30th Wedding Anniversary – Saint Kitts (part 1)
Instead of the usual dinner & a night out on the town, Tracey and I opted for something a little more memorable this time around; A trip to St. Kitts. Where and what is St. Kitts you may be saying. It is one of two islands in the West Indies that make up what is known as the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Several things attracted us to visit St. Kitts in February. First of all, it’s warm & sunny, something we truly needed after another long winter in South Jersey. Secondly, it’s one of the few Caribbean islands which have both rainforests and a volcano you can hike up.
While Mt Liamuiga is currently dormant (last eruption is said to be in the late 17th century), there are still active sulfur vents in the caldera. Added to this is the fact that St Kitts only gets around 50,000 visitors per year, not a lot by Disney standards (in the tens of millions). The population of 35,000 is English speaking and have a 98% literacy rate; However, due to their British heritage they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road (sorry Sarah!).
This did not stop us from renting a scooter to tour the island on our own. BTW, Tracey loves the freedom of having me drive while she is free to sit on the back and take lots of pictures and direct me on where she wants us to go. Tracey and I liken ourselves to travelers and not tourists. This means we try to find out where the locals eat and the places they go and we try to avoid the standard ‘tourist traps’. Renting a scooter allowed us to go where we wanted and spend as much or as little time at a particular place as we chose. Note: Getting off the beaten path in St. Kitts on occasion meant following trails & roads that were less than ideal for a scooter (and I use that term ‘roads’ loosely as at one time I’m almost sure it was a paved road but the potholes/canyons on the south part of the island rival anything we have in Jersey). However, this afforded us access to places that the typical tourist just doesn’t get to see. There are several former sugar-cane plantations on St. Kitts that have been restored and now serve as inns/restaurants. The lush vegetation on these plantations and the entire island in general was breathtaking.
Speaking of which, the Brimestone Hill Fortress is a must see, to tourist and traveler alike. Started about 1690 and sitting about 1000 feet above the sea, overlooking Sandy Point Town, the fortress is the largest such structure in the eastern Caribbean and is listed on the UNESCO site of historic places. While we were there, the clouds started rolling in from the east over the mountain. Not only was it amazingly beautiful but a full rainbow formed, an auspicious sign of things to come (see additional pictures on Facebook).
Let me backtrack just a little here and tell you about the scooter rental. ‘Ride St. Kitts’ has two flags flying outside, the flag of St. Kitts & Nevis and the Canadian Maple-leaf. Turns out the owner is a Canadian who transplanted to St. Kitts about 10 years ago. Tim and the gang were not only knowledgeable but very friendly. Tracey & I hit it off with them from the get-go! Tim gave us a detailed run-down on all the places to visit, as well as the best beach-bar on the island, the Shipwreck! And when he discovered what foodies we were and my love of goat meat, he told me to order the ‘Goat Water’, a caribbean stew that wasn’t on the menu, but just ask for it. Needless to say, less than 24 hours after returning from St. Kitts, I pulled a leg of goat out from our freezer (yes, among other delicacies we have goat in our house) and tried my hand at making ‘Goat Water’!
Shipwrecks was a classic locals bar that didn’t seem to mind the occasional traveler. The menu was not large, there was no electricity (just a generator out back to power the kitchen) and the floor was sand. Everything you could want in a beach bar! The food was great, the island -brewed beer cold and the sea-breeze enticing! Tracey absolutely loved the fish tacos and I had my first, but definitely not last, Guinness Foreign Extra, a nice stout beer (ABV 7.3%) brewed right on St. Kitts by Carib brewers. All in all, an incredible start to what would be a wonderful but all too short vacation.