Spices, Flowers, other Flora & Fauna

After Chris left us, we decided to see more of the island.  So we booked a tour (rare for us to join an organized tour!) with "Cutty" who has been driving yotties around for years and his tours are very informative. 

In addition to learning all about the fauna and flora of the island, we visited the Old Rum Factory, the Nutmeg Plant & the Chocolate Factory.

Grenada is known as the Spice Isle' of the Caribbean - there are more spices grown on Grenada per hectare than in any other place on the planet.

We travelled the parts of Grenada that we didn't do by car with Chris. Our guide stopped every few minutes, tramped off into the bush and came back with some unusual plant or tree or flower or spice. We smelled crushed leaves and tasted many strange fruits, dug up roots and peeled back bark to examine herbs and spices.

Cutty taught us how to prepare many local foods and what various kinds of spice look like

Calabash Tree

A fruit I had not encountered before was the common Calabash. This is not an edible fruit but instead it is used to create containers, masks and other decorative items. The Calabash is carved while still green, then allowed to dry. Then bamboo strips or other pieces are added to adorn the item. Carved calabash are sold in every souvenir shop on the island.

We drove through mountainous lush green hillsides with homes precariously balanced on stilts,
an abundant supply of fruits, vegetables and exotic spices.

The island somewhat stepped to the beat of a different drum, not swamped by mass tourism. Grenada has maintained its sense of identity, its charm and friendliness of its people.

Janet Houses
Along the roadside people lived in tiny wooden structures distinctive in their ramshackle appearance. We were told that these were called Janet Houses.  Janet houses were built after hurricane Janet. They looked like decrepit wooden shacks but these were the homes that withstood the ravages of Hurricanes Ivan and Emily (2005) when the concrete block homes were destroyed.

Annadale Water Falls

We took a short hike to Annadale Falls with another guide who showed us many flowers and trees along the well groomed Tropical Garden path to the Falls. Unfortunately this was a popular cruise ship destination so it was crowded with tourists and there was a charge to take photos of the cliff jumpers diving into the water at the Falls. It was possible to have a swim there but no one in our group was inclined to do so.

Chocolate Factory

I really enjoyed learning about the process of making chocolate from cocoa beans. The cocoa is exported (pic right) but much of it provides the magic ingredient for the fantastic 80% chocolate bars. We surrendered to the lure of the chocolate and bought 10 very large bars!! Ate an entire bar on the bus!!

    River Antoine Estate Distillery

We toured the Rum Factory that has been making rum the same way since 1785 using a water wheel and a lot of manpower!!  It is the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean.

Wood is used for fuel to keep the boilers fired up. Sugar Cane is hauled in by the cartload and sent up a conveyor belt for mulching.

The fermentation vats are pretty disgusting and could really put you off of drinking rum every again!!

We had lunch in the privately owned

distillery restaurant overlooking the immaculate grounds.

Nutmeg Processing Plant

Grenada was the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world (Indonesia #1). Unfortunately the last hurricane cut the nutmeg production on the island by 95%! as most of the crops were destroyed. The tree resembles hanging  apricots.

Nutmegs are not nuts, but the kernels of a fruit. Although there was no one working in the plant at the time of our visit, we were shown the racks of drying nutmeg.


The nutmeg dries on racks for many months, being stirred and mixed daily with rakes. After sorting and processing, the end product is the twin spices of nutmeg and mace. There are 2 varieties of mace: red and yellow.

The fruit is made into jam. And liqueur. And syrup, without which a Grenadian rum punch just would not be Grenadian.

Mace turns up in lipstick and nail varnish, as well as in most of the world's sausages.

The shell of the kernel is used as mulch, as gravel, and as fuel for burning. The nutmeg itself yields an essential oil as well as being a spice. It is used in aromatherapy massages for rheumatism and arthritis, and as an inhalation oil.

January 18, 2010

A group of us got together and took a mini van to the National Park. These public vans travel to all parts of the island. They are privately owned and have inventive names covering much the windshields. Boarding a vehicle named "Death Wish" or "Fast Track"  or " Devil Rider" does not instil much confidence, especially when the driver attacks the twisty mountain roads with the ferocity of a rally car driver on crack. We tumbled out of the bus at Grand Etang Visitors Centre where bold and brassy monkeys accosted us for handouts.

Mt Qua Qua

It was cool and cloudy, a nice change from the stifling anchorage. We hiked up Mt Qua Qua, a 3 hour hike straight up! Gord did not have runners so he borrowed some for the hike. Unfortunately it was rainy so the trail was very wet and slippery as we boulder hopped across creeks and climbed high into a shroud of clouds. Perhaps it was lucky that we were unable to see that we were walking along a very skinny ledge that went straight down hundreds of feet on both sides! We had to be careful of the razor grass growing across the trail; I got thin razor-like slices on my shoulder and it was nasty! 

Walking across a windy ridge where dead trees stand testament to the effects of 2004's Hurricane Ivan, we finally reached the summit and had a picnic lunch. Just then the clouds parted and we had a magnificent view of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the lush green palms and ferns from the valley below sprinkled with clusters of villages.

pictured left hiding from the rain: Gord, Sara, Ginny, Tom & Liz

There are lots of other cruisers in TTSA Bay. We have been enjoying beach get-togethers for Happy Hour between working on boat projects. Gord spent 3 days and 2 tanks of air scrubbing the bottom of the boat, thick with long green grass harbouring sea lice, colonies of barnacles, and some large spots of black growth that required chiseling off! Even our anchor chain was hairy!

One day we finally succumbed to the boat boy that came around each day offering fresh lobster. It was a treat for us to be sure. Problem was, I didn't have a pot big enough onboard to cook the beasty. I was finally able to borrow a pot and we had a magnificent meal!


And of course we couldn't be in Grenada without sampling the National Dish, called OilDown. The name does not conjure up any delicacies but the dish is in fact a combination of salt meats, breadfruit, calalloo (like spinach), pumpkin, dumplings, figs, coconut and a variety of spices. Pretty Yummy!!!!

January 30 Mt Airy School

I volunteered to help teach reading and writing at a local school in one of the rural communities in the hills of Mt Airy. 

The Yotties regularly volunteer to teach these kids (about 30) who want to improve their skills and it's a great way for us to integrate with the locals and give back to them some of the kindness that they have shown us.

I got a little 9 year old named Reshawna, very bright and so cute. We read and I asked her questions about the story, did rhyming words, played scrabble and had an enjoyable 2 hours. I am sending a photo of her attached.

February 2

We were planning to leave for Trinidad and had arranged with 3 other boats to travel in convoy because of all the pirate attacks lately. However, the security bars we were having made for our companionway and hatch were not ready, and also I had to visit the doc to get antibiotics for a bladder infection. So 2 of the boats left sans Ascension. They made it there safely but had a lumpy uncomfortable time at sea.

Finally we set sail with Djarrka for an overnighter. All the attacks had been during the day so that was our tactic, to travel under the cover of darkness with no lights and no radio communication.