So I had been planning on renting a car for a few days this week to see the sights of Grenada after doing nothing but working. I know, that goes against everything I said about saving money while cruising on a sailboat, but I didn’t have much choice. If I saw the island via bus, I can’t just ask the driver to stop every few minutes so I can get out to take pictures. And hiring a taxi would be prohibitively expensive. A rental car at about US$50 per day sounded like the only way to see the many things to do in Grenada.
I don’t have a local phone, so I had emailed the car hire company and thanks to some communications mix-ups, short story is I don’t have my rental car this week like I had hoped.
But thankfully, another cruiser had put out a call on the radio to fill a private hire bus for an island tour on Wednesday. Eight seats available, seven taken, count me in for the last seat!
The driver’s name is Cutty and he provides island tours in his bus for US$175. We split that amongst the eight of us for a day-long tour around the island at $25 a head.
Cutty is an interesting guy. He’s been driving tours around Grenada for twenty years and was in the middle of everything during the 1983 American invasion of Grenada. He’d stop his bus every couple of miles, reach out his window, and grab whatever plant was alongside the road. Passing it back we’d taste bay leaves, lime leaves, starfruit, lemongrass, golden apples (not “apples” but a fibrous fruit that tastes like pineapple-mango), and too many more to name. See, you just don’t get those kinds of things by renting a car and driving around by yourself!
I walked from Mount Hartman Bay to Prickly Bay where the rest of the group was waiting. Cutty started the tour with the standard tour facts – Grenada is 130 square miles with a population of around 110,000, the lowlands see 45 inches of rain per year while the highland rainforests see 160 inches per year.
We drove up Richmond Hill, passing old French forts that now had houses built on top of them; the old arches and foundations visible amongst modern structures. Cutty pointed to one of the federal buildings, then pointed to a new mental hospital next to it. The mental hospital was new because American forces bombed the hospital instead of the federal building during 1983’s Operation Urgent Fury.
We took a break for some views of St. George’s and continued north towards Gouyave but took a little detour to Concord Falls on the way. Concord Falls is one of those tourist places, with vendors selling souvenirs on the roadside where tourists stop to look at the waterfalls. Two cruise ships were in town so it was a little crowded. Note to self: don’t go anywhere when cruise ships are here.
Oh and hey there’s a map at the bottom of this page.
The road to Concord Falls passes through a plantation. Cutty was very busy pointing out all the plants on the side of the road. Cocoa trees are intertwined with nutmeg trees, pineapple sticks out of the ground at the bases of these trees and inches from the side of the road. Bananas and any number of the island’s 200 varieties of mangos are spread out in there as well. Along with limes, mandarin oranges, lemongrass…really, you can’t walk more than two feet without tripping over some kind of edible plant. “No one goes hungry in Grenada,” Cutty said. “Something is always in season.”
In Gouyave we toured the nutmeg processing plant. A third of the world’s nutmeg comes from this little island and it was eye-opening to see how it’s done, with all processing done by hand. Gouyave, the fishing center of the island, seemed like a cool little town and I’ll have to come back for their infamous fish-fry Fridays.
We were all hungry after going through the nutmeg plant, so we continued north to Sauteurs for lunch. On the way we stopped for a good view of Sauteur’s Point, also called Carib’s Leap, where the Carib Indians jumped down to the ocean to their death in the 17th century after being cornered by the French. In typical European tradition, an impressive Catholic church was built on the site of the massacre. Helena’s restaurant is right on the side of the cliff and served a great buffet-style local lunch in a family dining-room atmosphere.
Now that we were full with a great lunch, we naturally had to go to the Grenada Chocolate Company. I’ve been buying this chocolate at the market for the past month, and it’s freakin’ amazing. All organic dark chocolate, hand-wrapped in what I assumed was a large operation. We got to the “factory” to find a small house painted blue with “Grenada Chocolate Company” over the door. This 13-person operation makes all organic bars by hand in four rooms smaller than your standard American bedrooms, and they sell all over the world.
When we walked in, the Rastafarian conducting the tour looked at us and said “you guys must be sailors, you don’t look like cruise ship people.” I’ll take that as a compliment any day!
The next stop on the tour was Pearls Airport north of Grenville. The airport is no longer in service but the runway is still used as a drag racing strip. Two defunct aircraft are still on the property and closer inspection reveals Russian markings on these cargo planes. One of the aircraft was scheduled to depart the airport on October 25th, 1983. But the U.S. Marines landed at the airport that morning and the plane hasn’t really moved since.
After leaving the airport we drove through Grenville – another cool-looking town that looks like it’s worth a visit for nothing more than to at least walk around. There is an anchorage here but it’s pretty exposed to the Atlantic so I don’t know if I’ll ever make it up there by boat.
Up into the rainforest next! The Grand Etang Forest Reserve covers a good portion of Grenada and characterized by giant tree ferns and palm trees three times as tall as any others I’ve ever seen. It’s home to Grand Etang Lake (a crater lake), monkeys, and a network of hiking trails. I’ve gotta go back to check out all three of those.
We came down off the mountain, back into St. George’s, and home to Prickly Bay, arriving about eight hours after we left.
I’m glad things happened this way, it covered a lot of the things to see in Grenada when renting a car. Though we didn’t stop as much as I had hoped for photo opportunities, I did see that some of the roads really just aren’t conducive for “pulling over for photos”. Or renting a car for that matter. After this tour I realized that my best bet will be paying the EC$5.00 (US$1.90) for a bus fare and getting out at any of these towns to just walk around. The locals are some of the friendliest people I’ve met in my Caribbean travels so far, giving me even more reason to do it that way.
Looking for things to do in Grenada? Cutty, with his brand-new air-conditioned bus, can be reached at 1-473-407-5153 for a tour.
Studying my map now…which bus route will I take tomorrow…