Wednesday, January 4, 2017

October 2016: Part VII - St Kitts

View of the entire island of St Kitts from our cruise ship
We didn't know it before we got there, but St Kitts ended up giving us the most bang for our buck. We'd considered renting a car, but to do so you have to pay $65 for a driving permit on top of the rental cost. It would have been over $140! After looking up all the sites I was most interested in, we found a taxi would cost $140 max even if we went to absolutely everything I'd marked. Hailing a cab was the obvious choice since it meant we wouldn't have to worry about the stress of left side driving or potential charges for vehicle damage.
St Kitts and its sister island Nevis

According to what I'd found online, circling the main portion of the island by taxi would run about $80, Timothy Hill would be an extra $20, and getting all the way to the south peninsula would be an additional $40. We'd paid $35 for our trip to and from Pigeon Island the previous day, which was after talking the cab driver down from $45, so the predicted costs made sense when you calculated in the time and distance. We were prepared to pay at least $100 to do the main portion and Timothy Hill, and then see if the driver was willing to negotiate with us for any additional distance.

To our complete delight a man in a blue shirt (as seen in the far right of this middle photo) offered us a guided tour of the main part of the island for only $20 a person. We both stood there dumbfounded for a bit to find such a reasonable cost. Apparently there are enough people from the cruise ships wanting to tour the island that they get large van cabs that seat up to 10 people. You go and wait on the benches (pictured above on the far right) until there are enough people to fill up the cab and then they load you up. We couldn't believe our luck. A "Best of St Kitts" tour bus cruise excursion with half as much sightseeing would have cost $69 a person.

Our driver was a knowledgeable guide who did an amazing job navigating such a large vehicle through those tiny, narrow roads. She gave us excellent historical background, told us lots of interesting face I never would have even thought to ask about, and pointed out many more sites than what I'd listed on my itinerary. She even stopped and honked at her grandson's elementary school as we drove by. It was a delightful tour that only took a few hours and was well worth the cost. I sat by the window and took in all the lovely views we passed. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting St Kitts, particularly if they only have a short time.

The cannon, the rum distillery, and the fortress didn't surprise me, but one of our stops was at a bush where these white birds commonly perch, and we were also told about these low income houses the government provides for many of the local residents living below the poverty line. It was a very thorough tour.

Our group opted not to stop at Brimstone Hill Fortress, which I was fine with since we'd seen quite a few old fortresses and battlements already, but we did take a longer stop at Romney Manor and Batik Factory. They have a big 400+ year old tree there, and the gardens are very pretty (plus it gave us a MUCH needed bathroom break).
The grounds are now owned by the Caribelle Batik factory, which makes fabrics out of wax.
I bought a purple headband.

Garden Lookout

We continued our tour around to the northeast side of the island, enjoying lovely views along the way. There's black sand up there due to its proximity to the volcano Mount Liamuiga.

 And a big charred area known as the Black Rocks.

The lovely views from the parking lot of the coastline and Mt Liamiuga itself.

And the crowning jewel of our tour was beautiful Timothy Hill. It's a strip of land between the main island and the southern peninsula where you can see the Atlantic ocean on one side and the Caribbean sea on the other. I'd asked our driver if we could come here, though it's not listed as one of the tour spots, and she said we could as long as we didn't spend too much time at our other stops.
There was a little hike up the nearby hill, which I couldn't do since I was wearing flip flops, but Oscar ran up to the top to get some pictures. He went as fast as he could (and he's a fast hiker), but everyone had gone back to the Taxi and was waiting for him by the time he got back (we made sure to tip our driver). I wish I could have gone, though, because you could see Frigate Bay from up there as well. If we ever come back to St Kitts, we'll definitely take more time here.

We were dropped back off at the cruise port around noon and decided to go back on the boat for lunch. I asked about getting down to the southern peninsula, but it was more than I was willing to pay just to swim in the beach alone (Oscar doesn't care much for swimming, and he was still recovering from that awful sunburn on his head, so he would have been hiding under the shade somewhere).

After lunch Oscar went back to the room to rest and I went out to the adult area to relax and surf the internet while enjoying the view. My phone actually got really good service on all the islands for the same price I pay in the US (go Google Fi!), but since our cabin was on the second to last deck, we had zero service in our rooms.

That evening was formal dinner again, and they brought out this silver sea shell for our table, so Oscar held it and pretended to be Dr Evil from Austin Powers. We were greeted by a towel crab that night after an hour of entertainment by some pretty good comedians. It was an excellent day!

At breakfast the next morning, Oscar found the Puerto Rican family we'd shared our bus tour with and enjoyed talking with them in Spanish and getting to know them a bit better. They gave him their contact info and said if we're ever in Puerto Rico again, look them up and come say hello. 

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