The Vagaries

Ah, the vagaries of travelling. Just as we arrive somewhere with all our best intentions bursting at the seams, we all decided to get homesick. Happens every time. You think we would have learned by now! No matter how excited we are to be here and we are super excited, there is something about stepping into the unknown. Somewhere new.

New? Wait, we do know the Caribbean. But not Barbados. Is this why I get suspicious when the guy on the corner of town asks me if I want to buy his coconut water? At least three cruise ships arrive here a day, I think before I’ve blinked. What is the price of coconut water here? I shake my head to clear it and catch sight of a KFC on the corner. Biscuits. They have biscuits. Like warm, salty scones.

‘No thanks,’ I tell the coconut guy, already crossing the road.

‘You need to drink coconut water,’ he calls back, ‘it’s good for you!’

Over the last week, we decided to move to a more sheltered southerly anchorage near the capital, Bridgetown. We heard a big northerly ocean swell was set to come down the island. We headed down the twenty-one miles of Barbados’ western coastline, passing Holetown, where the first British settlers came ashore. They arrived in February 1627 with fifty men on the ship, the William and John, headed by the Powell brothers of the same name. Unlike other Caribbean islands such as Grenada and St. Lucia, populated with Carib tribes fiercely resistant against settlers, Barbados was virgin territory. The island was empty. It had once been inhabited by up to ten thousand Arawaks but due to disease and lack of water, the native islanders had all either died or moved out of the island over a hundred years before.

What the British settlers did encounter was white sand and almost impenetrable jungle. Trees stood up to two hundred-feet tall at the very edge of the beach. One of the three future sugar barons of Barbados, Henry Winthrop recalled living in a cave in the rocks with another future baron, James Drax. The focus was just to clear a small piece of land to sow with wheat. The men had a job on their hands. They reported a constant stream of large black ants falling onto their heads from the trees above to cutting through hardwood which seemed more like stone. Barbados was hot and relentlessly humid to work in.

Did these men get homesick, I wondered? What vision did they cling to at night under the stars, dreaming in their hammocks? I can’t wait to get rich from sugar cane twenty years later beyond my very dreams? Let me just make it through the week? Their hammocks were tarred at the edges to prevent insects and rats from climbing up.

As we headed south, we discovered Carlisle Bay just south of Bridgetown. At one end is the entrance to the Carenage, an inlet with ladders to tie dinghies to right in the centre of Bridgetown. In the middle of Carlisle Bay lies a marine park, netted off from anchoring boats. It contains not one, not two but six sunken vessels to snorkel and dive in and around. At the other end of the bay is the Radisson and Hilton hotel complexes. Here the water is clearer and the atmosphere more holiday-esque, but landing by dinghy means beach-landing or anchoring and swimming the rest of the way in. The large sea swell makes this an interesting prospect right now. This end is also where the surf is happening. Wasting no time after anchoring, Lulu and Jack grabbed our new surf boards shipped from Fort Lauderdale to us in Trinidad and were off.

They came back an hour later. ‘How was it?’ I called, meeting them at the back of Quest. This amazing resource being what we came to Barbados for.

They shook their heads and smiled. ‘Big.’

Hold on, Quest, hold on.

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