Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chasing the Tobago Cays…

(Adapted from my Travelogue) by Marlon. L. Joseph, Hospitality Officer, St. Vincent & the Grenadines Tourism Authority

By now we had dropped the sail and our windward bounce had been reduced to a somnolent mechanical cruise.  There were only whispering splashes as the double keeled SUN SPIRIT cut a foaming white path in the blue wilderness before us. Amazingly, we had all fallen silent and our eyes were fastened forward as we awaited the transcendent grandeur our skipper had promised. Glasses of rum punch were quickly traded for digital cameras and any gadget capable of offering proof that “I’ve been there, seen that!”  Even the raucous “soca” music had suddenly ceased to exist leaving our lucky ears hostage to the smooth swoosh of sharp keel slicing through tender swells until…

 “Oh my god! Is this place for real?!” A voice squealed with delight kicking off a responsive chorus of “oohs” and “awwws” just before the skipper’s voice broke in with pedantic courtesy: “ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Tobago Cays marine park”.

I felt myself becoming a child again…like those days when enchanted by Christian Hans Andersen’s fairy tales I dreamt of a land of endless wonder: houses of ginger bread against a forest of cotton candy at the edge of a lake of butter-scotched ice-cream.  It was that kind of enchantment that overtook me now...

Can sand be so white like young grains of corn? Can water be so glamorous, silver dazzling across sapphire with such splendid fervor as if an ancient treasure box belonging to some decadent pirate had finally split, exposing its blinding contents? Can these five islets flaunting their fluorescent green in this marine veld be anything but a mirage spurred by my thirst for fantasy? Or may be, quite simply, I had too much rum punch!  But moments like these in places like this must not be wasted on logic: the art of enjoyment is too simple and the time to enjoy oneself too little. Answers were therefore, irrelevant.

I just wanted the powdered clouds to continue their nomadic journeys farther south, deserting my overhead space, leaving only blue blazing tundra and birds sailing into vague. I wanted the turtles to continue floating to the glittery surface with deceptive paper weight, insisting we join them for a swim, this insistence mouthed through fleeting but frequent eye contact, hawkish and lateral, frivolous and curious ending with my body nestled in the supple grip of the waves playing hide and seek with these reptilian cuties and then having resorted to luxurious fatigue, lounge and watch crabs wearing helmets run about on a hermit- planet of pink and purple shells in a beach-white universe…

And already I was feeling sad for the SUN SPIRIT and others like it, those faithful yachts in bridal white, sleek and sweet within this placid aisle, abandoned by men gone on land to frolic with bromeliads on trails of wild romance, to return at dusk with a new bride in their hearts: “the Tobago Cays Marine Park”

ABOVE: lovely Jamesby, one of five islets that make up the Tobago Cays

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

La Soufriere : A Priceless Journey



(An excerpt from my personal Travelogue) by Marlon. L. Joseph, Hospitality Officer, St. Vincent & the Grenadines Tourism Authority

The bamboo leaves are loyal to our trudge, sacrificing themselves as rugs to cushion our feet. On either side of us the branches embrace to repel the scorch of the sun thereby giving us cool passage. But there are times when the bamboos are not as selfless; when they are more self- indulgent. Those are the times when they click like voices mired in the breeze or their swooshing breath is echoed like a crescendo of snores.  We climb with the wind sweeping uphill. The same wind that contributes to the illusion of snowfall afar off, as the white underside of a fleet of Trumpet Bush are exposed.  Below us, within a steeping ravine, a black hawk is suspended in flight. We watch the black shadow glide at ease above a narrow stream and we suggest that it is hunting for crabs. The hunter and the hunted paired in this wilderness of conveniences! The birds are never silent. What songs do they sing? What stories do they tell? All we know is that their language is music and they speak in choruses.

Suddenly, a Bull Finch appears in our path: a shiny black bird with a bright orange crest. We know from its stunning beauty that it is male. In the world of birds males are more beautiful than females because it is their duty to attract. And with such beauty, how can they not flutter in the vista of many hearts? Green Helicones are protruding from the varnished bark of Pine trees like the funnels of measuring cups,trapping rain water,attracting tree frogs whose droppings are then digested by the leaves, engendering sprawling growth and strongly recommending to my daunting curiosity, the theory of Intelligent Design. There is a decisive hand in nature, there are no random occurrences, I ponder as I tackle the winding path. Farther up, we behold Begonias in full bloom.  Their bright pink petals suggesting that we are in a floral boutique where the necessary trading apparatus are nothing but our eyes. We pay them our attention and they happily dance for us and for a moment we ponder on the existence of such genteel creatures in such a hardened place.  But we have left them behind and we are now standing in a clearing where the forest lies beneath us. We look down upon the blinding green patina of trees.  We see the village of Georgetown seated at the instep of the Atlantic Ocean and with great fascination we watch the multitude of silver house roofs break onto the shore of the mountain we have ascended. To our right, the crowning landscape splits into three mighty peaks elegantly punctuated by valleys: “Brisbane,Guru,Bonhomme!”  We call their names and watch them respond with motionless fortitude.  

“This is Jacob’s Well,” our guide draws our attention to a gorge casted in molten rock that bears a shiny resemblance to zinc . It is fenced by foliage including plants bearing tiny red berries. The berries are delicious. Also visible are fern trees that declare themselves like prehistoric graffiti on the vast mountainside to the East. I imagine that an aquatic dinosaur once lifted its head from the neighboring blue Atlantic and nibbled upon the mountain vines that look so much like sea weed.  I stop to admire the strawberry flower shaped like a red heart with a yellow pouting beaker.  Now the mountain before us is rising to our breasts. The path is a chaos of options. It is no longer narrow and structured. It is wide open and encumbered with rocks. Here you choose your own path: digress to the right or left, go ahead, turn back.  Now the soil is sagging like a stony beach. We can almost hear our muscles and sinews cry out as they tighten in revolt against almost two hours of constant climbing.  We can feel the grey granite soil in our shoes. There is ice in the breeze wheezing about us. There is yearning in our hearts and frantic urgency in our bones like men lost at sea suddenly energized by the sight of birds that promises the emergence of what they seek. And now, the smell of sulfur! Certainly, we are nearing the crater! Amidst the excitement I am thinking of the Kalinago, the Garifuna, and the derring –do- minded Europeans of centuries past who must have ascended this mountain before us perhaps, in search of sacramental tranquility, swashbuckling adventure or may be just to pander to the kind of wanderlust that drove Marco Polo and Columbus. Yet in spite of such recurring human contact, La Soufriere remains an immaculate character that seduces us into thinking that the poet John Keats was perfectly correct when he concluded in his poem ENDYMION, that “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

An SVG favourite – Breadfruit

An SVG favourite – Breadfruit
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines we can’t have enough breadfruit!  As part of the national dish, it is a favourite amongst Vincentians and a must for travellers to our beautiful country.  The tasty dish comprises of roasted breadfruit and fried jack fish.  If you haven’t tried either of these, the best way to describe it is ‘a doughy bread’ but with much more moisture, even when roasted in the oven.  It makes our mouths water just thinking about it.  Wrapping the crushed leaves to the head also serves a practical purpose as a headache remedy- a must after over indulging in rum cocktails...

It’s fair to say that breadfruit has not always been the flavour of the month in SVG.  As the story goes, breadfruit came into the West Indies from Tahiti by Captain William Bligh on his second voyage to the South Pacific in 1793 with his main intention to feed the slaves but the slaves didn’t like the taste so it was consumed by livestock instead.  However, slowly but surely its popularity grew and grew and now Vincentians just can’t eat enough of what is now considered a national delicacy! 

The best thing about bread fruit?  You can try it any time of day – morning, noon or night.  How many foods can you think of that can be made into soups or chips as well as boiled, steamed, roasted, fried or even made into a punch?  We would argue that breadfruit is one of the most versatile foods in the world and of course the most delicious! If we have tempted you to try breadfruit you’ll be pleased to hear that this August you can try up 25 different varieties of breadfruit at the annual SVG Breadfruit festival.

Sail away in SVG...

Sail away in SVG...

If you have a sense of adventure and love to explore in style sailing around the 32 islands  and cays of St. Vincent and the Grenadines could be the ideal option.  For those seeking privacy and the possibility of uncovering a private island to inhabit for the day, opt for a private yacht which is by far one of the most peaceful ways to see SVG. 

Sail away in SVG...out a yacht and being let loose in the Caribbean all alone may prove a little daunting so why not try a sailing course through one of SVG’s recommended charter operators?
We highly recommend Union Island as a great place to begin a sailing adventure.  It is relaxed, friendly and off the beaten track so a perfect place to explore the region’s natural beauty.  The island of Bequia is another favourite for sailing enthusiasts.  Port Elizabeth has a number of operators offering charter boats as well as private excursions and day trips to the very popular, Tobago Cays.  The best bit about sailing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the opportunity it gives to be at one with nature and uncover the wonderful underwater world as well as spot turtles, whales and dolphins as you sail around the islands – a complete must-do for anyone visiting or living in SVG.