Friday, August 23, 2013

This is the Final Stretch

            We are back, and so am I.  That is, we’re back in Grenada.  And I am back on my blog (figuratively speaking of course, since the Internet isn’t really a physical location, I couldn’t literally have left), with all of my cynicism intact.

            After thirty-seven days in the States, we returned to our petite island on the ninth of August.  Since then, we’ve been very slowly unpacking and settling back into the swing of things.  Ivan’s classes started the Tuesday following our arrival, giving us a few days to spend with friends before locking back in to the grind.

            We started our few lazy days with a trip north to find some of the hot springs with a couple friends.  At the northern edge of the parish of St. Andrew, near Mt. St. Catherine, we found a narrow road that (according to the locals’ directions) would lead to the hot springs.  Everyone we spoke with, though, warned our taxi driver that his car wouldn’t get us far.  When the narrow road turned to one lane, we idled for a few minutes to allow oncoming traffic to pass.  One Hummer stopped and our driver verified with the passenger that we were on the right road for the hot springs.  She affirmed, but warned us, “You won’t get far in this car.”

            True enough, we barely made it another quarter-mile before Bertrand had to pull his taxi to the side and park.  We headed out on foot to find the springs that were just off the road and easy to spot—or so we had been told.

            Three hours later, we were back at the taxi, having walked to the end of the trail (at times dirt, at times gravel, at times pavement) with no sign of the hot springs.  We searched every side path, tested every bit of running water for warmth, even crossed into private property marked with a “no trespassing” sign.  We were out of luck.

            Even so, we had a lot of fun.  We found some cocoa pods and cracked one open to suck on the cocoa beans inside.  Bertrand picked us some wax apples and, when he wasn’t looking, we threw them at each other.  We collected nutmeg to take home (and also throw at each other).  And when we crested a hill to be met by a couple barking puppies, we found ourselves face to face with a petting zoo!  Granted, it wasn’t open (grand opening at the end of August), but of all the oddities I’ve seen in Grenada, a petting zoo located on a road about one mile past its last drivable patch is certainly peculiar.

            The walk turned into more of a hike and its level of difficulty became a little more apparent when we reached the end of the road and, after waiting futilely for Bertrand to catch up, Kevin backtracked and found our driver lying down on the path, trying to catch his breath.

            We returned without finding the springs, but not for lack of trying.  And we ended the day with dinner and drinks at a new restaurant (The Junction) near Kevin and Melanie’s (aka Kevanie) house.


            As often happens when I wait too long to write a blog post, I’ve lost track of the chronology of events.  So excuse me while I blather on about what definitely happened probably out of order.


            Enter: Kevanie.  Again.  Photo shoot!

            Kevanie are two of the coolest Canadians I’ve ever met, eh.  At this point, I almost consider them people.  Oh heck!  Who am I kidding?  With their infectious awesomeness, they are real people!  And they have the best sense of humor.  Eh.  After a year and a half, I finally got the chance to do a photo shoot with them.  Of course, that sense of humor that I find so appealing made the shoot a little more interesting than most other couples shoots I’ve done.  But I would expect no less from the Kevanie.


            Spice Mas: Grenada Carnival

            We opted out of the J’ouvert celebration on Sunday and Monday (pre-party at a night club from 10pm – 2am when a massive street party takes place downtown and everyone covers themselves in used motor oil and paint; then they dance until about 6am, when everyone navigates to the beach to wash the paint and oil off).  But we did make it to the parade on Tuesday afternoon.

            About one-third of a mile of Lagoon Road, wrapped around Port Louis, was closed down for the parade.  There, spectators and vendors lined up along the street as individual parade participants slowly made their way to the starting point.  When the parade started—an hour and a half or so after the unofficial start time—trucks of speakers towering over the crowd led batches of masqueraders along the street, soca music pouring out on all sides and jarring bass shaking the air.  By the time we moved closer to the action (I was intent on getting some nice photos), we had to pantomime our intentions, or go hoarse trying to out-bellow the music.

            We took a vantage point near the judges’ station, where each section of the parade stopped to dance and flourish its extravagant costumes.  The sections each had a theme of color and emotion or state.  There was happiness, freedom, love, etc.  The costumes were vibrant, with feathers and gems and props.  The music shook the ground and the tempo kept the dancers moving so that the whole parade seemed like shifting colors and delirious sound.


            Mt. St. Catherine: Take Two

            Remember my super awesome weekend last term?  There was snorkeling and catamaran cruising and water trampolining and hanging out with friends and… oh yeah!  We climbed the highest peak on the island.  Mt. St. Catherine posed something more than a small challenge for us, but we managed to beat her in less than two and a half hours.  I know I do a fair amount of hashing and, to anyone who doesn’t have first-hand experience, hiking Mt. St. Catherine can look like little more than a hash—particularly when my photos are the only documenting factor.  On a point-and-shoot, jungles look like jungles; rainforests look like rainforests; mud looks like mud.  To put climbing Mt. St. Catherine versus completing an average hash in perspective, I’d compare the former to doing the latter as a paraplegic after losing your arm in an unlikely encounter with real-life Pac Man.  In other words, you complete the hash using one arm and dragging ineffectual legs.  Hyperbole?  Obviously.  But you get where I’m going with this, right?  Seasoned trail runners would find this venture rewarding as much as challenging.

            I do hope I’m not painting this in a poor light because when some friends asked us if we wanted to do it again, we were like, “Hells yes!” 

            Ten of us headed back up the island.  Ivan and I were the only ones in the group to have climbed the mountain before, so we were the tour guides.  That made the trip considerably cheaper since the usual tour guide (a seventy year old man who’d climbed the mountain over a hundred times) wanted to charge us $50USD per person.

            Before actually getting to the mountain, we stopped a few times to ask directions.  The last time we stopped, the man directing our driver pointed out that we had a flat tire.  So we were waylaid for a short time while the tire was changed.  The man giving instructions disappeared into his tiny house and reemerged with his hands full of bananas.  He didn’t expect any money for his help or the snacks; it was a genuine gesture of kindness.  And excuse me for sounding sappy, but it was apparent that he was not a man of great means.  But he had something to give and so he gave it selflessly.  That’s the sort of endearing gesture that I’m going to miss sorely.

            Now, back on track!  We made it to the base of the mountain and we began our ascent.  All in all, the trip up was much as I had remembered, albeit overgrown with the recent rains.  We were moving at a leisurely pace, whereas previously we had tried to jog most of the trail.  With ten people, we were stopping more often for photos and water breaks.  But the trail was obvious and we moved persistently onward.

Our group before the hike
L-R: Melanie, Laura, Ivette, Kevin, Arjuna, Me, Pankti, Ivan, Rebecca, Todd

             As we neared the top, we slowed more.  The ground became a sloppy, squelching mud pit and the climbing required deliberation to avoid losing a handhold or falling backward.  Each person that cleared a sheer climb turned to advise the person behind him or her, thus guaranteeing the group stayed together.

            I was leading the pack up the steepest portions and can now advocate for the New Balance Minimus trail running shoes—admirable traction on slick rocks and muddy branches.  There were a few places where I’d forgotten how narrow the trail is and how treacherously steep the drop on either side.  On more than one occasion, I’d finish a steep climb, stand to find myself a half foot from falling to an unfortunate end, and be forced to crouch while a wave of vertigo washed over.

            By the time we made it to the top, everyone was filthy.  We rinsed off what mud we could in the abandoned satellite dishes (totally random, I know) before pounding down our food and making for our return.  As we began the hairy descent, the skies opened up and a downpour collapsed on us.  We moved as fast as we could, but with the rain blinding us and reducing the steepest declines to mudslides, there was little we could do for speed.  Luckily, the rain only lasted a half-hour and by the time we reached the 90-degree rope climb, it had all but stopped.  We regrouped at the bottom of the steepest descent, under the rainforest’s canopy.  We were all drenched with rain and sweat and mud.  Kevin’s soles had been stripped from both shoes.  But we were all still smiling. 
Our group at the top of the mountain
L-R: Kevin, Melanie, Laura, Ivette, Me, Ivan, Arjuna, Pankti, Todd, Rebecca

            We completed the hike as a group, all intact and still smiling, however exhausted.  It took us roughly six hours to finish.  We waited for the taxi to return at the entrance to the trail and had a picnic on the ground.
We made it! Can you tell we were excited?
L-R: Me, Ivan, Ivette, Laura, Arjuna, Rebecca, Todd, Pankti, Kevin, Melanie


            That’s more or less what’s been going on for the past couple weeks.  Aside from these larger activities, we also went on a lovely hash with some friends in Sauteurs (northern tip of Grenada), and we went to the beach to play Frisbee, and we went to St. George and bought four pounds of tuna steak for less than $8USD, and I volunteered at the GSPCA with a couple other girls, and I finally unpacked, and I got a little knitting done.

Hash buddies


Post-hash sunset
Cork buddy!
            And, I can’t believe it’s our last term!

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