Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis – January 4, 2013
As usual, I was the first of my clan to wake up. I went up to the lido deck for coffee. At that time we were still about an hour or so south of our docking at Basseterre, St. Kitts. It was still somewhat dark, but I could see the outline of the island.
During breakfast, we decided to go to the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. Brimstone was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. We also wanted to see the Caribelle Batik studio.
We strolled off the ship at about 08:15. We were approached by a man that offered to take us to both places and back for US$60. The shore excursion price from the ship was about US$100…per person. The taxi driver’s name was Alex. As we drove through Basseterre, he pointed out and described several sites; Circus roundabout (patterned after London’s Piccadilly Circus), Independence Square (the walkways are done in the shape of the Union Jack), and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. We also saw the St. George’s Anglican Church built initially in 1670.
Welcome to St. Kitts!!
At one point Alex stopped in front of a gas station. He proudly proclaimed that gas on the island cost US$15 per gallon. And I thought prices were terrible in the U.S.! At that price, it would cost me about US$300 to fill up the 4Runner. I don’t think I could afford to do that very often.
As we continued along, Alex stopped at a ravine. He said it was called Bloody Point. On that spot in 1626, the British and French military massacred thousands of Carib Indians. Local lore is that the blood ran for several days, hence the name.
Cranes roosting in a tree in Basseterre, St. Kitts.
We arrived at Brimstone Hill at precisely 09:30. We were literally the first tourists of the day. The road up the mountain went through a part of the rain forest. It was like driving through a living tunnel. It was very steep, very narrow, and it had one hairpin turn after another.
Alex parked at the parade ground, let us out of the taxi and pointed us to the stairs. As soon as Leslie saw the stairs, she opted out. There were only 26 stairs, but they were quite steep. The stairs, made of stone, rise about six or seven inches. The treads were each about five or six feet deep. All of the footsteps were at an incline. Had the stairs been level and of more traditional size, there would probably have been closer to 200 steps. The view from the top was spectacular. One could see the island of St. Eustatius just to the north.
The Citadel area of Fort George was unusually well preserved. One can walk through virtually the entire fort on a self-guided tour. There seemed to be many canons around the citadel and bastions. Looking closely at those canons, I saw something I had never seen before, the aiming mechanism. On top of the barrel was a straight notch. Near the back was an arrow shape pressed into the top. It was suddenly evident that lining those two up was how they would aim the canon.
There were several restored rooms in the citadel. They housed artifacts, maps, historical recreations, and drawings that helped bring the fort to life.
We walked back down the stairs and reunited with Leslie on the parade ground. We all strolled over near the edge by the ruins of the artillery officers’ quarters. As we got closer, Leslie noticed there was a little boy right behind me. I would guess he was five or six years old. While I walked closer to the edge, he was so close to me I could feel him bump into my butt.
When I got to the wall at the edge, I stopped to take some photos. That is when I felt his hand touch my left hip near my shorts pocket. I sternly said, “you don’t want to do that.” He said he was trying to pick a small stone out of the wall. I turned slightly, so my pocket was up against the wall and took my photos. After I “busted” him he stayed well away from me. I am relatively sure he was a pickpocket in training.
The 26 steps back down to the parade grounds.
From Brimstone we drove back toward the city, stopping at the Caribelle Batik studio. Batik is a method of dyeing fabric. As I understand, the process begins with a line drawing on a piece of white cloth. Then wax is placed on the areas of the material so the particular dye will not penetrate. After the dyed fabric dries, it is boiled to remove the wax. Then wax is placed again on the areas to remain free of the next dye color. That process will continue for as many as seven or eight times. That means the finished product will have seven or eight different colors. It was interesting to see the process from start to finish; however, nothing struck us enough to want to purchase anything.
The grounds at the studio, known as Romney Manor (I am reasonably sure it has no connection to the presidential candidate), were beautiful. We wandered around, taking a few photos and then piled back into the taxi.
Alex headed us back to the dock. He had told us there are three local beers, Carib, Skol, and Stag. After doing a little shopping in the dock area, we stopped at an outdoor bar. We each sampled one of each of the three beers. I think my favorite was the Carib.
It was during this stop that Tyler decided he wanted to smoke a Cuban cigar. So, he slipped into a nearby store and came out with a cigar and a lighter. He sat on a sidewalk bench, smoking a cigar, and drinking a beer. What a sight!
We finished at the bar and went into the Pirana Joe store. It was an enjoyable tourist shop. As we were checking out, I said feliz año to the lady helping us. She thought that was wonderful! We had quite a conversation in Spanish. Her name was Natalia. She was from Columbia. We all thought she was very helpful. She made our shopping experience fun!
Tomorrow, Sint Maarten!
Looking across Basseterre Bay at St. Kitts.