Sugar and Spice Isle
Sweet scents of the West Indies Spice Isle — allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, mace, nutmeg and sugar — wafted through the cab's open windows when my husband, Russ, and I arrived in Grenada in May.
Although Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc there in 2004, the island has recovered admirably.
Sailing enthusiasts flock to St. George's Harbor, one of the most picturesque in the Caribbean. Cruise ships appear out of the night several times a week. Sport-fishing operators troll the seas for huge pelagics and billfish, including tuna, marlin, sailfish and spearfish. Dinner cruises set sail at sunset for festive indulgences. Land-based activities include cycling, mountain biking and hiking.
We pursued less strenuous pastimes — touring gardens and farms — and water-based activities like snorkeling and scuba diving, which provided us with great entertainment.
"Wanna lime?" asked Gary one day after we'd finished diving on the shipwreck of Veronica L.
The 20-something, good-looking dive master flashed a smile that could charm fins off the fishes.
"No. Do you have a cookie?" I asked.
"No," he replied with a chuckle. "Lime — that means hang out with your friends. Chill."
Chilling seemed like a good idea with the temperature lingering around 100 degrees and the humidity tempting a thunderstorm.
"Sure, why not?" I replied.
"When I took you in that air pocket, I thought your eyes were going to pop out of your head," said Gary as he plopped down at the picnic table with a drink. He'd led me into a cramped chamber of the Veronica L. then took his regulator out of his mouth and said, "Good morning."
"That did catch me by surprise. I'd never been underwater and heard someone speak. How did you do that?" I asked.
"Simple. When you weren't looking, I sneaked in and filled the chamber with air from my regulator. Then I came and got you."
I suppose I deserved it. After all, every time he banged on his tank to get our attention and point out a puffer fish, I'd inflate my cheeks and form a circle with my arms. But that was because every time he pointed out a seahorse, he mimicked riding a galloping bronco. I figured if he could ride, I could puff.
"This is nothing," said Gary. "Wait until you see the Bianca C."
The world-famous Bianca C. was a 600-foot cruise ship that sank after reaching St. George's Harbor in the 1960s. An explosion in the engine room caused a fire. An attempt was made to tow it beyond the harbor entrance and beach it, but the tow rope broke. Taking on too much water while being towed, she sank to her watery grave — 130-plus feet down. Legendary among divers, it's known as "The Titanic of the Caribbean."
We performed a negative descent in the deep channel, necessary because of the depth we needed to attain quickly. The ship lay close to safe diving limits, so we had only a brief time underwater, which wouldn't allow us to explore the entire length.
Poor visibility obscured our view. Fifty or 60 feet was the extent of our perspective. The wreck, however, still impressive, sat upright on the bottom. We descended into the former swimming pool and made our way toward the bow.
Fish — mackerel, horse-eyed jacks, a pair of French angels and a spotted eel — swam in and around it. Sponges and black coral decorated the deck. Although massive, it didn't grab my attention the way other wrecks have. It lacked the artifacts and personal belongings that brought other shipwrecks to life.
Shortly after we began to examine it, we received the signal to commence our gradual ascent. We made the obligatory safety stop and surfaced.
As much as we enjoyed the water, we also wanted to see the countryside. We set out to find Annandale Falls but inadvertently took the wrong roads and found ourselves at a place called La Sagesse Bay at lunchtime.
La Sagesse, a crescent-shaped beach and bay with turquoise water, provided an outstanding alfresco dining experience. We savored conch in Creole sauce and shrimp in garlic sauce.
After lunch, we made our way back across the island and headed for the falls, located below Grand Etang National Park.
We happened to visit on a day when mini buses arrived with cruise-ship passengers. Apparently, local vendors ramp up their efforts for them. The parking lot was filled to capacity with island transport vehicles and roadside vendors.
"Come have your picture taken with the banana women," offered a camera-wielding merchant.
The women were dressed in bold, plaid, ankle-grazing skirts in sherbet colors. Atop their heads sat baskets of tropical fruit, including bunches of bananas. Gold hoop earrings the size of saucers dangled from their ears.
As I was admiring their balancing abilities, I felt something touch my arm. I spun around to see a mona monkey, held by his owner, reaching out to me.
"Picture with the monkey?" he asked.
I considered my options. I could have my picture taken with the banana women or a mona monkey. I chose my husband. He didn't cost me anything.