Travel Thursday: St. Vincent

So what does a person do in the Caribbean when he can’t stand beaches?
Find just the right island, of course.
St. Vincent would always be dragging the Grenadines around, even if only in name, but it was surely special enough on its own. The lush green rain forest that made up most of the island’s interior–special enough for the island to be called the “Tahiti of the Caribbean”–had some pleasant hiking trails, passing by vast banana plantations on the way to more traditional villages, untouched and unspoiled by tourism. The resorts, like most in the Carib and probably around the world, would rather cloister guests from the realities of life on St Vincent, preferring to lull them with rum punch and live but canned “Caribbean music,” whatever that was. But some of us actually want to learn about other cultures, or else relieve the boredom, especially when allergic to alcohol. You don’t need to be an anthropologist to be interested in people and communities; sometimes all you need is a photographer. . .
The spirited capital of Kingstown probably looks a lot like it did in colonial times, with locals rushing along the cobblestone streets exactly like tourists don’t. I ate on the shaded veranda of what the restaurant owner called an old planter’s house, which made me idly wonder what had been planted here in the past; probably sugarcane, which made my mouth water but my teeth wince while remembering places around the world where I’d relaxed just like this while chewing the sugar right out of the cane stick. When told it had been banana, I yawned and ordered dessert, figuring she’d be expecting me to go for the most exotic thing possible, instead crossing her up with my usual vanilla ice cream, though I made sure to warn her not to put all kinds of exotic sprinkles on it.
After that I walked over more rough cobblestone streets, thankful I wasn’t on a bike, and shot some arched stone doorways and covered walkways, which conjured up that forgotten era of colonial rule, easy enough to portray with the camera even when I had to wait till the computer to render it black and white. The one thing I’ll never get used to in the Carib, or anywhere else, is the humidity, the hot stagnant air that enveloped a whole town and makes you feel like you’re swimming in a bowl of paella. This was only amplified by the sounds of car horns, street hucksters and music; quite frankly, it was more than a bit jarring after the serenity of the rain forest, where the only sounds were dripping water and bird calls.
Because Kingstown is not a tourist destination in itself, more of a gateway to exploring the outer islands of the Grenadines, visitors only come here to use the bank or stock up on supplies before heading back to the quiet of the rain forest, or perhaps their yacht. Still, there are some things a tourist might enjoy, as I found out when I stepped into an art gallery. The first thing I saw was a painting of a nude woman reclining on a bed, long blonde hair flowing over both shoulders with just the right amount of strands to cover the nipples upon her large breasts. Every inch of skin was smooth as silk, and her piercing eyes seemed to hold on every watcher that checked her out, though I eventually fought that off to take in the rest. . . in case the owner or painter wanted to test me as to the color of the sheets or some such.
Shaking my head at such nonsense, and seeing they were about to close, I sighed my way back to the hotel, where I tossed myself on the bed and looked through the photos of the rain forest, as well as the two fancy gardens and the view from Fort Charlotte. After that it was a taxi drive to the airport for a sunset chopper tour of La Soufrière, the still-active volcano which had a history of violently erupting every once in a while. The guide/pilot, being more specific than the lit I’d been given, ticked off the dates: 1718, 1812, 1902, 1971, and 1979. The eruption of May 7, 1902, eerily just hours before a similar one on Mount Pelee on Martinique, killed almost 1700 people, most of them making up what had been the last large remnant of indigenous Carib culture. Before I could get too down about that, at least at the moment, the guide cheerily informed me that during the last eruption in April 1979 there’d been no casualties, due to the early-warning system put in place by some geologists who seemed to know what they were doing, for once.
As would of course be expected, I took many photos, and not just of the volcano. The island was mountainous and well-forested, and with most of the inhabitants living on the coastline, you wouldn’t think it would be easy to spot a building within all that woodland, especially when you didn’t want them to know you were on to them. . .
{The rest of this has been redacted by an intelligence agency too sissy to even give their name. . .}


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