Grenadines….The Caribbean Sea contains a number of independent nations in close proximity. You may think that they are easily accessible by connecting ferry, I’m afraid you would be wrong.
Despite the close proximity to each other there are very few ferry services that link nations, but there is one exception, a hydrofoil service that links the French dependencies of Martinique with Guadeloupe that also stops at St Lucia and Dominica. There are also many services that link islands belonging to the same nations, like Trinidad to Tobago and St Kitts to Nevis. To get around in this part of the world you need to travel by air with LIAT “Leaves Island Any Time” as I heard it is called. It’s not cheap either for the relative short distances you fly.
I wanted to travel from St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) down through the Grenadine islands and onward to Grenada, I had a weeks holiday booked in an all-inclusive hotel in Grenada and I wanted to spend another week getting there via the Grenadine islands from St Vincent. I surveyed my options; St Vincent was well connected to other islands in the Grenadine chain albeit not on a daily basis. The most southerly major island in the Grenadines chain belonging to SVG is Union Island. I read that you can catch a mail boat each Tuesday from Union island to Carriacou, an island belonging to Grenada that is linked by a daily ferry to St Georges the capital of Grenada. A plan was hatched, what could go wrong?
We arrived at E T Joshua airport on St Vincent on an early evening flight from Barbados. The airport resembled a large garden shed and by the time we were processed it was dark. When I eventually got to the immigration desk I was asked about an onward ticket, I told the immigration officer of my intention to get the mail boat to Carriacou Grenada, and was stamped in with no fuss,. Yah, “the boat does exist then” was my immediate thought.
St Vincent – The largest island in SVG is St Vincent (the mainland) and unlike many other Caribbean Islands in the area it not blessed with golden sandy beaches, and thus does not get that many tourists. The island itself does have lots of beaches of the black sand variety given the fact it’s formed from submerged volcanic mountains. I was heading for the capital Kingstown as it where the ferries depart to the other islands of SVG. I stayed in a beautiful old stone built hotel, The Cobblestone Inn, it was right on the waterfront only a stroll from the ferry terminal. Given the late arrival time we had a drink in “Basil’s Bar” adjacent to the hotel. Basil himself has a more famous bar on Mustique frequented by Royals and Celebrities. There were several ferries to our next destination Bequia pronounced “beck we” but first we headed along the old stone built waterfront buildings and wandered around the market of Kingstown, the very compact capital city.
Bequia – My route south was dictated by the ferry services, I would have liked to visit Mustique but to get further South from there you would have to back track to St Vincent and follow the route I was about to take. It was only a short 1-hour crossing to Bequia and the contrast with St Vincent was marked. This small island of only 4,300 people, boasts some beautiful beaches and green rolling hills in the interior. The island was a favourite haunt of the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret. After locating a beautiful hotel, The Frangipani, set in gardens meandering up a hill, we set off on a local water taxi to a beach bearing the name of its most famous visitor, “ Princess Margaret Beach” where we spent the remainder of the day. The evening was spent at a wooden shack restaurant where we enjoyed fresh cooked fish washed down with Hairoun beer, the local tipple.
Sunday with expats enjoying lunch at one of the beach side restaurants. It would have been foolish not to join them!
I really liked Bequia and wanted to stay longer, however we had to get to Union Island for the Tuesday mail boat to Carriacou and the only ferry service to Union Island to make the mail boat connection was the Monday afternoon hydrofoil. Blue Monday, as I now call it a day to forget. It started with a visit to the hospital as my daughter had allergic reaction to several mosquito bites received during the night. We did manage to fit in a visit to a local turtle sanctuary on the other side of the island before we caught the hydrofoil. The sea in the Caribbean can be rough and today was one of those days. The hydrofoil toilets were in frequent use on the crossing, unfortunately my daughter also got seasick on top of her mosquito bite episode. We had some respite when stopping at Canouan and then Mayreau. I was relieved to see Union island appear in the distance. It rose majestically out of the sea more reminiscent of Rarotonga or French Polynesia.