Memoir Monday -An Island Adventure


In San Juan we waited for some time for our connecting flight to St Kitts. Repeated announcements through muffled speakers informed in-transit travelers that flights were delayed -and, in some instances oversubscribed. Weight restrictions meant that only twenty-four passengers could be carried on planes originally designed to carry forty-two. A standard offer of $300 was presented to any passenger who would willingly ‘jump off’ and take a later flight. The announcer kept reminding everyone that weight restrictions were the cause of the problem. A man sitting opposite me continued tucking into a pizza. A quick glance around the lounge confirmed that there was in fact, an oversupply of fat tourists.

We finally boarded for St Kitts and then spent an hour in a hot, cramped plane with a hairy-armed hostess who dispensed miserable bags of cheese and onion chips to passengers who only wanted to escape the heat of the cabin. I desperately wanted to tell her that she could keep her Fokker Friendship!

The view of the island as you approach St Kitts is spectacular. Volcanic peaks (Mt Liamuiga 3792 feet is the tallest) and the rich blue of the Caribbean Sea make for an impressive introduction.

Negotiating immigration proved to be agonizingly slow. In fact, it made getting through JFK airport like life in the fast lane. St Kitts International Airport is not exactly under passenger pressure, yet it took us thirty minutes to be processed. Three officials, forty passengers (I had time to count them) and yet it took a brain burning amount of time. It was like getting a bike for Christmas and then being told you couldn’t ride it until Easter! We were in the lane that moves the slowest. My good friend Schmidt would say that only happens to the world’s unluckiest man. The processing officer made glaziers look speedy. What a classic example of operating on island time. Methodical is not the word for the painfully slow checking process everyone was put through. The archetypal ‘i’ dotter! I felt I was going to be admonished when it was pointed out to me that I had forgotten to include the zip code on my Brooklyn address. Here I was, just hoping to be a warm and happy tourist, and instead I was being made to feel like a naughty boy.

It was mercifully a short drive to ‘Papillion’ The air warm and breezy. Palms and bougainvillea flourishing in abundance. The island was in the midst of a prolonged dry spell. As we drove, two items keep recurring in my mind. Goats and cactus! The island appears to have an over supply of goats and cactus. Given the goats renowned ability to eat almost anything maybe they could be set loose on the cactus? The resort faced onto the Atlantic Ocean at a point known as North Frigate Bay. The wind harasses the ocean, and buffets you, but its warmth is relaxing and you could feel your body giving into it.
A short walk across the island and you are standing on the shore of the more tranquil Caribbean Sea at a location known as Timothy Beach. Such a short walk between two large bodies of water.

When you sit beside the water’s edge you can hear the small rocks- crack, crack, crack as they are tumbled about by the waves. I found myself waiting for it to happen. I was fully entertained by this action, as the waves spilled over the rocky shoreline. The beach on this side of the island was actually a bit disappointing. Plenty of rocks and very little sand. Not at all what one expects from the Caribbean.

Originally called Liamuiga by the first inhabitants, this tiny small island was renamed San Christobel by Columbus and St Christopher by the British. Officially that remains the island’s name, but it is more commonly referred by its nickname, St.Kitts. Situated about 1600 miles from New York, it lies in the north east Caribbean on the shoulder of the island chain. Apart from the three groups of steep volcanic peaks, its foothills feature sugar cane and assorted grasslands. There is also a small area of rainforest. Approximately 45000 people live here and on the neighboring island of Nevis.

Mother nature is perverse at times. She creates a touch of paradise to which people are naturally drawn and then she litters the beach with enough stringy seaweed to tastefully clothe a myriad of mermaids. Swimming in the Atlantic waters means that apart from being bashed and splashed by each set of white capped waves, you find yourself emerging from the surging seas draped in green stringy weed and resembling a sea creature. Maybe that’s why people prefer the safety and tranquility of the swimming pool when staying in island resorts? Personally, I like the challenge of the ocean. It says, this is the way it is –take it or leave it! I feel I have to at least try and get involved. -Even if it’s just for a few minutes. I know I am going to be pummeled, tumbled and spat out, but at least I can hold your head up and say – I tried. It’s like standing up to a bully.

In London they say you are never further than eight feet from a rat at any one time. In the Caribbean you are never more than eight feet from the sound of a Bob Marley song! Bob may not be with us any more, but his melodies strongly represent him wherever you go. Bob kept confessing that it was he who shot the sheriff. After seven days I wanted to shoot the sound system! It was the perfect excuse to lose myself in a pina colada or two. Island time is always a memorable adventure...

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