Tuesday, September 22, 2009

St Kitts & Nevis

I was deposited in St. Kitts at around nine thirty at night. The one and a half mile taxi ride into town cost $10.
Glimbaro’s Guest House was small and dark. Outside everything was small and darker. As I was checking in a prostitute kept coming downstairs and asking for a different room for her ‘boyfriend’. I went upstairs to my room, a small cubicle with a fan that didn’t work, an a/c that barely did, a sheet that didn’t fit on the tiny slat bed, and no hot water. I fell asleep.
The next morning the outside was laid back and funky, thrown together wooden like the Caribbean should be. I went out looking for new accommodations.
I found them down by the waterfront. Glimbaro’s had been $41. For $55 at the Seaview I got a room as nice as the one I had had in St Martin. Clean and big and cable TV.
I needed some comfort, since today, September 16, was Heroes Day, a holiday not covered in any book or on any website. This as distinguished from September 19 in three days, which was Independence Day. At any rate, everything in town was closed up tighter than Sunday in Marigot. No restaurants or grocery stores open. No minibuses running anywhere. Hmmm. Well, at least there was a KFC next door, so worst case scenario I could always have some biscuits…
I strolled around downtown Basseterre, the capital. There were several nicely slatted buildings, but everything was slightly, or not so slightly, ramshackle, low, low key Caribbean. The few people on the street were very slow and friendly. Nothin’ goin’ on.
Since I couldn’t get around St Kitts today, I decided to take the ferry over to Nevis, the smaller island in this two island country. Not many ferries running, either, but at one I boarded a little funky one, and in less than an hour I was disgorged in Charlestown, the capital of Nevis.
Basseterre had been a bustling metropolis compared to here. Especially on a closed down, shuttered up holiday. I walked from one end to the other and back again. One of the only cars on the street, a beat up taxi with a beat up guy inside, stopped. The guy charmingly noted that I was a stranger in town, and started mentioning places he could take me, seeing as I was obviously just there for a couple of hours. I blew him off, but then asked him how much to circumnavigate Nevis. I got him down to $20, and off we went.
Chattering away, he took me to every sight to possibly see, and in little more than an hour, including a stop for ice cream, we were back at the ferry. Plenty of time for the four o’clock sailing back to St. Kitts.
For dinner I had the option of KFC, Subway, or Domino’s. Those were the only three places open in the entire town. A basic Subway sandwich was $12. Everything is expensive in the Caribbean. Even for locals. But Domino’s had a large mushroom special for $10. I took it back to my room, where it was surprisingly delicious.
Thursday morning I wandered over to the car rental place. $55 for one day. Plus $25 for a local drivers license. Plus taxes. Plus gas. I got on a minibus and went a third of the way around the island for $1.
The one reason to rent a car would be to drive all the way to the volcanic plug on which sits St Kitts biggest tourist attraction. I figured, what the hell, I could walk.
It was a long, hot, steep walk, only partially shaded. When I paid my entrance fee and emerged at the top, I was at the ramparts of the Brimstone Hill Fortress, once the Gibraltar of the Caribbean.
It was still kind of impressive, what with all the requisite rusty cannons and such. It was even nicer looking out over the placid greenery of St Kitts below me. All bucolic and yesteryear-y I was pretty much by myself for the next hour or two, with only the occasional tourist minibus pulling up with a couple of tourists inside.
As I started to finally walk down, one of those minibuses stopped and asked if I wanted a ride to the bottom. I turned them down, thinking that I would instead be taking a leisurely descending stroll. Big mistake. As on Saba, the steepness was extremely painful on my thighs. And you wouldn’t think that the 1 pm heat would be that much greater than the 10 am heat, but it was. I kept turning back, looking upwards, and wondering how I had ever walked up.
I finally made it down to the main road, got a large Gatorade at a small gas station, and downed it in one and a half gulps. Then I stood there waiting for one of the informal minibuses to drive by and continue my clockwise tour of the island. A couple of bus rides and not much more than an hour or so later I had completed the circuit and was back in Basseterre. I made it back to my room and took a quick air conditioned nap.
After that there wasn’t much to do except walk around the little park, walk along the little waterfront. Downtown Basseterre isn’t really even one good square block. But I was quite enjoying St. Kitts. Absolutely nothing seemed to be happening. Absolutely nobody seemed to care. And I was totally fine with that.