February 2024: I visited Grenada for three days as part of a 2 weeklong trip in the Caribbean to visit the last of 197 sovereign countries of the world. Grenada was one of the countries I looked forward to the most I am fascinated in revolutions and the cold war, and the little country of Grenada had a big part in the recent history of socialist revolutions and the 1980s era proxy war between the USSR and USA, which eventually led to the overthrow of the socialist government when Grenada was invaded by the American military. To fully explore the island, my nephew, Dylan and friend Jimmie and I rented a car and drove from the capitol, Saint George’s to the north, Sauteurs visiting different parts of the island along the way including the Pearls airport, where one of the key battles took place during the American military invasion in the 80s to overthrow the socialist government.

 

 

About Grenada

Grenada like most of the Caribbean islands was initially populated by Arawak Indians who were then replaced by the more war like Carib Indians. Then Grenada was one of the first Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans, the French and British and in between their wars to control the island, they massacred the populations of Indians. European powers established plantations growing spices, and sugar and imported captured slaves from Africa to do the work. The majority of citizens in Grenada today are descended from African slaves.  The British ended up becoming the final victors for the island and ruled the island until its independence in 1974. Like many newly independent countries in the Caribbean, Grenada’s first president was a dictator and ruthlessly governed the island. This sowed the seeds of discontent and a socialist revolution led by Maurice Bishop who led a coup to overthrow the dictatorship and replace it with the socialist based New Jewel movement. Maurice Bishop was unique to other socialist leaders in the America’s because he was English speaking and black and he promoted black power along with improving the living conditions of his impoverished country, which continued to make him popular in Grenada today. Bishop walked a tight rope between the USA and Cuba/Soviet Union. But under the Reagan administration concerns that Bishop’s movement might spread into black populations in the USA and of the Soviet Union using the air strip at pearl airport to import weaponry and encroach into the Western hemisphere too close for comfort to the USA. Bishop was soon toppled by his own party in a power struggle that likely was likely fueled by the CIA and Bishop and his wife were executed by firing squad and their remains unknown to this day. The overthrow of Bishop by more extreme communist forces in his party and a alleged threat of holding American medical school student’s hostage was used as a pretext by President Reagan to send in 6 thousand US Marines to invade Grenada and overthrow the communist government and establish a new democratically elected one. Fighting was brief and was a rare occurrence that saw direct fighting between Cuban, Soviet and American forces in addition to Grenadian ones. The fighting was brief and only lasted a few days resulting in the overthrow of the communist New Jewel party ending one of the most obscure conflicts in recent American history.

 

 

Location of Grenada

Murals of Maurice Bishop I saw on buildings who still popularizes the struggle for the people of Grenada 

Driving Across the Mountains

 

 

 

I knew beforehand that driving in Grenada would be one of my biggest challenges on this trip where I would rent a car and drive in almost every country visited. Grenada had a reputation for having the smallest roads, craziest drivers and the dreaded gaping rain gutters that run parallel with the already narrow roads that eagerly consumes tires. As I ventured into the mountains to cross over to the other side of the island from Georgetown to get to our destination in the north of the island, the roads became more perilous and narrow and the drivers faster and more reckless especially the dreadful minibus drivers that frequently come ripping around corners into my lane, which sent me pulling hard left to avoid a head on collision in one occasion putting my tire into the rain gutter that somehow I managed to pull back out of but not without some dents and damage to the wheel and side of my rental vehicle. This was the reason for why I purchased local insurance however and the vehicle still was able drive, so we continued on driving as slow as possible to be able to correct for more bat crazy mini-bus drivers.  One of our stops along the mountains was to a waterfall that was a too touristy for my taste, but it was hot, and we decided to go for a dip and my nephew practiced his rock-climbing techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the waterfalls we went for a swim in and my nephew practicing his rock climbing techniques

Abandoned Pearls Airport

The cold war junkie in me really wanted to see the abandoned Pearls airport in the northeast of the island. This was one of the invasion sites of the US Marines during the overthrow of the communist government and it saw some light fighting between Marines and defending forces. Today the airport is abandoned and no longer used and instead is overgrown with weeds and is grazed upon by cows. Two planes that were immobilized by the Marines during the invasion sit beside the runway, a Cuban passenger plane and another crop dusting with the USSR logo. I drove out on to the runway in my rental car and drive down it alongside some cows and stopped to climb into the abandoned planes that are left to the elements and rusting away.

 

 

The runway at Pearls Airport now abandoned except by cows

Cuban passenger plane that was destroyed during the invasion 

Inside of Cuban passenger plane

USSR crop dusting plane destoryed during invasion 

Me inside the USSR crop dusting plane destoryed during invasion 

Cocoa Plantations

Grenada is renowned for its chocolate-cocoa and no visit should be conducted without visiting one of the cocoa production plants and we stopped randomly at a local owned one to observe the process and sample some of the chocolates.

 

 

The coca with water before it is dried was very smellhy and infested with insects which didnt excite me about one of my facorite foods. 

Woman pressing the dry cocaa beans with her bare feet which also didnt excite me to eat chocalate but I quickly forgot and resumed my appatite 

Sauteurs 

We ended up staying in one of the only hotels that was reasonable priced in the north in the small town of Sauteurs, which was far from touristy and full of locals wandering the streets imbibing and listening to reggae at all hours of the day or night. We had trouble checking in to our hotel since no one was working the desk at the lobby since there were no guests. A nearby worker at a restaurant advised us to find the manager of the hotel in a nearby grocer. This led us on a 30-minute hunt in a grocer asking random people for the manager before we finally found the right person who was able to help us reach the manager.

Despite all of the drinking of residents in town, it was near impossible to find anything to eat and when we did the menu was extremely lacking, but I was able to have an incredible fish wrap with red wine. Sauteurs is in the far north of the island and lacking resorts and much of any tourist infrastructure. it is an interesting area with lots to see and famous for its not so proud distinction of having the cliffs where the last of the Carin Indians jumped to their deaths rather than face imprisonment from the French thus giving the town its French nae Sauteurs meaning to jump.

 

 

Cliffs where Carib Indians jumped to their deaths giving the town its French name to jump. 

Old British buildings in town 

Old British buildings in town 

Levera BeachNational Park and Welcome Stone

The next morning, we had a very late start on exploring the island because Jimmie drank a mysterious bottle of rum by himself and was hallucinating the previous night.  There was nowhere in town to get breakfast, so we drove to the nearest resort, a luxury one hidden in a forest with a great view of the ocean just outside of town but we were too late for breakfast and all meals were only for guests anyways, but the restaurant worker decided to show pity on us and serv us some coffee. Since most of our day was gone, we had just enough time to visit Lavara Beach national park and the Welcome Stone before driving south to Georgetown to our hotel for the night. Our first stop was to Welcome Stone, a scenic overlook that was difficult to find on google maps and the extremely steep narrow road through the jungle to the top where I felt the seemingly two stroke engine of my rental car sputtering with difficulty as it barely was able to climb only to get to the top where there was nowhere to park or turn around because of a fenced dead end where a cell phone tower was located. I had to park offroad in the jungle and hope my emergency brake wouldn’t fail and from the spot we hiked 20 minutes down through the rainforest to the welcome rock where we had an incredible view of the Lavara Beach National Park. Turning around and driving back down the road was even more terrifying than driving up it. 

 

 

Dylan on the Welcome Rock

An endemic lizard I observed in the rainforest slurping up a worm 

From the Welcome Rock we drove down to Lavara Beach national park hoping to find lunch along the way which we never found. The dirt road to the beach passed some mangrove forests until we arrived at a small dirt parking lot on an idyllic beach that we had to ourselves with the exception of a few rasta coconut sellers and fishermen sleeping in the shade. We went for a swim and drank some coconuts before heading back south stopping along the way to finally eat a meal at fancy British cocoa plantation estate that dated back to the 1700’s.

 

 

Lavara Beach National park

Ruins of part of the old british Cocoa Plantation estate we finally had lunch at

From Grenada the next morning we flew to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Inter-Caribbean Airlines

 

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