AS I swung the white Lexus around the next steep corner, I could feel something dripping on my foot. At odd intervals, maybe every 20 minutes, there was just a single drop of clear fluid on my sandaled trotter. Must be water, I thought, and returned to concentrating on the next bend on this narrow coastal road.
At every other turn a red mini-bus — Grenada’s version of Nottingham City Transport — would veer towards us at an unreasonable speed and in the middle of the road.
Grenada, an island smaller than Notts but with a few more bananas, has a single road that follows the coastline. Veer off it and you’ll get lost. Even with a map. You see they don’t do many road signs. Our host had been keen that we go on one of the mini-bus trips around the island. Now we see why.
“You will have trouble finding anything,” he warned. He was right. But what was there to find anyway? A rum factory, sugar plants, a chocolate factory, cocoa plant, a fort... nothing to really entice you away from the picture postcard Grand Anse beach just 60 seconds from our apartment.
Of course, the white sandy beaches, the tepid aqua waters and the year-round sweltering heat is what attracts folk to the Caribbean. So each island competes to attract tourists to its uniqueness. The fact that Grenada is less developed and less tourist savvy than Barbados or Trinidad is its key attraction. You feel like you are in someone else’s country rather than a resort. Cows and goats wander across roads. Villages aren’t full of English bars or American restaurants. They’re for locals not tourists. As you pass through, locals tend to hang around a lot, sitting by the roadside watching the world pass by.
At times they’ll hail you to give them a lift. Schoolchildren in uniform do the same. It’s obviously the culture as few in the villages have their own cars. So, when in Rome....erm, not likely. A natural suspicion of strangers means I feign ignorance and accelerate away. Talking of which, half-way round the island, easing down a steep incline with a few cars backed up behind, I sensed the brakes were a touch spongy. Spotting a lay-by up ahead, I decide to pull in only to find the brakes ineffective and had to skid on the handbrake into the foot of a rock face, with just inches to spare.
“Don’t wish to worry you love, but I think the brake fluid is leaking.” Whether it was, we don’t know. Taking it steady we made it back to our hotel and swapped it for a hipper Jeep.
There’ll be plenty more Jeeps whipping round Grenada in another decade. Tourism growth is part of a long-term plan to boost the economy that is currently based on nutmeg (the world’s second largest supplier); bananas and cocoa. Grenada was actually one of the first islands in the eastern Caribbean to feel the waves of tourism in the 1960s but during the 1970s its people were consumed with the notion of independence and a general strike closed the place down. Independence was granted in 1974. As we are doing the history...
Columbus happened upon the island in 1498 though he didn’t have a proper look round because he missed all the spices and the Carib Indians (some say were cannibals). The last of those were driven over a cliff (Carib’s Leap) by the French 200 years later. The Brits and the French squabbled over the island until the 1783 Treaty of Versailles gave it to the Brits. Less than a decade after independence was granted, the Americans intervened to help quell a Castro-backed uprising.
If you’re worried whether it is safe or not, don’t be. Everyone is genuinely friendly and glad to have you over. Though some are too keen on flogging you T-shirts, sarongs, jewellery, etc. A man with a walking stick sells us hand-carved pendants on the beach, insisting they were made by local blind people, like himself. Though he saw us coming. It DOES get on your nerves and there’s nowhere worse for it than St George, the main town. It is here that all island traffic descends, including cruise liners with thousands of tourists ready for the plucking by local beggars and Del-Boys.
Hopping off a bus, within a minute we were hassled by some idiot trying to convince us to get on his “reggae bus” for a trip into the rainforest and it would cost only one dollar. It had Crimewatch written all over it. After spotting a dead dog lying by the roadside, we decided to scurry back to the bliss of the Grand Anse beach.
We saw C-list celeb couple Vernon Kay and Tess Daly, but it appeared they were too busy worrying about being spotted to enjoy their holiday, scampering into hiding at the sign of any white folk. They were staying on the beach at the Spice Island beach resort, the posher sister hotel of our Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel, just 30 seconds away. The pair are owned by brothers Arnold and Royston Hopkin. All guests get to barbecue at Royston’s lavish home a mile away in the posh district of True Blue. It’s typical of the hospitality.
Blue Horizons is set into the hillside so all apartments are sea facing. And you are on the edge of a rainforest. Not bad, eh? The in-house La Belle Creole restaurant serves incredible food. If you feel like making an effort there are rainforest guided walks, scuba diving, boat trips, whale and dolphin-watching, a rum distillery, nutmeg plant, herb and spice garden. But from sipping rum punch on your seaview balcony to lounging around on the paradise beach there’s little else you really need.