Today we took a tour around Grenada – what a fabulously lush and beautiful island. Sunny blue skies and a temperature of 29 degrees made for a great day. Our guide Louis picked us up from the terminal and we were off. Grenada is extremely hilly so we were pleased we were not doing a bike tour here : )
Our first stop was Fort Frederick which sits above St George’s Town and the port where our ship was docked. We had a fantastic view over the harbour which is a perfect horseshoe shape. Fort Fredrick construction was started in 1779 by the French and completed by the British several years later. A chain of forts (Fort Matthew, Fort Lucas and Fort Adolphus) adjoin Fort Frederick and are said to be connected by a network of subterranean tunnels. Large underground cisterns that held water for Her Majesty’s troops are still in use today.
We then drove to Annandale Falls which is a waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. At the entrance to the path of the falls there were a few stalls selling local items including spice necklaces. They smelt wonderful and apparently last for three years – unfortunately I think NZ Customs may have a problem on my return into the country if I purchased one of these necklaces. There was a guy playing a guitar and making songs up about you as you walked along, for a tip of course : ) When we got down to the falls there were these young guys who climb up and jump off the cliff into the water – again for a tip. We had learnt that unemployment is about 32% on the island so we thought good on these people for using their imagination – it was great watching them jump off for you.
The Grand Etang National Park contains a lake that exists in an extinct volcano at 1,900 feet above sea level. We also saw a Mona Monkey.
As we drove around the island Louis pointed out various plants, fruit and spice trees. I was quite enamoured with the lush vegetation. The island is split into 6 parishes – St George, St John, St Mark, St David, St Andrew and St Patrick and each one has some little villages of which one is the capital of the parish. There were a number of fishing villages dotted along the coast line. The housing varied from quite nice to subsistence. There were a lot of old cars which had been left to rust out littering the landscape which I thought detracted from one of the most stunning islands I’ve seen – it was a shame. The hilly terrain all over the island gave us some great views of the coast line.
We stopped at the River Antoine Estate which is a rum distillery that still uses a 19th century water wheel to produce 152 proof liquor, considered too strong for visitors to bring home on a plane. The estate has been going since 1785 with very little change in the process over the years. We had a tour around the place and our guide was so lovely – she kept calling us all “my dear”. It was a Saturday so they weren’t crushing the sugar cane so we wandered freely through the place. NZ Health & Safety would have had a field day at this place.
The sugar cane is harvested and then the juice crushed from it – the water wheel produces the power for the crushing machine. It goes through the crushing process twice. The sugar cane fibre is then burnt in the boiling house underneath the boiling pots. The cane juice enters these pots through a wooden guttering. It is then filtered and collected before being processed into syrup via the boiling process. An important ingredient in the sugar industry is white lime which is added to the cane juice as a purifier and as a means of obtaining a satisfactory level of acidity. The boiling pots are made from copper or iron taycher and go from large to small or hot to hottest. They hand ladle the juice from pot to pot. It is then transferred to a holding tank for 48 hours where it cools in preparation for the fermentation process.
The cool syrup is then pumped into a goose neck shaped boiler where the main fuel used for boiling the rum is wood. It is heated up to a temperature of 250 degrees. At this point the alcohol leaves the boiler in the form of vapour or steam into the vaporiser. From here it goes into the condenser and turns into rum. This is then stored and eventually bottled. Most of the rum produced at the River Antoine Estate is sold on the island to locals and tourists alike. The produce 69% alcohol (138% proof) and 75% alcohol rum. The 75% version or 152% proof is considered too dangerous to take on a plane.
I did not try the 69% or 75% rum choosing instead to try the rum punches which were very nice but pretty potent. Some of our fellow travellers tried the straight rum and said it definitely had the ability to curl your hair. The Estate employs 98 people including those that harvest the sugar cane. It has employed many generations over the years – our guide said her Grandmother and Mother both worked on the Estate.
We then had lunch at a restaurant not far from the Estate. The food was lovely and you could taste all the local flavours. We had a local drink made from yellow apples and lime juice – so yummy.
Next stop was the Dougaldston Spice Estate – a historical monument to Grenada’s past, where most of the island’s precious spices (nutmeg, allspice, clove, cinnamon, ginger, cocoa, bay leaves, mace) are grown and processed. Over the years the original owners and people that used to work the estate have died off and the younger generation have not taken up the reigns – the Estate is now a fraction of the size it was. The nutmeg is sold to the nutmeg factory in town and the cacao is sold to the chocolate factory – they then further process it and export it. The cacao that is grown and processed on the island is used in chocolate blends offshore rather than to produce edible chocolate. The island used to be a big exporter of bananas too but due to competition from larger countries this industry has also diminished with most produce being consumed locally by the population of 110,000.
Grenada gets a lot of rain so water is not a problem – they collect it and treat it in the various treatment plants around the island. The electricity company on the island is Canadian owned and they use diesel generators to produce the power for the island which makes it quite expensive. It costs an average household USD120 per month for electricity. The fuel and oil on the island is purchased from Venezuela.
To the uninitiated, the Southern Caribbean island of Grenada is better known for its political history – U.S. troops intervened in a coup during President Reagan’s administration, at the time a controversial volley in the Cold War in 1983 – I don’t remember this but did some more research as it occurred in my lifetime (see below for more information).
It is also known for Hurricane Ivan, which damaged 90 percent of Grenada’s buildings, destroyed 85 percent of its nutmeg trees and left more than half the population homeless in September 2004. While you’ll still see some lingering effects as you tour around the island — churches without roofs, homes still being rebuilt. The famous nutmeg industry is still recovering from the 2004 hurricane – the trees take between seven and 15 years to mature enough to bear fruit. A year later with the help of international donors (Canada, the United States, China, Venezuela, and the European Union) Grenada had experienced a significant turn around in rebuilding efforts. By 2007, Grenada had participated as planned in the hosting of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
St. George’s is the capital of Grenada. The city is surrounded by a hillside of an old volcano crater and is on a horseshoe-shaped harbor. The city is home of St. George’s University School of Medicine. The main exports are cocoa bean cacao, nutmeg, and mace spice. It has a moderate tropical climate that ensures the success of this spice production. It is known as the Isle of Spice.
In 1666, a wooden fortification was constructed by French colonists on a promontory overlooking Grenada’s natural harbour and named Fort Royale. In 1705, work started on a new star fort on the same site, with four stone-built bastions, to the design of Jean de Giou de Caylus, the Chief Engineer of the “Islands of America” the French West Indies. It was completed in 1710. Meanwhile, the original colonial settlement at the eastern edge of the harbour called Saint Louis after King Louis IX of France, later known as Port Louis, was found to be subject to flooding and malaria, so a new town was constructed called Ville de Fort Royale (“Fort Royal Town”). When the island was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the new administration renamed it Saint George’s Town, after the patron saint of England and Fort Royale was renamed Fort George, after King George III. On the 1 November 1775 there was a fire in the town of St. George’s known as the great fire of St George’s. After the great fire of 1771, most of the boarding houses on Granby Street were moved to Gouyave.
Following the withdrawal of Bridgetown, Barbados, in the mid-1880s, St. George’s went on to become the replacement capital of the former colony of the British Windward Islands.
Though St. George’s was discovered by Christopher Columbus on this third voyage in 1498, the island was relatively neglected until 1650, when it was purchased by the governor of Martinique. The French began their colonisation with a series of skirmishes that virtually exterminated the island’s native Carib population. The survivors were pushed north to Le Morne des Sauterurs, where rather than surrender they jumped off the cliff to the jagged rocks below. Today the site of the Carib defeat is known as “Carib’s Leap.”
The average temperature is about 30 °C (86 °F). There are two seasons: the ‘dry’ season is from January to May and the ‘rainy’ season lasts for the rest of the year. There are short spells of rain in the dry period but they last no more than 5 minutes or so. Gray clouds over the mountains are the first sign of rain.
Nutmeg & Mace
Nutmeg and mace come from the fruit of the aromatic Myrristica fragrans tree. The alien tree was adopted as from March 3, 1967 to the Spice Island. The tree is an evergreen with dark green leaves and small yellow flowers, and grows up to 12 meters tall. It starts bearing fruit after seven or eight years and continues to do so for up to 40 years. The fruit looks like an apricot and when ripe, slit to reveal a walnut sized seed. Covering the shell of the seed are lacy, red-orange strips, which are mace, and inside the shell is the seed itself – nutmeg. It is valued as a cure all for digestive, liver and skin problems and it is believed that it has aphrodisiac qualities as well. It is used extensively for cooking to enhance the flavor of cakes, soups, desserts, drinks and sauces.
This comes from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (Cinnamonum verum). Whole or ground, it is a popular household spice internationally. It is used to flavor beverages and cakes.
This dried flavored flower bud, whole or ground (Syzygium aromaticum) is used at home to season hams, sausages, meats, mincemeat pies, fish, turtle preserves and pickles.
From June to December, cuttings from the tops of cane are laid in holes about five inches deep by five feet square then covered with soil. As the cane grows taller, fertilizer is used. Between planting and harvesting, bananas, corn, peas, potatoes, and other crops are cultivated. January to May, the ripe cane are cut and delivered to the mill to be ground. Boiling and clarifying the cane juice is the next operation. The juice is strained after grinding and then taken to the clarifying copper to be boiled. (Wood coal is the main source fuel). Lime is added to speed up the operation. The liquid sugar is put into coolers for about 14 hours. The molasses is then drained off and taken to the still house to be made into rum.
Operation Urgent Fury (1983)
Sir Eric Gairy had led Grenada to independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. His term in office coincided with civil strife in Grenada. The political environment was highly charged and although Gairy—head of the Grenada United Labour Party—claimed victory in the general election of 1976, the opposition did not accept the result as legitimate. The civil strife took the form of street violence between Gairy’s private army, the Mongoose Gang, and gangs organized by the New Jewel Movement. In the late 1970s the NJM began planning to overthrow the government. Party members began to receive military training outside of Grenada. On 13 March 1979, while Gairy was out of the country, the NJM—led by Maurice Bishop—launched an armed revolution and overthrew the government, establishing the People’s Revolutionary Government. The leftist New Jewel Movement was seen favorably by much of the Grenadan population.
On 16 October 1983, a party faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard seized power. Bishop was placed under house arrest. Mass protests against the action led to Bishop’s escaping detention and reasserting his authority as the head of the government. Bishop was eventually captured and murdered along with several government officials loyal to him. The army under Hudson Austin then stepped in and formed a military council to rule the country. The governor-general, Paul Scoon, was placed under house arrest. The army announced a four-day total curfew where anyone seen on the streets would be subject to summary execution.
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as well as the nations of Barbados and Jamaica, appealed to the United States for assistance. According to a reporter for The New York Times, this formal appeal was at the request of the U.S. government, which had already decided to take military action. U.S. officials cited the murder of Bishop and general political instability in a country near U.S. borders, as well as the presence of U.S. medical students at St. George’s University, as reasons for military action. The reporter also claimed that the latter reason was cited in order to gain public support. It was later revealed that Grenada’s Governor General, Paul Scoon, had requested the invasion through secret diplomatic channels. Scoon was well within his rights to take this action under the reserve powers vested in the Crown.
On 25 October, Grenada was invaded by the combined forces of the United States and the Regional Security System (RSS) based in Barbados, in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury. The U.S. stated this was done at the request of the prime ministers of Barbados and Dominica, Tom Adams and Dame Eugenia Charles, respectively. Nonetheless, the invasion was highly criticized by the governments in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. The United Nations General Assembly condemned it as “a flagrant violation of international law” by a vote of 108 in favour to 9, with 27 abstentions. The United Nations Security Council considered a similar resolution, which failed to pass when vetoed by the United States.
The Bishop government began constructing the Point Salines International Airport with the help of Britain, Cuba, Libya, Algeria, and other nations. The airport had been first proposed by the British government in 1954, when Grenada was still a British colony. It had been designed by Canadians, underwritten by the British government, and partly built by a London firm. The U.S. government accused Grenada of constructing facilities to aid a Soviet-Cuban military buildup in the Caribbean based upon the 9,000-foot length, which could accommodate the largest Soviet aircraft like the An-12, An-22, and the An-124, which would enhance the Soviet and Cuban transportation of weapons to Central American insurgents and expand Soviet regional influence. Bishop’s government claimed that the airport was built to accommodate commercial aircraft carrying tourists, pointing out that such jets could not land at Pearl’s Airstrip on the island’s north end (5,200 feet) and could not be expanded because its runway abutted a mountain and the ocean at the other end.
Nearly 8,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines had participated in Operation Urgent Fury along with 353 Caribbean allies of the Caribbean Peace Forces. U.S. forces sustained 19 killed and 116 wounded; Cuban forces sustained 25 killed, 59 wounded, and 638 combatants captured. Grenadian forces casualties were 45 killed and 358 wounded; at least 24 civilians were killed, 18 of whom were killed in the accidental bombing of a Grenadian mental hospital.
The date of the invasion (25 October) is now a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, and the Point Salines International Airport was renamed in honor of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in 2009 to Maurice Bishop International Airport,