St. Vincent & the Grenadines - a Caribbean gem
With the recent events pushing me forward I can't help feeling like there is something that almost wants me to complete this journey. Or I might just be going mad.
I'm currently lying on my bed in a room below Jennifer's home. It's fairly late, it's really hot, (no - I mean really hot) and outside I can hear someone singing the Bangles "Eternal flame" which echoes through the streets: "Say my name. Sun shines through the rain..."
How did I get here?
When the ferry left St. Georges in Grenada I really felt that I hadn't seen enough.
Well, the ferry from Grenada left on time and I arrived to Carriacou a few hours later. The consensus from some people was that I was better off continuing north with the same ferry to Petite Martinique (PM)...so I did. Now, PM is a lovely island with a really slow and easy going atmosphere. But it wasn't the place to be. I could see Union Island just across the water and it was so close that I almost felt like I could swim it. And Union Island would be a part of St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) which was to become country #65. However there was no immigration office on PM so I couldn't legally cross. But I enjoyed eating a fresh watermelon and talking to various people who had seen me on TV the night before...and many more who had not. One woman even said: "you look much bigger on TV". Classic!! :)
A few pictures from the ferry to PM. Sometimes I think that I was born a few centuries too late.
After looking into my options I finally decided to get on the last ferry that day heading back to Carriacou. My only plan was to sleep there for the night and work out how to get to Union Island the next day. You see, the distances between the islands are so small that it is impossible to imagine that you can't easily find a way across. Worst case you could always build a raft of coconuts and float across.
I met Akeisha on PM and she helped me locate a boat to continue the journey. We spoke to A LOT of boats owners. Then she helped me find a guesthouse on PM and finally when I wasn't staying she helped me to the ferry. She is such a good ambassador for Grenada!
Once on Carriacou someone kind gave me a ride from the port to the main city and I started looking for the immigration office just to orient myself on procedures. Tony, an Australian captain, was dealing with immigration and was having a tough time doing so because he had arrived to the office late which normally doesn't go down well with anyone. Funny thing: when I walked through the door the immigration officers attitude changed. Apparently I was instantly recognized from having been on TV. I'm really not used to that at all. But these micro nations are quite small in population and Grenada has just little more than 100,000 people living on the islands. So if you are on TV you are apparently easily recognized. Anyway - the sudden change of atmosphere within the office worked out to Tonys advantage and that's when the immigration officer looked at Tony and said: "you can take him to SVG! You are going that way anyway!" It did sound a little like an order but I'm sure that the intentions were to help out with "Once Upon a Saga" as much as possible. Tony and I (both somewhat surprised) looked at each other and 10 minutes later I was onboard "Tranquility"...5 minutes later I was steering her!
Somewhat surprised to find myself in charge of the sailboat!! However Tony was nearby.
Tony is the owner and captain of "Tranquility" and had guests onboard; Rachael and Vicky from the UK. Two adventurous good spirited Brits that were having a short break from the north European winter. Tony had been cruising around the Caribbean for 4 years.
Captain Tony (from Australia) and Vicky and Rachael (from the UK)
We made it across to Union Island shortly after sundown and planed to clear with customs and immigration the following morning. The trio invited me to sleep onboard which I gladly accepted. Once we dropped anchor we had a slice of bread and headed towards a small island known as "Happy Island". It's basically a bar surrounded by water. The first people I ran into were Danish. What are the odds of that? However they were leaving so we only had a few brief words together.
Happy island. According to some it is the smallest inhabited island in the world.
I'm not much for drinking. I enjoy a good night out but I'm approaching my 36th year and my hangovers seem to last forever now compared with my youth. That really doesn't go hand in hand with being on a tight schedule and organizing a million things every day. However the first few beers easily found their way to me. Besides, I think there might be a law against Danish people refusing beer? Anyway, I was under the impression that as long as I would stick to beer I would be all right. It got later and I was offered a few puffs of someone's "bush weed" which I declined as I always do. I'm one of the least experienced people on this planet when it comes to any kind of drugs - even the "harmless" ones. The night went on and I was filling up with beer, beer and more beer. Then my judgement went out the window and someone brought me free drinks. I think I remember puffing on some of that "bush weed" at some point? Anyway...I woke up on the boat the next morning.
The irony of clearing with customs and immigration at the airport?
St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG)
Tony and I headed inland to deal with customs and immigration that morning. The irony of having to clear customs and immigration at the airport when you are traveling to every country in the world without flight is mind boggling. I had breakfast at a small roadside café and said goodbye to the trio. While devouring my first real food in 24 hours I slowly started having a conversation with a man at the table next to me. The atmosphere was really easygoing. Everyone was greeting everyone on the street with a casual "ya man". There were more people than cars and generally no real traffic to speak of. The man I spoke with called himself "Obby" and it turned out that he was originally from Germany although I would never have guessed it. He looked like if he was born in the chair he sat in and he was constantly lighting up a cigarette. Obby was no ordinary man. Or perhaps he was but then the world is truly magnificent. Obby had been a pilot in the Caribbean back when skill meant more than the instruments in front of you. He had a past as an explosives expert at a goldmine somewhere in Africa. He also had long ago been a captain on various ships and had sailed the 7 seas several times. Somehow he ended up also having a small 3 second part as an actor in the one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And looking at his face you could easily fit him into the East Indian Trading Company back in the 1500's.
Oh yeah...I forgot: Obby also did this Mural which was on the wall next to the café.
I ended up spending 7 hours at the breakfast café speaking with Obby and watching as life passed by in the dusty atmosphere around us. Every so often it would rain for a little while and much more often than that Obby would nod his head at someone on the street and say: "ya man". Somehow I felt like I learned more about the Caribbean within those 7 hours than I ever could in a lifetime.
Lambi is a heavy set guesthouse owner on Union Island who here is leading me up the stairs to my room. He is a great guy with an outstanding personality and true island spirit!
I spent a few days on Union Island as I had a long overdue "Reddit session" which I had been planing for a while. I wanted it to take place on a Sunday and Union Island was perfect. Reddit is an online platform within social media where I can correspond with strangers from all over the world and let them know about "Once Upon a Saga". I have done it twice before: once in Greenland and once in Panama. In both prior occasions I had raised awareness about the project within roughly 200-300 people by posting: "Hi, I’m travelling to EVERY single country in the world in a single UNBROKEN JOURNEY, without airplanes. Ask me anything!"
Someone on Reddit sent me this picture depicting Thor on a bear = Thorbear = Torbjørn
This time was slightly different. I had found an internet connection at the local boating club and I set up my iPad at the bar. From there I could order tea all day and hopefully also get some food. Because I remembered the session in Panama being quite hectic with around 11 hours of answering hundreds of questions and having very little food. I don't know what made this time different but I received thousands of questions and I hammered away on the small glass keyboard as fast as I could in order to comply with the many answers I tried to give out. Hectic does not describe it! I'm sure that everyone else at the bar found me to be unsocial as I kept typing away while the sun moved from one side of the sky to the other. Before the day was over another 10,000 people had subscribed to the various social media and 6 news agencies had contacted my long time friend and press officer for this project for interviews. In the following days "Once Upon a Saga" was featured in more than 20 newspapers, blogs and other online mentionings. And here I expected to have another 200-300 people join the adventure? Hmmmm.
"Once Upon a Saga" is now followed and supported by people from more than 86 countries around the world!!
As I boarded a ferry to Saint Vincent the next day the numbers kept climbing and the attention kept growing. I couldn't help to feel some amount of stage fright. Who were all these people?? What do they expect from me?
It has been a few days now and I have gotten use to the increased amount of support for the project. It is still growing day by day and I must admit that I am much more careful with spell checking before I post anything. But all in all I'm still me and I'm still doing what I was doing last month and the months before that. I cannot do a Reddit session about the same thing any more often than every 3rd month. And I feel that it is timely enough :)
The wining continues throughout the Caribbean.
Kingstown is the capital of SVG and it is a nice little place in superb surroundings. The green hills climb up on all sides of Kingstown apart from the bay which meets with the light blue ocean. The city itself is populated by about 20-25,000 people and really feels a lot more like a village. People nod politely and say hello to you as you walk down the street. And while it isn't exactly a "everyone knows everyone" situation you can be sure that there is not much more than 1 link between yourself and whoever you need. Kingstown itself has a wonderful mix of the old and the new. It's known as the city of arches and it's not without reason. The brick walls and passageways are mostly constructed with arches and it's pretty cool to walk around and be a part of it.
The Red Cross has been a huge help for me here. It comes naturally I guess since they know everyone and know about anything I need. So the Red Cross set me up with Jennifer or Jen as everyone calls her. Jen has a house with a guest room and though I'm paying more than my daily budget allows I feel like this is probably my best and cheapest option. Besides, I feel like the long lost son of Jen and she takes really good care of me.
Bernhard or BT as he likes to be called is my main contact at the Red Cross here in Georgetown. He is a very cool guy who has been attached to the Red Cross since he was a child. That is many years ago now and he is a seasoned individual who cannot walk 10 steps down a street without having to say hello to 20 people. BT has set me up with a freight ship which departs for Barbados every Monday. So that provided me with a weeks "rest" on a tropical island in the Caribbean. Life is tough ;)
It's getting close to midnight. Someone is strangling a cat or perhaps it's karaoke night and some woman is filling the night with her voice and songs from the 80s. You can hear the crickets chirping away outside and it's too hot to think straight. This isn't even the warm season yet...
If there is something I have noticed that the first 3 countries I have visited within the Caribbean have in common then it is this: constant laughter, joking, teasing and kidding is always around. I suspect it will continue like this for some time to come...
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - tired, but happy ;)