23 August 2007 | Grenada
After being in Grenada for three weeks we decided that it was time to see the island. Liz on Aratinga organizes trips to the Friday Fish Fry in Gouyave and also sets up island tours. I have never met Liz but she is very kind in helping out the visiting cruisers through the Grenada Cruisers Net (VHF68 M-S at 7:30AM).
We were joined by two other couples and a single hander. One couple from England on Turtle, the single hander from Saint Thomas USVI, and the other couple, circumnavigators Marvin and Ann, from Saint John USVI. Marvin and Ann took off for the South Pacific from the west coast of the US in a home made trimaran in the 60s! I asked Marvin a lot of questions about his travels. Things were very different then. Have compass and sextant will travel. No one knew about storm season or El Niño, and GPS, satellite weather and the rest were a long way off. Voyaging to distant lands took an awful lot of courage in those days.
Our tour guide and driver was Chris, apparently filling in for the usual guy who was on vacation. We visited the rain forest in the national park and saw some of the monkeys there along with vistas of the volcanic crater lake and the Atlantic Coastline.
Our next stop was the Rivers Rum distillery which I highly recommend. The distillery operates in exactly the same fashion as it did decades ago. The Rum is made from sugar cane grown locally and crushed by a water wheel driven mill. The initial boilers are heated by bagas (the dried cane husks) and a bit of wood or other fuel. The bagas is heaped into huge piles all over the place. Some of it is tilled back under as mulch. The boiled cane juice is enriched with molasses if need be and pumped into concrete vats (the old wood vats became too expensive to maintain) and allowed to ferment. No yeast is added, they simply allow the airborne yeast (and whatever else is in the vicinity) to take hold and do its thing. After eight days of fermenting the fermented cane juice is distilled using three wood fired boilers. The resulting Rum is tested for specific gravity and if it is found to contain less than 75% alcohol it goes back for another round of distillation. Apparently the 75% stuff is illegal to take on a flight so they make a weaker 68% variety to just squeak under the aviation limits. The vintage process is amazing to watch but I would not want to have to imbibe any large quantity of the results.
We also stopped by the Nutmeg co-op. There are several co-ops of this sort on the island. The one we visited employed eight people. Prior to hurricane Ivan's devastation the facility employed 140 individuals. The country is at 10% of its previous production yet they still rate third in the world.
A high priority stop for the chocolate lovers was the Cocoa plantation. The Grenada Chocolate Company is no longer open for tours but the plantation provides a full perspective of the process from pods on the tree through to the production of chocolate and Coco Tea (a spicy Granadian Hot Chocolate).
We had lunch at a nice little place called Good Food in Grenville. They happened to have Oil Down, the national Grenadian dish, and it was quite tasty. Oil Down is hard to come by because, as I understand it, it is typically made at home and takes a fair amount of effort.
The balance of the trip included seeing various sights and stopping at vista points along the way. Grenada is a lovely island and the people are very kind and friendly. Our day long tour was well worth the time spent.