, any donations will be gratefully received. Here is a picture of one of the classes in the schools one and only classroom (which has to be shared between 200 kids), and a photo of Cozzie and little Tia who is modelling Mamma Jewkes’ sunhat. (Mamma actually ended up giving Cozzie that hat..)
9. When we reached Barbados, there was only one place I wanted to visit; Mount Gay Rum distillery. It didn’t disappoint. The rum is sold nearly 10% stronger here- and it tastes amazing. Ask for the bartender to mix you his favourite cocktail, it’ll be amazing.
10. One pineapple plant will only produce one pineapple. Likewise, banana trees take 2 months to mature, and 9 months to produce one ripe crop of bananas - as our guide said, ‘like a woman grows her baby’. These bananas are covered in blue bags as they grow, so as to protect them from insects and diseases. The views from the plantations are amazing.
11. New Year resolutions are best made on the beach.
12. When you’re new to a city, I recommend that you walk until you get a little bit lost and then head t’ward the dirtiest looking cafe. Ask for the local food and inevitably, you’ll eat the best food of your life. This time it was Jerk Chicken, Rice and Beans- and a homemade blend of ginger ale.
13. When it rains in the Dominican rainforest, it really, really rains. We were on a riverboat when the heavens opened, and the boat filled up with water so quickly we very nearly sank! A beach towel will not offer sufficient protection from the rain.
14. In the middle of the rainforest there is, rather inexplicably, a bar. It can be reached only by boat down the river, and there they will serve you the most potent rum punch of your life. The trip back down the river in the rain seemed worth while.
15. Pregnant lady lizards are apparently very lazy.. This one didn’t move for about 5 hours. Good for her.
16. While we were ‘trapped’ at the rainforest bar (due to the rain) one of the bar staff showed me how to make a ‘fishing bird’ out of one of the long leaves. It was as fiddly as it looks.
17. The organised snorkel trips out to the reef are ridiculously expensive- costing nearly £68 a go. Don’t bother! You can rent a snorkel set for about $15, and if you get chatting to one of the locals, they’ll probably offer to take you out to see the wrecks and the reef themselves. There I encountered a Sea Turtle I was so surpised by it that I squealed into the snorkel and swallowed a load of sea water. The turtle had no reaction.
18. The fact that your iphone doesn’t work, and there is only sporadic access to wifi is actually a liberating experience. I took my vintage fountain pen out for a whirl. Travel journal: 1, Facebook: 0.
19. Nobody looks good in a life jacket. (Especially pulling that face, Mamma!)