A voyage to St. Lucia with a captain that doesn't like me.
The hospitality in the Caribbean is unbelievable. There really isn't much more to say about that. It's a fact.
So with St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) behind me I have arrived safely to St. Lucia making my journey 1 country closer to home. But let me tell you a little about how the week went.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines:
BT finally gave up on finding me a vessel. So he opted for the weekly cargo ship which departs every Tuesday from SVG to St. Lucia. However that meant 6 more days in SVG. It's a spectacular country of extraordinary beauty...however I get restless when I'm not moving forward. Perhaps it has been coded into my DNA over the past 14 months which I have spent traveling and traveling and traveling....
The days went by. And in all honestly I wasn't the adventurer who saw every extra second as an opportunity to discover more culture. I spent a fair amount of time watching movies online or various YouTube videos. I skipped a few meals and slept a great deal. I did find it within me to walk around in the streets for a while every day. But I never left Kingstown which I regret a little. Because there is always more to see and people to meet.
Walking the streets of Kingstown.
I was somewhat frustrated with waiting all this time. Mainly because the next country, St. Lucia, is so close that it is visible from Saint Vincent. And I had no doubt that lots of small boats must be making that short trip all the time. However South America is a huge supplier of illegal drugs and they channel these drugs through the Caribbean islands. Some say that the drugs go on small boats from Saint Vincent to St. Lucia and that weapons come back in return. BT was, without mentioning any of this, most likely protecting me from getting on a "bad boat" where I risk everything going wrong. So he arranged for my passage on a "safe boat".
One evening Bernard Morgan, the president of SVG Red Cross, picked me up for a little drive. We met with a few of the underprivileged people and handed out clothes to them. Then we picked his daughter up and brought her home to his private residence. I met the family and Mr. Morgan and I sat on the porch from where you could overlook all of Kingstown. The sun quietly came down and I was served a delicious curry chicken with white rice. It turned out that Mr. Morgan had cooked it him self and to me that was a honor which I really appreciated.
I folded a paper rose from a paper napkin and gave it to Mr. Morgans granddaughter. Soon Mrs. Morgan stood at my side and wanted to know how I did I that. So I created a few more in my "impromptu rose folding school". I sometimes wonder how many paper roses I have created throughout the years. And if there are people out there that have kept any?
Mr. Morgan and I set out for one last adventure after dinner. The evening time is really when the city comes alive. People are everywhere. The music changes as you pass by various groups of people and there is always laughter in the air.
We stopped by a small beach. There were a few small boats and a group of people who were enjoying a BBQ. A man approached and he was the community leader. Mr. Morgan and the leader spoke about ins and outs - the ups and downs. The government had decided to build a stone and dirt platform which ran from land and almost all the way down to the water. Apparently the government had not consulted with the community leader which is a clear sign of disrespect. Probably in reality born out of ignorance. But respect is everything in a small society. Everyone is the king of something. Perhaps the king of a beach, a block, a desk or a driveway. And in reality maybe not. But perception is reality and if you do not take a few minutes to respect the people in the area where you are then you might find yourself sailing against the wind some day. Because everything is connected. It's kind of complicated. It's very Caribbean.
Arriving to Port Elizabeth, Bequia.
Monday morning, the day before the cargo ship was to depart, I got on the ferry to the nearby Island of Bequia. It's the largest of the Grenadines and a picture perfect island at its best. It used to be home to some notorious pirates and some historians credit it as the base for Edward Teach (Blackbeard). The "Melinda 2" was scheduled for departing from Bequia the next day and BT had arranged for me to be on it.
My link between SVG & St. Lucia.
The "Melinda 2" is owned by Oren King and he lives on Bequia. So I was looking forward to meeting him and saying thank you. For some reason I pictured him as some big fat guy in a white suit with a classical old fashion colonial look and ambiance. Especially because he is also the owner of the "Admiral Bay 2" which brought me to Barbados...and a week later brought me back. So when the ferry after the short voyage had arrived that was my intention. But the first thing I spotted at the port was the "Melinda 2". So I thought to myself: "I might as well just ask what time we are leaving tomorrow"? A grumpy man sitting on the boat was ready to turn me down even before I had a chance to say hello. I figure that a lot of these ships must get all sorts of requests all the time and that they are fed up with it. I tried with a smile but it was obvious that he did not like me from the beginning. "We don't take passengers!!". "No no, of course not" I replied "I realize that, however arrangements were made last week with Mr. King and the Red Cross". The man grunted: "which Mr. King?". I didn't know the answer at the time so I simply replied that I wasn't in the conversation - but that I would get confirmation. And then I left.
BT had also arranged for me to contact father Weekes of the Anglican Church. Father Weekes would set me up with a bed for the night. I quickly found the church and asked for father Weekes. But I was told that father Weekes had left the island to go to the mainland (which I just came from). He wouldn't be returning for a few days...
I do love how I can get fresh coconut juice every day.
Everything was falling apart on me. No boat, no bed, no luck? Apparently the church assistant would come to the office an hour later so I went for breakfast in the meanwhile.
It all worked out. The assistant knew that I was to head up to Rose, an American woman, who had spent 30 years on the island. Rose was a sweet "American" woman from Ohio who set me up with a bed in an apartment under her house. She has a micro bakery (if there ever was such a thing) and supplies a few places with baked goods. Rose was sweet as can be and gave me a banana bread and then my privacy for the rest of the day.
My bed at Rose's place.
The rest of the day went with getting confirmed that I was going to be on that boat! I finally got the name and number of Mr. King but he was not answering the phone. Eventually after several hours I got though to him and we had a short talk. To my surprise this Oren was the same Oren who was the captain on the "Admiral Bay 2". I only spoke briefly with him and never realized that his last name was King and that he was the owner?! I felt a little stupid and tried to think back but could quickly assure myself that I had been both polite and kind. On the phone he told me that he would have loved to talk to me but that I was sleeping all the time :) I don't know why I would think Oren was some old fashion colonial type in a white suit. I was dead wrong and had missed my opportunity to say thank you in person. But now I could go back to the "Melinda 2" and confirm to the grumpy man that it had been arranged with Mr. Oren King. However there was no one on the boat anymore...
Hanging out under a tree waiting for midday. That's "Melinda 2" on the right.
The next morning I got to the boat early and found the man sitting there all alone without a shirt. This did NOT make the man like me any more than the day before. I said "good morning" and he replied: "I JUST ARRIVED ON THE BOAT!! CANT YOU WAIT?! I ALREADY TOLD YOU THAT WE ARE NOT LEAVING UNTIL THIS EVENING!!" I couldn't stop myself from smiling due to the absurdity of the situation and replied: "I simply said good morning? What time would you like me to come back?" "BE BACK AT MIDDAY!!" He said. It turned out that he was the captain.
I had a lovely time on Bequia. I would certainly love to see more of the island and I treated myself to a spectacular meal of fresh kingfish with vegetables. An unbelievably good meal!! I spoke with a lot of people on the island. Lots of small talk and then finally I boarded the "Melinda 2" and we left for St. Lucia.
The crews bunks. Mine was the floor. Limited quarters.
I did my best to stay out the captains way although he was laughing and joking with others as we left port. I just had a feeling that it would make him happy not to see me. Everyone else from the crew were genuine good guys and nice company. They really took good care of me and the cook, who was deaf, communicated a lot with me in which ever way we could after I gave him the banana bread I got from Rose. I slept on the floor of the kitchen that night on some sticky isolation wrapping. Some insects bit me during the night and I was happy to get "out of bed" the next morning.
In reality we arrived to the southern part of St. Lucia at 10:30pm the night before. But there is no way to clear customs and immigration that late. The boat trip between the 2 countries was very pleasant. Everyone had gone to bed but I sat at the stern looking at the millions of stars when I noticed something strange?! As the water behind the ship was stirred up by the propeller I could see small "stars" in the water?? It became clearer to me that this was some form of bioluminescent activity...but it was absolutely magical!! THIS is the stuff I travel for!! :)
Vieux Fort is in the south of St. Lucia. And we had arrived to port Vieux Fort. I shook the captains hand as I left the ship and waved goodbye to the crew. The customs office in the port told me to go to immigration. Immigration was closed. I was told to wait. After 20 minutes I had enough of that and I was told to go to the airport as the immigration officers most likely were not coming to the port. The guard at the gate wouldn't let me out of the port until they had the crew list. And they wouldn't let me leave my bags at the gate for 5 minutes, while I did their job and headed back to customs for the crew list. Somewhat irritated by this I met a customs officer who did his outmost to help me catch a free ride to the airport. He even lent me his phone so I could call the Red Cross. So St. Lucia was quickly back on my good side again :) A country is the people that resides within.
The immigration officers at the airport were very cool!! I left smiling...big time. Outside the terminal I met a DHL chauffeur who offered to give me a lift? So I took it. He had seen me at the port and left me at a nearby bus station from where I could get a minibus to the capital, which is at the north of St. Lucia, and is called Castries. That was only a 45 minute drive. Another small country.
From my first 2 days here I can once again state that the Caribbean countries are home to some amazingly beautiful landscape. I can't walk anywhere without randomly talking to friendly people on the streets. Tourism is a big thing here and today 4 large cruise ships were docked in Castries which creates a lot of traffic in the city. It's a well kept city too. St. Lucia looks like a country that takes pride in esthetics. The houses are neatly painted, the roads are in fair condition, there are lots of flowers and small gardens but they drive like little maniacs :)
Mr. Hubert Pierre at the recording studio.
I had my eye set on a hostel which had the cheapest room I could find: usd 30/night. However Mr. Hubert Pierre of the St. Lucia Red Cross just happened to have a place for me which I could rent for usd 30/night. Mr. Pierre is another man of the world. Especially this little world and he prefers to drive around because if he walks then he will meet too many people who know him. He drove me up to his house. Underneath his house there is a luxurious apartment which I now have for usd 30/night. It sits halfway up a mountain with a spectacular view over the bay and city. He is into a lot of things and the music playing from the speakers of his car was his own. No, I mean it was really his own! He was the one singing! And he was playing it out loud :) It turns out that he is a poet, a former football coach, the singer in a calypso band and a lot more I suspect! It's a little bit weird that he drives around listening to his own music...but there are some catchy tunes and I couldn't help myself singing along: "we got to make a change, we got to rearrange. Babadubadubada". It's happy music and he is a very friendly and helpful guy.
My involvement with people from the Red Cross has been off the charts throughout the last few countries. I feel that I am being carried around. The Red Cross arranges for the press, for where I am staying, for a few cultural events and for my onward travel. It used to be that I did everything on my own and then briefly visited the Red Cross. I suppose it's not the Red Cross per say - it's much more likely that it is the Caribbean hospitality and I just so happen to met the people from the Red Cross first.
It shouldn't be this difficult. It's right there!!
It suits me right now because I have my mind deeply dug into the conundrum of how I will solve Cuba? I think I will be able to get to Cuba from Jamaica with relative ease. But I am having a hard time seeing how I will get from there to the Bahamas. I might need to go from Cuba to Cancun in Mexico so that I can go to Ft. Lauderdale from where I should be able to go to the Bahamas. But there is a lot of travel in that and a lot of "if and perhaps". Sometimes the world makes no sense...it's just islands and the physical distance is next to nothing.
I don't know if I can rely on the Caribbean magic and a lot of smiling. You see...my girlfriend has her ticket booked for arrival to the Bahamas on January 20th...and that is still 8 countries away.
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - living in the future of how I can keep moving forward.