Slowing down in Grenada

Denise Flint
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Cuttlefish in formation patrol the reef. - Submitted photo

I’ve been lying face down in the water for two hours. When out of the corner of my eye I see my husband’s hand appear, gesturing, I reluctantly bring my feet down and roll over, lifting my head out of the water and taking my snorkel out of my mouth.

We’re on — or just off — Sandy Island, a snorkeler’s paradise in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean Sea. I’ve been content to stick close to shore, but even there I’m enraptured by the teeming bustle of life on the coral reefs surrounding the tiny island.

Encircled by tiny silver fish in their thousands, I’ve been almost afraid to move as I gaze down, watching the brightly coloured inhabitants of the water — blue damselfish, banded butterflyfish, octopi, cuttlefish and a myriad of others I have no hope of identifying.

My husband, venturing further out across the reef and beyond, has come upon a turtle, lazily swimming along without a care in the world.

But all things must end and in the bright Caribbean sunshine I see a small boat has pulled up to the beach, its lone occupant sitting patiently in the stern.

The water taxi that dropped us off on this small spit of island, inhabited only by pelicans, has returned, as promised, to take us back to Carriacou, a short hop across the azure, coral-flecked water.

The time has passed much too quickly, but we have been warned that we mustn’t stay any longer.

The island has no shade and no fresh water, and the sun is relentless. It’s a deadly combination for anyone, not just a pair of pale, Vitamin D-starved Canadians, so we reluctantly remove our flippers and clamour into the boat for the 15-minute ride back to the small beach in front of the place we’re staying.

There are no locks on the doors of the three small cottages that, along with the restaurant, make up the entire complex, and pretty shutters over the open windows and a mosquito net covering the bed are the only defence against the nighttime predators.

That makes it fairly typical of the accommodations available on Carriacou, where even the concept of a resort style hotel seems ludicrous.

Carriacou is the second largest of the islands that make up the archipelagic country of Grenada.

It’s been a lovely two-day respite from the main island and the trip to Sandy Island was a high point, but now we’re ready to go back. The ferry makes the return journey to the main island of Grenada in a couple of hours and soon we’re back in St. George’s, the capital city, looking for one of the ubiquitous reggae buses to take us to our hotel.

These brightly coloured vans with far too many seats for their size cruise the streets, music blaring, looking for passengers.

They have no hesitation about swinging round and changing direction if they’re empty and see a likely fare, and if they’re full they’re always ready to cram another passenger in.

As we jam ourselves and our luggage into the tiny gap created by smiling passengers crunching up into impossibly tighter spaces and the bus zooms away I reflect on the anomaly of the reggae buses.

Always in a hurry — time is definitely money for these privately owned vehicles — they charge down the roads, somehow never tumbling into the steep concrete ditches that line the roadways or hitting one of the omnipresent pot hounds, long suffering and silent dogs who roam the streets living on their wits, a few hard-earned scraps and the kindness of tourists.

But while reggae buses move fast, life conforms to a gentler pace for everyone else.

Grenada is a volcanic island, which means it has roads and pathways steep enough to rival anything St. John’s has to offer.

The first time I braced myself to climb the sharp slope to the top of a pathway I was laughed at by my it’s all about liming and walking sideways — when you’re not face down in the watercompanion, who had lived in Grenada for some years.

“Walk like a Grenadian,” she advised and then showed me how to gently pace back and forth as I climbed. I zigzagged my way up the hill and arrived at the top with my breath still in my body and my heart beating at a near normal rate.

It may have taken longer, but I learned my Grenadian lesson — there’s absolutely no need to hurry.

It’s a philosophy that even seems to extend to wildlife. Once, while waiting patiently for a bus in the heat of the day, I heard a slight noise behind me.

Turning around I saw that a hummingbird had lighted on an electric wire. It sat perfectly still for several minutes, something I had never seen in my life.

I assume it’s something to do with the temperature. Lying just 11 degrees north of the equator, Grenada’s temperature varies by only two or three degrees all year long. With the thermometer stuck around 30 the only urgency one can manage is to get into the water.

Fortunately, beaches are plentiful and welcoming. The most famous, Grand Anse Beach, a short distance from the centre of St. George’s, stretches for three kilometres of smooth sand and water.

There are no crashing waves here and visitors and Grenadians alike bob in the calm waters, lazing in partially submerged groups, chatting gently.

The beach itself, like all beaches in the country, is fully open to the public and everyone is welcome to enjoy it.

While there are several hotels and resorts lining the sand they are set well back and none are more than a couple of stories high, in no way infringing on one’s feeling of ease.

But, much as one may wish to, one can’t stay in the water all the time. I reckon it must be very tiring to send all that heat and light down to the tropics day after day because the sun goes to bed fast and early.

That’s the cue for the start of liming time. Liming is the act of chatting for the sake of chatting and socializing for the sake of socializing; idling with friends, preferably over a Carib beer or rum punch.

In Grenada you can go liming anywhere from the beach bars, where you can listen to the slow surf and sandpipers as you chat, to the ruins of Fort Frederick on Richmond Hill in St. George’s.

An accommodating night watchman will guide you through tunnels hundreds of years old to a small rum shop deep inside where the punch is so powerful it’ll bring tears to your eyes before you even get it past your lips — over proof is a concept completely foreign to Grenadians.

And no matter where you are, you’re bound to meet someone interesting: a Hungarian duke exiled since the Soviet invasion, a Turkish sea captain chauffeuring a rich man’s yacht from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and back again; a Winnipeg child care worker revolutionising the Grenadian education system.

They’ve all got time to chat because this is Grenada, where it’s all about liming and walking sideways — when you’re not face down in the water.

Geographic location: Caribbean Sea, Grenada, Sandy Island Carriacou Windward Islands Winnipeg

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