Monday 6th December 2010
We liked Grenada. It is a very lush volcanic island approximately 21 miles by 12 and with a population of 107,000. The main town, St. George’s, is very small for a capital city and has a beautiful location on the hillside overlooking the sea. A new port has been built on reclaimed land and is very smart – as are many of the houses in the area. In our travels over much of the island, we saw that the wealth did not extend everywhere. Whilst many of the houses are modern and of block and render construction, in many parts virtually all of the housing is wooden and small.
The economy is mainly agricultural and is especially known for spices. We stopped at a plantation to see some of the spices and then moved on to a nutmeg factory in the small town of Gouyave. As we left the factory, we were greeted by a small group of 3 or 4 year olds who were dressed in Christmas outfits and were encouraged by their teachers to sing Christmas songs.
After proceeding up the coast to Nonpareil, we headed inland and then again to the coast at Sauteurs where we stopped for lunch in an old plantation building.
In the afternoon, we visited a really quaint rum factory which had been founded in the 1750s and has not altered its mode of operation or its buildings since – although some machinery is replaced as needed. It did not encourage us to become drinkers!
A lot of damage had been done by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when 95% of the buildings on the island were damaged. However, much aid was provided by Commonwealth countries and China and considerable rebuilding was made possible. We saw many deserted houses.
The past of this country has been quite troubled. As well as changing hands between imperial powers, it had a takeover of the Government in 1979 by communist powers, seemingly Cuban. American troops invaded in 1983 and our guide told us that 99.9% of the people supported this action by the U.S.
The country is still poor and is dependent on agriculture, fishing and tourism. The roads seem to be narrow and winding. We saw quite a lot of people clearing the vegetation at the side of the road. Our guide explained that there is 30% unemployment and no social security. However, the government employs people for two or three months before Christmas to do this sort of work so that they are able to provide for their families at Christmas.
The houses are colourful but many are still wooden and some of these are quite poor. They are often built on stilts. Families are able to close in the area under the house for storage or for letting out.
Our return route took us over the highest road and through the rainforest of Grand Etang National Park. We were able to look down on a volcanic crater lake which provides much of the island’s water.
We had just enough time to look briefly at St. George’s and Fort George (from a distance) before returning to the ship and sailing at 6.00 p.m. for our next port of call.