The airport at Barbados is decorated with flying fish and unique canvas roofing.
Our journey begins on Friday, July 6th, 2007 as we gather our quart sized bags with 3 oz. bottles of what we need for our trip. This time we are not going to do any checked luggage, and will carry on everything we need. My wife Kris and her family, especially Tammy, has been putting this together for some time now and it is all prepaid so everything should go as planed, or at least we hoped for that in the beginning. We will be staying in Barbados overnight after we catch the flight to Miami with an 8 hour layover in Miami. There is just something about flying out of Norfolk that leads to dreadful layovers in Miami. Once we get to our destination, we will catch a small commuter aircraft to the island of St. Vincent and pick up the yacht and meet Ron and Karen who turned out to be two of the nicest folks we have ever met. The British sure know how to make you feel at home.
We leave Norfolk and get to Miami and as usual, things are very hectic. Kris notices up on the flight boards that there is a much earlier flight to Barbados from Miami and if we run, we can catch it just in time, especially since we don't have any bags other than the carry on duffels. Kris and I sprint like crazy for the gate that is of course, on the opposite side of this mammoth airport. Completely out of breath, I approach the ticket agent at our airline, and I ask him if we can change our itinerary without any problems and he assures me that there will be no problem at all getting us on that flight. Suddenly we feel like an angel from heaven has landed on our shoulders and we jump with joy and begin to board the aircraft. We are so lucky!
We arrive at the beautiful and unique Barbados airport a full 8 hours ahead of schedule, which means we beat our family here by at least four hours! They are flying out of New York's JFK airport. The Bougainvillea hotel where we are staying is exquisite and they provide us with everything we need, including waterfalls, sports equipment, a gym, restaurants (they have two), and an amazing array of rooms to choose from. Our suite is a palatial two floors for the six of us and the gardens and grounds look like paradise found with a multitude of flowering plants and water features. When our family finally arrives, they were totally surprised that we had gotten there when we did. We all caught up on the ins and outs of flying and were ready to get to bed and head to St. Vincent in the morning!
We arrived at the airport early this morning to check in because we knew it would be a very slow process. Slow indeed! It took three hours for them to check us in on this teeny little plane! When we finally go to the counter, the rest of our family had their tickets and checked in and we were ready for ours when all of a sudden the ticketing agent told us that we were not booked, and did not have tickets for us. In addition to this, we were told that "Carnival" was going on at the island of St. Vincent, and that we would have to be put on standby! Now keep in mind, we had paid for this last year in advance. We borrowed Tammy's cell phone since we did not bring one and watched with tears in our eyes as our family left for St. Vincent to pick up the boat, not knowing when or if we would ever be joining them. We finally got hold of our agent and it appeared that there would be no seats on standby for at least three days and no other flights on any airline for that same amount of time. Now we are worried! My lovely wife has great eyes and they were working especially well on this evening and she just happened to notice a young couple in their early twenties standing in line at the SVGAIR counter, but no one else was behind the counter or in line. After waiting several hours at the Barbados airport, I was not about to give up. I walked up to them, introduced myself and told them of our plight. It turned out that Nick and his girlfriend were also going to St. Vincent on an unscheduled flight. Nick also is the grandson of the owner of SVGAIR and Barefoot Charters! Once again, the angel has landed back on our shoulders! Kris decides to put the cost of these tickets on her credit card and of course, we both have different last names. The guy at the counter asks for my name in addition to Kris's, puts the stuff on the card, gives us the tickets and off we go! We are just about to board when a lady comes up to us and says the card was denied! We won't be flying anywhere! Whoa! I say, take my Visa card and put it on just my name and see what happens. It worked and off we went in this little six seater! The views from the plane were awesome! Later that afternoon we arrive in St. Vincent and head to the boat, and what a gorgeous 54 yacht it is, and only a couple of years old! We meet Ron and Karen, drop off our gear and head for the Volcano at Mt. La SoufiEre (pronounced La Sou Fra Are).
The drive is about one and a half hours to get to the area where we start the climb up and the climb is about one hour and forty five minutes each way. The views along the way are incredible with lots of heliconia, bamboo, and other flora and fauna. There is a disturbing lack of wildlife, especially birds. I learned later that most of the natives have pretty much hunted them into extinction. We are all getting pretty tired fast since none of us had lunch or breakfast today but at least we had plenty of water. The hike up is pretty intense but eventually we see a break in the forest and the flora and fauna turns to ferns and mosses and the winds pick up rather suddenly, as does the fog. There are may loose areas of black marble like lava rock and deep gorges as well. I crawl up to the rim of the volcano and can barely see because of the fog, wind, and mist messing up my glasses. The wind is so strong I get down on my hands and knees and crawl out to the rim and when the clouds move, it looks like the grand canyon, but green! What an incredible site this is! When I go to stand up, it feels as though the wind is going to just blow me down into the crater. After a while, I make a very bad decision. I break two very big rules in climbing. Rule one, I left the group of six family members. Rule two, I did not watch my footing and descended much too quickly. Instead of watching my feet, I removed my glasses and started to clean them with my T-Shirt as I walked, not paying attention to my pace. I put the glasses back on and suddenly realized my feet were going way too fast and the grade was far too steep to slow down by now. The base I was walking on turned to lava type marbles of black and I slid, fell to my feet doing three parachute landing falls and three summersaults before coming to rest on a very large boulder with my right foot, just in front of a very deep gorge on the hill. I checked all over and had a few bruises and cuts but immediately began to feel the pain in my right big toe. When I got back to the states, I learned that I had actually broken it in half lengthwise! There was also a secondary break going to the right of the toe. When my friends and family got to me, I gave them the news that I had a fall but was going to be just fine. That long two hour hike down the hill was a very slow process for sure! Once I got to the bottom, I got in the van, took the front seat and removed the sandal and it began turning a very, very, dark black! We went to a little restaurant at the town we were in and had some great fish and chips and then headed for the boat. Ron and Karen greeted us and had a great feast for us on their yacht.Sunday, July 8th, 2007-Mustique (Moo Steek) and Bequia (Beck Way)
Watching Ron and Karen sail the boat is truly an awesome sight. This type of work really brings a relationship together and all of us are getting a good bit closer because of the experience. Once the sails got wind, we went flying through some very high seas of about 3 or four meters in size. I heard there was not surf here, but I doubt that now after seeing those swells and the boat up on edge. What a very cool ride this was.
Pulling into Mustique after about a one and a half hour sail was a sight beyond description with mere words. Just picture if you can, the bluest Enya Caribbean Blue color there is, sprinkle with the lightest and deepest aqua you ever saw on white sand beaches and that was Mustique. We saw Tommy Hillfigers house from the water and there was even talk of maybe catching a glimpse of Mick Jagger who also owns property on the island.
Basils is the place to be for a cold drink and something to eat. A lot of the buildings on the island had a strong Indonesian influence since the owners brought in Indonesians to do the work. The hand carved Tiki heads on the fences were stunning as was the carpenter gothic style of architecture of one building in particular. Jumping off the boat and into the crystal clear aqua colored water was amazingly refreshing and we saw a barracuda leap out of the water just off the boat. After staying here for the morning, we headed for Bequia. Evening on the back of the boat was also memorable with a dazzling array of stars in the heavens and even the entire milky way was visible to the eye. Our dinner this evening was a delicious shrimp braised in coconut milk on a bed of rice artistically arranged like a Paul Gaughin painting.
After a magnificent breakfast, we leapt into the water to snorkel while Chuck and Greg went for their diving lessons. Swimming with just one fin was no problem for me and I worked with Tammy, Sandy and Kris to show them the ins and outs of safe swimming and snorkeling. Their confidence grew quickly as the became engrossed with the wildlife below.
After some snorkeling, we took a walk through town and visited the local market and looked for a restaurant to eat (we chose the Frangipani which was awesome-named after a fragrant flowering tree). The vegetable market was cool, and I got a real kick out of the locals saying to me about my foot, "Yo mon, you puncture yur tire!". I especially enjoyed lots of fruit I had not tried before like sweet apple, passion fruit, and others.
Today was yet another day of aqua aerobatics on the yacht as we did the three hour sail to Tobago Cays! Just as we passed the corner of one of the little islands, we saw the most brilliant color of turquoise one could possibly imagine. As we approached the Cays, the color just got more and more intense. When we rounded the corner of the reef to moor the boat and drop anchor, we were greeted with a fleet of luxurious yachts bathing in cool aqua water as clear as any clarity can be. This definitely has to be what heaven looks like! The area had a ton of sea turtles feeding on the grass near the island and the inner reef. We saw tons of incredibly colored fish of all sorts.
This is also known as "Salt Whistle Bay" and we chose this location because the winds were getting quite strong and it offered us a lot of protection from the wind. Ron took us in the dingy to the island and we walked up the hill to the top where we could see great views of the entire area, especially from the Catholic Church on top. I felt like we were in an airplane! We walked all the way over to the other side of the island and down that side of the mountain to a peaceful bay where we met up with the rest of the family. We then proceeded back up the hill and located Robert Righteous For De Youth's Restaurant where we had a great time talking with the Rastafarian owner, Robert and enjoying some deliciously prepared conch! It was kind of like a chowder in a way with one prepared with garlic and the other prepared with curry. I also saw one of those elusive black hummingbirds on one of the flowering bushes outside the restaurant.
We had a bit of rain last night and this morning so I just chilled out on the bow and did my morning yoga after the storm passed. It is so relaxing to do this early in the morning before everyone gets up. Once everyone was awake, Greg and Chuck continued to go on about what a fantastic time they had scuba diving in Bequia and the talk about rays, octopus, and other creatures went on and on. After a wonderful breakfast, Ron took us in the dingy to the inner reef and what we saw there was just incredible. It was like snorkeling in a color wheel!
Today I decide to try windsurfing, even with a broken toe. I was an abysmal failure at it and after getting caught in the current and drifting far away, had to be towed back to the boat, but I sure gave it my best for a long time. It was a pretty racy rig with a very large sail that was quite difficult to raise.
Kris and I went snorkeling after that and got caught in the rip current so we used the buoy line at the turtle nesting area to get out of it. This turned out to be a bad idea, as the little green shrimp love to attach themselves to it! We had little slimy green creatures all over us! Time to chill and hang out on the boat.
Greg, Tammy and Chuck decide to do another hike (can you tell he likes hiking as much as I do surfing?). Ron takes them to the little island and they discover iguanas, lots of cactus and other interesting plant life. Kris and I decide to stay out of the sun and decline the hike since my toe is still the size of the good year blimp and various shades of red and black and Kris has a nice burn on her back.
This is our last day in the Grenadines and at 10:30 AM we pull up anchor in the Tobago Cays and head for Union Island to catch our plane. After checking in, we have a few drinks at the local pub at the little airport and surprisingly meet Walter's wife (one of the wonderful boat vendors that come to you yacht to sell you their wares and fresh bread). Walter was a terrific guy and really did not pressure you much to buy his T-shirts and bread but you could not help buying something from someone with such a great smile! You can learn more about these boat boys here:
We arrive in Barbados for our two day stay, once again at the Bougainvillea hotel. Once there, everyone is exhausted and goes to their room, however, I have other plans. This is my only shot to surf one day tomorrow so I run over to the guys at the sports rental area and hook up with an old friend, Zed, who rents boards. He agrees to get me a nice three fin epoxy 6' 4" board for tomorrow early in the morning. They then take care of getting me a small car (a mini moke) so I can drive to Bathsheba in the morning at sunrise to surf Soup Bowls. With all this arranged, I am ready to relax and enjoy! Kris and the girls go scouting for a nice restaurant to eat at and later we all walk the streets for a nice place to eat and just take in the sights and sounds of Barbados.
Today was started out awesome! The mini moke was delivered and Zed was here at the exact same time, but after looking over the board, we realized he had something better so Kris and I followed Zed to his place about 10 minutes away. This guy has it made. He rents and teaches folks how to surf and also has apartments with an ocean view and a nice break out front too! We finally get on the road to Bathsheba after I get lost repeatedly and forget that I am driving on the left side of the road! When we finally arrive at the vertical drop to Bathsheba we see a nice restaurant and hotel with great views of Soup Bowls and "Mushroom Rock" called "The Roundhouse". Zed recommended stopping there for coffee and that was a great suggestion. Very nice place and awesome food with the best view around!
Doing the lobster crawl, I got out into the surf pretty easy considering my age and how long its been since I had to do the rock dance to get out in decent sized surf. The waves were a consistent chest to head high with some bigger sets. I got in around two hours of surf and we had lunch at the Roundhouse and saw the rest of the family headed our way so we flagged them down. We all gathered at the restaurant and decided to check out Bathsheba at the beach with them and then head to the Andromeda Botanic Gardens just a few minutes away. That place turned out to be awesome! There were thousands of plants introduced to this garden from around the world, including many variety of heliconia, orchids, palms, and bougainvillea.
After leaving the Andromeda gardens, Kris and I headed for the Flower Forest. This is situated at the Richmond Plantation, 850 feet above sea level, near the western edge of the Scotland district, just a mile from Harrison's Cave. It is more than just a place of beauty. It is a place where people and nature have come together to create a place of magical beauty. The royal palms alone were incredibly prolific all around the area. We say tons of different plant species and a troupe of 12-15 monkeys. Like the Andromeda gardens, there were lots of heliconia and ginger plants but more so and in greater varieties.
We returned to the Bougainvillea for a wonderful dinner at the Water's Edge restaurant and some of the best food yet! Exhausted, we collapse into bed and get ready for our flights out tomorrow. I leave the board with the hotel and they returned it and the mini moke for me. What great service! I finally got a couple good shots of that black hummingbird!
This is supposed to be our day to leave so we get to the airport for the 2:40 flight out at 12:30 AM. We wait for hours in what has to be the slowest line in history, and to be honest, had our flight been on time, we certainly would have missed it. We watch our family board their plane and head for home while we wait in line amongst rumors that someone was stopped at Miami airport for bringing on a funery urn with ashes and they thought it was an explosive device so the shut down the entire airport for hours. It is now 3:45 PM and our plane still has not left Miami and now they tell us it has since developed mechanical problems. It is now 6:30 PM in the Barbados airport and we are still here. The plane finally arrives and we get to Miami at 11:30 PM. This means of course that we missed our connection to Norfolk so we will spend another day flying. The airlines puts us up for the night and the hotel manager gives us the key to the room. Kris and I go up to the room with all our gear and the key does not work. We go back down, get a second key and go back up and it does not work either. Are we having a bad day here? I make a third trip down to the lobby from the 15th floor and tell them I want two keys, a new room, and for one of these guys to go with me in case the key does not work. It works and we collapse.
We get to the airport and get the flight to LaGuardia in N.Y. without a problem. From there we fly to Washington and this is where it starts to get strange again. There are lots of passengers from India who speak little or not English and refuse to turn off cell phones, lap tops or stay in their seats. The stewardess is at a loss for words as this huge family continues to walk all over the plane as we take off! We land at Reagan International in Washington, D.C. and catch the flight to Norfolk. We are delayed because of weather and the stewardess tells us to pull down all the shades to keep the aircraft cool, which makes sense. She reminds us repeatedly that she is in charge and failure to comply with her "Commands" may result in our being removed from the plane at any time. We finally get a window to take off and then she stops everything and tells this poor old guy across from us that he must put his laptop that is under his seat neatly, into a storage bin above or we will miss our window to take off and he will be held responsible! She refuses to help him and he has to walk all the way to the back of the plane to find a place for it. Once in the air she tells us to keep the shades pulled and I decide to flip mine up and enjoy the view of the capitol area. I did, after all, pay a very big price for this view! We made it home safe and sound in the pouring rain.