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jorgesanchez Roseau - A travel report by jorge
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Roseau,  Dominica - flag Dominica -  Saint George
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

1 month hopping the Caribbean Islands on the cheap

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Many people have the erroneous idea that the Lesser Antilles, or Leeward and Windward archipelagos, are expensive islands that only rich tourists can afford to visit in luxury cruises. However, I soon found out that they are cheap for the smart traveller.

Monument to the discoverer Columbus in San Juan (Puerto Rico)
Monument to the discoverer Columbus in San Juan (Puerto Rico)
During February/March 2003 I hopped across twenty fascinating Small Antilles islands. I thought that they would be boring and repetitive, but I was wrong. Practically all of them were discovered during the four Columbus travels from 1492 to 1502. The Greater Antilles: Cuba, La Espanola (Dominican Republic plus Haiti) and Puerto Rico remained in Spanish hands until the second half of the XIX century; Jamaica was ceded to England in 1670 and Trinidad and Tobago in 1802. The rest of the Caribbean Islands were so insignificants for the Spaniards that they did not inhabit them and therefore were soon the refuge of pirates, until French, British, Danish, Swedish, Dutch and the Order of Malta occupied them. Today most are independent except a few that still belong to England, France, Holland and USA.
In Puerto Rico I bought an economical air pass with the Company LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport) which allowed me to visit their about thirty islands during 30 days. I made a selection because some islands deserve a longer stay than 1 day, and disregarded those that I considered less interesting. Many islands (except French’s and USA’s) charge 10 or 15 US Dollars as airport departure tax, but if you spend in them only 1 night you are exempted. I planned my journey taking this fact into account to save money. Out of 30 nights I slept in marvellous hotels only 3 nights, where single cost 120 US Dollars, plus 50 for a sophisticated dinner. The rest I ate in the stalls of the local markets and slept in golf courses, black people invited me to their houses or sometimes I admired all night long the starry sky from some of the most beautiful beaches of the world. I am very grateful to LIAT, my favourite Caribbean airline. I will never get tired to recommend it to my friends. Since their flights are often cancelled they compensate the customers with free accommodation and dinner in sumptuous hotels. This happened to me 3 times. I list below my eight favourite Caribbean islands:

Favourite spots:
Sunset seen from my bench in Magens Bay beach, St Thomas
Sunset seen from my bench in Magens Bay beach, St Thomas
SAINT THOMAS is one of the US Virgin Islands. I landed at night and everybody told me that its capital, Charlotte Amalie, was dangerous and could be robbed. But I always travel with a small bag weighing only 2 kilos and was not afraid. I walked until the downtown. In front of the Fire Brigade I saw a Nativity scene in a hut, I surpassed the three kings Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar with their camels, went behind the child’ crib and lied on the floor to sleep, between the statues of the cow and the sheep. Next day I visited Fort Christian, dating from the Danish times, which today is a museum. Saint Thomas is very touristy; crowds of tourists arrived daily to buy tax free products, to take a seaplane to Puerto Rico or to enjoy an excursion in a submarine. I walked until Magens Bay beach and was so subjugated by its beauty that decided to spend there a couple of nights. That beach is, according to National geographic, one of the best in the world. One day I flew to St Martin via Tortola.

What's really great:
Marigot and the restaurant where LIAT invited me to dine
Marigot and the restaurant where LIAT invited me to dine
SAINT MARTIN was divided between Holland and France. I felt in Europe; the previous day I had been in Tortola Island, in the British Virgin Islands, that day I was in Holland, and the next day would visit Marigot, in the French part. I noticed the presence of many natives speaking Spanish; they were from Dominican Republic and worked driving buses or as gardeners. Many people used the Papiamento language or a hybrid of Spanish mainly, plus some words of Dutch, English, Bahasa, Hindi and African dialects. Some phrases were funny, for instance: “Mi ta kontentu” means I am happy, but said like a little child in a kind of broken Spanish. “Poko poko” means slowly, and “Danki” is thanks. Papiamento is also spoken in the Dutch “ABC” Islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. I made a pleasant 1 day excursion by boat to Anguilla Island, a British colony, and when I came back I participated in the joyful carnival of Marigot, one of the best in the Caribbean. One day I flew to Antigua via St. Kitt’s.

Newgate street in St John’s and the cathedral
Newgate street in St John’s and the cathedral
ANTIGUA capital is St John’s, where is located the Head Office of LIAT. Not far from LIAT there is a Catholic Cathedral, one of the prettiest in the Lesser Antilles, which was erected in the site of two older ones. The situation of the town is very attractive, dominated by two fortresses; there are many lovely wooden houses with old balconies in the downtown. I hitchhiked to the Indian Town National Park, in the other side of the island, in which museum I saw vestiges of the Ciboneys, or native inhabitants before the European arrival. I was told that apart from the two islands composing the country of Antigua and Barbuda, there is a third one, very small, uninhabited, called Redonda, which some claim to be a Kingdom pretended by three candidates to be its King. One of them is Spanish and has granted the title of “Caballero” to our film producer Pedro Almodovar. I asked how to get to this island, but the only way is hiring a boat, so I gave up. One day I flew to Dominica via Montserrat.

Dominican fisherman prepares the traps
Dominican fisherman prepares the traps
DOMINICA was my favourite island in this journey. It is the most primitive and rarely visited by the hordes of tourists desperated to buy rum. It is so fertile that if you throw a wooden pencil in the bush soon will grow up a tree out of it. There are 365 rivers, 70 waterfalls, lots of lakes, 200 kinds of trees (including the national tree baobab) and 160 kinds of birds, many of them endemic. One of these birds, a parrot with bright colours, embellishes the Dominica flag. But apart from this richness what makes Dominica so especial is the people, particularly the Caribs. Great atrocities were committed against them in St Kitts and Grenada during the XVII century before these islands could be settled. Neither British nor the French were able to gain control of Dominica, St Lucia or St Vincent until well into the 18th century. Today in Dominica there are about 3000 of their descendents that spend their time peacefully fishing or making baskets. One day I flew to Martinique via Guadeloupe

Josephine statue in Fort de France before being beheaded by the black natives
Josephine statue in Fort de France before being beheaded by the black natives
MARTINIQUE is as expensive as France. In its capital, Fort de France, I met some French that never mixed with the Black or even with the white French that were poor. They were known as Bekes and were very rich. I heard that one Beke is the seventh fortune of France. In Guadeloupe their equivalences are called Blanc Pays and during WWII supported the Vichy Government. The social atmosphere was not as gentle as in the previous islands; some signs in the walls read: “French, go home”, and the statue of Josephine (who was Beke) had the head cut because when she became Napoleon’s wife reintroduced the slavery. I made a trekking to the old capital Saint Pierre, pride of France in the Caribbean Sea, until it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1902. During the walk through “La Trace” I visited a church similar to the Sacre Coeur in Paris. In my way back I stopped in the museum Paul Gauguin, who lived in that island before going to the Marquises. One day I flew to St Lucia via St Vincent.

The twin Pitons of St. Lucia
The twin Pitons of St. Lucia
SAINT LUCIA was a stunning island. It seduces from the air, when you over fly it. It has two peaks called “pitons” that are the main characteristic. In the South of the island there is a volcano called Soufriere which is the only one in the world where you can accede in its interior by car! St Lucia airport is inside Castries, the capital. Just in front of the airport there is a hotel called Rendez Vous where I observed that the foreigners entered in a stall by the beach and where served pinas coladas. The waiter never asked for the room number, so I supposed that were free for everybody; maybe there was a celebration. So I also went in and ordered one pina colada. The waiter gave it to me. When I ordered a second one, he also gave it to me but asked where my girlfriend was. I answered that I was alone. Then, very gently, he said that the hotel was only for couples and the pinas coladas too. I thanked him and did not go for the third pina colada. One day I flew to Grenada via Barbados.

Fruit market in St. Georges
Fruit market in St. Georges
GRENADA should be written Granada, which means pomegranate in Spanish, but since English people pronounce very bad the Spanish language they finally deformed the name and today they write and pronounce it Grenada. It was discovered during the third Columbus voyage, who called it Conception, but in a subsequent trip the sailors were from Andalusia and renamed the island Granada because its mountains reminded them those of Sierra Nevada, in Spain. The market of Saint Georges, the capital, is very exotic and there sell all kinds of spices, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, etc., When you visit it you are smelling all the time all these pleasant aromas. After Indonesia is the second nutmeg producer in the world. Grenada is known as the Spices Island and the nutmeg appears in the national flag. There are three charming cathedrals erected in the top of a hill, Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian. Saint Georges is considered the most beautiful Caribbean port. One day I flew to Trinidad via Tobago.

Other recommendations:
Trinidad girl dancing Calypso in Port of Spain
Trinidad girl dancing Calypso in Port of Spain
TRINIDAD still keeps the Spanish flavour in the names of its villages, streets and architecture, especially in its capital, Port of Spain, because this island was in Spanish hands much longer than in British’s. It is more populated than the rest of the Lesser Antilles and, exceptionally, Black do not form the majority, but the Asiatic, or the combination of Indians (from India) plus Chinese. Around the island you see many temples devoted to Ganesha and Hanuman, the women wear saris and the smell of curry is everywhere. I was so lucky to arrive during the end of the Carnival, called Mas (of Masquerade). I had been in Rio de Janeiro Carnival in the past, and in Barranquilla’s in Colombia, but I can assure that Trinidad’s has nothing to envy them. The dresses were fantastic and nobody slept owing to the Trinidad autonomous music, called calypso, day and nights in Port of Spain streets. The day number 30 of my air pass I flew from Port of Spain to Georgetown to explore the three Guyana’s.

Published on Tuesday October 18th, 2005

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Mon, Feb 27 2006 - 11:17 PM rating by ehs1193

I like the sunset picture. It's just so calming.

Wed, Jan 04 2006 - 06:54 PM rating by joe_schmidt


I liked your report about the Caribbean. I've been there and will be there again ni February, next time sailing from Martinique northwards. Hope to make such great pictures as you have.

ciao, Joe

Wed, Oct 26 2005 - 06:32 PM rating by magsalex

Loved the photos. Superb report! Travelling at its best...

Wed, Oct 19 2005 - 07:56 PM rating by downundergal

I love reading your reports because they are always so full of adventure!

Wed, Oct 19 2005 - 04:58 AM rating by davidx

I don't know how you keep it up!

Wed, Oct 19 2005 - 02:45 AM rating by esfahani

Jorge! - Good report, I makes me first time interested to the caribean. Thanks

Wed, Oct 19 2005 - 01:11 AM rating by bootlegga

Fantastic as always, love the pics!

Tue, Oct 18 2005 - 09:15 PM rating by eirekay

Jorge, Wonderful Report! The photos of people are just marvelous!

Tue, Oct 18 2005 - 07:01 PM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Jorge!
A great caribbean report and with picturesque shots! Loved the St Thomas sunsest pic and the Trinidad girl dancer. Thanks for enticing me and I am sure one day i will have my caribbean time!

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