Union Island – St Vincent and the Grenadines
January 2012 and December 2013
The arrival to Barbados was welcoming. When the aircraft door opened, it was like walking into a hot sauna. With 40 degrees temperature difference compared to Sweden my skin is wondering what the hell is going on. My first meeting with a “local” was an older man with long rasta hair and he saluted me with – Hello brother! I smiled to him and it felt great being in the Caribbean.
At check-in at the airport in Barbados I learned that the locals were relaxed, too much relaxed, poor service I might express it. Standing in line queuing took a lot of time and departure approached quickly. Finally at the counter, the payment of my ticket was made from home but the staff wanted me to pay more money. The cultural differences was a wake up call for me. After a some debatingI was like a nice lamb in order to be allowed to get on the flight. Shortly before the take off the staff at the counter said – Run if you want to catch the flight! Thereafter, at customs it became a problem when they found my snuff box. – Snuff, no problem! I said with a big and nervous smile. The custom officers gathered around my snuff, sniffed and looked as it was drugs. I was afraid missing my flight as I had to figure out how to get out of this situation. – OK, Swedish candy! I said, once again smiling at them. The boss laid his hands on the stomach, put his head back, laughed with the others joining in. At the end the boss said – Ok, you go! Finally on the plane and off to Kingstown.
Kingstown – The shabby capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines
The capital in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the shabby city Kingstown. While waiting for my luggage, I spent the night at a low budget hotel, Adams Apartments next to the airport. However, I had a jet lag and the love in the neighboring room kept me awake along with the mosquitoes. So I woke up with sand in my eyes. My friends were landing in Kingstown but without their luggage. As a consequense we waited a few hours and spent the day walking around town until our luggage arrived. Finally, at Kingstown Ferry Terminal and a old Norwegian passenger boat took us to Union Island, a two-hour trip with bawling Christmas music on the speakers.
Union Island – The green volcano island
There are two small cities on the island, Clifton and Ashton. We are staying in Clifton at a newly renovated bungalow next to the beach with a panoramic view over the bay and the port with sailboats from around the world. The Island is as wonderful as I expected with white beaches and palm trees full of coconuts. The warmth air is like cotton against the skin. We are 14 people traveling together and we plan to kitesurf, sail, dive, climb the palm trees and dance all night long. Some of us staying for two months in December 2012 and January 2013. Union Island is small, 3 times 5 km and around 3,000 inhabitants. The first car came to the island in 1956.
Behind our accommodation on Union Island in Caribbean is an airport. Some cows had entered the runway at the airport and they refuse to move. The airport staff tried to push and drag them without any success. An airplane circling above the airport waiting for permission to land while trying to chase the cows away without any success. Then it happened, a burst of shots from an automatic rifle. As a consequence the airport police shot the stubborn cows and they fell dead to the ground on the runway and pulled to the side. Being that, the plane running low on gas could finally land and the newly arrived travelers got a memory for life. As a result the cows were butchered and served on the local restaurants.
On Christmas Eve Hanna, Linus and Elin arrived to the island. After three days of traveling they were ready to put on the swim trunks and dive in to the warm water. With christmas hats on we were humming christmas songs to get in the mood and the party next to us tuned in. Even more fun was the game bringing one christmas gift a person rolling the dice and loudly grab one before the time runs out. The bartender served the island’s specialty “Flamer” a beer in a tall glass with a shot with liqueur (Drambuie) lowered like a submarine and topped by 84 percent rum flamed when set on fire.
There are other things to do on the island except for kitesurfing. Like visiting an old fort on top of a hill. With panoramic views of the island there is a ruin of a gun battery from 1800’s.
No one leaves Happy Island sober
Breakfast on the terrace on the first morning was wonderful. The palms were moving in the light wind, enough to go kitesurfing. The walk to the kite beach is a short distance from the accommodation. There is a reef creating a pool of flat water and further outside there are are waves. The kitesurfing Center lent out stand up paddle boards to us. In the flat and calm water we paddled toward Happy Island. It is an island 20 by 20 meters built by a local guy, a fantastic bar with great atmosphere. People come there with their small boats and no one leave Happy Island sober.
JT Pro Center – The kitesurfing school
In the evening we went to the full moon beach party organized by the kite center JT Pro Center. With the bright moonlight it never gets dark. A bar made of a surfboard, disco lights and barefoot on the sand we had a hilarious evening. It was cool to look at the kitesurfer’s having a show in the strong wind with colorful “glow sticks” on the sail. On the beach was a cheering crowd. We were laughing hard when a local guy JJ showed Calle the latest fashions on the island. A handkerchief around the head with a knot under the chin. The Swedes thought he looked like an old lady!
The story about the palm tree climber
In front of our accommodation are tall palm trees full of coconuts. Every year about 15 people die from falling coconuts. The island has a person whose job is to climb the palm tree and take down coconuts. The hotel we were staying at provides 2,50 Euro per palm tree. The palm climber was not happy with the salary wanting 3,50 Euro. Before they agreed the coconuts were like falling bombs. Every time we had to go out or come in to our accommodation we passed quickly with one hand protecting the head.
In recent days, the wind was really good and we can kitesurf daily. Now we have started to use our small kites with winds blowing over 10 m/s. We practice new tricks in flat water. Union Island is not a beginner-friendly spot. There are shallow reefs that you can hurt yourself on and boats in the harbour.
New Year’s Eve on the boat Scaramouche
Fantastic to celebrate New Year’s Eve at one of the last traditional 90 foot boats built of wood in 1966 named Scaramouche. The boat was used in the recordings of the first Disney movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” dressed in black sails. A large and spacious deck, high masts and a galley with the aroma of wood and tar. Imagining the feeling of pirates drinking rum and planning their next robbing tour.
On deck we were dangling our legs outside the rail as we sailed with the destination to Mayreau and Tobago Cays (the Turtle island) and finally Palm Island with the white sandy beach and the turquoise water. Free bar on the boat!
Drinking champagne on the beautifully located restaurant there was a long wait for the lobster as a main dish. A pale and hungry Elin was served a home made sandwich at the restaurant to satisfy her worst hunger. Hanna was so hungry that once the food came in she was already home eating. We gave up the dessert and went out in the night to Twilight that is a small pub in the village built of wooden planks and painted in shiny colors with rustic rickety wooden chairs. Several huge speakers pumping out New Year’s music had been set up next to the pub (too big to fit inside). Over one hundred party people happily danced on the street while cars were trying to pass.
On New Year’s Day, we had lunch in silence. The lady running the family restaurant served a well tasting shark.
Petit Tabac – The Pirates of the Caribbean
In the horizon we saw a two-masted sailboat. Over VHS radio, we called the Swedish boat Aurora crossed the Atlantic. We cheered when the captain responded to the radio on a scratchy speaker. It was a powerful feeling when they came sailing towards us on the island Petit Tabac.
On the American sailboat with our new friend John the group of 14 people sailed to the beautiful and the small uninhabited island Petit Tabac. This is the island were Johnny Depp was banished to the first film of “The Pirate of the Caribbean”. We walked around the small island barefoot on the white sand, palm trees and an old boat wreckage. The wind was strong and we had a beautiful kitesurfing tour with a rainbow as a background. It felt cool to have a big audience. In the evening we booked a table at a local restaurant on Union Island’s, Erika’s pizzeria.
One morning we woke to a muffled thumping from the garden. Coconuts were falling to the ground. After several weeks of discussion, the hotel and palm climber agreed remuneration to clear the palms of coconuts. For breakfast we were offered freshly picked coconuts tasted as lightly salted water.
Mopion – The tiny kitesurfing island
Morpion is a small island of sand in the middle of the ocean a short sail tour from Union Island, 20 meters long and 10 meters wide. The only thing on the island is a beach umbrella. The waves wash up on the island and it is only a small part that is not under water. We rigged our equipment and waves washed up on the kite. The island offered interesting and unique kitesurfing.
Mayreau – The beauty island
Together with Frigate Island and Bequia
We met a nice couple from Holland welcomed us aboard their 42 foot sailboat. We sailed to the magical island of Mayreau in the Grenadines and anchored at Salt Whistle Bay. Loved the white sandy beaches with palm trees hanging over the turquoise waters. Approximately 300 people live on the island. We had the pleasure to meet one local kid that liked our company. He noticed we were kitesurfer’s and looking at our kitesurfing board. We came up with the idea making this day to the best for our new friend. With a rope we tried to pull him up on the water surface while standing on a kitesurfing board. He is singing a song in the movie and I have tried to find the lyrics on Internet without success. If anyone knows what song it is I would be happy if you could inform me!
Guest Blogger: Oscar Müntzing
After spending the day by crashing a kite outside Frigate Island because of the wrong wind direction (best on self rescue now though) it was the opening party at the restaurant belonging to our hotel. We were there when it was handed out free drinks! The evening culminated then in sweaty club spirit with very un-Swedish decibel. One theme was clearly erroneous statement “I’m not even drunk.”
When we the same evening ended up in a pub we manage to get to know a Dutch couple with lawyers. They allowed themselves to be convinced that together we will sail to Mayreau on the day after. So when morning omelette was ingested (“fuck it, ears STILL beep!”) came the Dutch visit and it turns out that they actually meant it. We took the kite equipment and lay out ( “it is not fit to kitesurf, just carry around the shit!” – Carl aka Calle aka Charles).
Once aboard, it appears that the peers skipper Jasper educated people who would train boat captains. In a very educational way, we get then a thorough education of how to anchor the boat. There will then be a short voyage to eat mini-bananas from the neighboring island of Bequia.
Mayreau is postcard beautiful and the activity to emerge from the 43-foot sailing boat into the clear light blue water and then swim to the beach can be ticked off. It blows unfortunately too little on the island of teaching people to kite. A curious local guy of eight years with and charming ballon stomach get innovative kite lesson where Anders and Calle stands out in the water and devour a rope to get him off of the surfboard.
The small island we ended up on consisted of a bunch of palm trees and beach, two pubs with older Canadians, a boat called ”Lördag” (Saturday, note: true) and a small souvenir shop with plastic bracelets and postcards. We returned to Union Island on bouncy water taxis to run an evening pass kitesurfing!
Tobago Cays Marine Park – Diving with sea turtles
Tobago Keys is a group of postcard beauty small islands. There are large turtles that are popular to snorkel with. You can get close, almost touching their shells but they swim fast. They eat the vegetarian food that the sea provides and they chew like a cow.
Palm Island – Kitesurfing from Union Island to Palm Island
Palm Island is a beautiful small island a few kilometers from Union Island! The island is bought by a hotel and can be portrayed as a postcard. Me and Calle made a up winder to the island where there are great waves. Went ashore and thought we would find a pub but ended up on a golf course. The down winder back home was great and with out any sun screen we got light red in our faces looking like Santa Claus.