This country is not trying to be who they are not.
Last week I returned from a trip to Grenada. For me, the desire to visit a unique Caribbean destination was not much different than a child wanting to spend every bit of his money in a candy store. I knew innately that Grenada would gratify this hunger. Which I find odd, since I knew little about the island.
Landing in Grenada, I had no preconceptions. I was entering a country with a no undue outside influence on me. None of my friends have spent any time here to affect me. Would I leave here with an equal comparison to other countries I’ve visited? Was the island going to be poor and depressing like Zimbabwe? Vibrant with high energy and crime like Jamaica? Exotic and welcoming like Thailand? Beautiful yet intimidating like rural India? I could not wait to find out.
Moments after I landed, my hosts Mike and Rebecca, whisked me from the airport to the biggest party on the island, Fish Friday in Gouyave. A forty minute drive on twisty mountain and coastal roads in the opposite direction from their sailboat. This was going to be a late night.
I could not help but smile. I sat stuffed in the far back of small van, sweating profusely, dressed for air conditioned airplanes not tropical heat, and was surrounded by multi-national sailors whose new names came at me like a tsunami. This is what I love. When we stopped for drinks and a bottle of Stag beer found it’s way back to me my smile grew even larger.
My days in Grenada were filled with my fervent focus on gathering stories, drinking rum, seeking out unique personalities and trying to get into enough innocent trouble to keep readers following my island exploits. But the real story here is what Grenada is like as a country and why you should visit.
Grenada and her people are remarkably clean, efficient, proud and friendly. They appreciate the vast natural bounty that grows on her fertile soul and swims in her clean deep ocean. I feel bad using the word ‘remarkably’ as it is based on my own, perhaps shallow expectations. I have extensively traveled through small poor countries and should know better, but in such assessments it is best to be honest.
Most nights I found myself shoulder to shoulder with Grenadians in the bar laughing together as if I lived just around the corner. I never felt out of place standing in the street after midnight with a bottle of Clarke’s Court Special Dark Rum at my feet, offering rounds to all takers.
One day I approached a lady sitting in a doorway and asked her if I could photograph her. She demurred, she did not look good in pictures she told me, but smiled when I showed her the screen on my camera and proved her wrong. I had a good laugh with an old man in a local store when I took down his small Grenada national flag and asked him about the symbolism. When he could not tell me what the yellow meant in the flag.
One morning during my three distillery rum tour I was pleased to see armies of workers with machete’s cutting the jungle away from the road, closely followed by cleaning crews. This is not a common occurrence on most islands. It gets back to pride. The private mini-bus system feels like it was imported from Switzerland with it’s entrepreneurial efficiency. The roads are in good repair and internet access and speeds are all modernized. The beaches are clean and ocean pristine.
Grenada is not Utopia. She faces her economic challenges. She is twenty or so years behind the tourism trade compared to her neighbors partly due to her flirtation with communism thirty years ago. There are not enough jobs for her young educated people to keep them all at home. Though St. Georges University, which is rapidly growing towards six-thousand students from around the world, is a jewel that is the envy of many nations.
It is also insightful to mention what Grenada is not. She does not possess the huge casinos and hotels like Sint Maarten. The Kenny Chesney tiki-hut crowd from the Virgin Islands will not find the same beach bar vibe here. The sophistication of St. Barts cannot be found, but the prices that accompany it are not there either. Nor is there a sense of poverty that one can easily see in Jamaica.
One has a sense walking the beach in Grande Anse, sitting on a mini-bus in Woburn or dancing to Soca in the streets in Gouyave that Grenada is on her own journey, she has her own goals and is accepting of who she is. Grenada embraces the world that lies over the horizon but is not trying to be what she is not. Grenada does not have that anguished feel. Instead, Grenada prospers on the tip of the volcanic undersea mountain that reaches for the sun and rewards her people with a bounty of spice and other natural resources.
I made many friends the week I spent in Grenada, which speaks to her people. I ran through her jungles and got to see cocoa pods hanging from trees, and nutmeg ripe for picking, which speak to her bounty. I swam and bathed in her ocean, which speaks to her cleanliness. When my plane lifted from the runway and I looked down upon my new cruising friends just off Hog Island, I knew my impetuous decision to visit had been a good one.
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