Friday 4 January, St.Kitts: We break out of chill mode and back on the road.
It’s a beautiful bright morning again, and we are ready to get out and about to explore the island of St. Kitts. It’s a bit of a rush leaving the boat, and while we were running around Buddy shows up to inquire if we are on for dinner tonight at Sprat Net, a famous low key seafood joint that has live music on Friday’s. We’ll see him there, as we can’t predict what time we will arrive.
The rental car is delivered to us at Salt Plage parking lot. With a bit of a delay, but this is the islands style, nothing happens on a firm schedule. Not even the New Year’s countdown or the fireworks:)
Ian, the guy we rent the car from, shows up in a mini-van with only one passenger seat. So Glen goes in the back, with the beer crates, packs of water and tabacco, taking a not so comfortable seat on a new car tyre. And bracing himself as Ian drives down and up the hills, taking the turns a bit too fast.
The road from Salt Plage to Basseterre (the main town) is very good, looks like new. Which is very surprising, considering there is no residential development on this south peninsula. And we wonder if the road was built especially for Christophe Harbour, to connect it to the airport.
We are driven by Ian to the Fire Station where we buy a local driving license (makes sense, at the fire department, doesn’t it?!). Then to a car wash to pick up the hire car. Which surprisingly, is very clean and in a good condition. Let’s see what predicaments we have with this one!
We start our road trip with a stop to the tourist information office, where they don’t have any maps of the island or brochures of the main attractions. And when we inquire about the hiking trails, we are told off “you can only go with a guide”. Well, we want to hike alone, thank you. And she refuses to tell us where the hikes start from or even roughly in what area.
Luckily, another lady walks into the office, and she volunteers us some instructions about where to start. At which point she is also being told off “where are you sending them?”.
Armed with nothing much other than a small map, we drive off from Basseterre along the west coast. Our aim is to tick some of the forts and the estates which are marked on the map. Just out of town, the road continues to be surprisingly good and the villages are all very clean and tidy.
But the “estates” are just ruins, all we can see is the remnants of a wind mill here, a steam engine there and walls from the long gone estate houses. All overgrown by vegetation. Very sad to see such dilapidation when you compare what other islands have done to make theirs into tourist attractions.
Mid-day we arrive at the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO heritage site. The drive up to the fort is on a very narrow and steep road, bordered by lush vegetation. The fort sits on top of the hill ( ex-volcanic core) and it is impressive, covering large grounds. It has panoramic views towards St.Eustacius and Saba islands to the north, and over the entire St. Kitts and Nevis island to the south.
This fort was also built by the English and had just one hostile event when 8000 French laid it to siege and the English had to surrender. Only to get it back again a couple of years later via the famous (infamous, if you are French) Versailles Treaty.
It is probably one of the best maintained forts we have seen yet, but we agree that our favorite is still the Fort in Dominica.
From Brimstone Hill Fortress we continue our drive north. The road gets rougher, and next villages and communities we drive through look much poorer than on the south side.
In Newton Ground we make a detour, to investigate where is the start of the hiking trail for Mt. Liamiuga. We find it no problem, at the end of a narrow road, partially concreted and partially dirt road. So we are all set to go on a hike in the next couple of days if the cloud cap ever lifts from the volcano. Hanging in the trees by the trail head are dozens of falling apart walking shoes. It reminds us of the volcano we climbed in St. Vincent when Glen’s shoes also completely fell apart!
Back down to the main road we start noticing the sides of the road being slightly landscaped and few developments going on. Then we come across Kittitian Hill, with a nicely signposted gate. We imagine it’s the entrance to a restored estate, so we take the drive up the hill in search for such. A very well maintained driveway, nicely landscaped and with a golf course to one side. Ok, maybe it’s not just an estate, maybe it’s a hotel too. Good, then maybe we can have a drink.
We pass a security gate where the guard is more than happy to send us through, and after few more bends on a road which now has becomes very lush, we start seeing villas and realize it must be some sort of resort.
And before we can lay any bets on what we are going to find at the end of the drive, we find ourselves in a small roundabout, our car is valet parked and we are escorted into what looks like an oasis. A beautiful lush garden, with an amazing infinity pool and a small bar sitting in the middle of it all. The seating around the bar is taken, and before we can even open our mouths to say something, we are handed a menu and get escorted into the nearby building where “we have an excellent restaurant”. The interior is stunning too, beautifully decorated.
But at this stage we need to put a break to our concierge escort: sadly, we can’t stay for lunch, as we are booked for dinner in two hours time. We just wanted to have a drink.
And as we recover our car from the valet, all we can think is Wow! It would have been a double wow, if it wasn’t for the rain. Under a clear sky this place must be simply amazing: it sits high on the volcano side right under the tropical forest, it is beautifully done and has spectacular view over the ocean. Maybe we come back on a sunny day, to have that lunch. Or at least to take some pictures!
We continue driving along the north coast, and in Dieppe Bay we stop at Arthur’s, which is a beach restaurant and bar. Quite an interesting setting here: the bar is strikingly white against the black sand beach, the bright yellow beach umbrellas are adding color to the scene, and in the background there is a villas development which has certainly seen better days.
As we have our drinks we notice the bartender shirt has the same logo we have spotted earlier on the staff uniforms at Kittitian Hill: Belmont Farm. And once asked the question, we learn that Arthur’s bar is indeed part of the same consortium.
The ocean waves are roaring up the beach here in Dieppe Bay and along the water’s edge the sargasso seaweed is piling up. There is also a small fleet of fishing boats moored nearby (the other day we were wondering just where are the local fishing boats, as we haven’t seen any till today).
Refreshed, we continue our journey driving down along the east coast. Not many villages here. In fact not much at all. Scarce vegetation on the hills, some tall grass along the side of the road and where they tried to landscape with palm trees the poor little palms didn’t survive the winds. And we spot yet more ruins of old mills.
When we arrive in Basseterre we have circumnavigated this main northern part of St.Kitts. And with an hour to spare before our dinner, we drive to South Frigate Bay to have a walk on the beach and check out the social scene here. There are lots of beach bars, the most popular among them being Shiggady Shack.
For dinner we go to Sprat Net restaurant, and on the way there we pass the airport. We are amazed with the number of executive jets parked here.
Quite a few people have raved about this seafood restaurant we are heading to, with the double warning: it is a rustic setup so don’t expect much; and we should get there early, otherwise we can wait for our food for hours.
When we arrive, just 15 minutes after they opened, there are few people already sitting at the tables. And when we place our orders we feel like they have a bit of a factory process going on here. In the kitchen there are few enormous barbecues fully covered with ribs, chicken, lobsters and fish. Order at a counter, pay at the bar, then return with the receipt and they will bring the food at the table. We are served relatively fast.
As we enjoy our food, the restaurant gets suddenly very crowded and the queue to the order counter is now at least 50m long. And moving very slowly. Why would people want to queue for hours just to order the food, then queue again to pay for the order, and then wait for hours for their food to be served? We understand it’s a popular place, but still. In the 15 minutes while we closely observed the queue, the people in line only advanced a couple of meters. So they have a looooong time of further queuing.
Later in the evening a live band starts performing, which seems to be the attraction on Wednesday and Friday evenings. We listen to them few songs, and then decide to make a move and leave the table to the waiting crowds.
On the way to Cloudy Bay we stop again at Frigate Bay, but the beach bars were all rather quiet. So we head home, ready for an early-ish night after all the excitement we had today.