Prickly Bay where we initially anchored in Grenada should be called Sickly Bay because it is so rolly you can get seasick at anchor! After day of very hot walking all over southern Grenada between the US Consulate and a passport photo shop we were able to move the boat around to a place called Hogg Island. We had heard it was a good anchorage but had no idea just how great a place it really was. There were reefs all over the place surrounding the entrance but once inside it was blissfully calm and there seemed to be a flag of every nation on the boats anchored there. The place is like a floating UN with boats from all over Europe, South Africa, Argentina, Canada and the US. The cruiser community here is the strongest we have ever seen with a huge network that covers anchorages for miles in each direction. There are also dinghy passages inside the reefs that allow you to get all over the place to other anchorages and small marinas each boasting the best of one thing or another. Secret Harbor was the place to catch the cruisers’ bus for grocery store runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. Whisper Cove for the best filtered water and a great butcher. La Phaer Blue marina for two-for-one pizza night. Clarks Court Bay for yoga and tai chi classes on the beach and a weekly book swap. The daily cruisers net kept you up to speed on all the happenings and daily specials.
There is also a wonderful little rum shack on the beach of Hogg Island run by Roger. Each day many of the cruisers would gather here for cocktails and to swap stories. The community here welcomed us on Day One and treated us like family. There were many couples and families who had put down roots in this special place and it’s easy to see how folks could spend 15 or more years there. Being south of the hurricane belt, many cruisers base themselves here and then travel up and down the island chain. Others use Trinidad as a base, further south unfortunately than we will make it this year.
While in Grenada with time on our hands we decided to rent a car for 2 days to try and explore the island on our own. A nice lady came with a small Mitsubishi car and met me at a marina close by. I gave her some cash and a ride back into town, but should have asked for a good road map of the island. None of the roads are labeled in Grenada and they drive on the left. We had an old map (we happened to pick it up when at the embassy) that showed where major roads should be, but many had been added since the map was printed. Also Hurricane Ivan did a tremendous amount of damage to the island and much of it has still not been repaired. This was my first time driving a right hand drive car, fortunately it was an automatic! The first day with the car we traveled up the windward side of the island getting lost a few times but eventually managing to find the Belmont Estate which is home to the Grenada Chocolate Company. Here they grow organic cocoa on a plantation that has been in operation since the late 1600’s and it’s processes are virtually unchanged. We toured the plantation and watched first hand as the cocoa was taken from harvest to chocolate bar. We bought a few bars even though we are not huge chocolate fans, well except the kids that is… They produce chocolate here in concentrations from 60% cocoa to 100%, we found the 60% bars to be the most tasty. The 100% bars are strictly for cooking or true chocolate fanatics.
After exploring the plantation and lunch we made our way to the top of the island to place known as the Caribs Leap. It was here that the Carib Indians made their last stand against the Europeans. A dramatic cliff towers above the ocean here and waves crash on rocks below. The Caribs upon the realization of their defeat chose to leap off the cliffs to their death instead of being captured.
We continued along the North Coast of Grenada looking for a hot spring we saw on the map but were unable to locate. From here we drove down the west or leeward coast of the island to small town known as Concord. Here at the end of a steep windy road is a beautiful waterfall and a trail that leads to an upper set of falls. We found a local guide and his 4 year old son to take us there. Upon reaching the upper falls we swam in the cool pool at the base. A few pictures came out but unfortunately the battery in the camera died. We finished the day by driving down the rest of the leeward or west coast of the island and back to Hogg Island.
The next day we took the car up to the Grand Etang National Forest and hiked a trail that surrounds the crater lake. The freshwater lake is about 3,000 above sea level here and the trail was spectacular with lush rainforest.
Max unfortunately slipped on the trail and ended up knee deep in mud. He was pretty upset at this so we used the majority of our water bottle to clean him up. Luckily it was a short hike and at elevation it was cool.
Leaving the crater lake we headed north in search of lunch. We found that by using the google maps feature on my iPhone in conjunction with the paper map we were able to mostly figure out where we were on the map and navigate accordingly. The phone had no signal but the gps component was able to place us on the map. Asking locals for directions was pointless as none we met had ever studied basic geography and could not read a map or give advice using cardinal directions. The two times we tried asking for directions we got completely wrong advice and discovered we were better off trying to find our own way.
Heading north through the interior of the island we attempted to take a main road out to the west coast. We found the turn and proceeded up into the hills. After a while the road began to progressively deteriorate and we began to question our directions. According to the map we should have been on a major road, (major means paved in Grenada). We pushed on slowly as the road got worse and worse and we began to fear we were going to get stuck as the little Mitsubishi car had very little ground clearance and the road was washed out in many places. Steep cliffs dropped off in other areas and eventually we stopped as the road ahead looked impassable. I got out and looked around. There was no way to turn around and the prospect of driving in reverse for that distance was not a good option. We were way out in the countryside at this point with next to no water and zero food. I walked a bit ahead and decided we might be able to make it and would press on in hopes of the road improving. We had found the day before that there were sections of the main roads that had been washed away or destroyed by Ivan and simply not replaced so we hoped that this section would pass and we would get back on pavement. Eventually the road got a little better and we started entering banana farms and other signs of civilization.
Gradually the road improved until we were back on pavement and headed in what we thought was the right direction. A comforting sign was seeing other cars in driveways and not simply 4×4 vehicles! Our newfound enthusiasm was quickly dashed as we rounded a turn and found the road ahead completely gone where a raging river had washed out a bridge. Local rastas at a roadside bar simply chanted “gotta go back the way you come, mon…” None of us relished the thought of a return trip on the same tattered road so we decided to try one of the turns we had recently passed. Here we were able to wind through more farmland and eventually up some steep mountains and out to the coast! Everyone was happy to be able to see the sea again. Down into the small town of Victoria and onto the coast road. Local advice was sought on a good spot for lunch and the next town south Gouyave was the suggestion. At this point a cold beer was in order followed by a tasty lunch and time to reflect on the aforementioned adventure. Getting lost and nearly perishing in the wilderness of Grenada we decided was just part of the journey, but next time we would rent a jeep! Back down the coast and into St. Georges for a grocery run before dropping off the rental car. Ok, so the Grenada version of dropping off the rental car? Leaving it in a parking lot with the keys under the floor mat, making sure to leave the tank as empty as when you found it. No credit card swiped for a deposit, no forms to fill out. Just cash up front and smile.
We spent a few more days in Hogg Island and after 7 days the Consulate emailed us with news that Max’s passport had arrived. They advised it was faster than if we had been in the US and I believe it. To celebrate we took the dinghy over to La Phaer Blue for two-for-one pizza night. The 2 mile trip involves avoiding some reefs but the cruisers have put out small solar powered lights to mark the dinghy channel through the reef. We cleared out with Customs and Immigration and made a plan to sail to Bequia at dawn.