The Best of Bequia

When we went out on our balcony upon waking this morning, we saw that the Adonia was about to drop anchor just off the charming little island of Port Elizabeth in Bequia, in the country of St. Vincent & The Grenadines.  We hadn’t been to this port before, and indeed it looked more like the Caribbean used to do, that is wild and unbridled, full of natural rugged beauty, and no hideously-commercialised tourist-attracting cruise terminal in sight.  🙂

This morning we were free to explore as we wished, as we were not booked on a tour until after lunch.  After breakfast we therefore made our way to the liberty boat pontoon on Deck 3, and took the short ride across the bay to the landing stage, which was conveniently situated near plenty of individual little shops, bars and cafés.

Bequia (pronounced Bek-wei) is the second largest of the Grenadine islands and its name translates as “island of the clouds” in ancient Arawak.  We could see lots of private yachts and catamarans gliding in and out of the bay, with the Adonia in the distance, turning slowly round on her anchor.  The beaches looked very inviting and we could see quite a few people sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling.

We wandered along the quayside, looking for a bar or café which would allow us to access free wi-fi (sad, I know!) to check emails and our online banking.  It was very pleasant walking around and just enjoying the laid-back atmosphere.  All the locals seemed friendly and smiley, and the taxi drivers touting for business were not too pushy if you refused.

We bought a couple of postcards and stamps from a general dealer-type shop, then went to find somewhere to write them out.  Eventually we decided on an attractive-looking little bar-café which advertised wi-fi, so in we went to enjoy a couple of ice-cold Carib beers.  Afterwards we just pottered around before making our way back to the landing stage, where we were to meet the tour guide at 12.30pm.

When the buses arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see that they were small, open-sided vehicles, which held a maximum of eight passengers.  We piled into one of them and set off through the sunlit streets; on our tour of the island.

We passed shabby-chic dwellings, colourful shops and other businesses as we slowly made our way through the uneven, winding roads, gradually climbing higher.  Our driver stopped frequently to allow us to take photos of the rugged coastline, the Caribbean Sea sparkling under an unblemished blue sky.  At one stage the guides from the different buses got together and gave us an impromptu a capella rendition of some Bequian folk songs, all in perfect harmony.  The songs each had a story to tell and were quite amusing.

We then arrived at Hamilton Fort, on the northern point of Admiralty Bay, beyond Hamilton village. The original structure is long gone, but both French and English cannons retrieved from the waters around Bequia are now placed there; the view alone was worth the visit. The defence of the entrance to Admiralty Bay was a priority for the British. In 1771, the harbour was described as being “very fine, where Ships of Force may safely ride”.

We then made our picturesque way back down again, passing through the remains of the Spring plantation, where sugarcane grew in abundance and some of the old sugar mills are still standing.  Now the Spring plantation is used mainly for growing and exporting fruit and has many tall coconut palms; we spotted the odd cow grazing in among the shade of the trees.

It was now time for us to stop for some refreshments (rum punch!) at a small bar which had a whale rib running the length of the bar.  Bequia is one of the few places in the world where limited whaling is still allowed by the International Whaling Commission.  Natives of Bequia are allowed to catch up to four humpback whales per year using only traditional hunting methods of hand-thrown harpoons in small, open sailboats. The limit is rarely met, with no catch some years.

We enjoyed a cold glass of rum punch each and browsed in the small souvenir shop next door, before it was time to set off for our final destination this tour – the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.

The Turtle Sanctuary was founded in 1995 by Orton ‘Brother’ King, who was concerned by the over-fishing and poaching (for turtle shell) of the endangered hawksbill turtles.  He made it his mission to rescue new turtle hatchlings or injured turtles and nurse them back to health until they were fit enough to be released back into the sea.  The new hatchlings were originally raised in large plastic tubs and fed a diet of canned tuna fish and other meats; it was a case of trial and error to see what worked.  Today, hatchlings are raised at the sanctuary until they are about five years of age, then returned to the beaches where they hatched.  To date, Brother King has returned over 900 turtles to the wild.

At the sanctuary we were able to see various turtles swimming around in their salt water pools; they ranged in size from about 10cm in length to over a metre.  The sanctuary buildings are only a stone’s throw from the ocean and we could hear the waves washing onto the sandy shore.

After our visit to the turtles it was time to return to the Adonia.  The mini-bus took us back to the landing stage but we didn’t want to go back on board yet; instead we found a pleasant bar with a balcony upstairs, and we went up and enjoyed a freezing cold bottle of Carib beer each.  We then made our way to the landing stage where a liberty boat waited; it didn’t take long for us to glide across the bay and return to the ship, round about 4.30pm.

What a lovely place we’d found Bequia to be – I could easily come back and spend a week or two here, and even explore some of the other islands of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

Tonight the dress code was smart-casual, so we just spent a bit of time pottering around the ship after dinner.  The show this evening in the Curzon lounge featured former comedian and TV game show host, Roy Walker, of Catchphrase fame.  Roy Walker was a household name in the 1980s with his gentle Irish humour, so we were looking forward to his show and he didn’t disappoint with his stand-up routine.

Then it was up to the Crow’s Nest to watch one of the show members’ own solo cabaret.  His name was Terry Gleed and he entertained us with his musical theatre singing and dancing.

We finished the evening off, as ever, by going to the Conservatory for the syndicate quiz with John and Linda.  Our team won!!  Yes, for the fourth time “team number five” won the quiz, and we enjoyed a free bottle of house white wine.  🙂

Then it was back to cabin A006 to settle down for the night.  Tomorrow we’d be back where we started, in Bridgetown, Barbados.

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