10 – 18 November
The ferry from Montserrat was late arriving around 10.45pm in Charlestown and after some discussions I reluctantly left my passport with the ferry guy Ingie as immigration was closed. I had half a booking with a guesthouse in Northern Nevis, but I couldn't get there. I had a local guy call 4 taxi companies - only one answered and he didn't want to go so I was stranded in Charlestown. I had another guy help call some nearby guesthouses and eventually I found a place for the night.
Brief history. The islands were known as Liamuiga - the fertile islands – by the Caribs arriving around 1300 AD. The current name is from Columbus' second journey to the Caribbean and it's the oldest British colony in the Caribbean dating from 1623. The Brits fought the French for the islands for many years until 1783 when the Paris Treaty was signed and Britain got total control. In 1816 the islands were joined in one colony with Anguilla and The Virgin Islands and in 1958 the Brits got all British islands under one Treaty of the West Indies Federation which however was dissolved in 1962. In 1983 St Kitts and Nevis became a single country under Commonwealth and since then disputes and rivalry between the islands have taken place – however, until now Nevis has not been able to produce the two-third majority necessary to secede.
The next morning (Sunday) I got up early because of a loud memorial service half a block from the guesthouse starting around 7 o'clock. With some difficulties I found a supermarket where I bought some breakfast and then I headed out to do the Upper Round Road hike 9 miles/5 hours from the Southeast to the Northeast of the island. However, first I had to get to the hotel where the trail starts – not easy on a slow Sunday morning where few buses run on an island where few people pick up hitch-hikers. Eventually I got a ride halfway and after some waiting tine a bus took me rest of the way. At the hotel I was told the trail was closed after heavy rains (which meant muddy and overgrown). I stead I was told to do the shorter walk up to the (water) Source I the rainforest. The first part of the trail was fairly boring being wide and easy while the other half was more fun – a narrow, slippery, “original” path on the edge as well as lots of ascends and descends. Nice rainforest (and a lot of rain), a few monkeys but no view. Back down I got to talk to the Beeman (the local beekeeper) who invited me to stay at his place. On the walk back to town I wanted to go up Saddle Hill but as it got overcast and starting raining I skipped it and walked back to Charlestown. After several attempts I finally got hold of Ingie who told me to get my passport at the immigration office the next morning.
At immigration I got my passport back, then checked out and walked down to a nearby cafe where I met Beeman. I left my big backpack in the cafe where he would pick it up later that afternoon and take it to his place. Meanwhile I took a bus up to Nisbet beach in the Northeast to look at some of the island's nicest beaches – though they weren't that nice and it didn't help that it was overcast all day. I ended up walking all the way back to Charlestown as much as possible on the various beaches. In the evening Beeman had a dinner appointment with some friends and he took me along – a cosy evening with very nice and interesting people.
The next day we walked up to Saddle Hill and afterwards we drove around the island meeting some of his friends that he hadn't seen for a a while since he just returned to Nevis after walking about 1,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail in the US. I got to re-visit some of the beaches that still weren't spectacular but definitely much nicer in good weather. In the evening we went to burger night at a cafe in town where I met a lot of the older island expats – cosy and lots of local stories.
We had a relaxing morning talking about many topics and early afternoon we went in to town. My ferry to St Kitts was not until 4 pm, so I enjoyed the weather in a small park close to the dock. A short and smooth ferry ride to Basseterre and then a bit of waiting time before my host Mike picked me up. In the evening we had a great dinner at a small beach restaurant.
One day I took a local bus up to spectacular Brimstone Hill Fortress built by the British – one of the largest and most important fortresses in the Caribbean in the battles against the French. And located atop a hill there is an amazing 360 degrees view of the neighbouring islands, ocean, coastline and mountains. Back in town I spent some hours sightseeing in Basseterre – not many highlights but interesting to observe local life on a Friday late afternoon. Saturday morning Mike had some friends over for brunch at the terrace and in the afternoon we did a Hash (international hiking association) – a good way to meet some new faces but not my favourite thing walking along with hundreds of people; and the walk itself was quite boring as it was short and mostly on roads. Amongst the people we got to talk to were a couple from Colorado with whom we went out for dinner at a very local restaurant/bar owned by Mike's boss. It took hours for them to BBQ the fish but it was worth waiting for and in the meantime we got some drinks and mingled with the locals.
Sunday morning we went snorkelling at a secluded beach with a small reef – not so much to see but nice with a swim. In the afternoon Mike's friend Andrew took us up North to a herbal farm where they grow crops that monkeys don't eat – Monkeys are everywhere and a big problem for the farmers. We met the owner Kwando, his wife Elisabeth, Austrian Petra and two co-workers – very friendly people. A hike uphill towards the rainforest was quite muddy as it rained most of the time but we did get a glimpse of the nice views. The evening I spent packing as we had to leave for the airport at 5am.