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Thursday, December 21, 2000

Thursday was extended island tour day.

We met our driver for the day, Mr. Sergeant, at 10:30 this morning for an extended tour of the island included the southeastern peninsula. The Atlantic Ocean is on the east side; the Caribbean Sea is on the west. Frigate Bay on the northern end of the peninsula (first photo) is the main area of concentration for resorts and tourist condominiums. Also on this part of the peninsula is where many of the wealthier people of Basseterre have moved to and built trophy homes on the sides of the mountains. Sound familiar?

Until the US military built a road to the end of the peninsula in 1989 after the Grenada war (second photo), the only way to reach much of the area was by boat. The road was blasted through the mountains leaving behind areas where you can clearly see the stratification of the rock. To cut through just one mountain top took the men working 24 hours a day for three months. At the far end of the peninsula is the two mile strait that separates St. Kitts from Nevis. In the photo you can just make out Nevis Peak in the haze.

Near the end of the peninsula on the Atlantic side is Turtle Beach. where we stopped for a break to get something to drink. We had also heard that this was a good spot to see the African green monkeys that outnumber the people on the island by two to one. While enjoying a Ting (a local grapefruit soda) at the bar, Michael struck up a conversation with an American boy from California who was visiting his father here. Jason, who was about 13 or 14, offered to show us the monkeys. Michael and I followed him out to the nearby trees where we could see five or six monkeys sitting. Jason then went back to the bar and returned with a plastic cup of fruit juice. The monkeys were immediately interested. After instructing me to keep a tight hold of the cup and not to try to take it away from any monkey who was drinking, I made friends with them. (third photo).

One of the younger monkeys began drinking from the cup when one of the older, more dominate one came over, chased the younger one away, and proceeded to stick his face in the cup and drink away. I wasn't about to let go of the cup but he wasn't either. As long as I didn't move, he didn't seem to mind me hanging on. Their hands are quite human though much smaller and more delicate. One of the waiters at the inn had told us that the monkeys hate to get their hands dirty and always try to keep them clean

Finally, George (as I referred to him) had his fill and let go of the cup. He had juice all over his face and chin. The others moved in to have a drink but George had got it all. Michael tried to coax some of the younger animals over with the cup. One of them managed to get it away from Michael. He then proceeded to use his fingers to get the last bit of juice and pulp from the cup.

Near the turn onto the peninsula, we passed an ethanol refinery that had been abandoned by the Israelis when they went bankrupt. Near the end of the peninsula, we went through an area that was supposed to be developed by a company called Casablanca. There is a warehouse they owned that was damaged in a hurricane and looted. There is the steel frame of a large building that was unfinished. Apparently the company just left one day and no one seems to know why.

There is also the ruins of a foundation out here from a plantation that failed. It used to raise sugar cane, but when the government took over production and the owner couldn't run his own mill, it became unprofitable. It apparently was unprofitable also to grow sea cotton. And unprofitable to run a salt evaporation pond. You can see a few wild cotton plants on the hills. When the bolls open, the flying fiber and seed is a nuisance in town.

After the peninsula we headed back into Basseterre for lunch and shopping. In the great room of the Ottley main house they have been playing a CD of steel drum Christmas music. One of the staff, Andrea, showed me the CD and told me where she had bought it. Unfortunately, the store didn't have that CD anymore but I was able to find some other steel drum Christmas music.

After lunch at Ballyhoo's overlooking the Circus (fourth photo), Michael went to the Bank of Canada to cash some travelers checks. Evidently this involved more than just requesting cash and showing his ID because he was gone FOREVER. He mentioned something about being asked whether he wanted his funds in US or EC (East Caribbean) dollars.

Before we came here, we had considered getting some local currency. The folks at the inn told us not to worry because everyone here take US dollars. What they didn't mention is that most people prefer US dollars and that at most places items are priced in both US and EC dollars.

We stopped in a drug store to buy a few personal items. I paid for them with $20 US and got back $34 EC. WHOA! It's like being paid to go shopping. The exchange rate is something like $1 US to $2.70 EC.

From Basseterre we went back to Romney Manor and the Caribelle Batik. I keep thinking of more people to get batik clothing for. Michael took more photos of the plants. The last photo on this page shows poinsettas in their natural form, a bush about eight feet high.

Tomorrow, a ferry trip to Nevis.

Click to go to Wednesday, 12/20

Click to go to Friday, 12/22