Basseterre, St Kitts

Got up early this morning in a new port of call that we hadn’t visited before, that of Basseterre, capital of St Kitts.  From our balcony we looked out to see an island that appeared hilly, with lots of green and lush trees and vegetation.

Today we were going to explore some of the rainforest on foot, during a three hour walk, so we dressed accordingly; I wore cargo trousers and flat, trekker style shoes – my trousers allowed the legs to be zipped off, converting them to shorts if necessary.

We met the rest of the group, and our guide, on the quayside and off we went, in a little open-sided bus. We went through narrow, bustling, colourful streets and, at one point, the bus stopped and our guide pointed out the neighbouring island of Nevis.  We drove along the coast and admired the lovely clear sea water.

Eventually the bus pulled up at our first stop; that of Romney Manor.  This is a beautiful old manor house that was once owned by Sam Jefferson II, the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of U.S.A.). The house was renamed Romney Manor following its acquisition in the early 17th century by the Earl of Romney.

The manor house is set in gorgeous landscaped gardens containing manicured lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs and different trees.  The trees are dominated by a huge, 350-year old saman tree with a trunk 24 feet in diameter, at which our guide said he would meet us in 30 minutes, leaving us some free time to look around.

Adjacent to the manor house was a batik workshop and shop, Caribelle Batik, selling the finished product.  Batik is a colourful printed fabric used for making clothing, cushions, curtains, wall-hangings and bed linen.  The plain cotton fabric is dyed in several stages; wax is painted onto the fabric which is then dipped in the dye, or painted with the dye, and the wax prevents its absorption, leaving an area of undyed fabric.  By repeating this process several times, using different waxes, dyes and stencils, it is possible to build up a patterned fabric.  We could watch the artisans carrying out this process in the workshops.  It can take weeks for some patterns to be completed and some batik fabric can cost many hundreds of pounds.

We browsed around the shop, looking at the different products, and I ended up buying a small batik drawstring bag containing three miniature bottles of the local rum.  Then it was time to meet our guide by the saman tree.

The guide walked back to the bus with us, which took us to the start of our rainforest trek.  As we alighted from the bus we were all given a stout walking staff, then the guide offered us all some fresh chilled guava juice to drink; it was lovely and thirst-quenching.  Then the guide locked up the bus and we set off on our walk.

We entered the cool shade of the forest which afforded us some respite from the already-hot tropical sun.  We were soon to see why we needed the staffs; the ground was fairly uneven as well as undulating; we went up, we went down, we went back up again, wending our way through the rainforest.  The guide pointed out an area of rocky cliff in which there were quite a few hermit crabs, reminding us we were never far from the sea.  He also identified the different leaves and herbaceous plants; in fact, it reminded me of our jungle trek in the Amazon rainforest 11 months earlier.

We continued walking at a leisurely pace along the forest trail, crossing a small river in a couple of places by means of large stepping stones (thank goodness for the walking sticks!).  We could smell the cool, damp scent of green things, and it really was very pleasant.  Plus the fact it was nice to get some proper exercise for a change instead of lounging around a pool 🙂

The walk lasted for about three hours and, just before the end, we came across an archaeological dig site in which an old rum distillery had been discovered.   We walked into the sunshine and back to the bus to a well-earned rest.

The guide opened up the bus, set up a folding table and brought out some goodies for us; more guava juice, mango and orange juice and a bottle of locally-produced rum 🙂  He handed out plastic cups of the iced juice and told us to help ourselves to the rum.  No-one rushed to do this, and someone had to be first, so I broke the seal on the bottle and Trevor and I added a healthy slug to our fruit juice.  Other members of our party followed suit 🙂

The guide also produced some savoury snacks, some delicious cake his wife had made, as well as some fresh pineapple and coconut.  It was a delightful tropical treat.  We enjoyed some more rum-infused fruit juice then boarded the bus for the return journey to the Ventura.

We’d already decided to go to a local bar and have a beer (what a surprise!) and, on the way back to the port, we spotted a local shop which had tables and chairs outside, at which one or two people were drinking beer.  So once the bus dropped us off, we went back to the bar.  But first of all, I zipped off the legs of my trousers, which were fairly muddy as a result of the walk.  I was now more suitably attired in shorts 🙂

We went into the little shop, which was just a general dealers, and bought a couple of bottles of Carib beer, which we enjoyed sitting outside.  Our table was literally at the roadside, and traffic went past in a fairly constant stream.  We had another beer before going back to the port, taking a look in the duty free shops on the way.

One of the shops sold Pandora and Chamilia beads and charms, and as I have one of these types of bracelet I bought myself a lovely pinky-peachy coloured Murano bead with a silver core.  It cost the equivalent of £23.00, which was a 12 quid saving on the Chamilia web site’s price for the same bead.  So quite a bargain then.

Back on the Ventura we showered and got ready for the evening.  Tonight was a tropical theme night which required the gents to wear their most garish Hawaiian print shirt or, if you really wanted to get into the spirit of the thing, a pirate costume.  Trevor wore his fairly sedate tropical shirt and I wore a floral printed dress.  We went along to the restaurant where, once again, there was just the three of us at the table.  Then it was into the Arena theatre for tonight’s show, which was a comedian called Mark Walker.  He was pretty good really; I must say that the entertainment, on the whole, was quite decent.  We hadn’t really come across any shows we disliked yet.

Tonight, however, we were determined to get into the Havana lounge in decent time and bag a good seat – the celebrity guest speaker on the Ventura tonight was none other than ex-England manager Ron Atkinson, who’d also managed top-flight clubs such an Man U, Aston Villa, West Brom etc.  We got a great table near the front with an unimpeded view and eagerly awaited Ron’s arrival on stage.

While Trevor went to the bar to get the drinks, a group of about six people came into the Havana lounge, walked straight down to the front and started to move a couple of empty tables and a number of chairs into position right in front of the stage… and in front of us.  I couldn’t believe the cheek of it; come in at the last minute and plonk yourself in front of someone – how rude and inconsiderate.  So I decided to get up and say something.  I went over to one of them and said that I thought it was inconsiderate for her to just pull her chair in front of other people who had made a point of coming into the lounge early to get a good seat.  She just shrugged and said “OK” but didn’t argue.

When I went back to my seat, a blonde woman came up to me and said “Before you embarrass yourself any further” (Hah!) “that’s Ron’s wife.”  I said “So? I don’t care who it is – she shouldn’t just block someone’s view like that”.  The blonde woman went back to her seat and they all looked back towards me, but they did actually move the table and chairs to one side slightly.  Really, if it was Ron’s wife, she should be sitting at the back – after all, she probably got a free cruise out of this whereas we were paying customers!

No matter though – Ron came onto the stage; in fact he walked around on the floor in front of the stage, so we did actually have an unimpeded view.  His talk was very interesting and, afterwards, I went up and asked him what he thought Sunderland’s chances were under new manager Martin O’Neill.  Ron spoke highly of Martin and said he was sure Sunderland would do well.  That was good to hear!  🙂

And so ended an interesting and eventful day.  Tomorrow we had another day at sea to look forward to, so a lie-in in the morning then.

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