The Amazing Caribbean Race: Windward & Leeward Islands

23 July – 8 August 2016
This break was all about the islands. Cover as many as I could to get a taste and determine which ones to come back to for longer. Due to best flight times, I had to depart a day late and return a day earlier giving me two restful days in Paramaribo but meant one fewer island to tick off. A part of me wants to lay claim to visiting as many islands as I can while I’m working this location – at this point I’ve got a year left. But it’s also very relaxing, enjoyable, knowledge fulfilling and…who wouldn’t want to travel the Caribbean! Especially when you can be in Barbados in 4 hours.

Barbados – 9/10

  1. 5 nights. Turtle Beach Resort. Discounted for low season.
  2. Within a few minutes of checking into my room, I stood on the 4th floor balcony looking at the amazing view and down below in a public laneway access to the beach a tall young local man started talking to me. After a moment to decipher his accent, I realised he was trying to sell me cocaine. Welcome to Barbados. This happened another time on the beach. As someone not at all into drugs, I find it unsavory and disturbing.
  3. Very rough surf on the south coast, when I traveled to the west it was so much calmer. Next time I will stay on the west coast.
  4. Staying at an all-inclusive for the first time was good to not have to worry about food choices or paying for drinks, but I did feel locked up. Like on a cruise ship.
  5. I drank a lot more than normal instinctively trying to get my money’s worth.
  6. Lots of children. Next time I’ll find an adults only all inclusive.
  7. This country is less developed than I expected.
Grenada – 7/10
  1. 2 nights. Allamanda Resort. Good location on the beach and cheap.
  2. Again offered drugs within moments of stepping onto the beach.
  3. The fort overlooking St Johns is totally without maintenance and a public safety risk, but great views of the harbor and port.
  4. I had not realised that this country had a communist coup in the late 70’s, then another coup where the prime minister and cabinet were locked up in the fort and executed. Then the USA invaded and ‘liberated’ the nation because they thought the new military government was building an airstrip to support Soviet and Cuban air craft to refuel in the southern Caribbean.
  5. I walked into a nutmeg store and said hi to the young male attendant as I was the only one in the store.  He immediately replied “you know me”. I stared and wandered. He said “look at me well”. Then it dawned on me that we sat next to each other on the 1 hour flight from Barbados to Grenada. Small part of the world.
  6. Grand Anse is a nice long public beach with clean water and nice sand.
  7. Found a nice marina with a bar, restaurant and pool. A rare place that was new, functional and welcoming.
St Lucia – 6/10
  1. 2 nights. La Haut Resort. Way out of Soufrière town.
  2. Taxi from airport to hotel was an hour and cost 80 usd! A signal that this island is not cheap.
  3. Too mountainous which makes for bad beaches, and long travel times.
  4. Gros Piton hike was the toughest I’ve done. My calf muscles were sore for days.
  5. Incredible views from La Haut plantation resort were amazing but the place closed for good the day I checked out. Up for sale. Spooky quiet at night which had me laying in bed thinking I was in the movie paranormal activity.
Martinique – 9/10
  1. 2 nights. Can’t remember the hotel as I literally walked off the ferry and checked into the first hotel I found. But it was nice. Except the level 3 elevator door didn’t work. And I was on level 3.
  2. Finally a developed island! A carrefour grocery store, paved sidewalks, street lighting and people leave you alone rather than try to sell you cheap bead necklaces.
  3. Only downside is it’s French speaking, but that could be a positive since people leave me alone!
  4. 21st century buses, roads and intersections. Hub of a ferry system.
  5. Bakeries and food that is beyond chicken and Creole
  6. Although I almost got run down crossing a road. I hate crossing roads.
  7. The beaches close to town are not very nice. And full of local children.
  8. Service is snail pace.
  9. I’d definitely come back and couple it with other French islands. I think the French funding and connection to the European Union means they must abide by EU standards which are much higher than the former British colonies that are poor.
Dominica – 3/10
  1. 1 night that turned into 2. Fort Young Hotel. Lovely refurbished hotel and best part of Roseau.
  2. Do not return. Undeveloped, wrecked by a recent storm, mountainous with long travel times on bad roads, dull landmarks. Although, no one bothered me to sell stuff on the streets or offer me tours like I was in Lucia.
  3. Roseau is a simple under developed town with nothing noteworthy. Except for my hotel, which was modern, sprawling and good service.
  4. The activities desk while seemingly professional, postponed my organized tour of the island not once but twice. Fully knowing that I only had 2 days 1 night on the island. And although I’d paid already for something they couldn’t offer anymore, did not provide a partial refund or even a genuine apology. Giving me the sense this happens often.
  5. As if Dominica knew I didn’t like her, she punished me further by hovering a rain storm over the island at the time of my evening flight causing it to be cancelled and being put up by liat airlines in a hotel room with no ac and a ceiling fan moving so slow it may as well have been switched off.
Antigua – 8/10
  1. 3 nights that was supposed to be 4 except for Dominica. Airbnb apartment in English Harbour. Well located with lovely views, but in a loft with no cross breeze so it was stinking bloody hot.
  2. Very modern airport.
  3. Renting a car was simple and easy to cruise around. Although some hairy corners on what should be single lane one way roads.
  4. Again no hassle from the locals and I rode a public ‘bus’ to town with ease for a dollar. The bus is a mini van that loads in the people, most without seatbelts. Similar to what I rode in Grenada.
  5. Beaches are lovely but not as postcard worthy as I believed from Google images. But I do believe the phrase that there are as many beaches as there are days in the year on Antigua.
  6. I’d likely come back and use this as a base to explore Barbuda, St Kitts and St Barts.

 

And that’s it. No hurricane. Although it threatened. Some islands I’d come back to, others are firmly on the DNR list. Definitely prefer ferries over planes where I could. Easier to get around than I thought and lots of research online that you can just google and make it up when you wake up!

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