February 2024: As part of a two-week 5 country trip in the Caribbean islands to visit my last 5 sovereign countries, my nephew, friend Jimmie and I spend almost 3 days in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a country that would seem the least touristy out of all countries visited on this trip.  Our main goal was to climb the active volcano-soufries- that in 2021 erupted and was so devastating that the eruption almost resulting in the entire evacuation of the island. To get around the island, we traveled via rental car and stayed one night with a family in Georgetown and another night at a beach hotel in Kingston.

 

About Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

From what I read about Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; it has always been more of a backwater hidden in between the other islands of the West Indies. It was where the Carib Indians held their last stand, and it was where pirates used to hideout. The islands always were more off the beaten path and still are today compared to the other Caribbean islands. The Grenadines are being snatched up by wealthy expats, but the main island of Saint Vincent is still a very wild island with rainforests that blanket its rugged mostly roadless interior. Then there is the big 4,000′ active volcano-Soufries that looms over the northern half of the island. Saint Vincent because of its wild character and lack of mainstream tourism compared to Barbados for example, was one of my favorite islands that I visited on this trip and one of my favorites in the Caribbean. The Islands like others in the West Indies were fought over for centuries between the British and French and the British would end up the last colonial power standing. African slaves were imported to work the plantations and the island remained a British colony until it received its independence in 1979. Today the majority of the country’s residents are descendants of African slaves.

 

 

Location of the island

Staying with a Family in Georgetown & Eating Pilot Whale

We arrived in Kingston in the morning via InterCaribbean Airlines and immediately rented a car at the airport. I received my driver’s license for the country for a small fee and upon displaying my US driver’s license, which is normal for most Caribbean countries. Then from Kingston we drove a few hours to get to Georgetown, where I booked an Airbnb with a local family to get us as close to the volcano as possible so that we could get an early start to our hike in the morning. Driving in Saint Vincent was similar to Grenada as far as other drivers using excessive speed, but the difference was the main road I drove on was wider and safer. The eastern side of the island was rigged and volcanic and most villages we passed appeared to receive few if any foreign visitors. Georgetown was no different. The main street was full of brightly painted old British colonial era buildings. We stopped to buy groceries at a local store for our hike in the morning and curious local drunken rasta types immediately glued into us and followed us around asking for money. There was an inordinate number of people just hanging around the main street drinking beer for an early hour of a weekday, but this was kind of normal for the Caribbean. My nephew handed a small note to one and the rasta replied, thanks little gangsta.”  We stocked up on some homemade banana bread that was freshly made for our hike and locally homemade banana bread would end up being my favorite item to buy at gas stations and grocery stores on the trip.

Our next task was to find our host’s house, but the Air BnB provided very vague directions and our GPS led us down a narrow alley to a dead end. Our host didn’t answer his phone and there were no other options for accommodation in town or anywhere nearby. All I had was a photo of the hosts home and his name, which was prince so i started asking locals and when I showed one man smoking ganja the photo of Prince’s home, he instantly recognized it. In his pigeon like dialect of English, he tried to provide directions which I was barely able to comprehend but after some more rough dirt roads and narrow alleys ways and a steep hill, we finally arrived at our host’s house. Our host was off farming in his fields and his girlfriend welcomed us to their home and showed us our rooms.

 

 

Georgetown

The house we were staying at was comfortable and cozy, but it was an ordinary local home for the area, and it was blazing hot inside and the feeble fans located in the rooms did little to cool down the rooms. Our host also apologized because the water was out and there was no running water in the home. But none of this mattered because by staying with our hosts, we were able to get an impression of how locals lived away from the tourism-based areas and our hosts went out of their way to try and show us around and keep us entertained. When prince returned from his fields, he took us out to eat some traditional food and get some local rum. We ate black fish with cassava and french fries, which was extremely oily overcooked fish that tasted really salty. The oil spilled on my lap, and I reeked for the rest of the night like fish. I would later learn that the black fish was not actually fish but is pilot whale. the dish is unique to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the island is the only in the Caribbean that still practices whaling and continues to eat them. This is because the Carib Indians that are still living on the island are allowed to continue whaling since it is a traditional practice and not only are pilot whales harvested but even some humpback whales.

After eating whale, we went to a local bar with a pool and drank beer with some of the local guys before finishing at Prince’s home. Jimmie stayed up late drinking more rum with prince in the front yard, while I blew up my camping mattress and slept on the front porch next o the carcass of an enormous spider where it was much cooler instead of the hot room where I would have had to share a bed with my nephew.

I secured the help of a young local boy to guide us to the top of the volcano the next morning. We didn’t really need a guide, but I read that the trail might be confusing after the eruption and that guide was best so for a small fee, the local boy agreed to guide us the next morning.

 

 

My nephew playing pool with a local guy with the mural of the lion of Judah in the background, a prominent image in the Rasta religion 

Climbing the Active Volcano of Soufries

Prince let us keep our backpacks at his house while we climbed the volcano and early the next morning at sunrise, we started the drive up to the trailhead on a narrow dirt jungle road that went uphill for 30 minutes before coming to a parking lot where the trail head was located. Normally there are local guides hanging around the trailhead, but we were too early to see any. We found out that walking sticks are also available here, but we missed this opportunity. I wanted to get an early start because I read mixed reports about how long the hike would take and that it was best to beat the hot sun and that rain and clouds were common in the early afternoon and fog could conceal the trail on the return hike.  The start of the hike through the rainforest was difficult and the trail steep and full of huge steps and I poured with sweat. but the scenery was spectacular through lush ferns and rainforest and as we climbed the trees gave way to volcanic rock and the vistas of the surrounding mountains with incredible. The trail turned out to be well marked all the way up to the edge of the crater where there was no fence or warning just a 1000′-foot cliff that dropped directly into the crater. From the ridge of the crater, we had views all around the island and into the massive crater where we could see streaming fumaroles and an acidic lake that our guide said was formed by the recent eruption. We could also smell Sulphur. We stopped for an hour to have lunch and enjoy the view. Our guide recounted what the eruption was like and how Georgetown was evacuated and that most people were being relocated from the island and that the volcano was raining ash down upon the entire island and that the eruption compiled with the pandemic was very scary for the island’s residents. The volcano I also heard was heavily monitored but scientists were caught off guard by the eruption because Rastas has been stealing a lot of the solar panels that were being used to power the monitoring equipment for their ganja fields.

 

 

Dylan on the rainforest hike 

Scenery as we climbed above the rainforest 

Scenery as we climbed above the rainforest 

Scenery as we climbed above the rainforest 

Scenery as we climbed above the rainforest 

Climbing to the crater ridge 

Acid lake in the crater

Me at the crater ridge

Dylan looking into the crater

The volcano was still active and according to our guide could erupt again anytime. We opted to not hike into the crater and instead head back to Kingston and relax for the rest of the day at our beachside hotel. We were delayed by 20 minutes when a fog layer enveloped us blinding our way then as soon as it arrived, it disappeared, and we hiked back down to the trailhead. We were able to complete our hike round trip in less than 3 hours and the only time we saw other hikers was near the end of the Tral head on our return hike. For the rest of the day, we relaxed in our hotel in Kingston on the beach drinking rum punches. Relaxing was something that we rarely did on this trip, so it felt good to finally get a chance to do so before our next day early morning departure to Saint Lucia.

 

3 + 11 =

error: Content is protected !!